The Globalization of Chinese Foodways Sidney C.H. Cheung Department of Anthropology The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Origins of ingredients Food is global. In terms of their historical development, we can see how food spread out through imperialism, colonialism, capitalism etc.; of course, these all involves world politics, power relations, cultural exchange, national and transnational trade, economic development etc.
Tomato: believed to be native to the Andes of Peru and probably also Chile, Ecuador, and Bolivia, also in Argentina, Brazil and Columbia. • Potato: originated in the Andes mountain of Peru and Bolivia and have been cultivated for at least 2400 years; it was introduced into Europe in the 16th century after the conquest of Peru by the Spanish.
Pepper: domesticated in Mexico. As early as 6000 years ago, red peppers were used in tropical South America as a spice to disguise the taste of bland or unpalatable food. An antioxidant, chili is also useful in preserving food. Chili peppers are called ‘chile’ in Mexico and Central America and ‘aji’ in South America and the West Indies. Columbus took peppers back to Europe where they rapidly became popular. • Cucumber: originated in India where they have been cultivated for 3000 years. The cucumber is a member of the gourd family as are melons, squash and pumpkins. Cucumbers grown for pickling and those grown for fresh market are the same species.
Okra: In the cotton family, okra originated in West Africa and was brought to the Americas with the slave trade. • Black pepper: native to Malabar, a region in the Western Coast of South India; today, this region belongs to the union state Kerala. In the New World, Brazil is the only important producer; pepper plantations there go back to the 1930s. Pepper reached South East Asia more than 2000 years ago and is grown in Malaysia and Indonesia since about that time. In the 1990s, pepper production increased dramatically as new plantations were founded in Thailand, Vietnam, China and Sri Lanka, especially black pepper from Sarawak in Malaysia and Lampong in Indonesia.
Chicken: domestication of the Malaysian jungle fowl was a distinct event separate from the domestication of migratory birds (ducks, geese). Breeding in the later half of the 20th century has also involved the development of pullets, capons, and incubators. Alongside these developments, we have seen the intensification and transformation of the chicken into the creation and elaboration of registered standard breeds selected for survival in large confinement operations with rapid growth and with efficiency in producing desirable meat and eggs.
Ingredients in Chinese foodways: • Sea cucumber • Bird nest • Scallop • Abalone • Fish maw • Salty fish etc.
Concepts of taste • Delicacy • Gourmet • High cuisine • Country food • Home-style cooking • Chef’s recommendations • Celebrity cooking (shows)
In Hong Kong, • “Western” mixed food in tea café • Nouvelle cuisine • Nostalgia food as well as local country-style cooking that has been getting popular under globalization • Cooking performances in the media as part of the global trend initiated by the Japanese Iron chef
Nouvelle Cantonese cuisine • Developed in the business area of TST East since the early 1980s • Fusion food with the emphasis upon western style service • Decline because of the migration wave in the early 1990s • Nowadays, commonly seen in banquet food
Shik puhn and puhn choi • A kind of festive food prepared in ancestor worship rites and wedding banquets among the indigenous inhabitants of New Territories. • Prepared in the kitchen of the ancestral hall, only dish served in the meal. • Ingredients are served in one basinfrom which everyone together. • With ingredients such as dried pig skin, dried eel, dried squid, radish, tofu skin, mushroom and pork stewed in soy bean paste. The banquet may occasionally have several side dishes.
Puhn choi/ local food (low cuisine) in the New Territories Popular Food with varieties
Private kitchen • Si fohng choi in Cantonese • Speakeasies described in World Food Hong Kong, as a similar kind of underground as well as illegal club in the 1920s Prohibition era in the US when alcohol sales were banned • Food prepared by home chefs in rich family in the late Qing Dynasty • Private club developed in the post-war era
They are places with no registered company name and are located in residential buildings; there are no walk-in customers, and reservations need to be made, sometimes more than one month in advance. • No menus from which to choose items; food is determined by the owners. No service charge, no credit cards are accepted. Some private kitchens advertise their price, menu and location through their own Internet homepages. • Prices for a meal range from HK$200 to $500, which is not considered inexpensive compared with other restaurants serving similar food.
Besides those few that actually serve food in the owners’ home, most of the venues are located in old neighborhoods with relatively lower rent. • The interior decor is simple, but attempts to recreate an ambience of “home,” albeit artistic in nature, due, in part, to the fact that some owners and promoters are practising artists. • The domestic atmosphere is created by using dim or soft lighting and stylish rather than industrial furniture, reflecting the individual taste.
With such underground and seemingly exclusive operations, and with culinary techniques always promoted as home-styled cooking, food offered in such private kitchens carries an image of comfort and hominess. The majority of the customers are middle-class, sometimes celebrities and artists, who are attracted both by the homemade food milieu and the distinctive personalities of the hosts or owners operating these eateries.
Foodways in the Globalized world • Slow Food • Organic Food • Local Food • Healthy Food • Food as information • Food as entertainment