Dot Game w/h Fan Zhao | hvv switch | hvv switch

my hvv switch station

reading time 3 min.

At the main station w/h Fan Zao.

Every hvv switch point is a story in itself - and an invitation to make a point. More than 100 hvv switch points in Hamburg offer a variety of ways to get from A to anywhere. We introduce you to exciting people from Hamburg - on their routes through the city. Restaurateur Fan Zhao, owner of CÀI Kitchen in the Karoviertel neighbourhood.

Fan Zhao at the hvv switch point at Hamburg Central StationThis Friday in December is the derby in Hamburg, St Pauli versus HSV. There are a conspicuous number of police cars on the streets - or rather: stationary, many streets are closed. Typical chaos. But restaurateur Fan Zhao is not fazed by this, she knows the football circus: her vegan snack bar CAI Kitchen in the Karoviertel district is less than 500 metres from the Millerntor stadium.

Fan opened the restaurant in 2018. It serves dishes from her native China, more precisely from Sichuan province. "The region's cuisine is already relatively popular in countries such as France and the USA, as it offers many delicious vegan dishes," says Fan. A gap in the market, thought the 36-year-old, and opened CAI Kitchen. She offers traditional dishes there: Spicy dan dan noodles, actually a meat dish from the Sichuan province, which Fan has made vegan with a modified recipe and offers with vegan mince. Or vegetable dumplings with homemade, fiery hot chilli sauce.

Fan, you have chosen the Glockengießerwall switch point at the main railway station as your meeting point. Why?

Together with a colleague, I go shopping for my snack every fortnight in Mönckebergstraße. There is a Chinese supermarket chain directly below Karstadt. However, it's not easy to park a private car in the area. Car sharing is much more practical, especially because of the hvv switch car park.

You grew up in the Chinese province of Sichuan. When did you come to Germany and why?

I came to Germany when I was 20 years old. Actually to study. I then started a degree in humanities, but I didn't really like it. So I dropped out and trained as a chef in a hotel in Hamburg - fortunately. I am very proud to be a caterer.

Was it already clear to you during your training that you would one day open something of your own?

I thought about what I wanted to do with it relatively quickly, yes. During my training, I learned how to bring structure and organisation to a restaurant business. And I realised how much demand there was for vegan food. That's how I came up with the idea for CAI Kitchen. I was sure that there was a market for a vegan snack bar.

What does "Cai" mean in Cai Kitchen?

Vegetables - when we talk about vegan cuisine in China, we talk about "Cai". In China, we have many vegan dishes that people here in Germany don't really know about yet. There are also many vegan sauces. It's just not emphasised that people eat vegan.

You have also reworked some recipes to make them vegan...

Yes, the dan dan noodles, for example, a traditional dish with a long history in Sichuan province. We added vegan mince to the pork and created our own recipe. Dan Dan means bamboo stick in the Chengdu dialect. In the past, dan dan vendors carried a stick with two large pots on the side over their shoulders to sell the dish with cooked noodles, mince, spices and other ingredients in the city. Street food, in other words.

You come from Chengdu, a city of 25 million people and the capital of Sichuan province. Why Hamburg?

I first had to learn German to get a place at university. I did this in various cities and got to know many places in the country: Münster, Leipzig, Nordhausen, Weimar - and then Hamburg. I then had a boyfriend and my first part-time job in Hamburg. I really liked the city and so I thought: why not live here? That was 14 years ago. In the meantime, I thought about moving to Berlin. But because of the snack bar, it wouldn't fit now. Besides, I spend a lot of time in Berlin for work...

In 2021, you opened a second Cai Kitchen on Schönhauser Allee in Mitte...

Exactly. Berlin is exciting, the culinary diversity there is more pronounced than here. There are many creative and authentic cuisines. I don't think the restaurateurs in Hamburg are quite as brave. But I'm very happy in Hamburg.

What is your favourite place in Hamburg?

Planten and Bloomen! It's a wonderful place to go for a walk in summer and there's a herb garden there that I love. You can not only see the herbs there, but also smell them - and, if nobody is looking, you can even try them. Otherwise, I like to go out to eat. My favourite restaurant is Leche de Tigre. Another great passion of mine is techno. When I had a bit more time, I loved dancing to techno music at PAL.

Fan Zhao, owner of Cai Kitchen, stands laughing at the hvv switch point at Hamburg Central Station

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