Asian Cuisine in Heidelberg - by Luise Billen, Angela Wendnagel-Beck, Kristina Waschkowski

1. Introduction 
Food is not simply food, it’s a transmitter of symbols, meanings and culture. In addition, cultural groups have different eating habits and connotations to it. While some groups like to eat streetfood, others prefer restaurants or primarily dine at home. Food and foodways have different frameworks: plural meanings, an expression of memories, a function as a code and shaping social interactions. Further, life boundaries can be displayed and food can be used to negotiate space and community. Lastly, it includes geographical imagination. In context of immigration food plays a prevalent role referring to identification. A new culture appears and has to be integrated and adapted in the prevailing one. Although, trying to fit in means to take over some cultural aspects, the original culture will be lived on. Therefore, cultures are mixed. For many people identifying with their own culture happens through different symbols. Through food and different cuisines, a culture maintains independent of space, and frameworks are created.

In this research we analyzed the Chinese cuisine in Heidelberg. Our aim was to deconstruct the highlighted food frameworks under the topic: Chinese restaurants in Heidelberg – mainstream versus traditional Chinese cuisine and its impact on urban life and form. In the following, we will firstly state our starting point, steps and methods, secondly, we will illuminate our analysis by explaining briefly our interview results. Thirdly, we describe and interpret our outcomes by incorporating two designed maps and bringing them into connection with the preliminary described food frameworks and then, conclude with the most important points of our research. 

2. Methodology 
Due to the fact that many Asian tourists, mainly from China, and Chinese students visit Heidelberg each year, we started to examine how many and where Chinese restaurants are offered in Heidelberg. We soon realized a few clusters of restaurants in the city areas Altstadt, Weststadt and close to Kirchheim. We interviewed five Chinese restaurants in different areas of Heidelberg and tried to focus on different establishments: take-away, traditional and mainstream restaurants. We focused on the questions “How is the food modified for the clientele?”, “Do you feel accepted in Heidelberg/Germany?”, “How important is food to you in this context?” and “Are you in touch with other Chinese restaurants and people?”1. Additionally, we looked at some TripAdvisor and yelp-comments on the chosen restaurants. Furthermore, we created three maps that show the distribution of the restaurants, the infrastructure and the rental prices. 

3. Analysis 
Map 1 displays where all the Chinese restaurants are located in the City of Heidelberg and it demonstrates cartographically the Chinese Community. The interviewed restaurants and the Asian shops are highlighted separately. In the following sub-chapters, we give an overview of the responses to the questionnaire we got and underline a few points in respect to location, exterior and interior, menu and the actual cuisine.

3.1 Hot Pot House 
The “Hot Pot House” is located in the Weststadt near Bismarckplatz and close to public transportation and a heavy traffic street. The owner is from Shanghai and opened the restaurant six years ago, one year after his family moved to Heidelberg. The décor of the restaurant can be described as simple and classic and their clientele is mostly German, who come regularly. In their culture they say “Food is heaven” and therefore, they try to keep the food menu traditional Chinese. Though, due to the difficulty of receiving some Chinese ingredients and the German ‘spice habits’, they had to adapt certain dishes. They stated, that they feel very accepted living in Germany and are also able to maintain their Chinese culture.

3.2 Chinese Restaurant Asia 
The Chinese Restaurant “Asia” is located in Altstadt close to some tourist attractions and can be easily reached by foot. The Malaysian owner with Chinese ancestors claims to serve his food as traditional as possible putting herbs and spices from the Chinese region Sichuan in his food. They had to adapt parts of the food to the German taste concerning spices. Their main customers are Chinese respectively Asian people mainly tourists but also some regular German customers. All in all, the restaurant stands for transporting Chinese culture and symbols through their menu.

3.3 China-Town 
The take-away restaurant “China-Town” can be found in Brückenstraße in the city area Neuenheim (cf. Map 1, p. 5). The owner Ling stems from a small village near Shanghai. He used to live in Berlin in 1990 and came via friends to Heidelberg where he worked in this establishment which became his own one five years ago. He agrees to the fact that Chinese restaurants often have to modify for the German clientele, which is the kind of clientele his establishments mainly addresses. Especially academics make their way to this diner-style take-away restaurant as Brückenstraße can be seen as merger for different campi of the University and is often frequented. Ling’s simple, fresh and fast menus allow a wide variety of people to enjoy a warm meal ‘on the go’. Different portion sizes and a choice of different types of sauces make it possible to address your personal taste among the Chinese cuisine.

3.4 Restaurant Pavillon 
In direct contrast to the establishment “China-Town” stands the restaurant “Pavillon”. The restaurant can be located in Weststadt near Czernyring and Montpellierbrücke. Here, the manager Xia has the business philosophy to serve “something for everyone” so that each customer will find something to eat in this restaurant he or she likes. Xia originally comes from Wenzhou, also close to Shanghai. She studied business at Heidelberg University and explained during the interview that she took the establishment over from her sister in 2002. Xia likes to live in Germany and feels accepted. She also sees it as natural and obvious to accept the habits of Germans and their tastes. The restaurant offers different “mainstream” Chinese dishes such as Peking Duck, springrolls and rice-dishes with vegetables, noodles or meat and fish and they offer buffets and have special offers for seniors and luncher. The décor is mainly from Taiwan and let one feel enter a typical Chinese scenario with fountain, benches, wooden elements and other carvings.

3.5 Restaurant Mr. Wu 
When coming closer to the Chinese restaurant Mr. Wu one cannot miss the big parking lot in the front and the buses arriving there close to Bauhaus. Also, can several signs in front of the restaurant be traced - all in Chinese. Liangren owns the restaurant. The economic situation in China made him and his family decide to move to Europe via friends who helped them to an independent life in Europe. They moved to Germany in 2001. In 2009 the family opened the restaurant close to Bismarckplatz and since then has offered the 70%-Chinese-clientele all kinds of ‘typical’ Chinese dishes. But they also address German customers who long for dishes they remember from visits in China or “foodies” who like to come. Their criteria for opening a restaurant in Heidelberg was to have a central location and being close to transportation. The owner says he now sees Germany as his home but language is sometimes a problem so he is in close contact with other Chinese people in Heidelberg especially friends who also have a restaurant or shop nearby. 8 

4. Outcomes 

Important for our research topic is to interpret the answers and categorize them according to the aspects ‘urban life’ and ‘urban form’. We took the readings and class discussions into consideration and came up with the following table: Urban life 
Urban form 
Spatial individual practices of the citizens, mobility 
Main streets 
Sense of community 
City centre 
Identity, immigration 
Cultural interchange 
Space-time relation 
Rental prices 


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