Throughout its history, Istanbul has had a rich culinary heritage that was influenced by the cultures of many different regions, from Asia and Europe to the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. The city has now become a major international gastronomic hub with world-famous restaurants.
Istanbulites, as well as tourists, show great interest in Mexican, British, French, Italian, Indian, Iranian and Chinese restaurants in the city's different districts.
Changcheng is one of the restaurants serving foreign cuisines in Istanbul. Owner İsmet Arslan told Anadolu Agency (AA) he and his son decided to open a Chinese restaurant in 2008, to serve local and foreign tourists in the city’s historic Sultanahmet neighborhood.
Arslan said there were only three Chinese restaurants in the district when they decided to open. "Now there are seven Chinese restaurants," he said.
“There is a high demand for Chinese restaurants. We know that our people have some concerns about the cleanliness of Chinese restaurants, but I must say that the municipality conducts regular kitchen inspections,” Arslan said. “We are releasing the camera footage so that everyone can see how the dishes are prepared in the kitchen and know what they eat. We also do not use any ready-made materials,” he added.
Changcheng’s owner and manager, Bilginer Arslan, said he came up with the idea of opening a restaurant while receiving training in China. "Our customers are predominantly Chinese. Apart from them, the restaurant welcomes many Indian, Iranian and Korean guests," he said.
Arslan added that there is a negative perception of Chinese cuisine and Chinese food. “We do not get many Turkish customers because of the false perception that is reflected in some documentaries, especially on television channels,” he said. “Turks think of Chinese cuisine as a kitchen consisting of insects, pigs and eel. That is why they do not come. We are trying to break that perception. However, Turkish businesspeople who are educated in China or doing business with China know this is not the case. Therefore, we have a good Turkish customer portfolio of these people. Hopefully, we will be able to change the misconception.”
He stressed that they meet their meat and seafood needs from Turkey and purchase special sauces from China or the Chinese markets in Turkey. “One of the most special dishes of China is Peking duck,” he said.
The restaurant also offers dapenci, Chinese ravioli and spaghetti pasta. It has around 148 dishes on its menu. The cooks are Chinese.
“If you are opening a Chinese restaurant, the cook must be Chinese so that customers can enjoy that original taste. I think we are number one in terms of service and quality. I can say that we are the address of quality, cheap Far Eastern cuisine in Sultanahmet, in the heart of Istanbul.”
Uğur Altınsoy, who has a carpet shop in Sultanahmet, said he preferred Changcheng because he liked bitter dishes and recalled that many foreign restaurants have opened in Istanbul in recent years.
“There are many world-renowned places among foreign brands. I think Istanbul has already become a gastronomic city. Even world cuisine is being moved to Istanbul. I come here a couple of times a week. Sometimes you just look for different flavors. I find that different flavor here,” Altınsoy noted.
Wang Lu, a 29-year-old teacher who came to Istanbul a week ago, said he loved Istanbul very much and was very pleased to have found a Chinese restaurant here.
Chinese accountant Wang Sini, on the other hand, said when he saw a Chinese restaurant in the city, he felt like he was eating his mother's food at home. “There is no difference between what I eat here and what I eat in my country in terms of flavor,” he added.
Lebanese university student Abdul-Rahman Chamsin said that it was his fourth visit to Istanbul and that he liked the city very much. “I am glad I found a Chinese restaurant in Turkey,” Chamsin said.