Last week we were unfaithful and left Zurich Chinatown to pay a visit to Milan Chinatown. As much as we love our own Chinatown and would never seriously prefer another one over it, we still enjoyed the fling!
The first dinner date did not disappoint us, and we were so happy that we found some well-prepared lotus root (藕).
Along with some more home-cooking style dishes:
Of course, we then had drinks. And since we were in Italy, even though it felt like China, we had Campari, and we had it in a karaoke bar together with a group of middle-aged 老板们 and 老板娘们 (bosses and lady bosses), underscored with evergreens blasting from inside the private rooms – the only way, really, to have a drink in Milan Chinatown that lives up to everything.
The following two pictures I would like to name “the morning after” aka “caffè goes well with doujiang” aka “due caffè, 谢谢”.
Ten minutes later we discovered another restaurant that serves Chinese-style breakfast and had to get a second breakfast. I absolutely wanted to try porridge (粥) as it is one of the simple dishes I just love, and it turned out to be something like rice wine soup (酒酿) which obviously contains alcohol. Mine came with an assortment of colourful tapioca pearls that matched beautifully with my pullover, which I consider a plus.
The famous egg-scallion-crepe jianbing guozi (煎餅果子) that is wrapped around a crispy cracker (薄脆), did not disappoint us either. As a matter of fact, we got two more just right before we left for the train station.
These delicacies we enjoyed at Tang gourmet:
The happy customer you can see here is drinking the insides of the tangbao (汤包), which is a dumpling filled with hot soup – another specialty. We had to make some sacrifices though and consequently didn’t order this dish, as we still had big plans for about an hour later, and our stomachs do have limits, unfortunately.
The production process of the jianbing:
the egg is battered directly on the dough
the sauce comes out of these pots which do all the magic. At this point, one has to decide if they want “辣的不辣的”, hot or not. The real Chinatown lover wants it hot.
the cracker is added…
…and the scallion. Then she folds it up.
How is the mooood so far?
The mood is good.
On a sidenote, I wish I had learned my 字 (characters) like this:
After we covered most of Chinatown and bravely entered almost every shop (even the kitsch ones and the ones that were so full one could barely move in them), it was time for a good bowl of cold noodles (凉皮), again 辣的, and a mo (馍), which is a lot of deliciously seasoned shredded meat in a bun.
No, we did not only eat. We also shopped for snacks for the ride back (haha). Didn’t get a baidu massage because that would have gone too far.
Sat with the ayis (阿姨, old ladies) though, contemplating life. Did not enter the Chinese Cultural Center that offers calligraphy and paper cutting activities, since we have all “been there, done that”. But we watched the shifu (师傅, master) in his mandarin-style silk outfit exit the premises. Also tourist groups entering phone shops and making calls home.
The unloading of balls of garment everywhere in the streets was interesting to witness in the morning, but what can we say – our shopping for clothes failed greatly because most of the shops only sell wholesale.
Milan Chinatown really transports a big portion of Chinese everyday life directly to the center of Milan, except for the bustling streets one would expect. In this respect it feels more like the quiet labyrinth of hutongs in Beijing or maybe the streets in Chengdu on which the elder generation plays mahjong and drinks tea, rather than a night market with food stalls in, let’s say, Wuhan.
There were many things that we didn’t have time for, foodwise that would be: shaokao 烧烤 (only open in the evening), lao chengdu huoguo 老成都火锅, malatang 麻辣烫, tanghulu 糖葫芦 and bubble tea 珍珠奶茶. We were over the moon to discover the small shop that sells all kinds of freshly made tofu and the huge sortiment in the grocery stores made us to bring bags-full home.
I’m sure we missed out some secret spots, but we had a blast, and: in Milan Chinatown there are not only Chinese stores but also some beautiful Italian boutiques and pasticcerie.
We hope we managed to inspire you to also take one of the fast trains that get you to Milan Chinatown in less than four hours, to go and discover, and then to come back to Zurich Chinatown to enjoy our local highlights.