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Chinese staples in Dublin’s fair city

Last update - Thursday, June 18, 2009, 13:02 By Metro Éireann

Xian Ming Liu of The Manna Chinese Restaurant on Parnell Street - Dublin’s ‘Chinatown’ - talks to KATRIN SCHMIDT about producing tasty food at fair prices

When Xian Ming Liu decided to build up a restaurant in Dublin, he wanted it to be “in the middle of Dublin’s Chinatown”. The Manna Chinese Restaurant is in existence for eight years now and is popular both with Chinese people and guests of other nationalities.
“When I came here, I noticed that there were many people selling Chinese food. But that was mostly Cantonese food to take away,” explains Xian. “At that time I made a lot of money, so I decided to open a traditional Chinese restaurant and to offer traditional Chinese food.”
Before starting his own restaurant, he had already gained some experience in the area of gastronomy.
“I already worked as a cook in China and in a restaurant at Moore Street for two years. I noticed that there are so many Chinese restaurants on Moore Street. So I decided to set up my restaurant at Parnell Street because it is in the middle of Chinatown,” underlines Xian.
Not only the location makes Chinese people feel just like back home. The restaurant broadcasts Chinese TV, and its walls are covered with decorative pictures of Chinese landscapes. Furthermore, the restaurant’s meals make their Chinese guests wallow in homeland memories.
“The dishes are totally different from other restaurants,” he says. “We offer traditional Mandarin food. For example we have hand-made noodles. And we serve the typical Chinese hot pot.
“We have two kinds of hot pot – the first is a really big one, where many people can eat from it. And the second one is for a single person. So we offer every size for different kinds of wishes.”
The restaurant’s customers really seem to appreciate this service, as a guest enthusiastically tucks into the special hand-made noodles. “I like this restaurant because it offers food which tastes like the one from my hometown in China,” says the diner.
But the place is also very popular with European guests too.  “I kind of feel as if I would be in China because the restaurant looks typical Chinese with all the pictures here,” says one man, enjoying a steaming bowl of rice and chicken in front of him.
Though the business does well, Xian has realised that since the economic downturn, many people think twice if they really want to eat out. But he has thought of a solution.
“Only this year the situation got a bit difficult. Due to the financial crisis, a lot of people have less money. But they have to eat anyway. So we changed the prices, like lunch for example it just costs €6.99. So we help the customers during this difficult financial situation.”
Xian says that not every Chinese restaurant is as fair towards its guests. “There are many restaurants which have two menus: one for Chinese guests and the other one for customers of  different nationalities,,” says Xian.
“They oftentimes have different prices for different customers. For the Chinese, the menu is oftentimes cheaper. But we don’t want to do that, we have the same prices for every customer, no matter what their nationality is.”
Only one question might divide Xian’s guests: do you want to eat with fork and spoon, or chopsticks?

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