Visiting a country without having to travel sounds like an impossible mission, but is it really? Located in Budapest’s Chinatown, Wan Hao tries to prove it wrong by offering authentic Chinese meals in an environment where one can easily lose track of time and space.
Knowing that Chinese cuisine is characterized by a broad spectrum of tempting flavours, spicy, pungent, colourful and healthy dishes, Funzine’s enthusiastic gastro hussars were intrigued to explore the gastronomy of the distant country. To be part of a real Chinese experience, we had to leave the city centre and make our way to District X, Kőbánya, where Wan Hao’s 5-storey building is situated. Before it was turned into a restaurant, the one-time mill was abandoned for many years. Built in 1887, it gained trademark protection for its architectural design, meaning that there were many restrictions on how to carry out the renovation process. Fortunately, it was properly preserved by and got a new life from Wan Hao’s management, and now attracts members of the local Chinese community, Hungarians who admire Chinese culture, and tourists alike.
As we stepped into the building, the very first thing that occurred to us was the staff’s great attitude. We heard about the famous Chinese hospitality before, but experiencing the kindness and respect is another thing, and it totally blew us away. After the warm and friendly welcome, we were escorted to one of the private rooms with paintings and a huge, framed rice paper decoration, usually booked by groups celebrating a special event. We took a seat at a round, rotating table which is inevitable in traditional Chinese dining since it makes sharing dishes easier. The table soon became full of signature Asian meals, and we got ready to put our chopstick game to test (soup not included).
First, our gentle waitress brought us a jelly-textured hot scallop soup with egg, carrots and scallion, then three extremely delicious and particularly different cold appetizers were served. Rainbow salad, for instance, was as colourful as its name suggests, made of glass noodle, pork, tofu skin and veggies: bean sprout, cucumber, shredded carrots, and black fungus. We loved the distinct but nicely harmonizing flavours and even the dish’s hotness, but we highly recommend you to order a less hot version unless you can handle spicy food. A hellishly good bowl of peanuts – not skinned, because the skin contains protective nutrients – was next, marinated in Chinese black vinegar which gave them an exciting flavour. Ready for the warm starters, two types of dim sum dumplings (bao with wheat skin, filled with pulled pork and shrimp jiao stuffed with king prawn) were presented to us in bamboo steamer baskets. Both of them were phenomenal: mildly seasoned, juicy, full of flavour and very hard to resist eating all at once.
Up next, the diverse selection of main dishes managed to keep us occupied. My companion and I were taught how to roll a thin slice of Peking duck in a steamed crepe, with chopped cucumber, spring onions and bean sauce, which was really fun. The wok-grilled cabbage served in a sizzling pot was another favourite of ours. The steamed cabbage pieces and thin meat slices were both tasty thanks to a special sauce and a hint of chili adding a little heat and extra depth of flavour to the meal. Hint: if it tickles your tongue, ask for Wan Hao’s canned, sweet-like-honey herbal tea (with traditional Chinese medical herbs) to tame the flames inside your mouth.
The sweetest part of our restaurant test/culinary journey was the tasting of Wan Hao’s freshly baked egg tart aka Portuguese pastel de nata, a dessert similar to a little basket made of flaky pastry, filled with a light and sweet delicately sweet custard cream. It paired very well with the strictly sugarless, calming rose tea prepared with fresh goji berries, served in a fancy teapot as a way of concluding our visit. Getting a peek at Chinese culture and gastronomy made our day special, we wish we would have time to test the cool, uniquely designed karaoke rooms upstairs. All is not lost that is delayed!
1107 Budapest, Jegenye utca 30.
+36 30 912 6888
Photos: Egy jó kép rólad