Antwerp has so many restaurants that even after over ten years of living here, my family and I are not even close to trying them all. This is also because like many incoming families, part of what makes you feel at home in a city is having a “go-to” restaurant: that one place where you know you will get good food; the one which all family members agree on. For us, this is Bai Wei’s Hand-Pulled Noodle Bar on Van Wesenbekestraat.
Pleasing everyone in our family can be a tall order when it comes to Chinese restaurants. There’s myself and my eldest daughter, who are both vegetarians; there’s the two younger kids who eat fish but not meat (the youngest is additionally a five year old fussy eater) and there’s my partner, Timo, who eats pretty much everything but is picky about what constitutes good Chinese food, having lived for six years during his youth in Taipei, Taiwan.
Bai Wei is not a vegetarian restaurant but there are a couple of good vegetarian choices: I usually go for the Tofu Bai Wei style with rice, while my daughter is a devotee of the Mapo Tofu ( listed as a meat dish, but can be prepared vegetarian) which is spicy, but can be made milder for you. My son chooses a fish dish, while the fussy five year old will pick from other people’s plates, help herself to rice and always enjoys the spring rolls. My omnivorous partner will pick any one of the various other dishes.
The prices are very reasonable, and the sides are good too (we usually go for some seaweed salad). I find the food delicious and satisfying, though am not an expert on Chinese food but my partner confirms that it is the most authentic-tasting food that he has enjoyed in Antwerp. The ingredients are always fresh, and have complex flavours (I certainly wouldn’t have a clue how to recreate them in my own kitchen, alas). The portions are ample, and the food is always served piping hot.
But a big part of the reason why Bai Wei’s is a hit with us is that it is a relaxed and easy place to go to with friends and family. Our children are always warmly welcomed and made a fuss of. They love to watch the noodles being pulled by hand, as the restaurant’s name suggests -it’s a remarkable skill and something I have not seen in any other restaurant in Antwerp. It’s not just for show either -the fresh noodles go directly into your soup. Enjoy.