Chongqing- “Food has no borders, where Sichuanese cooking has been popular worldwide with its distinctive complex flavor in different food preparation includes pickling, frying, smoking, and drying,” said Yan Qi, Member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political and Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and chairperson of Chongqing Taoranju Group.
During the ongoing Two Sessions in Beijing, Yan proposed that Chengdu and Chongqing join hands promoting Sichuan-Chongqing cuisine to overseas markets. This is because Chengdu and Chongqing share a similar culinary and cultural background, and dishes from both regions are known for their exclusive spicy and pungent flavors.
“Sichuan and Chongqing people love spicy food, and their predilection for piquancy is presumably a timeless tradition,” said Yan. “Sichuan-Chongqing cuisine has garnered a lot of attention, where we should allow the rest of the world to experience the culture and characteristic of Sichuan-Chongqing spicy food, and feel the local enthusiasm and passion of people between the two places.”
One of the important ideas she raised was to build up further cooperation between the Catering Chamber of Chongqing Federation of Industry and Commerce and the Sichuan Catering Chamber of Commerce.
“In countries or regions with mature conditions, Sichuan and Chongqing catering companies can develop together and establish an Overseas Chinese Food Service Center or Chinese-funded Catering Chamber of Commerce,” Yan explained. “The overseas authentic Sichuanese food cooked by original Chinese enterprises is more and more common nowadays.”
The Overseas Chinese Food Service Center, said Yan, signals that the catering industry has entered the era of industrialization and intelligent production. It involves the entire chain from food procurement and production to food distribution services. The Chinese-funded Catering Chamber of Commerce is a joint organization of domestic catering companies overseas, where the members involved include companies in the catering industry chain.
According to Yan, both organizations are the driving force in developing Sichuan-Chongqing cuisine’s branding abroad. They are encouraged to cooperate with overseas Chinese-funded industrial parks to provide spicy food like Pock-Marked Grandma Tofu and Hot Pot, showing the Sichuan and Chongqing cusine to the world.
“We had a Chongqing Hotpot Banquet event a few years ago to promote Chongqing food culture. We even established the Chongqing Hot Pot Museum,” said Yan.
Statistics show that Chongqing Hotpot has more than 200 stores overseas, including brands like Liu Yishou, Little Swan, Qin Ma, and Dezhuang. Among them, Liu Yishou has branches in countries including Canada, the United States, France, Spain, Japan, etc., where it regards itself as the “interpreter and the messenger of Chongqing.” It aims to shape the Chongqing hotpot style, hoping people abroad can be captivated by its fascinating spicy flavor.
Working closely with the international food and catering industry’s key players, Dezhuang has also been developed innovative product lines and restaurant chain concepts aimed at the global market. So far, it owns 17 subsidiaries and has expanded into a business of 900 restaurants all over China and internationally. According to popular online restaurant directory sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor, most foreign consumer reviews are positive about the experience of dining at Dezhuang.
“Next, we are going to explore more on Chongqing cuisine culture,” said Yan. By establishing the Chongqing Cuisine Museum, Yan plans to dig out the local flavor, characteristics, and health culture in Chongqing’s local cuisine so that overseas customers can taste Chongqing cuisine, learn Chongqing dialect and understand Chongqing culture. She said that a delegation had been sent to Belarus to research in 2019, and a Chongqing Hotpot Culture Overseas Image Display and Experience Store will be expected to open soon there.
“To know Sichuan-Chongqing cuisine means to recognize its culture,” said Yan. From her experience of leading Chongqing Taoranju Group and other enterprises in the catering industry, she insists that culture should go first concerning the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Encouraged by BRI, The Old House, a Chengdu restaurant, has opened its largest local Sichuan restaurant in Lisbon, Portugal. Since its opening, it has been loved by food-lovers from a multicultural background, like the employees of international companies in Lisbon and Portuguese who have a long-standing passion for the Sichuan-Chongqing cuisine.
Sichuan-Chongqing cuisine is gaining more and more popularity among Westerners. Interestingly, Former British prime minister David Cameron and many other political leaders tasted Chengdu hot pot during their visits to the city. German Chancellor Angela Merkel once bought ingredients in a vegetable market in Chengdu and learned how to cook Kung Pao Chicken, a classic spicy Sichuan dish.
According to Sichuan Cuisine Association for Foreign Exchange, Sichuanese cuisine companies continue to expand their territory. Chengdu Impression, Haidilao, The Old House, and other 50 Sichuanese cuisine companies have opened their branches overseas with nearly 100 restaurants in over 20 countries and regions, including the United States, Singapore, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Statistics from the World Federation of Chinese Catering Industry also show that the market size created by 200,000 Sichuan restaurants overseas has reached 250 billion U.S. dollars.
“Even foreigners have started to open Sichuan restaurants in their own countries,” said Tang Min, Vice President of Sichuan Provincial Sichuan Cuisine Association for Foreign Exchange. “I believe everyone loves food, and the catering culture will resonate even more if it goes out of the country.”
Sichuan-Chongqing cuisine plays an ever-active role in advancing Chengdu and Chongqing’s image on the international stage now that both cities are accelerating their opening-up.
“By delighting the taste buds of the diners, DeZhuang is promoting the unique charm of the cooking culture of Chongqing to the world,” said Gianluca Luisi, Chairman of Dezhuang International, who also sees market potential in the Sichuan-Chongqing culinary culture. “We have cooperated with RongLiJi, a Sichuan-styled snacks restaurant chain, and hopefully to enter overseas markets together with mutual assistance and support.”
Luisi continued: “As Chengdu-Chongqing’s economic circle becomes a part of Chinese national strategy to integrate Chengdu’s economy with Chongqing, we should expect for more cooperation opportunities in the future, especially for our business in the food sector.”
“Both places can push for the Sichuan-Chongqing cuisine abroad through the BRI, the China Railway Express to Europe, and the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (ILSTC),” said Tang. “They can join hands to solve problems specifically on the current overseas development of the Sichuan-Chongqing cuisine, that relate to standards, talents, food materials, food securities in the catering industry.”
According to the Service Industry Development Office of Chongqing Municipal Commission of Commerce, they will continue to collaborate between Chengdu and Chongqing, including holding large-scale food events such as hot pot festivals and farmhouse leisure festivals, snack festivals, expositions, and cooking competitions.
Other plans involve introducing and launching a group of international brand festivals that integrate forums and dialogues, industry exhibitions, skills competitions, beauty food appraisals, brand evaluations, and food tourism.
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