On the outskirts of North Eastern Berlin, hidden in the unknown district of Lichtenberg, tucked in between a couple of dodgy warehouses, you will find one of the most interesting, yet inaccessible, food destinations of Berlin. I'm talking about the Dong Xuan Center, the infamous Vietnamese commercial center and the pulsating heart of the Vietnamese community in Berlin.
“ "you will find one of the most interesting yet inaccessible food destinations of Berlin."
The Dong Xuan center is truly the epicentre of Vietnamese Berlin and if you've ever spent some time in Berlin, you will have noticed how ubiquitous Vietnamese food culture is in Berlin. There are hundreds of Vietnamese restaurants in Germany's capital and the Vietnamese pose one of the largest immigrant communities of Berlin after the Turkish.
Throughout the years I've been to the Dong Xuan Center many times, but I've never felt that I truly cracked the code of the Center when it comes to food. Because while I managed to secure all assets I needed for a nail salon, purchase my mirror blue toilet seat with a 3-D image of two fornicating dolphins and secure enough durian fruit to piss off all neighbours forever, I reluctantly had to admit that I never had a truly great meal at the Dong Xuang Center. They were ok, but not great. The restaurants are very Vietnamese and the menus fairly hard to understand. This all changed a couple of weeks ago when a massive fire at the Dong Xuan Center made me get my ass out of gear and do a shout out on Instagram for a true Dong Xuan food expert. This is when I found the fabulous Linh, a second generation German Vietnamese, who took a couple of friends and myself on a tour to the center the uncover the true food secrets of the city.
“ "The Don Xuang Center is home to over ten restaurants but Linh taught me that there really only is one that you should go to."
The Don Xuang Center is home to over ten restaurants but Linh taught me that there really only is one that you should go to. The name of it is Duc Anh (remember this name) and it's the restaurant all the way to the far left end in hall number three. Duc Anh is the preferred restaurant of the Vietnamese community and of all the restaurants the one that's been in the hand of the same owners for the longest time. Visually Duc Anh is very similar to the other places with its massive venue and large outdoor veranda facing the parking lot of the center. But food wise this place is absolutely insane - if you order the right things.
“ "But food wise this place is absolutely insane - if you order the right things."
The menu at Duc Anh is massive and you if you stick to Vietnamese classics, you are in for a treat. Like the noodle soup syaple Pho, at Duc Anh there is an enormous selection of Phos and my absolute favourite is the Pho Bo Tai Lan (#10 on the menu), a beef pho where the meat has been quickly seared in a wok for maximum flavour. The result is a true flavour bomb, a fantastic, umami-laden version of a normal pho and and for sure one of the best phos in all of Berlin. The noodle soups at this place are generally very good and interesting (including th Bun Ga Mang Kho Moc with chicken and dried bamboo), pushing my reigning Vietnamese noodle soup champion Banh Xeo in Pberg down from its throne.
“ "The result is a true flavour bomb, a fantastic, umami-laden version of a normal pho and and for sure one of the best phos in all of Berlin."
Two outstanding Vietnamese dishes, which are very common across Vietnamese restaurants in the city but always just a shadow of how good they are in Vietnam, are Bun Cha (grilled pork) and Bun Nem (fried spring rolls). At Duc Anh these dishes are served just like in Vietnam, with mountains of rice noodles, green herbs and sweet chili sauce and they are insanely good. Pure comfort food. And while the papaya salads at Duc Anh also are sparkling crispy and fresh, it's another dish that turns out to be one of my favourite discoveries at Duc Anh. Suon Heo Rang Muoi is the name, and we're talking about tiny pieces of deep fried pork ribs that have been tossed in an unreal sweet and sour chili sauce and which will make you forget most other Asian ribs you've tasted - they are absolutely incredible. And to balance the fatty ribs you should order a massive plate of juicy and green water spinach.
“ "...we're talking about tiny pieces of deep fried pork ribs that have been tossed in an unreal sweet and sour chili sauce.."
With my few meals at Duc Anh I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of this place though and I've seen massive plates of charcoal grilled meats being carried out of the kitchen, including mountain of goat, veal, eel and giant shrimp. These plates are priced fairly high at 40€ a pop, but keep in mind that portion sizes are enormous and they should be shared family style between larger parties of four and more.
“ "Saying that Duc Anh at the Dong Xuan Center is a great Vietnamese restaurant would be an understatement because it is, without a doubt, the best and most authentic Vietnamese food I've had in Berlin"
Saying that Duc Anh at the Dong Xuan Center is a great Vietnamese restaurant would be an understatement because it is, without a doubt, the best and most authentic Vietnamese food I've had in Berlin. Eating this outstanding food at Duc Anh, I realized that the last time I felt similar about a food destination was when I first visited the Thai Park, that feeling of an undiscovered, culinary gem that deserves way more attention. Because truth be told, most of the Vietnamese food served in Berlin is fairly average and Duc Anh is a true game changer. So please, take a trip out to Dong Xuan Center, have some amazing Vietnamese food, buy a toilet seat with pandas on it and tag me on social media.