Shenyang has one of the biggest Korean settlements outside of Korea. This is due both to the fact that ethnic Koreans (朝鲜族 in Chinese, cháoxiǎnzú in pinyin) are one of the major ethnic groups (after Han Chinese and Manchu) in the city, and that Shenyang’s relative proximity to the North Korean border makes it a major hub for North Korean refugees. A third reason is that Shenyang’s past as a major industrial hub in China made many South Koreans settle here for business reasons.
Xita – the “Seoul of the North”
As is the case with many ethnic groups in the diaspora, many of the Koreans in Shenyang tend to live, work, eat, and play in a geographically small space – a so-called “Koreatown”, “Little Seoul”, or “Little Korea”. The one we have in Shenyang is mostly just called Xita due to its location near Shenyang’s Western Pagoda (西塔 in Chinese, xītǎ in pinyin), or sometimes the “Seoul of the North”. There, you will find Korean restaurants, but also cosmetics stores carrying Korean brands, Korean malls, Karaoke places with a vast array of Korean music choices, hairdressers well-versed in the latest Korean fashions, clothing boutiques with Korean brands and cuts, and anything else that Koreans outside their homeland might miss and desire. Luckily, us non-Koreans are allowed to enjoy this wealth of Korean culture as well.
Where is the food?
You might already be aware that I am an incorrigible foodie. So, true to form, I would like to give you a brief tour of what Korean cuisine in Xita has to offer and give you examples for restaurants famed for the various dishes. The biggest concentration of Korean restaurants is on the very short Xita Street itself. It is only 681 meters long, can you imagine? But the little alleyways around it also hold many Korean eateries.
Since there are so many places to choose from, I shall be doing this little overview of Korean food choices in Xita in two separate articles. Today, it’s cold noodles as a starter, pork knuckle as a main dish, ginseng chicken soup to chase the pork down, spicy fried rice cakes (just because they’re awesome), and little fish cakes for dessert. I admit you’d probably have to fast for a week if you were to eat all of this stuff in one sitting, but that’s what friends are for, right? Get a small group together and then go from restaurant to restaurant to try all of these delicacies.
Cold noodles (冷面 in Chinese, lěngmiàn in pinyin) might just be the single most famous Korean dish in all of China. These cold (duh!) noodles come in a refreshing sweet and tangy chilled broth, accompanied by some kimchi, shredded raw vegetables and possibly an egg.
The best place to go for cold noodles in Shenyang – some even say all of Liaoning Province – is probably 西塔大冷面 (Western Pagoda Big Cold Noodles in Chinglish, Xītǎ Dà Lěngmiàn in pinyin). The restaurant is actually NOT on Xita Street, but at 31, Shifu Street (市府大路31号 in Chinese, Shìfǔ Dàlù 31 Hào).
Korean Style Pork Knuckle
Pork Knuckle in Korean cuisine (the dish is called 猪肘片包肉in Chinese, zhūzhǒupiàn bāoròu in pinyin) has little to do with the heavy, greasy, and wonderfully unhealthy German version of the same dish. In Korea, you get very thinly sliced meat, along with vegetables and some kimchi (always kimchi, of course) that you wrap up into lettuce leaves before you eat it. Super yummy, and even low-carb. Good thing we’ve had those cold noodles before, otherwise, this might turn out to be an almost healthy culinary experience. We can’t have that, can we?
长兴宝膳 (Changxing Treasured Meal in Chinglish, chángxīng bǎo shàn in pinyin) is THE place to go in Shenyang for Korean style pork knuckle. The restaurant is not directly on Xita Street, either, but in a street that runs parallel to it, at 21, Antu North Street (安图北街21号 in Chinese, āntú běijiē 21 hào in pinyin).
Ginseng Chicken Soup
Ginseng chicken soup – well, there is no witty way to say this – is a soup with ginseng and a chicken in it, plain and simple. Ginseng has been revered all over Asia for its medicinal properties for centuries. On top of its almost miraculous healing powers, it also tastes darn good. Especially in a yummy broth with soft, tender chicken. Definitely recommended.
For ginseng chicken soup, you should go to 长寿参鸡汤 (Longevity Ginseng Chicken Soup in Chinglish, chángshòu shēn jītāng in pinyin). The restaurant is located 珲春路5号 (húnchūn lù 5 hào in pinyin). Hunchun Road runs perpendicular to Xita Street to the north.
Spicy Fried Rice Cakes and Fish Cakes
These small morsels of heaven are a staple in any Koreatown. The rice cakes (辣炒年糕 in Chinese, làchǎo niángāo in pinyin) are actually small, gooey sticks made with glutinous rice, served in a (slightly) spicy red sauce. I could live on those until the end of my days and never complain, they’re that good!
The fish cakes (小鱼饼 in Chinese, xiǎo yúbing in pinyin) are made with an eggy dough that is fried into fish shapes, and filled with a somewhat sweet red bean paste. They look more like toys than something to eat, if you ask me. I thoroughly enjoy them, but for many Western palates, they are not quite sweet enough to qualify as dessert, but too sweet to be “real” food. I suggest you try them for yourself and come to your own conclusion, though.
A highly recommended venue for eating both spicy fried rice cakes and little fish cakes is 南平小吃屋(Nanping Snack Shack in Chinglish, nánpíng xiǎochī wū in pinyin). It is located in the middle of Xita Street, on the righthand side when you walk north. But be aware that that shop is only open during the day, unlike all the other places in this list.
That concludes today’s Korean culinary extravaganza. Part II of the series will have more dishes, more restaurants, just MORE Xita.
Little side note: I apologize for the awkward translation on some of the restaurant names. I have chosen to translate them almost character by character, since they don’t have English names anyway and even if they did, those would not do you much good. So, instead, I have included the Chinese names for you in characters and also put down the pinyin for them. Together with the little maps, I hope you will be able to find the places. If you get lost, shoot me a message!
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