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Overseas Chinese restaurants: Carrier of culture

Source : (People's Daily Overseas Edition) , May 18, 2012
Date : 18-05-2012
By : Du Bo
Chinese dishes focus on color, flavor, meaning and shapes simultaneously

An old Chinese saying goes like this, "food is the paramount necessity of the people." When talking about Chinese food culture, many people will commend its color, flavor, meaning and shapes. Indeed, Chinese food culture is very deep and profound and overseas Chinese restaurants have inherited its essence.

According to the U.S. China Press, Lao Siyuan, a Chinese professor who has served the California State University, Long Beach for more than 40 years, recently gave a lecture and sold books in the China Town of Portland. Lao talked about the history of the development of Chinese restaurants in the United States and again brought them into the eyes of people.

Laying down roots abroad

Some people say where there are Chinese people, there are Chinese restaurants. It is true that Chinese people gained a firm foothold abroad mainly relying on "three tools," namely kitchen knives, scissors and razors. For most of the first-generation overseas Chinese people, opening a Chinese restaurant was their only choice settling down abroad.

The "gold rush" in 1840 had made the first batch of Chinese immigrants set foot on the land of California. They were mostly engaged in railway construction and the earliest Chinese dishes appeared in the United States with the arrival of these immigrants. Shortly after the era of railway, the anti-Chinese Movement rose and Chinese people struggled to survive in the United States. They can only choose laundry and restaurant industries. The American people began to really accept Chinese food until the Second World War. Today, the "gold rush" has passed for over 100 years and the food and beverage industry has become the economic pillar industry to these immigrants. Chinese restaurants have become the totem of Chinese culture.

In the other corners of the world, Chinese restaurants also are prosperous. According to a survey data in 2006, there are about 9,000 Chinese restaurants in Britain, accounting for one-fourth of all kinds of restaurants; Netherlands has more than 2,200 Chinese restaurants, accounting for 28 percent of the whole catering industry; over 80 percent of Chinese people in Germany are engaged in the catering industry and there are more than 7,000 Chinese restaurants and fast-food shops there. These Chinese restaurants gradually took roots all over the world.

Transformation and innovation

In many popular U.S. TV series, we often see the Chinese-style take-out and hear foreigners order a "Kong Pao Chicken." In addition, such Chinese dishes as General Tso's chicken and orange chicken are also popular among foreign consumers. At present, there are over 45,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States, more than the number of McDonalds.

Overseas Chinese restaurants mostly make use of Chinese-style decoration and clothing to create exotic atmosphere and attract local customers. However, the Chinese restaurants had gotten into trouble due to bad service, monotonous dishes and not suitable for the local taste. In recent years, Chinese dishes constantly break through the traditional bottlenecks to cater to local customers and they have showed a new trend of development with the bright color and unique flavor. These overseas Chinese restaurants, including healthy vegetable dishes restaurants, upscale restaurants and creative restaurants, combine traditional culture and catering industry to attract people around the world.

Create well-known brands

During the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, a report titled "China in the Eyes of the World" showed that apart from the Great Wall and Chinese Kung Fu, Chinese restaurants have become the number 3 symbol of China. However, few Chinese restaurant brand names are well-known in foreign countries. Among thousands of Chinese restaurants in France, only two are included in the "Michelin Guide," the world's authoritative restaurant guide.

Some analysts said that one reason that Chinese restaurants cannot be developed into well-known brands abroad is that they did not take their restaurants as family business like the Dynasty Seafood Restaurant. It is really difficult to create well-known brands on the basis of the present development pattern. The catering industry should continue to explore methods to operate overseas Chinese restaurants bigger and stronger and promote the Chinese food culture.


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