The year of the monkey and the best Chinese restaurants in the UK

Published on: 23 Feb 2016

Monkey - Chinese New Year [square]Chinese New Year welcomed in the Year of the Monkey with typical aplomb (and fireworks—lots of fireworks). The zodiac claims those born in this year are intelligent, gentle and honest but also reckless and short-tempered. The celebration of Chinese food in the UK is not limited to those born under the sign of the Monkey, but every one of us. If the quality of the best restaurants is anything to go by, the British love affair with the far East shows no signs of abating.

Chinese food became popular in the UK back in the 1950s and 60s, but its current incarnation is quite different from those days. A revolution in thinking about this foodstuff means that it is now often made at home. This is due to a high number of Asian food stores, but also because it's a chance to eat healthily. Chinese and Asian food that is made at home contains a lot of vegetables and is ludicrously easy to prepare. It's gotten to the point that more 'traditional' Chinese restaurants are suffering because they are considered 'unhealthy' by comparison.

Despite this setback, certain Chinese restaurants are doing very well regardless. Restaurants in the Chinatown districts of major cities have stayed open, but the real success stories are independents who are rethinking what they offer the public. More and more we are seeing regional Chinese cuisine making inroads, with the likes of Sichuan and Cantonese foods both interesting a more adventurous public. Dim Sum is also increasingly popular, consumers enjoying the chance to 'mix and match' their flavours. More and more people are aware that what the UK thinks of as Chinese food isn't anything like what people in China actually think of as their national cuisine. There's no need to accept substitutes any more.

Chinese RestaurantHakkasan is one of several high-end Chinese restaurants, employing a fusion style using rarer ingredients and serving in a stylish setting. Of course, this means the prices are much higher than your typical takeaway, but the appeal is obvious. These types of restaurants are pushing hard to get away from the cheap and cheerful label that has begun to harm their business. The key is to impress upon the public that there are types of meals you should leave to the experts—that you cannot recreate these flavours at home in your kitchen. But at the same time working to distance these flavours from the greasy takeaway we are all so familiar with.

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