Chinese students in the United Kingdom can now get a "taste of home" in their campus canteens.
The UK has 150,000 Chinese students, more than 89,000 of them in higher education, and college kitchens are adapting menus to provide authentic Chinese food for these students. In the last week of January, Scott Girvan, executive chef at the University of Glasgow, introduced new dishes more suitable to the Chinese palate.
"Before, it was a case of 'here's some sweet and sour chicken and that'll be great'," said Girvan. "It was a bit embarrassing." But Girvan had something of an epiphany into the eating habits of international students during a fact-finding mission to China.
The 11-day trip in September was organized by The University Caterers Organisation after its research found that menu changes were needed to accommodate campuses' changing demographics. Fourteen TUCO members visited Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong and learned that Chinese food varies by region, and that offering menu choices from both the north and south of China was crucial. At Peking University's Nong Yuan canteen, for example, over 350 different dishes are prepared daily and 47,000 lunches served.
Inspired and enlightened by the Chinese food, Girvan and other TUCO colleagues returned home to implement the lessons they had learned.
Peter Griffiths, president of the British Culinary Federation, said: "Asian-influenced food has become more popular over the last several years. Standards have had to move in the right direction to pacify and meet people's expectations. Without doubt, more authenticity and quality of produce prepared correctly can only increase demand and sales."
Girvan said he's confident this will be the case. Dishes now being prepared include chicken and ginger, salt and chili ribs and steamed mackerel.