BEIJING - It
might be difficult for some Westerners to use
chopsticks but - if the number of Chinese who
frequent Western-style restaurants is anything to
go by - the Chinese are definitely getting to
grips with knives and forks.
trying something new and different like steak. I
get bored eating Chinese food every day." Sitting
in cozy little Grandma's Kitchen, a US-style
eatery in east Beijing, Xiao Lu was happy to sip
her mushroom soup sitting at a wooden table. She
is only one of many Western food fans in Beijing.
The latest white paper from the China
Cuisine Association on the
country's catering industry
said Western food has found an appetite in China,
and some food items such as salad and dessert have
merged into Chinese food.
Pasta and steak
- deemed too upscale by ordinary Chinese several
years ago - has carved out a huge market in this
ancient capital of the Middle Kingdom, where
foreigners tend to live in the eastern part of the
city, and 13 million locals still consider noodles
and rice their staple food.
high prices, foreign and Chinese diners throng a
string of restaurants serving Western food on a
street neighboring the embassy area in Beijing.
The food ranges from a takeaway Subway sandwich
joint to delicate French cuisine.
Chinese used to come to our shop, but now there
are more and more, especially young people," said
a waitress named Huang in Grandma's Kitchen on
eastern Ri Tan (Sun Temple) Road. "We are busy
"Western meals in Beijing are
much more expensive than Chinese food, but if you
have it a couple of times a month it's okay,
especially when meeting old friends," said Miss
Liu, 22, who works for an information-technology
firm near the embassies.
emphasizes an elegant dining atmosphere and good
service, which attracts young people who are
unwilling to limit themselves to traditional
Chinese food, which focuses more on taste and
content but pays less attention to the eating
environment," said Zhang Kaiyuan, a senior editor
with a fashion magazine.
"I love Western
food. As long as it is well cooked, I don't care
much about the price," said Xiao Huang, a
20-year-old university student.
average cost per person in a mid-tier restaurant
in Beijing is about 100-150 yuan (US$12.80-$19),
while more upmarket ones like Maxim's Restaurant
cost at least 200 yuan per person.
true that some people have joined the Western food
craze just to follow the fads," said Zhang
Kaiyuan. "It's kind of irrational, driven by
"Western food is obviously
overpriced in China," said John, who has been
living in Beijing for years. The food is more
costly than in his home town in New Zealand and
not as tasty, he said. He is puzzled to see
Chinese people tucking in to substandard food
despite the outrageous prices.
Christmas feast is a hot item again this year. All
100 VIP tickets to the sumptuous dinner provided
by the Landmark Hotel - costing a stunning 4,200
yuan ($536) per person - have sold out.
The elaborate dinners, which come complete
with comic shows by well-known cross-talk
performer Guo Degang and delicate Chinese buffets,
are mainly ordered by companies, which write off
the cost as an investment in building ties with
their business partners, according to hotel staff.
"Western food will continue to prosper in
China because it appeals to a certain group of
people, but it's unlikely to expand wildly," said
"If local flavors can be
blended into meat and cream-based food, that will
be more attractive for the general public," said
Zhang. "Moderate prices will also help attract