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The aroma of China

This scent is not forgotten easily. The fragrances of fried Peking duck, boiled cabbage and an undefined sweet flavour hang in the air, diffused by numerous restaurants that line Gerrard Street in the heart of China Town.

China Town smells distinctively different from all other parts of London and strongly reminds me of the years I spent in China.

Of course, in Shanghai the smell of street food was even more intense and omnipresent but still, the aroma that is prevalent here evokes memories and a soothing feeling of familiarity.

When you are close by, in Soho or Leicester Square, you can let your nose be your guide. The aroma of China Town will guide you to your favourite restaurant.

A happy crowd made up of a mixture of nationalities and races mingle here to eat delicious Dim Sum, buy fancy looking fruit cakes with Winnie the Pooh icing, or to take pictures and absorb this atmosphere that stands in stark contrast to everything else in the city.

The Loon Fung supermarket, which is located in the heart of China Town, is a smell sensation in itself. It has all sorts of imported goods on the shelves, including the highly dreaded Durian fruit which, when in season, diffuses a stench that is either loved or hated and notable miles away.

The combination of fragrances and aromas that are to be found in the supermarket can be overwhelming and when you pass the meat and fish counter, you have to sprint past whilst holding your breath. 

Window display

Dry cured birds hanging on metal hooks are displayed in the windows of the restaurants and the fragrance of steaming hot fried rice is mouth watering.

Bitter Chinese herbs and Chinese medicine, which can also be purchased in the district, add their own distinct note to the swirling mixture of scents that engulf the passer-bys and visitors alike.

Visiting London’s China Town takes you on a smell-induced journey and if you like the exotic, it is definitely worth a visit.

Words & Images by Alexandra Buerger

Visit China Town, London, W1 (020 7333 8118) www.chinatownlondon.org
Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square

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