Chinese food and culture has long had an influence within Great Britain. However, for much of this time, unauthentic dishes dominated the Chinese culinary options in the country. Examples include dishes such as sweet and sour chicken or Chow Mein, which originated in Cantonese China, but the popular takeaway options were far from the Chinese originals.
The versions served in Britain were only loosely based on the traditional foods. Instead, these dishes were often modified to fit flavour profiles appreciated in the UK, and even altered to be more like the inexpensive takeaway so popular in New York, for example. Served with a handful of fortune cookies, this was what the United Kingdom came to expect from its Chinese food.
However, British tastes for traditional and authentic Chinese food are developing and expanding. Across the country, finding quality Asian food is becoming a regularity, instead of the scavenger hunt that it used to be. As a Chinese takeaway menu in Bristol would show, there are a wide range of dishes and flavours rapidly gaining popularity. While Brits would once have to seek out tasty and authentic Chinese food at only a handful of restaurants, modern flavour profiles, textures, and styles of food are becoming part of menus all across the country.
It is likely that most Brits used to think that all Chinese food was comprised of either stir-fry or a meat dish over rice. However, other Chinese culinary traditions are becoming just as popular as these staples. For example, dim sum is an incredibly famous and prevalent food for the Cantonese, and has long been a favourite in larger Australian cities, such as Melbourne and Sydney. However, these delicious dumplings are finally gaining traction with the British.
Why Brits are Eating New Foods
Some of this is due to improved access to ingredients and recipes. The ingredients that were available in the United Kingdom used to restrict the scope of Chinese immigrants and restaurant owners. However, the interconnectedness of the global economy means more and more items can be found within the UK; at a price that is affordable to purchase in bulk for a restaurant.
Increased travel experiences and introduction to new cuisine also played a role. There are more Brits traveling to China than ever before, and these travellers are bringing home a new appreciation for authentic Chinese food. As well, the Chinese are also traveling more frequently, and with that comes a greater demand and market for traditional dishes abroad. Chinese restaurants in tourist destinations are meeting this newfound demand and are introducing more Brits to the unique cuisine along the way.
Coming Full Circle
One of the modern trends in the United Kingdom today is the newfound prevalence of Chinese culinary traditions available in restaurants at all price points. High-end, expensive restaurants and takeaway options alike once ignored culinary options from areas such as Sichuan and Hunan. Now, it is possible to find Chinese dishes from all provinces.
In addition to the general expansion and improvement of Asian food, particularly Chinese food, throughout the United Kingdom, there is also a parallel movement in the restaurant industry to serve unique dishes. Often times, these dishes are a fusion of Chinese and British culinary practices and represent entirely new takes on traditional Chinese favourites. For some, this represents the introduction of Chinese food coming full circle in the United Kingdom.