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How Chinese Food has Influenced Britain

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Becoming popular in the 50s and 60s, Chinese food has dominated the UK as one of our favourite ethnic cuisines. However, its impact on the western world stretches further back than this period. It first arrived in Britain in the early part of the 19th-century when the ex-seamen from China opened up restaurant establishments to provide the British public with their delicious food offerings. The first of its kind was ‘The Chinese Restaurant’, which was located in Piccadilly Circus in London, and was believed to have first opened its doors to the public in 1908.

Commenting on the development of the Chinese food culture in Britain, Aubrey Ko of the British Chinese Food Culture project stated: “During the 60s more people came here from Hong Kong. Chinatown started to develop in Soho in the 70s.” Soho came alive with a number of Chinese establishments, and its popularity amongst locals, tourists and the influx of Chinese residents alike encouraged Chinese restaurants to open nationwide.

The food was also adapted to suit the palates of the Brits, utilising the limited ingredients available at the time and introducing dishes that are not typically found in China, such as chop suey. Nowadays, authentic Chinese ingredients are readily available in specialist oriental shops, such as ours, for those looking to cook up some truly traditional dishes.

Although the history of the takeaway extends as far back as the Ancient Greeks, the convenience of takeaway establishments made the concept boom during the 20th-century. Chinese food is perhaps one of the most popular choices of take-out in the UK, in conjunction with the Indian takeaways, making it very much a British staple.

Talking about Britain’s love of Chinese food, acclaimed chef Ken Hom highlights how Britain’s relationship with Chinese food has evolved tremendously in recent years, “Chinese food at the beginning of the 80s was sweet and sour pork, mainly. Most Brits had a very stereotypical view of Chinese food. Now, you are seeing more regional Chinese food from Sichuan, Hunan and other areas of Chinese. It is no longer just Cantonese food.”

Brits are taking exploration in food sampling to a new level, trying out dishes from all areas of China and even trailing fusion dishes that combine the tastes of Chinese cuisine and British staples.

Where we are eating Chinese food is also evolving as much as the dishes themselves. As health-kicks currently trend across much of the world, many are rejecting take-out options and instead creating their very own healthier Chinese options at home. It is not the first time that British people opted to cook their favourite Chinese dishes at home, with the recession of 2013 steering people out of the take-out waiting rooms and into their own kitchens!

The popularity of at-home Chinese dining can be accredited to the low-fat, low-calorie stir-fries, full to the brim with vegetables; not to mention, the steamed dishes that contain almost no fat and the noodle soup dishes that are equally healthy and tasty. And if you are after an instant dish for a quick lunch, Chinese food can be a great option, with oriental dried Chinese soup ingredients, as well as other instant products, readily available.

Having more control over what you are eating is definitely a big thing for people nowadays, but this shouldn’t stop you exploring new flavours and recipes from other parts of the world. So, if you are limited to what dishes you can make at home, why not check out our latest blogs and recipes to get a taste of authentic China? Our recipes are quick, easy, but most importantly, delicious! We also have all the oriental ingredients you could possibly need to make whatever Chinese dish you desire. So, what are you waiting for? Check out our shop today and get cooking!

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