World / China-Brazil

Chinese restaurant offers window on growing ties with Brazil

By LIA ZHU in RIO DE JANEIRO (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-05-21 10:43

Chinese cuisine is catching on with Brazilians, who have a fondness for kung pao chicken and spicy bean curd, said Chen Xiuwen, owner of a restaurant in Rio de Janeiro.

"We have seen an increasing number of Brazilian people coming to our restaurant in recent years," said Chen, 65. She spoke to China Daily at the restaurant called Diyi Chan, which means "the first spatula" in Chinese.

"I think it's a result of more exchanges between Chinese and Brazilian people," Chen said. "More and more Brazilians visit China, and they get to try Chinese food there. After they come back, they would naturally want to try more Chinese cuisine here."

Chen said the restaurant was even more popular on weekends. "It's a good place for family reunions. We have to serve over 150 people at the same time at the busiest time," she said.

However, business was more modest when the Chen family opened 50 years ago, Chen recalled.

"We had only a few Chinese customers at the beginning," said Chen, who immigrated to Brazil from Guangdong province in 1964 at age 15.

"At first we served Guangdong cuisine," she said. "Later, with more Chinese people coming to Rio, engaging in trades between China and Brazil, we began providing North China-flavor dishes," she said.

The numbers of local customers have expanded.

"The old [Brazilian] customers took their children to our restaurant, and now those children have become adults and have their own children," Chen said. "They bring their children and friends to our restaurant."

Andrea Degmont is among the faithful customers.

"I've been visiting this restaurant for 15 years," said Degmont, a food critic for Rio de Janeiro-based newspaper O Globo.

"It's not a fancy restaurant, but it offers the best Chinese food in Rio," she said, while enjoying dinner.

"My family and friends all love Chinese food," she said, adding that her favorite was won ton soup and kung pao chicken, a spicy dish of diced chicken and peanuts.

A kung pao chicken entrée costs 35 Brazilian real, or $11.60, which is "cheap in Brazil", according to Degmont.

Still, Chen said her business has been a little slow since last year due to the overall economic slowdown in Brazil.

"But we are confident," she said. "The Chinese premier is visiting Brazil, and many deals have been signed."

She said she had been closely watching the news about Premier Li Keqiang's visit.

Following a meeting between Li and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday, China is going to invest $50 billion in Brazil. More Chinese investment is expected to go to infrastructure as Rio, the country's tourist magnet, prepares to host the first Olympics Games in South America next year.

"It's definitely good news to both countries," Chen said. "More investors from China means more business to local people, including us overseas Chinese."

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