The Chinese should have known the shortest distance to a westerner’s heart is through his stomach.
If there were three Chinese delicacies that could conquer the world, they would have to be Peking (Beijing) duck, Taiwan steamed dumpling (xiao long bao) and Hong Kong dim sum.
Exporting China’s “kitchen power” seems a welcome move, considering the long line of customers waiting to try new food and how aggressively Chinese food chains have expanded into major cities around the world.
One recent example is DaDong, a Chinese restaurant that specializes in the thin and crispy-skinned Peking duck in Manhattan, New York.
Opened just 10 days ago, the restaurant has been fully booked until February. On its debut day, some 900 roasted ducks were shipped from the state of Indiana to feed the hungry customers.
DaDong is the first overseas branch of a 22-year-old restaurant in China where former first lady Michelle Obama held a family dinner in 2014. The 17,000-square-foot outlet in Manhattan has 440 seats and a list of 240 duck cuisines on its menu. It includes a whole roasted duck for US$98 and a five-course set for $138 a person.
All told Peking duck is probably the most famous dish since the Chinese dynasties, and like the Great Wall is described as a must for tourists in China, as detailed in a famous local saying. “He who has never been to the Great Wall is not a true man. What a pity not to eat roast duck.”
Another expanding franchise is Din Tai Fung, which stands to make its London debut next year after its operators signed a lease on a site in the Centre Point building in Tottenham Court Road in September.
The famous Taiwan steamed-bun eatery with a 59-year history sells its signature xiao long bao in a dozen countries including the United States, United Arab Emirates, Australia and many Asian nations.
And more eateries are expanding their footprint. The Hong Kong-based dim-sum chain Tim Ho Wan opened an outlet in New York last December. The Michelin-starred restaurant, which sells pineapple BBQ pork bun and shrimp dumpling, attracted customers willing to wait up to four hours before they got a seat.
Meanwhile, Sichuan hotpot operator Hai Di Lao landed in America four years ago on its first non-Asian expansion. The hotpot operator is famous for being attentive to customers – offering entertainment and even manicures while serving customers with beef or seafood in spicy soup.
All these famous imports from China have been welcomed additions for people looking for something more than burgers or fine dining.