Asian Cuisine in St. Petersburg

Asian cuisine in St. Petersburg by Sifan Chen.

Asian Cuisine in St. Petersburg

Photo by Chen Sifan

Food, as always, has the power to soothe the soul. I once heard someone say something like, "Food is the art of living." So this time, I would like to share with you my experience of finding Asian food in St. Petersburg. As an international student from China, before I arrived in St Petersburg, I heard from my friends that the city is very suitable for international students to study and live in, and that there is a lot of good food and many Asian restaurants here. In the few months that I have been here, I have been able to eat a lot of good Asian food, such as Chinese stir-fries, noodles and pancakes, Japanese ramen, sushi and sashimi, as well as Thai and Indian food.

At the end of December last year, I found a restaurant called Why.China. Being curious, I decided to try this restaurant with my friend. We chose a sunny weekend afternoon to go to this restaurant for a tasting. As soon as we pushed the door and entered the restaurant, I was attracted by the lighting and the murals on the walls as they had a strong Chinese vibe to them. Afterwards, we went to the bar to order and found that pancakes were on the menu and were a staple of this restaurant, which is a food that is arguably a household name in China. Furthermore, the menu was also in Russian and Chinese. Moreover, the restaurant has several different fillings for its pancakes. I ordered a pancake stuffed with shrimps and the place where the pancakes are made in the restaurant is right next to where you order, so I couldn't help but watch the whole process of the chef making the pancakes. First, the chef makes a round pancake with batter on a special pan, after which an egg is placed on top and spread out. Then, when the pancake is almost cooked, it is turned over with sauce, filling and crisps, sprinkled with vegetables and sesame seeds, and folded into square rows, rectangles or triangles. When the waiter put the finished pancake on the table, we couldn't wait to eat it in a hurry. I can say that it really tasted very similar to the pancakes you get in China, and the delicious taste is still unforgettable.

My friend is from Shandong, China, and she knows a lot about pancakes. She told me that people loved pancakes in her hometown and she was surprised to have such delicious and unique pancakes in St. Petersburg this time. "I've loved them since I was a kid, and where I'm from, they are served with fritters, with sauce, minced onion, minced meat or any topping you can think of, and you can also add chilli sauce as a garnish for a savoury taste." The most classic and common way to eat pancakes in Shandong province in China, she says with a smile, is to roll them in spring onions. Take a large piece of pancake, fold it in half, put the spring onions on it and smear it with a spicy bean paste or noodle sauce, it's delicious.

It is understood that pancakes have a long history and early origins, with the creation of the pancake griddle dating back more than 5,000 years to the origins of pancakes. At the same time, pancakes are one of the traditional Chinese cuisines. According to the information, in the Eastern Jin Dynasty, Wang Jia's "The Record of the Gleanings", "It is said that on the 20th day of the first month of the year, the sky is worn, and the red silk strands are tied with pancakes and placed on the roof, which is called mending the sky. It is said that Nuwa used this day to mend heaven and earth."

It is said that the pancake originated in the southern part of Shandong Province in China, where it is said to have originated in Linyi during the Three Kingdoms period, and later influenced the northern part of Jiangsu Province in southern China, and later spread to Tianjin, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang and other parts of China.

In the mid-January this year, my friend and I went to a Chinese-owned restaurant in the city's Petrograd district, which was always packed, even though the premises were only about 20 square feet. I've heard that if you choose to go on a weekend, you'll probably have to wait for a table. The restaurant basically serves Chinese home-style dishes such as Peking duck, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, sweet and sour pork, kung pao chicken, chicken on a platter, fried rice with eggs, fried noodles, fried dumplings and many more. On my first visit to this restaurant, I ordered shredded fish and pork and a main course of rice, as well as an order of corn and egg soup. This restaurant can have a long wait for food, but the dishes are very close to the local Chinese. As soon as the waiter brought the dishes to the table, I was amazed by their appearance and aroma. After the first bite when I picked up my chopsticks to taste it, its flavour hit my taste buds. "I didn't expect to be in this city and to be able to eat such authentic Chinese food!" said my friend who came with me.

This restaurant has an average shop environment, but the food is very affordable. So if you want to try Chinese home-cooked food in St Petersburg, I recommend you to try this restaurant. Once I came here on a Wednesday afternoon and there were not many people dining in this restaurant that day. The owner of the restaurant was busy in the back of the kitchen and then sat down at a seat next to us to chat with us. We found out from talking to her that the family had come to the city many years ago and ran the restaurant. "We want to make Chinese people feel at home when they come here to eat. At the same time, we want the locals to taste good Chinese food", the owner said.

We want to make Chinese people feel at home when they come here to eat. At the same time, we want the locals to taste good Chinese food.

At the beginning of February this year, I was on my way back to my dormitory after class when I accidentally spotted a restaurant called Kazoku, with a sign on the front that it was open until 11pm. I was a bit hungry, so my classmates and I walked in with the intention of trying it out. Upon entering the restaurant, we found it to be an Asian cuisine restaurant with a Japanese style of decoration, a simple, clear, straight line shop front, a layered space, low lighting and a black and white colour palette, giving it a light and deep atmosphere. We sat down at a window seat and the waiter brought us a menu and two glasses of water and briefly introduced the dishes. The restaurant is a QR code scanning restaurant, where you can order online. The ordering page has not only pictures of the food, but also the ingredients of each food. We ordered a bowl of chicken curry bibimbap, an order of Japanese ramen and a plate of pan-fried dumplings. While waiting for my meal, I looked around the restaurant and was drawn to the rectangular bar in the middle of the restaurant, with a tile-decorated roof above it, four oval-shaped lanterns hanging from it and a wooden grid for accent. Ten minutes later, the ramen was brought to the table, topped with a cut-up chicken cutlet and runny egg, garnished with spring onions. Afterwards, a taste of the noodle soup broth was very tasty. Another bite of the ramen was very smooth. Afterwards, my friend's chicken curry bibimbap was brought to the table. The curry was slightly spicy and was very tasty with the rice. When we finished our meal, the waiter gave us a nice bookmark with the name of the restaurant on one side and a Japanese painting on the other. I can say that it was a very good dining experience.

This is the first winter I have spent in the city, and in this recent period I have also eaten Indian, Thai and Korean food. I'm sure there will be many more specialties worth seeking out here in the days to come, and I'll continue to share them with you!

The guide by

Sifan Chen