Junzi Kitchen Opens in New Haven

Amy Kundrat

Photo: Reed Immer, Junzi Kitchen

A chun-bing (spring-pancake), is traditionally eaten to celebrate the arrival of spring in chinese culture. Its origins as a humble culinary tradition are tied to the Qin dynasty (265 - 240 ad), when chun-bing was prepared with fresh spring ingredients to signal the spring harvest and a return to the land. It’s become a year-round staple in northern China where you can find it in street carts, restaurants, and on sunday dinner tables. And now on 21 Broadway in New Haven at Junzi Kitchen which opened this week.

Junzi co-founders Ming Bai, Wanting Zhang, and Yong Zhao grew up in a transitional time in northeast China when the population was experiencing many modernizations. Instead of growing food on their own, supermarkets became a predominant food source for families out of convenience, but it was clear that something special was being lost in the process.

Nostalgia for the spring flavors of home led the fellow Yale grad students to launch Junzi Kitchen. "I wanted to show people that Chinese food can be simple, healthy, and satisfying, something you can eat every day," said co-founder Yong Zhao. The result is an experience that challenges the way you think about Chinese food.

Photo: Reed Immer, Junzi Kitchen

What will you find at Junzi during the day? Two iterations of northern bing: chun-bing and noodle bowls with components that include your choice of braised meats, Chinese vegetables, pickles, garnish, and sauce. Everything’s prepared in front of you in about a minute. The bings are simple, fresh, and the perfect lunch proportion.

At night, things get a bit more creative, according to the Junzi team. "Every month our cooks get the chance to lead the development of a week’s late night menu, which is refined with help from our chef and team. it’s a space to get creative with the techniques we hone during the day, and experiment with new techniques and ingredients. sometimes our friends from nearby restaurants bring over ingredients, and they may jump behind the counter and cook with us."

New Haven has become an ideal incubator for culinary experimentation, and Junzi Kitchen choosing the city as ground zero for their first fast casual restaurant affirms that. I imagine we'll be hearing more from this team as they grow and nurture the concept of what fresh Chinese food can be. 

Junzi Kitchen is located at 21 Broadway in New Haven, CT. Follow them in Instagram,Twitter or Facebook for the latest news.