食物因緣 -- 淺談英國中餐文化項目

Chungwen Li  李中文

chinese reception 1884

Food is international as well as very cultural; it reaches our heart through the stomach and attracts our attention by its colour, aroma, taste and presentation. Overseas Chinese always carry their "Chinese stomachs" wherever they go, and bring Chinese food to every corner of the world.  You may ask...






British Chinese Food Culture

Food is international as well as very cultural; it reaches our heart through the stomach and attracts our attention by its  colour, aroma, taste and presentation. Overseas Chinese always carry their "Chinese stomachs" wherever they go, and bring Chinese food to every corner of the world.

You may ask “why British Chinese Food Culture?” How was the idea originated?  And what exactly is British Chinese food?  The idea of promoting Chinese food in the UK was being “brewed” for a long time.  Our founder, Dr Therese Shak, had the idea that Chinese menus should be available all over the UK’s 5-star hotels when she first established the Institute in 1993.  It has been a long road and has proven to be no easy path.

Food culture is about the origins of local dishes. It may relate to environment, geography, culture and beliefs, when food immigrated with people to a new country. What are the significant changes and how have they been adapted or adopted? Those are the questions we would like to find answers to.  The heritage focus for this project is to track the changes of Chinese food in the UK, from how the original recipes were adapted by environment changes and different ingredients, to how it gets back to the original ingredients and recipes when more oriental foods are imported.

For example, the first ever Chinese menu was introduced to the UK in 1884 during the International Health Exhibition, China was held up as a role model for health and hygiene of Victorian Britain. Between the years of 1910s and 1960s, Chinese food embraced rapid growth in the UK till now.

There are many other questions that have arisen when we developed this project. With support from our contributors (including our volunteers and interviewees) we are now able to present the project in a more systematic way.

We all love food and, with this project, we are going to show you the delights of British Chinese food through different angles. But before that let us travel back to 1884 when Chinese food was first officially introduced to the UK.


When the East met West in 1884

1884 IHE floorplanThe International Health Exhibition in 1884 was held between 8 May and 30 October in the Royal Albert Hall in London. The special objects of the Exhibition were to illustrate in a practical manner Food, Dress, the Dwelling, the School and the Workshop, as affecting the conditions of healthy life; and how they applied to elementary school teaching and instruction in applied science, art and handicrafts.  According to official statistics, there were in 1884 4,167,683 visitors in total and 22,838 of them had visited the Cookery section.

Only China and Japan had restaurants and tearooms in which their respective national cookery were exemplified in the Exhibition. China occupied the East Gallery with an interesting feature of a Chinese tea garden, dining-saloon with balcony and kitchen on the ground. The official guide of the exhibition described the layout as this, “According to the Chinese theory when a man goes to a restaurant he ought to feel cheerful, sociable, and happy; and on the other hand, he goes to a tea-room to reflect, or to indulge in sober and earnest conversation. Accordingly we find the decorations of the two rooms reflect these ideas. The dining-room is very gay, full of light and colour, and the tea-room is relatively sombre.”

Hence we understand that for the Chinese people, food and their own culture are inseparable as they help each other grow. Just like other countries the diet habits reflect their humanity, geography and cultural heritage. With rapid global development we could now see the integration and influence between foods; and fusion food replaces a lot of traditional recipes and cooking methods.

menu 1884The Very First Chinese Menu in Britain

So, what was introduced to the British public in 1884? A Chinese tea-garden was built to have the atmosphere, what we call “hardware” today. Therefore the dishes were the “software” during the Exhibition, as the selected chefs made the “Chinese food” happen.

“The charge for admission to the dinning-room, which includes the price of dinner, is seven and six pence, and that to the tea-room, which includes a cup of tea and biscuits, or an ice, is one shilling. The dishes are, of course, perfectly novel to untravelled Europeans; amongst them are to be found the celebrated bird’s-nest soup, which is said to be delicious, white-shark’s fins, and a dish made of beche de mer, or sea-slug, which is said to resemble the green fat of turtle. The dinner includes Chinese wine, or Shao-sing, which is served up warm, and also Imperial tea, which is said to cost seven shillings a pound at Pekin. A Chinese band plays in the restaurant.  Its music, to Western ears, is most peculiar."

In fact, not only the music was peculiar to Western audiences but also Chinese food, presented in four courses, was  an unimaginable menu for the English public at that time. The ingredients consisted of rare creatures from the sea, land and sky that were not for the ordinary Chinese people either.  This "ancient menu" was set as below:

plan of the chinese court 18841st course: Eight Large Bowls
Birds’ nests, Sharks’ fins, Beche-de-mer, Claws of bear, Sinews of tiger, Bream, Stewed deer and Mushrooms

2nd course: Eight Small Bowls
Pigeons’ eggs, the Yellow of crabs, Lotus-seeds, White truffle, Shrimp sauce, Blood of ducks’ head, Pheasant and Mustard leaves

3rd course: Four Courses of Roast Meats
Roast chicken, Roast duck, Roast young pig, Roast goose or Roast mutton

4th course: Two courses of cakes
Steamed sponge cakes, and Spring vegetable rolls

Most of the foods from this menu are very popular today among the Chinese community, whilst some countries ban some dishes because of environmental protection. Cooking methods may change but the culture behind these foods remains.

1884 courtmusic"Food, Glorious Chinese Food"

The first introduction of Chinese food to the UK might not have been a great success but it was the first step to reveal the mystical mask of Chinese food to Western audiences. Nowadays, the British are open in their minds to different cuisines; moreover images of Chinese food are no longer cheap and simply labelled as Chop Suey.

For this project our brilliant team, with more than 30 volunteers, was helping us to find out more about British Chinese food; we interviewed more than 20 interviewees to collect and preserve their memories of Chinese food.

Education materials have also been produced to help pupils and students understand not only this ethnic food, which is available almost in every corner of the world, but also the cultural elements behind it.

Food is not only for our stomachs; it is for our souls as well! The project was fortunate to have different contributors share with us their thoughts on Chinese food.

1884 chinesecourtFood for Thought

When we think of food, the colour, aroma, taste and presentation are the elements we consider most. We invited different authors to contribute to our collection -- "Food for Thought" -- in order to have a great combination of articles bringing us into another world of Chinese food.

Mr Deh-Ta Hsiung, a food and wine consultant who produced 15 Chinese cookbooks, told us about the brief history of Chinese Food in the Britain. This was followed by Mr Kiu-Fat Fong, who revealed the changes from Limehouse Chinatown to Soho Chinatown in the 60s until the present time.

It was in the 1980s that Mr Ken Lo brought Chinese food to a higher level (or reputation) by a series of TV shows and presentations. Mr Lo was not a chef but he presented the Chinese food in a very positive manner to British society, and in fact established the first Chinese cookery school in the UK.  The project team has collected some memories from his friends and has re-created “The Memories of Ken Lo” by oral history format via video.  His daughter, Dr Vivienne Lo has written the preface for us.

chinese stroves

Mr William Poon, a master chef who specialises in Cantonese cuisine, has shown us the old Cantonese kitchen, explaining the ancient secret communication between the kitchen and front of house staff; while Ms Maria Chong explained the soul of the Chinese food – sauces -- and their development and how they made their entry to foreign lands.

But to prepare delicious Chinese food, suitable cookware is the essential tool and so the celebrity chef, Mr Ken Hom, introduced the history of this in amazing detail.

Master Yin and Dr Yu-Mei Tsai will hold our hands to rediscover the peace and love of vegetarian food from a pure angle of Buddhism and environmental protection.

We could not have food without drink; the best companion for Chinese food is of course Chinese tea. Mr Kamsang Law has 40 years' experience in the study of Chinese tea and he is going to show us how to enjoy it.

I am not able to introduce all the articles here but the project aims to collect more and more articles about British Chinese food. You are welcome to share your thoughts with us, and make the “Food for Thought” richer and richer!

Finally, food is an art form and the relation of Chinese food to Britain can virtually be regarded as a beautiful love affair. We are happy to present a story written by Prof Nigel Mathers, on how a cross-cultural love affair can be told over a 3-course meal, as the perfect dessert for all of us!



“British Chinese Food Culture”, a project tribute to Ming-Ai’s founder, Dr Therese Shak, for her devotion and dedication to promote Chinese food in the UK. 


Anon. 1884. Official Guide to the International Health Exhibition. The Health Exhibition Literature, 14, p. 36-37.






你也許會問為甚麼要做「英國中餐文化」?構思是如何來的?到底英國中餐是甚麼?其實在英國推廣中菜的想法己經「醞釀」良久,明愛的創辦人石慧嫻博士,在 1993 年成立學院時就認為全英國的五星級飯店的菜單上,應該要找到中菜的一頁。事實證明這是一條漫漫長路,並是艱辛之路。


比方說,中國菜餚是在 1884 年透過在倫敦舉辦的國際健康展覽時正式登陸英國,中國以模範國身份參展相關項目,唯在維多利亞時代的當時,中菜的展示未能為保守的英國人帶來驚嘆。直至 1910-1960 年間,中菜才在英國大放異彩,現在更成為主流菜式之一。


人皆愛食物,藉此項目,我們將透過不同的角度為你闡釋英國中餐。在此之前,讓我們時光倒流回到 1884 年,當中餐首次在英國正式登陸。

1884 年,當東方遇上西方

1884 IHE floorplan1884 年的國際健康展覽是在倫敦的皇家阿爾伯特館舉行,展期由 5 月 5 日到 10 月 30 日。展覽的目的在顯示有關食物、衣飾、居所、學校及工坊的實用之處;及他們如何影響到健康條件,並引用在中學的自然科學、藝術及手工藝的教學上。根據當年官方統計數字共有 4,167,683 入場人次,其中有 22,838 名入場參觀飲食部。



menu 1884英國首個中餐菜單

那麼在1884年有甚麼樣的中菜介紹給英國社會?當時為了營造氣氛,在庭中建了個茶園,以現今角度來說可稱之為「硬件」;當年的大廚們便在裡頭製作菜餚,故此展出的菜色應該可算是「軟件」 。



plan of the chinese court 1884第一道:八小碗






1884 courtmusic「食物,輝煌的中餐」


我們幹練的項目團隊,有超過 30 位義工幫忙發掘英國中餐資料;採訪超過 20 位人士,搜集並保存他們對中菜的回憶。



1884 chinesecourt食物迷思

色香味美  -- 當我們想起食物時,這四者是首先湧入腦海的元素。我們邀請了不同的作者,在「食物迷思」這一欄目裡,以文章方式帶領我們進入中國食物的不同境界。

熊德達先生是一位飲食與品酒顧問,編寫了 15 本中菜菜譜,會告訴我們有關英國中餐的歷史。而方橋發先生則把唐人街從萊姆豪斯走到蘇豪區,由六十年代說到現今。

直至 1980 年代,羅孝建先生透過電視節目令中菜的地位更上一層樓。羅先生並非廚師,但他把中菜以肯定的姿態帶進英國社會,並在英國首創中餐廚藝學校。項目小組搜集了其親友們對他的回憶,以口述歷史方式用錄像重現「羅孝建先生回憶錄」,並由他女兒羅維前博士為我們作前序。

chinese stroves




飲、食不可分界,中菜最佳的伴侶當然是中國茶;羅錦生先生以 40 年的品茗經驗,教我們如何欣賞中國茶藝。


最後,食物本身是件藝術品;而中菜在英國的發展則儼如一段美麗的愛情故事。Nigel Mathers 教授用三道菜色來詮譯這份異國戀情,將是「食物迷思」這一欄目裡最完美的甜點!


Anon. 1884. Official Guide to the International Health Exhibition. The Health Exhibition Literature, 14, p. 36-37.







你也许会问为什么要做「英国中餐文化」?构思是如何来的?到底英国中餐是甚么?其实在英国推广中菜的想法己经「酝酿」良久,明爱的创办人石慧娴博士,在 1993 年成立学院时就认为全英国的五星级饭店的菜单上,应该要找到中菜的一页。事实证明这是一条漫漫长路,并是艰辛之路。


比方说,中国菜肴是在 1884 年透过在伦敦举办的国际健康展览时正式登陆英国,中国以模范国身份参展相关项目,唯在维多利亚时代的当时,中菜的展示未能为保守的英国人带来惊叹。直至 1910-1960 年间,中菜才在英国大放异彩,现在更成为主流菜式之一。


人皆爱食物,藉此项目,我们将透过不同的角度为你阐释英国中餐。在此之前,让我们时光倒流回到 1884 年,当中餐首次在英国正式登陆。

1884 年,当东方遇上西方

1884 IHE floorplan

1884 年的国际健康展览是在伦敦的皇家阿尔伯特馆举行,展期由 5 月 5 日到 10 月 30 日。展览的目的在显示有关食物、衣饰、居所、学校及工坊的实用之处;及他们如何影响到健康条件,并引用在中学的自然科学、艺术及手工艺的教学上。根据当年官方统计数字共有 4,167,683 入场人次,其中有 22,838 名入场参观饮食部。



menu 1884英国首个中餐菜单

那么在 1884 年有什么样的中菜介绍给英国社会?当时为了营造气氛,在庭中建了个茶园,以现今角度来说可称之为「硬件」;当年的大厨们便在里头制作菜肴,故此展出的菜色应该可算是「软件」 。



plan of the chinese court 1884第一道:八小碗






1884 courtmusic「食物,辉煌的中餐」


我们干练的项目团队,有超过 30 位义工帮忙发掘英国中餐资料;采访超过 20 位人士,搜集并保存他们对中菜的回忆。



1884 chinesecourt食物迷思

色香味美  -- 当我们想起食物时,这四者是首先涌入脑海的元素。我们邀请了不同的作者,在「食物迷思」这一栏目里,以文章方式带领我们进入中国食物的不同境界。

熊德达先生是一位饮食与品酒顾问,编写了 15 本中菜菜谱,会告诉我们有关英国中餐的历史。而方桥发先生则把唐人街从莱姆豪斯走到苏豪区,由六十年代说到现今。

直至 1980 年代,罗孝建先生透过电视节目令中菜的地位更上一层楼。罗先生并非厨师,但他把中菜以肯定的姿态带进英国社会,并在英国首创中餐厨艺学校。项目小组搜集了其亲友们对他的回忆,以口述历史方式用录像重现「罗孝建先生回忆录」,并由他女儿罗维前博士为我们作前序。

chinese stroves




饮、食不可分界,中菜最佳的伴侣当然是中国茶;罗锦生先生以 40 年的品茗经验,教我们如何欣赏中国茶艺。


最后,食物本身是件艺术品;而中菜在英国的发展则俨如一段美丽的爱情故事。Nigel Mathers 教授用三道菜色来诠译这份异国恋情,将是「食物迷思」这一栏目里最完美的甜点!


Anon. 1884. Official Guide to the International Health Exhibition. The Health Exhibition Literature, 14, p. 36-37.