Southeast Asian cuisine appreciated by Chinese palates and takes up a larger place at the table

A view of laksa served at Jasmine Kho’s restaurant — a rice noodle dish with a broth of herbs, spices and coconut milk, served with Hainanese chicken, seasonal seafood and grated egg . (Photo/CHINA DAILY)

After years of development and commercialization, Southeast Asian cuisine has entered a phase of rapid growth in China, but many niches remain to be exploited to further tap the sector’s full potential, experts said.

Jasmine Kho, born in Sarawak, Malaysia, is the founder of MULU, a Beijing-based food and beverage group with various Southeast Asian sub-brands. In 2012, when she established MULU Hutong, a French sub-brand in Nanyang in the international metropolis, very few people had tasted Malaysian curry and Sarawak laksa, two classic dishes from her hometown.

Now, 11 years later, steady streams of Southeast Asian food fanatics must book a week in advance to sample Sarawak’s dishes. During COVID-19, it also created a Southeast Asian street food sub-brand and a Michelin-recommended Thai sub-brand.

Southeast Asian cuisine entered China in the 1990s and is now experiencing strong growth. Windata, a Guangzhou-based retail service provider, said that in 2021 in China, the store opening and closing ratios of Thai restaurants – a representative mainstay of Southeast Asian cuisine – exceeded one, meaning the pace of Thai restaurant openings was higher than that of closures.

In terms of geographical location, Southeast Asian cuisine has rapidly penetrated first-tier cities and “new first-tier cities”, such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Singaporean restaurant ranking among foodie favorites, according to report. from Chinese online service provider Meituan showed this.

Meanwhile, according to the report, during this year’s Labor Day, consumption of exotic foods and drinks, including Southeast Asian cuisine, soared, with annual growth exceeding 30 percent. Specifically, searches for “Thai food” on Meituan during the holidays increased 303% on a year-over-year basis, ranking first among all exotic cuisine categories.

“Taking advantage of consumer psychology seeking something new, Southeast Asian cuisine has successfully entered the Chinese market. The development of the tourism industry in Southeast Asia has subsequently enabled it to “more and more consumers know and appreciate food better,” said Zhu Danpeng. an F&B analyst based in Guangzhou.

“Currently, restaurants in Southeast Asia, offering Thai, Malaysian and Singaporean dishes, have developed differentiated business positioning strategies and strive to meet the social needs of consumers with diversified scenarios, and their consumer prices per residents are polarized,” says an F&B report. observer

“Southeast Asian cuisine is one of my favorites. I often take my family to these restaurants on weekends. We spend anywhere from 200 yuan ($27.4) to up to 2,000 yuan per meal,” said Yuan Xiaochen, a 35-year-old man. Fan of Southeast Asian cuisine in Beijing.

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