newsJewish & Israeli Culture

Chinese restaurant in London offers kosher dishes with a side of history

Open since 1986, the owners named the venue, Kaifeng, after the Persian Jews who lived in China from 960 to 1279.

Moo Shu pancakes. Source: YouTube.
Moo Shu pancakes. Source: YouTube.

The legendary relationship between the Jewish people and Chinese cuisine has reached new heights at a North London venue that offers both contemporary dishes and a taste of history.

The name “Kaifeng” originates from a group of Jews from Persia who followed the Silk Road to ultimately settle in Kaifeng, China. The community reached 2,500 and was renowned for a large synagogue with architecture inspired by Chinese temples. During Passover, according to reports, their custom was to eat Chinese (also known as moo shu) pancakes, which were technically unleavened.

The kosher restaurant named after these since-disappeared people, who assimilated into broader Chinese society, offers a variety of Cantonese-style meals, including crispy chili beef, honey chicken and hoisin duck. Dishes specifically inspired by the Jews of Kaifeng also appear on the menu, such as a Henan-style lamb and chicken marinated in cumin, hoisin and chilies.

Co-owner Philip Pell says the restaurant he runs with Norman Han “was opened at a time when limited kosher food was available, and even now, 38 years later, no one has rivaled Kaifeng.”

It has since welcomed everyone from locals to tourists to politicians worldwide.

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