British Chinese cuisine is a style of Chinese cuisine developed by British Chinese in the United Kingdom,[1][2][3] typically adapted to British tastes,[4] but increasingly inspired by authentic Cantonese dishes.[5] It is considered a major part of British cuisine.[6] It often consists of fried food with the inclusion of chips and curry sauce, which are not known for being traditionally Chinese, but are food staples in the UK.[7]


In the early 1880s, Chinese food items and eating houses appeared in London and Liverpool, mainly visited by Chinese seamen and students.[8]

From 1841 to 1997, Hong Kong and the New Territories served as the final colonial stronghold of the British Empire for a significant period spanning 156 years. This region became an integral part of an established trade route, attracting numerous European shipping companies that would enlist Southern Chinese men as seafarers, who in turn traveled and resettled in the United Kingdom. While these sailors and subsequent generations of Chinese migrants were not bestowed with citizenship or granted complete rights, many of them, driven by impoverished circumstances and the pursuit of improved livelihoods, established their homes in Britain. To sustain the burgeoning Chinese communities and cater to the needs of the transient sailors, they resorted to setting up informal noodle shops. This practice reached its pinnacle between the two World Wars.[7]

London had its first recorded Chinese restaurant open in 1907[9] or 1908.[8]

During the mid-1900s, after the Second World War, a significant shift occurred in UK immigration policies, permitting increased migration to address the post-war demand for labor. As a result, a "restaurant boom" emerged within the Chinese community. Between 1957 and 1964, the number of Chinese food establishments experienced a twofold increase, with a considerable portion of these establishments catering to the tastes and preferences of non-Chinese clientele.[7] The restaurants were operated largely by Hong Kongers who moved to the UK.[10]

In 2011, the Ming-Ai (London) Institute launched the British Chinese Food Culture project with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, aimed at exploring and tracking the changes in Chinese food throughout its history in the United Kingdom.[11][8]

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted many Chinese restaurants in the UK, with a number of restaurants in London's Chinatown in particular facing financial difficulty[12] as a result of prejudice against Chinese takeaways, based on fears described by the BBC as "unfounded".[12]

Cuisine and regional variations

Chinese food is considered a major part of British cuisine.[6] In 2017, over 80% of Londoners reported having been to a Chinese takeaway.[13]

Some Chinese takeaway restaurants in Britain have developed original recipes such as crispy duck pancakes, a variation on peking duck[14][15] consisting of aromatic crispy duck on savoury spring pancakes usually served with julienned cucumber, spring onions and hoisin sauce.[16] Another dish is jar jow, a stir-fried dish of sliced char siu, bamboo shoots, onions and green pepper seasoned with chilli powder and tomato paste.[17] In Northern England, salt and pepper chips, which are made of chips stir fried with five-spice powder, peppers and onions, are popular.[18] By the late 2010s, the popularity of old fashioned dishes like jar jow had faded in favour of American-style Chinese dishes such as chop suey and Americanised chow mein in Chinese takeaways,[17] whereas many other restaurants throughout Britain increasingly offer authentic Chinese dishes.[5][19]

See also


  1. ^ Bickers, R. (1999). Britain in China: Community, Culture and Colonialism, 1900-49. Studies in Imperialism. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-5697-0. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  2. ^[bare URL PDF]
  3. ^ Roberts, J.A.G. (2004). China to Chinatown: Chinese Food in the West. Globalities Series. Reaktion Books. ISBN 978-1-86189-227-0. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  4. ^ 刘小卓 (2018-08-13). "Britain's love affair with Chinese food - World". (in Chinese). Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  5. ^ a b Dunlop, Fuchsia (2019-09-15). "The UK's Chinese food revolution". The Guardian. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  6. ^ a b "Chinese Food in Britain Has Come a Long Way Since the 80s". Chinese Food in Britain Has Come a Long Way Since the 80s. 9 July 2014. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  7. ^ a b c Sulan Masing, Anna (2023-05-18). "Why has British Chinese food shocked the US?". BBC. Retrieved 2023-05-26.
  8. ^ a b c "British Chinese Food - - 英國中餐 - British Chinese Heritage Centre - British Chinese Heritage Centre". British Chinese Heritage Centre (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2020-10-01. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  9. ^ "Chinese diaspora in Britain" (PDF). British Museum. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  10. ^ "Chinese restaurants". The British Library. Retrieved 2020-06-16.
  11. ^ "BRITISH CHINESE FOOD CULTURE". Ming Ai London. Archived from the original on 2020-06-15. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  12. ^ a b Gillett, Victoria Lindrea & Francesca (2020-02-03). "Coronavirus fear hits London's Chinatown". BBC News. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  13. ^ Sukhadwala, Sejal (2017-04-12). "How Long Have Londoners Been Eating Chinese Food For?". Londonist. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  14. ^ "Savour the success from aromatic". Cherry Valley. Archived from the original on 2 February 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  15. ^ "Crispy Aromatic Duck And Other British Inventions". DimSum. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  16. ^ Hom, Ken. "Recipe for crispy aromatic duck". BBC. Archived from the original on 7 September 2007. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  17. ^ a b Dunlop, Fuchsia (19 March 2021). "How the British-Chinese takeaway took off". Financial Times. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  18. ^ Bona, Marta (2020-01-23). "The Chinese Chippy Delicacy the Rest of the World Is Missing Out On". Vice. Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  19. ^ "Meet the people shaking up Chinese cuisine in the UK". Hospitality News. 2020-01-09. Retrieved 2020-06-14.