These days it seems many people of Asian ethnicity all around the world have impeccably strong palates for Western foods.
McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and various other Western restaurants are frequently packed during meal times in Asian countries. “Potato parties” have recently become a fad in Japan and South Korea, so-called parties where groups of young people order obscene amounts of fries and eat them all in one sitting at fast-food joints. Much love for fries.
Many Asian international students and Asian-Australians here in Australia also seem to possess Westernised palates. It is not uncommon to see them ordering fancy smoked salmon and poached eggs on multigrain toast or bircher muesli along with their coffee at upmarket cafes for Saturday brunch and kebabs for dinner later. What happened to having yum cha or sitting at round tables dining at Asian restaurants?
And not many have acknowledged this.
There are a number of not-so-ubiquitous cultural reasons that may explain why many Asians secretly love eating Western cuisine, or why many Asians are drawn towards consuming Western gastronomic delights more so than Asian dishes.
For starters, when we think about Asian food and cooking, images of hot bowls of boiling water served at tables for diners to wash oily restaurant cutlery prior to eating and open-aired roadside hawker stalls located beside the gutter where chefs toss noodles in woks with recycled oil often come to mind. In reality, that is dining etiquette and how countless Asian dishes are prepared in Asia. It can be said that at times, the stigma of consuming food which may not necessarily be safe to eat and feasting in unsanitary conditions is attached to eating Asian.
In contrast, a good deal of Western gastronomic fare is frequently prepared in enclosed kitchens where motor fumes barely kiss food packaging. Perhaps Asians who grew up eating hawker food in Asia hold the perception that Western kitchens tend be more hygienic and plate up A-grade safe dishes and so are more inclined to ingest Western chow.
Secondly, in the eyes of some Asians, the act of eating Western is a status symbol. Eat Western food and others will see you as a classy, sophisticated and even wealthy individual. Too many plates of well-done steaks, decent fish-and-chips and juicy gourmet pizzas literally burn holes in the average working person’s wallet. A filling meal at McDonalds can cost close to ten dollars.
Asian hawker fare is cheap in comparison, usually around six to seven dollars a meal in Asia. A bowl of noodles in an air-conditioned Asian restaurant can be relatively affordable too. Today, gorging on Western meals is known to be “a fashion for young Chinese people”, a hip activity among younger generation Asians. This is not surprising as impressing others, showing-off one’s “high-class, wealthy” status is highly but unfortunately admired in Asian cultures.
Perhaps yet another reason some of Asian ethnicity lust after Western food is their (unconscious) desire to distance themselves from their own culture. Western standards are perceived as grand and esteemed in numerous Asian countries; many Asians here strive to look as fair-skinned as Caucasians and shower much praise over Caucasians’ abilities to confidently speak in perfect English. It is almost as if they are embarrassed to be Asian. Eating Western food would be right up these Asians’ alley.
Or maybe some Asians resent their parents for force-feeding them Asian food they detest such as eggplant or Chinese cabbage while growing up. Like filial Asian children they obeyed their parents and resented this so much that these days they are intent on rebelling by eating as much Western food as possible.
Non-cultural factors also arguably explain why Asians are drawn to consuming Western food. In a globalised, commodified world, Western fast-food franchises are popping up left, right and centre. The convenient locations of these eateries may very well entice Asians in Asian countries to eat Western all the time and so they do just that, naturally developing a taste for this cuisine.
Also, certain Western dishes are not readily available in Asia. Asian international students might simply be keen on trying gwei-lo cuisine when studying abroad in Western countries.
As one of my friends said to me while we were eating at McDonalds and I was smiling down at my fries, “It’s like they’re eating so much Western food to compensate for the lack of authentic Western food back home.” After she said this, I continued to smile at my fries. I like McDonalds. Always have, and always will.
Just like how I absolutely love egg tarts.
At the end of the day, there is the possibility some Asians simply prefer eating Western over Asian food because they simply prefer eating Western food. Their taste buds may simply prefer bread, potatoes and pasta over rice and noodles.
And why can’t this be so? Each and every person is their own individual.