Shop/Food in Berlin: Dong Xuan Center

Dong Xuan Center

Now that bubble tea has swept the city, it’s worth asking: Just where do all those bubbles come from? As it turns out, it’s the same industrial zone in Lichtenberg where you can buy those cutesy manicure tables with the built-in nail dryers, the very same place where the more adventurous Lichtenbergers go to get their heads shaved in faux gangsta patterns.
The Dong Xuan Center, also somewhat misleadingly known as Berlin’s ‘Vietnamese mall’, is in fact nothing like a shopping mall. It is ground zero for a fascinating development turning this run-down part of Lichtenberg into ‘Asia-Town‘ replete with a library, a center for East-Asian medicine, and even pagodas, if the website is to be believed, Passing through a gate between some dilapidated structures scheduled to be repurposed as an Asian Kulturhaus, a Markthalle, and more, you’ll find a vast compound of hangars and parking lots catering to a thin but steady trickle of not just Berliners of Asian descent.

Hangar upon hangar, each with an endless central corridor off which are equally endless numbers of shops, each smelling more like capitalism than the perhaps expected fresh herbs and fragrant beef broth aromas one would expect.

Now, don’t get me wrong, capitalism here does not mean Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, or Prada, but fresh, crisp polyethylene (and not just at the few stores just selling plastic bags). The smell of synthetics is all-pervasive, whether you’re in the colorful toilet seats, Kanye glasses, or ‘silk’ flowers section; your nostrils be flaring like at a launch for one of Comme des Garçons more deliciously outré perfumes.

Each hangar looks the same, but hypnotically so: gaudy market-stand fashions, neon nail tips, flimsy bike locks, flimsier tea towels, canned Indian food past its sell-by date, more towels (ones with naked 80s ladies on them), hand bags, hand bags with cats on them, fake guns, and so on and so plastic. Unlike the cheap chinoiseries at your local Asia Markt, or the more exotic teen-girl presents at Nanu Nana, the toys and, for lack of a better word, objets for sale here are mostly meant for wholesale purchase; to populate the unpopular corners of Polish gas stations and struggling Brandenburg minimarts with crap nobody wants and less people need.

Yet I don’t come here just for cheap giggles at Eastern European styles, I come for the boxes of  artichoke tea (also in a pungent ginseng version) or corn silk tea (yes, made from that fluff between the cob and the husk); all of which carry a pleasant and addictively earthy flavor. I come to buy handfuls of fresh thai basil or cilantro, bundles of fresh greens that I never know the names of (just that a brief twirl around my wok, a splash of rice vinegar, and liberal doses of salt and sesame seeds make them super and delicious). I buy bottles of Sriracha sauce, and chillies in oil with peanuts, and of course phở paste to make my own Vietnamese-style noodle soup. Phở paste!

There are plenty of places to buy fresh phở too, but don’t worry about the infuriatingly vague menu translations (mostly in the key of “noodles with vegetables”), just go with some adventurous friends and order something off every menu section. Also make sure to try out the condiments and toppings on your table. Sure, pile on the sliced garlic and various hot sauces; they might make you breathe fire, but where else in berlin can you shop on a budget and dine like a dragon?

Text: Florian Duijsens
Photo: Mary Scherpe

Dong Xuan Center
Herzbergstraße 128–139
10365 Berlin Lichtenberg

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Subway: M8 to Herzbergstraße
+49 30 55152038
email
visit website

Opening Hours:
Wed–Mon 11–20h,
Tue closed

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  1. Im Mary on

    Reply

    Oh great! Since I have vietnamese boyfriend I really like their food too. We have something like that in PRAGUE, its called Sapa and its HUGE. And its actually great You can buy food there and cook something home afterwards :)

  2. Julia on

    Reply

    Wo ist das? Und wer ist überhaupt Florian?

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      Liebe Julia, du findest einen Link zu Florians Blog und die Adresse am Ende des Textes

  3. Julia on

    Reply

    Oh, Sorry. Ich hatte den Beitrag nicht ganz aufgeklickt.

    Aber ist Stil in Berlin nun so ein Blog mit vielen Autoren? Stellt Euch doch mal vor. Wäre
    sicher interessant für die Leser.

  4. Sylee on

    Reply

    Mhmm, to load those leafy greens into my wicker basket!

  5. Anonymous on

    Reply

    Hi,

    I will be in Berlin 25-th and 26=th of August (there will be Lange Nacht der Museen). I like chinese food and pho soup. Can you recommend place where it is possible to eat good chinese food and pho soup (not expensive). I stay in Charlottenburg.

    Best regards
    Anna

  6. Anonymous on

    Reply

    @Anna
    My favorite place for chinese food is Asia Deli, Seestraße 41, Berlin-Wedding.
    Ask for the red chinese menue card (important: if you look european they’ll bring you the black one), order & enjoy! You’ll get fresh, tasty dishes maily from the Hunan & Sichuan provinces. Don’t wear your best clothing since they operate an open kitchen ;)
    http://www.qype.com/place/953419-Asia-Deli-Berlin

  7. Anonymous on

    Reply

    Sehr gut geschrieben!
    Mehr Florian bitte!

    1. Anonymous on

      Oh ja, mehr von Florian. Er schreibt wirklich besser als die anderen Autoren hier.

  8. Dan on

    Reply

    Impressive. Living in Berlin since birth an did not know this place.

  9. bunavita on

    Reply

    huah! sooo prettyyyyyyy!

  10. Jay K. on

    Reply

    Yeah, this place is kind of amazing because you can get a real culture shock. They have done a amazing job to get a interessting atmosphere in the middle of Berlin. It took us a while to get out of “Vietnam” in our heads, even after we leaved the place.

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