Bad news first: Vienna doesn’t really have a Chinatown. When a few daring Chinese business men suggested erecting one of those classic arches a few years ago, the idea was met with enthusiastic resistance and rejected by the local council.
The good news: Vienna’s Chinese community is nonetheless growing constantly, new businesses are opening up and restaurants are starting to cater not only to Austrians, but to fellow Chinese – tourists and locals alike. That means that slowly, slowly even in Vienna, a city with very little Asian food culture, one can get a glimpse of how fantastic Chinese food can be.
Here’s a little guide to the most interesting restaurants and shops, and what to order and to buy. A google map with all the addresses can be found here.
Vienna’s main Chinese neighborhood is located on both sides of the Naschmarkt, roughly between Karlsplatz and Pilgramgasse. The highest density of Chinese businesses can be found on the blocks around Kettenbrückengasse.
General advice for people who are new to the wonderful world of Chinese food:
- Share: Chinese dishes are meant to be shared, not eaten alone. They come in big servings, can be intensely flavored and some can be a bit one dimensional, if eaten with nothing else but rice. They only show their full potential if many of them are arranged on the table, ideally of opposing flavors, qualities, and colors, like a bouquet of flowers. Do not order your own dish, but order for the table and share. If you are a single diner, get a few starters or a noodle soup.
- Order diverse: Instead of ordering four plates of meat, get one meat, one fish, one vegetable and one noodle dish or a soup. Or just stick to a bunch of starters, they tend to be the best anyway. And don’t get dessert. Just go to a shop and buy a sesame ball instead.
- Order things you consider gross: The Chinese idea of what is good or bad to eat is almost the exact opposite of what is considered delicious in the West. Chicken breast is frowned upon and used mostly for soups, beef is rarely eaten, the filet is an unknown concept and might just be shredded or minced and used for seasoning. The feet and the head, however, are celebrated as delicacies, as are innards. Naturally, Chinese are much better at cooking the nasty bits than, say, cooking steak. I think in most cases the Chinese got it right and we got it wrong. Keep that in mind when ordering, and go for all the offal, off cuts, heads, tails and intestines you can find. You will be rewarded.
- Order things you do not know: If it is something you do not know, that means it is not so easy to get in Vienna. And that means somebody put some effort in to get it nonetheless. Chances are, they did that because it is delicious and would be missed dearly.
- Get the whole fish: The most prized part of the fish in China is the head, so if you order fish filet, you give the chef an opportunity to get rid of the stuff nobody else wants.
- Be prepared to suck and nibble and spit: Chinese always cook and serve meat on the bone, even when it comes in little pieces. „You are my meat on the bone“ is a Chinese expression for „you are my darling“ (the one exception I can think of is Peking duck). That means that the diner has to put a bit of effort in, which will be rewarded with juicer bites and much more fun.
- If in doubt, get what that big group of Chinese in the corner are having. Just point and ask.
Chinazentrum Rechte Wienzeile
An allrounder with offers from all over China, with a special focus on Dim Sum and, interestingly, Beijing Duck. Some of the Dim Sum are very nice, especially the steamed chicken feet, the steamed tripe and the Congee, wich arrives in a massive bowl easily big enough for four eaters. The dumplings are good, but not my favorite. If you want some, go for the filled pork buns or the round prawn and pork ones (Siu Mai, on this foto)
The duck is a real show stopper: If you order it, the chef will come out of the kitchen with a little tray and carve it for you table side. They will serve it in two courses: after the main event (the meat and skin and pancake business) you can choose if you would like to eat the bones deep fried or as a soup. Go for the soup. One duck serves three to four people.
Attention: there are two places called Chinazentrum, one on the Rechte Wienzeile, one on the Linke Wienzeile. For some reason, the one on the Linke Wienzeile is nowhere near as good as the one one the Rechte Wienzeile, so watch out where you are.
What to order: Steamed Chicken Feet, Steamed Tripe, Congee with Century Eggs, Wontons in Chili Oil, Spicy Tongue, Beijing Duck
A Cantonese restaurant with slightly higher prices but also higher quality than most other Viennese Chinese restaurants. They offer Hongkong Barbecue (Pork and Duck) also for take away, but my favorites here are Cantonese standards like White Poached Chicken and Yellow Fish.
What to order: Barbecue, Poached Chicken, Yellow Fish
The lastest joint to open up in the neighborhood, and already a favorite for me. Wang offers actually home-made (!) dumplings, with slightly thicker wrappers, but delicious, succulent fillings. The Wonton Soup is served with a mild seaweed and fried egg flavored soup just like in my favorite dumpling place in Shanghai.
What to order: everything, but especially the pork and octopus dumplings and the wonton soup.
Specialized in the foods of North Western China: lots of lamb and cumin and thick home made noodles here. That said, I also like their often Sichuan-inspired standards like spicy tripe, stir fried spicy potatoes or tofu skewers with lots of Sichuan pepper on them.
What to order: Lamb or tofu skewers, stir fried potatoes, thick noodles with chicken or eggplant.
Ok, that one is not in Chinatown, but it serves some of the best Sichuan food in Vienna nonetheless. Make sure you only order from the menu with the Sichuan dishes. And if there are less than four of you, stick to the starters – they are excellent, and not as overwhelmingly large as the mains.
What to order: Spicy tripe, Devil noodles, spicy beef…basically all the starters
Seafood Shop on Kettenbrückengasse
The Chinese adore seafood, so it is not surprising that they sell some of the best aquatic creatures in town. This little hole in the wall only has a Chinese name, but you can’t miss it: look out for the blue board with Chinese characters on the street. It gets a fresh delivery of clams, sea snails, octopi, prawns and fish every Tuesday and Thursday. The shop might not look particularly appetizing, but the produce is.
Chao Yang Asia Shop
A very well equipped shop with everything you need for your daily Chinese cooking. In addition, they sell fresh Chinese noodles (from Hungary), frozen homemade dumplings (look out for the see-through plastic bags with handwritten Chinese characters on them) and freshly roasted ducks from a local restaurant. If you are lucky and come on the right day, you might even get fresh bamboo shoots. Right next to a 24h Turkish bakery.
Sino Asia Shop
The biggest advantage of this place is the super friendly lady at the cash desk who speaks fluent German and is more than happy to help with all your requests. On Fridays and Saturdays there are fresh homemade sesame balls stuffed with red bean paste on sale.
Map with all the places: