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Chef introduces Chinese food culture in Istanbul

Updated: 2021-10-04 13:55 ( China Daily )
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ISTANBUL-Shen Hu, a Chinese chef, arrived in Turkey's biggest city Istanbul from China in 2005 to introduce his delicious meals and his country's food culture to the Turkish people.

For the last 18 years, he has been working in a Chinese restaurant in the city's historical peninsula of Sultanahmet owned by a Turkish entrepreneur Ismet Arslan.

"All the seasonings used in my kitchen, Chinese teas served with Chinese tea art, Chinese anise, a wide range of huo guo (hot pot) stuff, and all kinds of spices are brought directly from China by air," Shen Hu said while cooking his well-known veggie rice.

The chef cooks regional dishes of his hometown Shenyang, capital of Northeast China's Liaoning province, as well as presents other famous Chinese specialties.

According to Hu, his meals are suitable for the taste of Turkish people, and the interest among them in Chinese cuisine is exponentially growing.

"During the pandemic period, the number of tourist groups is low, but we host our local guests," he said.

Ismet Arslan decided to open his establishment in Sultanahmet after he realized that the need for a Chinese restaurant in this huge neighborhood.

"We are trying to keep the Far East food culture alive here and our restaurant represents this culture very well thanks to the contribution of our chef," Arslan said, also referring to the selection of the menu items and the effective use of China's feng shui design, which reflects harmony and balance.

In the meantime, two young Turkish customers were trying to determine what to order for their lunch, discussing the alternatives on the menu.

Huseyin Arslan has been studying international relations in a university in the Chinese capital Beijing. But the pandemic forced him to stay in Istanbul and attend his classes online.

He usually has his lunch here and the Peking duck is one of his favorite. "The dish is served with a crispy skin of the duck meal dipped into sugar and thin pancakes filled with bean sauces, garlic, onion, and cucumber."

For him, the flavors of Turkish cuisine and Chinese cuisine are close to each other, and there is much in common. "Turkish can have a try," he suggested.

Cihangir Yalcin, an owner of a nearby store, is also a frequenter and an admirer of Shen Hu's meals.

"I love his veggie rice and sweet and sour chicken the most." Yalcin comes here whenever he finds time and always recommends his friends to taste Chinese delicacies.

Due to the pandemic in 2020, the restaurant had to close its doors for four full months in line with the stay-at-home order declared by Turkish authorities to curb the infections.

"We had a 75 percent loss. And now, we are constantly supplementing the establishment with our savings," Ismet Arslan remarked while checking the COVID-19 intensity map at the neighborhood from the Health Ministry's application on his mobile phone.

"I hope the vaccination campaign will put an end to this pandemic," he said. "Otherwise, we cannot afford another lockdown."

In 2019, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu vowed to develop warm contacts and relations between Istanbul and its sister city in China, Shanghai.

Municipality officials said that creating a China Town in Istanbul was on the agenda, but the pandemic halted all the projects.

"For me, the establishment of a China Town in this city where I live will make me incredibly happy," Deniz Iscan, a 20-year-old university student, told Xinhua. "I'm a devotee of the Far Eastern culture and the cuisine of China. In that sense, more alternatives on getting to know China would be great," he said.

Xinhua

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