A walk through Little Asia

On Saturday I took my friend Retha along and the two of us became, for the morning at least, tourists in our own town. We joined Ishvara Dhyan, a local tour guide on a guided walk of Johannesburg’s Chinatown. It is located in Cyrildene (close to Bruma) and most of the shops and eateries are in Derrick Avenue. This is not really a tourist destination, rather just a functioning neighbourhood favoured by new Chinese immigrants. This is where they live, where they buy their groceries and where they speak Chinese. There are even a Chinese police that collaborates with the SAPD, a Chinese medical clinic and the Chinese newspapers are printed right there in Cyrildene. 

We gathered under the big Chinese gate welcoming people into Chinatown and our first stop was a Buddhist shrine. The nuns welcomed us and, through an interpreter, told us a bit about Buddhist philosophy. A young Chinese boy played on two different Chinese flutes for us, one of the ladies did a demonstration of Tai Chi exercises with a sword and we were treated to a Chinese tea ceremony. 

Ishvara, a chef by training, focused much of the rest of the walk on Asian cuisine. He took us to an Indonesian shop, a fantastic Thai shop (complete with a picture of the Thai king and queen) and a few Chinese supermarkets. We also visited a Chinese tea store (if you need to buy the Chinese ambassador a gift, they stock some of the most expensive teas available in Johannesburg!)

Along the road we saw different Asian restaurants, but the one that I would love to return to is a Korean restaurant, called Gangnam Korean BBQ (yes, Gangnam style :-). Hot coals are set inside a hole in the table and the customers barbeque their food at the table. The food is served with an assortment of pickles and dipping sauces.

Another restaurant that caught my eye was called Delicious Casserole Food Rest. In this big urn on the photo below are different casseroles in small dishes, heated by a coal fire at the bottom of the urn.

It was the various fresh vegetable markets that fascinated most of us on the tour. We saw things such as Bok Choy, Chinese broccoli, bitter melons, silk squash, snake beans and Chinese white radish, to name a few. Ishvara explained to us how to identify the different veggies and how to use it in the different Asian cuisines.

The outing was a great experience and we left feeling inspired to look up a few Asian recipes, make a grocery list and return soon.

You can visit Ishvara's website here

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