The story appears on

Page C5

August 28, 2009

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Chinese food in a hurry? Not a problem as local fare fights back

FOREIGN firms have long dominated the fast food market in China, but all that is changing as local restaurants learn from their Western counterparts, writes Jiang Kunyang.

Over the past two decades, foreign catering firms from McDonald's to KFC have dominated the fast food market in Shanghai. Many local residents may still remember the Shanghai-based Ronghua Fried Chicken's failure in competition with KFC.

However, all that is changing as traditional tastes are fighting back.

The ancient patriotic Chinese poet Qu Yuan (340-278 BC) once wrote that Chinese cuisine was so delicious it could tempt a soul to return from the dead.

Weary German tourist Rudi Steinrock couldn't absorb as magic the energy that Qu described, but he did find a Chinese fast food chain near Shanghai Railway Station that fully satisfied his hunger.

"It serves a set with lamb, rice, vegetables and soup. The dish is salty and sweet with the carmine color and great aroma. And it is no more than 30 yuan (US$4.40)," says Steinrock.

Given the nation's pride in its culinary traditions and the diversity of ingredients, it is surprising to find that many Chinese embraced the exotic taste of hamburgers, pizzas and fried chicken, on somewhat limited Western menus.

"Not for a preference for tastes, I choose Western fried chicken and hamburgers mainly for their swift service and they can be easily found in every corner of the city. In fact, I prefer the Chinese foods - more choices and healthier," says office worker Zhou Yanyan.

The fast food market is expected to reach 2 trillion yuan in value in 2010, and a larger number of consumers would prefer Chinese-style cuisine rather than Western food, according to Yang Liu, vice chairman of China Cuisine Association.

After years of looking on from the sidelines, Chinese fast food chains are embracing a shift in strategy. They have learnt the art of management and quality control from their Western rivals and are now bringing them to local cuisine.

International fast food chains are also tailoring their menus to local tastes to win more local customers. Some multinational food industry giants, such as Yum!, have introduced Chinese-style fast food.

Today, if you are on a tight schedule in Shanghai, you can have healthy and tasty Chinese fast food, such as Yonghe King, Kung Fu Restaurant or East Dawning. They offer quality food at reasonable prices and often change their menus, adding seasonal treats. Most Chinese fast food chains also deliver.

Kung Fu Restaurant

The Kung Fu fast food chain was started 15 years ago by a 22-year-old Chinese man. Now there are about 15 outlets in Shanghai and over 300 around China. They feature a memorable company logo featuring Bruce Lee.

Kung Fu is one of the most efficient and best-designed fast food chains in the city. All orders are promised in under 60 seconds. But that's not what makes it outstanding. It's the food and the price.

One side of the bilingual menu is a selection of set meals, and the other side is a la carte. The set meals cost about 20 yuan, and include a rice bowl, soup, boiled vegetables and a meat dish. These are easy eating without the bunch of bones.

Ask for hot chili sauce if you like.

Probably the soup is Kung Fu's shining star. Black, silky chicken with American ginseng of this quality is usually a TCM item at fine Chinese restaurants. Here it's just part of the meal.


East Dawning

With its Chinese lettering and unremarkable name, the fast food outlet looks like many others selling local fare.

East Dawning (Dong Fang Ji Bai) is often crowded with customers sampling a menu that includes pork fried rice, marinated egg and plum juice.

With about 15 stores in Shanghai, East Dawning began five years ago as a test for a new concept of Chinese fast food. It is playing on the same team as KFC, under Yum!'s banner. It is a fusion of the KFC business model with Chinese cuisine, offering cheap food in cheerful surroundings.

Chinese food is served exclusively, but focuses on those more quickly and easily prepared dishes. Soft drinks are eschewed in favor of traditional Chinese drinks such as soy plum juice.

However, unlike most Chinese fast food, East Dawning uses consistent recipes and preparation methods between restaurants which are designed to resemble Chinese homes and the dining tables are similar to offering tables found in many homes.

Yonghe King

Yonghe King (Yonghe Da Wang) specializes in Chinese-style breakfast and noodles.

Yonghe is the name of a suburb of Taipei city in Taiwan, where several decades ago there appeared a breakfast shop specializing in fresh soybean milk.

A chain by the same name was started in Shanghai in 1995 by Taiwanese investors and became a successful local brand. Now it has more than 30 restaurants in the city. Its three classic products are soybean milk, fried bread sticks and beef noodles.

In 2004, Yonghe King merged with one of the largest fast food chains in the Philippines, Jollibee, which is owned by Chinese-Filipino Tony Tan Caktiong. It then changed its logo from a smiley face to a steaming bowl of soup.

Yonghe King is most famous for its freshly made soybean products, costing from 5 to 8 yuan. As for drinks, the portfolio is more creative: cool soy, hot soy, diet soy, honey soy, etc.

Besides the breakfast items, you can also get xiaolongbao (dumplings), and various kinds of rice plates and noodles. The prices are a little bit more expensive than the local shops but for its cleanliness, it's worth a bit more.



Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend