No matter how “multicultural” or “mixed” the German capital may often be described as in the media, Berlin’s ethnic reality for the average pedestrian does not inevitably evoke the idea of a big melting pot like New York, London or Paris. But if one listens closely, the colloquial nickname for the street Kantstraße, “Kantonstraße”, is the first indication of a deeper story.

Beyond the Turkish neighbourhoods (Kreuzberg, Neukölln, Moabit, Wedding) that are now part of Berlin’s main attractions, few people know that Berlin has one of Europe’s largest Asian communities. Even more interesting is that this settlement began when the city was still divided, on both sides of the Wall.

The first Chinese visitors in Berlin arrived in the 1820s and the first Chinese settlements began in the 1920s, but it is in Berlin’s post-war history that the actual development of the Asian community  began. A large number of Vietnamese workers – and a few Chinese – came to work in East Berlin’s factories (known as contract workers or Vertragsarbeiter), whereas Chinese, Thai and South Vietnamese migrants came to West Berlin. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, some Vietnamese from East Berlin came to the western part of the city in the hopes of improving their situation, and the community steadily grew in the area.  (more…)

With a hurricane behind us and the prospect of a frozen New York winter looking mighty good, I have finally decided to return to my beloved Chinatown. The confusing smells of summer on Canal street are long past, and one of Chinatown’s best cold weather dishes has been lodged in my mind for weeks. I’m talking, of course, about wonton soup.

Wonton soup is the stuff of legend. It works much like the best winter jacket you can think of, except on the inside of you. In short, you’ve waited far too long to try it out (or in, I suppose). When you’re ready, head to  New H.K. Wonton Garden.