How the early Chinese restaurateurs adapted to suit the English palate
The prosperous 1960’s saw a significant rise in eating out and by the end of the decade there were 4,000 Chinese restaurants/takeaways in Britain, compared with 2,000 Indian and 500 French. This was not only the consequence of thousands of Chinese flocking to the UK mainly from Hong Kong, eager to introduce their ways of eating, it was also a due to the fact that us Brits were more than happy to embrace these exciting dining opportunities. Chinese food was seen as both tasty and exotic, but without the strong spicing of Indian cuisine.
So in the 1960’s the cuisine was mainly Hong Kong Cantonese with dishes adapted to suit the British palate. In the early days, chips were served with almost every dish, which seems strange now, but there were some eating habits that would prove slow to change!
Food is culture
I really love it when my research produces a golden nugget and on this occasion came in the shape of a brilliant audio clip from the British Library. In it Chinese restaurateur and now Chinese food superstore retailer, Wing Yip talks about how the Chinese cleverly adapted their food it suit the British palate. In his restaurant in Yorkshire he did this by serving traditional British fayre (omelettes, chicken and Chips) alongside Chinese dishes and the locals demanded bread and butter with every meal. So serious was this request that Wing Yip had to employ a couple of English ladies for two or three hours a day to butter the bread! As he quite rightly said, ‘Food is a culture, you cannot change people in one year.”
If you’d like to listen to the audio clip you can find it here.