Some New Discoveries in Chinatown

Last weekend I discovered a couple of new places in Cyrildene, Johannesburg’s “new” Chinatown. (Cyrildene is in Joburg’s eastern suburbs. The “old” Chinatown in downtown Joburg still exists, but most of the Chinese businesses moved to Cyrildene over the last two decades. Read more on old Chinatown vs. new Chinatown.)

Shaun-De

Shun De, a well known dim sum restaurant in Cyrildene (not one of the new places that I discovered last weekend). 

Actually, I didn’t really discover these places (they were brought to my attention) and the places aren’t really new (just new to me). But you know what I mean.

Cyrildene can be daunting to visit for a newcomer, as virtually everyone who lives/works there is Chinese and lots of people don’t speak English. There are dozens of little restaurants and shops, but it’s hard to figure out where to go and what to eat if you’re not with someone who knows the ropes.

I’ve been to Cyrildene many times over the years but I still feel a little uncertain every time. So it was fun to go with a group of friends that included my friend Hayley, a South African of Chinese descent who’s been frequenting Cyrildene since she was a kid.

First Hayley took us to Coco Fresh Tea and Juice.

Coco

Coco Fresh Tea and Juice.

Coco is a bubble tea joint. Bubble tea has become a phenomenon in South Africa, thanks to happy.me, and I’ve blogged about it before. I’ve even had bubble tea at another shop in Cyrildene, called Simplicity.

But Coco has a unique feel because it’s an actual Chinese bubble tea chain, with 900 locations in China and many more throughout the world. Coco’s website proclaims that it sells 100 cups of pearl milk tea every second. Coco opened up in Cyrildene quite recently — less than a year ago — and there are a few other Coco locations around Joburg.

Bubble-tea-and-helmet

Coco reflected in my friend Roy’s motorcycle helmet. Hayley and Tim are in the background.

Coco’s menu is much like happy.me’s, just slightly less westernized. Options include “Milk Tea with Red Bean”, “Taro Milk Tea with Rainbow Jelly”, and “Bubble Gaga” (I have no idea what that is but I’m definitely trying it next time). I went with “Three Buddies”: milk tea with tapioca bubbles, grass jelly, and custard. It was a bit too sweet for me, to be honest, but I’m looking forward to trying some other Coco specialties.

After Coco, we went to dinner at Fong Mei.

Fong-Mei-restaurant

Fong Mei Restaurant.

Fong Mei is right next door to Fisherman’s Plate, which until now had been my default Chinese restaurant in Cyrildene. But I’d been underwhelmed by Fisherman’s Plate recently, and now I know that Fong Mei is much better anyway.

We ordered way too much food for five people: spicy cucumber, dumplings, and seaweed for starters, then two platters of crispy pork, beef flank stew, cashew chicken, noodles, and fish ball soup. We stuffed ourselves and still had plenty of leftovers.

Dinner-table2

A lazy Susan full of food.

Crispy-pork

Crispy pork.

Fish-balls

Fish ball soup (it had a fancier name on the menu but I can’t remember it now). I ordered this thinking the table would share it but I wound up getting the whole bowl to myself, as everyone else seemed to think that Chinese fish balls are dodgy. Their loss! It was delicious and I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Our entire dinner for five at Fong Mei, including drinks and a takeaway order of wanton soup for Ray, was R750 (about $60).

Thanks for the new discoveries, Hayley. Let’s go back soon for Bubble Gaga and fish balls.

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6 Comments

  • Reply Namz July 21, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    I love cyrildene! Ate at fisherman’s once and didn’t like it..so now my loyalties lie with Sai Thai, shun de (go for their Sunday brunch), northern foods and Li. Haven’t tried fong mei..but thanks for putting it on my list!

    • Reply 2summers July 21, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      I like all of those too, except for Li which I don’t think I’ve tried. Will have to check it out.

  • Reply Gail Wilson July 21, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Fong Mei and Northern Foods my favourites along with Coco’s Bubble Coffee. Do a lot of my normal shopping there, veggies are very fresh and the cashew nuts, aloe juice along with a whole lot of other stuff is way cheaper than your average supermarket.

    • Reply 2summers July 21, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      I think I remember your Facebook post about Coco several months ago. You’re always ahead of the curve!

  • Reply Lani July 22, 2015 at 6:59 am

    What a nice surprise! Chinatown in South Africa. I would have never thought it. And yeah, fish balls, not for everyone. I don’t mind them though because I grew up with that kind of food in my home.

    • Reply 2summers July 22, 2015 at 11:25 am

      Yeah, there is actually a huge Chinese influence in SA. And lots of really good authentic Chinese food! Rainbow Nation, and all that.

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