Food in Leipzig Series: Dong Xuan Center

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Have you ever wondered, where all the Vietnamese immigrants in Germany go out to eat? There are many here in east Germany, including Leipzig, but I couldn’t seem to find a great bowl of Pho or other delicious Vietnamese food anywhere. There is a restaurant on our street that can be pretty decent from time to time, but they are so stingy with giving herbs. I haven’t been to Vietnam, but from my culinary education on the net and books tell me that Vietnam is one of two countries in the world (the other being Iran) where they eat a large basket full of various aromatic herbs with their food. Apart from the stinginess of herbs, the places I know here in Leipzig are pretty standard fare. Berlin probably has the largest Vietnamese community, and recently there has been a extremely delicious, and dare I say, authentic restaurant opening up every other week. (My favourites are Si An in Prenzlauerberg, and District Mot in Mitte). I also visited dark and grey Lichtenberg once, to go to a Vietnamese warehouse called Dong Xuan Center. They also have fantastic food, mostly accommodating Vietnamese immigrants.

Chapatti flour I found at an Indian supermarket.

Chapatti flour I found at an Indian supermarket.

One of two Indian supermarkets. Decent.

One of two Indian supermarkets. Decent.

Back in Leipzig, I wished I had something similar here. Last week, my cleaning lady asked me if I have been to a large “Asia Markt” on Maximillian Alle. I don’t usually go to that part of town, as there is pretty much nothing there. I googled it immediately, and found out that there’s a large Vietnamese warehouse like the one in Lichtenberg. Today, my boyfriend and I took a short S-bahn ride to Leipzig Nord, for a mini food adventure. Most of the stores sell ugly clothes (at last to me), bags, and other odd stuff, but they have a few supermarkets. The Asia Markt in the city has a very good selection of fresh produce, but these ones in Dong Xuan Center had much more. I didn’t recognise half of their greens and herbs. They also have fresh tofu, interesting but unrecognizable food wrapped in banana leaves, live mini crabs, meat and their innards, and home-made pickled mustard leaves. I also found two Indian supermarkets with spices, lentils, chapatti flour (!!), and somewhat limited amount of fresh produce Needless to say, I was impressed. Lunch was of course, a delicious bowl of Pho at a small place called Dong Xuan Quan. I walked in, and I knew I found a gem because the whole place smelled like pho broth. There were 6 different kinds of Pho. I ordered the regular pho with thinly sliced beef, and my boyfriend had the one with pounded beef. The broth, people, was the one I was looking for. It was savoury, had depth, and served with a large amount of coriander, and spring onions. And guess how much a bowl cost? 6! 6 euros! A bargain, if you ask me. When we were almost done with our bowl, a group of young second generation Vietnamese-German walked in, speaking in perfect Sächsisch, which I found pretty amusing.

What is this??

What is this??

Coriander, vietnamese mint, perilla leaves....

Coriander, vietnamese mint, perilla leaves….

Live crabs!

Live crabs!

Vietnamese amaranth greens

Vietnamese amaranth greens

I will definitely be going back to Dong Xuan Quan when I have get a crave for Pho. I’m wondering now though, if they have a special menu for Vietnamese? Next time, I will also find out what all the greens and herbs I didn’t recognize. In meanwhile, I’ll be cooking with a bunch of amaranth greens I found today.

Dong Xuan Center: Maximilian Alle 18. S-bahn stop, “Leipzig Nord” 

Dong Xuan Quan: Here. Turn left once you walk in the area, continue until the end of the second building, and turn right.

Scores from Dong Xuan Center

Scores from Dong Xuan Center

Leipziger Wochenmarkt (Farmer’s market in Leipzig)

I started shopping at the open-air farmer’s market every week only 6 years ago. I’ve been there a couple of times before but I thought the market didn’t have stands directly from the local farmers. I wasn’t entirely wrong.  It’s not a pure farmer’s market in a sense, because about 60% of the stands are whole-sale. But I slowly discovered which stands are locally produced, and which stands were local and organic. From spring through early winter, my favorite days of the week are Tuesdays and Fridays when the market is open.  Last Friday, I bought ah-maaazing spring produce and thereby spending way too much money. The market haul includes fresh locally produced radishes, pink baby chard, baby mustard leaves, green asparagus, bunches of chard, portobello mushrooms, and yellow carrots. I also purchased broccoli rabe (cime di rape) from the Italian stand and a bunch of Italian purple sprouting broccoli (!!!) from the new organic stand. I was so excited to see the purple sprouting broccoli, I almost squealed. Anyways, here are photos of the stands I usually buy from. Enjoy!

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This stand has directly imported fruit and vegetables from Italy. I usually buy artichokes (above), broccoli rabe, dandelions, and sun-dried tomatoes here. The Italian guy who runs the stand is very friendly. Behind this stand, there is a cheese and charcuterie vendor also from the same guy. Highly recommended!

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This stand only sells button mushrooms and portobello mushrooms. Their products are from Thüringen, the neighbouring state next to Sachsen. This is the only stand where I can get large portobello mushrooms. The lady seller here is so jolly, it gets me into a really good mood after stopping by.

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This is a newcomer at the market. An all organic stand, with some products from whole sale, and some are from their own farm near Leipzig. Some products can be quite expensive but they have unusual vegetables like purple sprouting broccoli (yes, they are still foreign here). I’ll be on the watch for this stand.

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This organic stand from Halle is one of my favorites. All their products are from their farm. In late spring to autumn, they have amazing vegetables. I bought purple, orange, yellow, pink, and white carrots here. Around summer, there are at least 5 different kinds of absolutely delicious tomatoes (which I thought, were impossible to find in Germany). They had yellow beetroots (!) last autumn, after I begged them to grow a year ago. Also, you will find 3-4 different kinds of eggplants, 2-3 kinds of cucumbers, great salad leaves, oh and their pink apples are my favorite apples ever….and the list goes on. A must visit if you are on a look out for tastier and more interesting colored vegetables!

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One of my favorites. This is a demeter quality fruit and vegetable stand. Depending on the season, they sell 40-50% of their own produce from a farm in Baalsdorf, near Leipzig. They have delicious spinach, kale, and chard. I also love their tiny broccoli they have around June-July, possibly the best broccoli I’ve ever had. I like the herbs and salad leaves too. The lady seller here knows me well by now and saves me a bundle of coriander when they occasionally have them. 🙂

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Not the friendliest sellers but not too bad. On the bright side, they have  delicious local free-range eggs and egg noodles. I like to poach my eggs with these because they are much fresher than most organic eggs from biomarkt, and the egg yolks are soooo orange. Love them.

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Frau Müller, my favorite stand for fresh green and white asparagus!

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A local creamery, Mölkerei Bennewitz. They have fantastic hand-made butter, milk, cream, and buttermilk. I’m not so convinced with their cheese though. None-organic.

I hope this overview gave you some ideas about the market.  Go! What are you waiting for?  🙂 (Marktplatz, Innenstadt. Tuesdays&Fridays 9am-5pm).

Crunchy broccoli in chili and garlic oil à la Chinabrenner

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There is a small handful of restaurants in Leipzig that I really like and respect, and Chinabrenner is on that list. It is situated in Plagwitz, a former industrial area of Leipzig, and the restaurant is in an old warehouse building.  My ex flatmate told me about this place many years ago. She used to work around the corner from Chinabrenner, and I remember her telling me about a chinese place where you can get a bowl of stir-fry and rice with a cup of tea for 4 euros that doesn’t taste like boring old oily take away chinese food (!). They didn’t used to have dinner back then, I don’t think. Nowadays, lunch costs 6.50, which isn’t bad actually, and they have great dinner. Soooo good, in fact. It comes with a price tag in the evening, but it is worth going all the way to Plagwitz area for authentic chinese, mostly Szechuan cuisine. (I actually don’t like to use the word “authentic” but it is really that good).

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I went to China on an orchestra tour almost 4 years ago. Despite people telling me about their negative experiences in China, I ate incredibly well there. I ate mostly vegetarian, and Vegetarian Lifestyle in Shanghai was definitely a highlight. I also ate at an upscale Szechuan specialty restaurant in Beijing (not that Szechuan is anywhere near there..) which was also fantastic, and a tongue numbing experience. Since then, I have been interested in cooking chinese. Watching this documentary from BBC with the great Ken Hom and ChingHe Huang made me even more eager to learn.

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One of Chinabrenner’s dishes that all my friends and I order every time, is cold broccoli. The broccoli florets are barely cooked, and they are dressed in a pretty large quantity of spicy chili and garlic oil, sprinkled with a healthy dosage of Szechuan pepper. Man, do those tiny peppers numb your tongue! My attempt at this dish might not taste exactly like at the restaurant, but I think it’s pretty close. I reduced the amount of oil, and added slightly more acidity, making the dish more salad like. The key to this dish is to barely cook the broccoli. I add the florets in boiling water for 30 seconds only, just enough to take out their raw edge. The chili bean paste among other ingredients can be found at Asian stores.  Bon Appetit!

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Crunchy Broccoli in Chili and Garlic Oil

Serves 4 as a side dish

1 large head broccoli, cut into small florets and the stalk peeled and chopped into matchsticks
60ml vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 hot chili flakes OR 1-2 dried hot chili, crumbled.
1 Tbsp Shao Shing Wine
2 1/2 Tbsp Soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp Rice vinegar
1/2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar or dark chinese vinegar
1 tsp chinese chili bean paste
1 tsp Szechuan pepper, toasted and roughly ground
1 tsp sugar

1. Bring a pot of water and a teaspoon of salt to boil. Add the broccoli and boil for 30 seconds only. Drain and refresh under cold water to stop them cooking. Let the broccoli drain well.
2. In a small frying pan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the minced garlic and chili flakes. As soon as they start to sizzle, turn the heat down to low and let them soften for 10 minutes.
3. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. Add the garlic and chili oil and whisk to combine.
4. Put the well drained broccoli in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing. Chill for an hour in the fridge and serve.