Think of East Asian cuisine in the United Kingdom and this thought literally stirs up many different types of sights, tastes and aromas. East Asian cuisine has definitely developed a long way since it’s initial introduction to the London Docklands in the 1880s by way of Chinese sailors. Now, many would argue that both, the Indian and East Asian cuisines, are arguably the most popular, if not the most popular foods in modern Britain. Building upon the initial foundations of the first generation East Asian dining pioneers, are the second to third generations of East Asian restauranteurs who have been at the forefront of a new culinary revolution.
From the first recorded Chinese restaurant in 1908 known as “The China Restaurant” in Glasgow Street located in London; throughout the twentieth century, East Asian restaurants have moved far and beyond the initial physical confines of the traditional Chinese community hubs of London, Manchester and Liverpool.
The younger British East Asian community are now expanding beyond the limited scope of just Cantonese fare as the British public has become more knowledgable about East Asian cuisine while provincial Chinese cuisines from places like Sichuan and Shanghai are now gaining greater popularity.
With new ideas and greater business savvy and the willingness to try innovative marketing ideas, Chinese restaurants / eateries are now moving upwards and modernizing and making their stamp on the British cultural and dining landscape.
One such venue is Cheng and Chen East Asian Cuisine located in the comfortable surroundings of Trinity Market in Hull. One of the owners, Phil Cheng, took the time to discuss what makes ‘Cheng and Chen East Asian Cuisine’ stand out from all the other outlets which offer East Asian food and dining in their regional area.
Cheng first discussed what makes ‘Cheng and Chen East Asian Cuisine’ an unique dining experience.
“Compared to other East Asian outlets in our local region. I think we produce very good quality food, which for the price, is fantastic value. With all things considered like ingredients, pricing and profit margins, I think we have done well to produce fresh, tasty food.”
Cheng was adamant, with greater health and dietary knowledge, that all the dishes prepared were with natural ingredients and from scratch.
“One thing we always tell people is that there is nothing we wouldn’t eat on our menu and if we don’t like the food we won’t put it on, which probably isn’t the case with a lot of ‘fast food’ Asian / Chinese take away or buffet places.”
“We try to do things properly, for example, we make all sauces and flavourings from scratch which means less salt, sugar and msg, etc. This results in more balanced dishes. Having a small menu helps as well; meaning we can focus more on each dish. So far the business is doing well, we’re getting good feedback and already have lots of repeat customers in the short time we’re open.”
These days, everything is location, location and location and ‘Cheng and Chen’ are fortunate to be based in the newly renovated Trinity Market in Hull which means a constant and steady stream of both new and loyal customers.
“We’re based inside Trinity Market in the old part of Kingston upon Hull, it’s a historic grade 2 listed indoor market established in 1904, which was subject to a £2.7m refurbishment in 2017.”
The informal setting of Trinity market makes for a pleasant and fun dining experience in an unique setting which is also family friendly.
“The layout is similar to the street food markets or food courts you see in Europe but smaller, so individual food stalls each selling their own style and type of food with a communal seating area. As you’d expect, its generally more of a informal casual dining experience. During lunchtimes, there’s always a busy bustling atmosphere and its generally a nice, positive and friendly place to eat and drink and work.”
Hull was named as the UK city of Culture and it was on the back of this new interest in the city that the area’s image was boosted on all levels.
“Since the refurbishment, the market has become a food and cultural hub. As it is based in the old part of the city, it is nearly always incorporated as a venue and food and drink area for various festivals, arts and cultural events, it is fantastic for us as these events tend draw in lots of people.”
The dishes we serve are all the most popular and most recognisable dishes from the region, various types of noodle and rice dishes. We’re mainly a lunchtime outlet so we focus on dishes that are quick to prepare which mainly means wok cooking.”
Hull does not have a large East Asian community when compared to cities like Manchester and Birmingham and the like; this has given people like Cheng the freedom to explore new techniques and not be swayed by traditional dishes and recipes.
“I think what we have come to understand from living in the city and in other parts of the UK, is that the food culture in Hull is very different to elsewhere. What I mean is that compared to other major UK cities like Manchester or London, the food scene and food culture is probably less developed, for example customers who have never have tried pad Thai or udon is not uncommon. Definitely not a criticism of the town or its people but the potential for growth and opportunities for businesses like ours is huge.”
East Asian food is constantly changing and adapting with the times and new trends and Cheng is aware of this and is happy to adapt and evolve to stay apace with ever changing food tastes.
“For this reason, we do all the classic and recognisable favourites of the region, dishes people have heard of but perhaps never tried. we want to appeal to the widest possible audience, so things like Pad Thai, egg noodles, chicken Katsu curry and Korean fried chicken are all popular.”
Cheng was happy to introduce and make his own recommendations from their menu and is happy to recommend to visitors so they wish!
“My personal favourites are probably the Singapore noodles and beef ho fun rice noodles which in my humble opinion are easily comparable to anything I’ve eaten in the Far East.”
If you are in the north of England then venture over to Trinity market in Hull and sample some of the finest East Asian cuisine in the region!
Cheng and Chen East Asian Cuisine, Trinity Market, Hull HU1 2JH, UK
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