As you may have gathered from my frequent blogs about food, I’m a bit of fiend when it comes to eating out, especially when it’s something exotic and flavourful like Indian cuisine. But there is an area where Luis and I are equally clueless and that’s – Chinese cooking. We have both only ever eaten a Chinese takeaway, usually accompanied by chips and a soggy wantan. Here in Santiago, the Chinese restaurant was one of the first “exotic” foods to really take off, brought here by some of the many first-generation families from Asia of which Recoleta, in particular, has many. To Luis’ friends and family, a meal from one of these elaborately decorated establishments is the pinnacle of exoticism and worthy of a special occasion, despite bearing almost no resemblance to what is actually eaten across China and Asia. Since being in Chile I have been lucky enough to meet from all walks of life, including from Taiwan, a country I honestly know nothing about except for the fact that it’s the birthplace of my friend, Amy (who you may remember from Pasteleria Lalaleelu). Amy really knows her food and she speaks Chinese, so who better than to initiate Luis and I into the wonders of Chinese food?
Last weekend we headed in a group to I-Ching, a huge second-storey restaurant that Luis and I have driven past a hundred times as it’s near our house. The place is BIG and almost forbiddingly so, with a water feature and an army of staff who direct you upon entering. This is important: Chinese patrons are always directed to the right which is characterized by large circular tables, while everyone else is directed to the left, which has smaller rectangular tables and Spanish-speaking staff. On the left you will find the usual recognizable menu (it’s massive) including all the usual dishes such as chop suey, spring rolls and even sushi. But it’s on the right-hand side where you must request to be seated, and it was a promising sign that when we entered this entire space was filled with Chinese diners. In this area there are three menus. There is a dim sum menu, featuring small dishes that are most commonly eaten in Hong Kong, there is the original menu (Chinese and Spanish with pictures) and there is a newer, smaller menu that has been on offer since August (Chinese only, pictures). Given that patrons occupying this side are Chinese-speaking, the serving staff speak Chinese and very little Spanish so expect to point to what you want!
We left it to Amy to order for the table, and many of the dishes that we tried were seasonal and not on the menu, because like many cuisines, Chinese food is regional and based around seasonal ingredients. Tea (free) was poured for each guest and frequently refilled; hot tea is what is usually drunk with a meal because it cuts through the oil in the food. Dishes were brought rapidly from the kitchen and placed in quick succession on the rotating raised plate in the middle of our table, the idea being that food is shared between all.
And the food?
YUM! It’s always a good sign when the chef is actually from China and that the place is packed with people who know the food.
“From my point of view, I-Ching changed their flavour after the chef came back from vacation in August, it was my favorite chinese restaurant, but since then they have changed some of the chinese chefs. They have to improve to reach the standard they used to be,” Amy tell us. Her other favorite Chinese restaurant is called Sheng Xing, which is a bit cheaper than I-Ching, and is located downtown.
“Both restaurants are good for certain dishes, they sometimes have similar plates for example duck, but the one in Av. España does a better job, while I-Ching does better fish. There are other Chinese restaurants with different styles, but I-Ching and Sheng Xing are the styles that I personally like more.”
The restaurant has some other bonus points. It’s pretty loud and spacious inside so children can make noise without really being heard, plus there’s an indoor play area to rival all others (suitable from age 3+). Car parking is free for the restaurant.
Overall, highly recommended!!!
For four, Amy recommends ordering a stirfry noodle or rice, a vegetable, a meat plate and several dim sums. Expect to pay between $10,000-$15,000 per person depending on what you order.
I-Ching address: Av. Independencia 1928, Independencia (closest metro is Einstein, 2.9km)
Sheng Xing address: Av. Espana 101-107, Santiago Centro (metro Union Latinoamericana)