Joburg People – Emma Chen on Chinese Joburg

more than a year ago

We asked restaurant owner and author Emma Chen, to share her top 9 Chinese Joburg experiences with us. Chen was born in Taiwan and has lived in Johannesburg for more than 30 years. She is the owner of Red Chamber Mandarin Restaurant in Hyde Park Corner and the author of a food memoir Emperor can Wait.

1. Walk along the short stretch of shops in Commissioner Street, the old Chinatown. The United Club on 6 Commissioner Street was established in 1909 and was recently redone. If you feel like some old fashioned sweets such as Dates and Walnut Jelly, pop in to Sui Hing Hong supermarket.

2.Spend half a day in Cyrildene, the new Chinatown. The brand-new China Arch at the entrance to Derrick Avenue is a good symbol of the growing and prosperous Chinese community in Johannesburg. Randomly pop into one of the restaurants, try something small then pop into the next one. This is a good way to discover the diversity of Chinese food.The best shuijiao (boiled dumplings) can be had at North Dumplings.

3. Admire the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere in Bronkhorstspruit (about 45 min away from Johannesburg.) The magnificent Nan Hua Temple was donated by the Taiwanese Buddhists when Taiwan had close ties with South Africa.

4. Need to stay cool and calm? Go to a Tai Chi class on Thursday evenings in Kensington run by the Tibetan Meditation Centre. This old Joburg suburb has some grand houses from a bygone era. On Saturday mornings, Tai Chi classes can also be found at Emmarentia Dam.

5. Interested to know how the Chinese came to South Africa? Many were brought to the country to work in the mines in the early 1900s. Read Colour, Confusions and Concessions: the History of Chinese in South Africa by Melanie Yap and Daniel Leong Man.

6. Shop for bargains at China Mart. Here you can join shoppers from all over Africa in pursuit of all kinds of cheap goods from China. Just watch out for the loading trucks.

7. Craving authentic Peking duck? Red Chamber in Hyde Park serves Peking duck prepared in the traditional way. The restaurant also has a no MSG policy.

8. Join hundreds of spectators at Florida Lake (in the South of Johannesburg) to watch the fierce competition amongst the region's Dragon Boat racing teams. The boating often takes place on public holidays and Sundays, although dates are not fixed. Check out the Gauteng dragon boat club's website at for more.

9. Look for a copy of the Chinese language newspaper African Times and marvel at how this small team of people produces the most popular newspaper for the community.

Associated Venues

Red Chamber

 Hyde Park Corner, cnr Jan Smuts Ave and 6th Rd, Hyde Park


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