EDITORIAL: Chinese food

There is no such thing as Chinese food

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Food is an important topic in China. Actually, there is no “Chinese” food. China is bigger than Europe and equally diverse, with climatic situations and cultural traditions resulting in big differences between Hunanese, Cantonese, Shanghainese, Sichuanese etc. cuisines.

This will be the topic of the book Food, Wine and China – A Tourism Perspective, which will be published by Routledge in the coming months. The volume is edited by Christof Pforr and Ian Phau, and your humble author has the pleasure to provide the chapter on Chinese Outbound Tourism and food and drink. Information about the book can be found at: https://www.routledge.com/Food-Wine-and-China-A-Tourism-Perspective/Pforr/p/book/9781138732254

Much sooner however, will be the next instalment of the ForwardKeys & COTRI webinar series – on the 24th and 26th of January, to be precise. The webinar will also include practical tips how to profit from the Chinese outbound travellers’ increasing interest in the finer points of international cuisine, more information about the webinar here: https://china-outbound.com/cotrixforwardkeys-webinar-series/

Every big city in China seems to be full of restaurants for any kind of Chinese food variety from all over the country, however one rather curious form sadly is no longer available. The “Fortune Cookie” restaurant, which was opened by the ABC (American-born Chinese) Fung Lam and his American friend Dave Rossi in Shanghai in 2013, offered American Chinese food. The menu included dishes unheard of anywhere outside of the USA, including moo shoo pork, Crab Rangoon (!), Mapo Tofu Cheese (!) Fries and Smoky Dragon Wings. Needless to say, customers were also offered a Fortune Cookie at the end of the meal. The guests did include many homesick American Expats, but half of their patronage was made up by curious, if rather bewildered, Chinese eaters.

Some were interested to learn beforehand about the “Chinese” food in the USA as they planned a trip there, others knew American Chinese dishes from TV shows like ‘The Big Bang Theory’, ordering Sheldon’s favourite dish which they could get nowhere else in China – General Tsao’s chicken.

Fung and Dave went back to the US in 2016, but this is China, so several copycat restaurants are still pretending to offer American Chinese food in China, even though they lack the level of weirdness of the real-unreal “Fortune Cookie” dishes.

Best wishes for the last month of the Yang Fire Rooster Year, which starts this week!

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI Team