Exploring restaurants in Jozi’s Chinatown

I have recently started writing for an online magazine called More Than Food and this is my first article for them! I will be posting snippets of my stories here.


Cyrildene, in the east of Johannesburg is popularly known as the ‘new’ Chinatown. When the ‘old’ Chinatown, located along Commissioner Street in Newtown went downhill on account of crime and urban decay, most of the Asian community moved to Derrick Avenue in Cyrildene.

An impressive archway marks the entrance to the street, which is lined with Asian supermarkets, tea shops, spas, salons and numerous restaurants. If you are looking for something really authentic, and don’t really mind if the place is small with tacky decor, this is the place to go to. There are tons of places to choose from so it can get a little overwhelming. But here are some tried and tested recommendations to start you off.


Sai Thai

Located at the corner of Derrick and Marcia Streets, Sai Thai serves some of the best Thai food I have eaten in the city. The restaurant is small and unpretentious and the walls are adorned with numerous awards won by Chef Micky, who runs the place with her husband. The waiters are few but service has never been a problem.

The menu is pretty extensive with a good selection of vegetarian options as well. Most curries can be ordered in chicken, pork or prawns. The Chef is happy to make the curries really really hot if you are a chilli fan like me! You just have to ask.

Almost everything I have tried here has been really good. Personal favourites are the raw papaya salad, Tom Yum Gai soup, beef stir fry with basil and the Panang curry.

Tip: go in a large group so you can try a larger variety of dishes.


Shun De Restaurant


This place is famous for its dim sums and rightfully so!

A little while ago, I was casually strolling down Chinatown looking for some fresh lemongrass (to make my own Tom Yum Gai!) and I noticed a steady stream of people making their way in and out of a small alley. Closer examination revealed that a Chinese restaurant, located on the first floor, had its entrance in this alley.

Having already had lunch that day, I came back over the weekend to try the food at Shun De. Ordering here can be a little challenging as the menu is in Chinese! But the waiters are very helpful and will happily guide you. If you are only there for the dim sums, you just need to head to the counter set up especially for them and point to the ones you like. They are fresh and hot and will leave you wanting more. While at this place, don’t forget to try their green tea.

Tip: if you go over the weekend, make sure you reach early (before 12pm) as the place tends to get really busy.


Li Restaurant


You cannot go very wrong when you try a place that is frequented by the locals! Li is one such place where the majority of the diners are usually Chinese. The restaurant, like most other places, is family run and the service at times can be a tad slow. But the food and friendly service, more than make up for it. The portion size is pretty decent and ideal for sharing. Their beef stir fry with ginger is to die for.

Tip: The restaurant only accepts cash.


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