Mark Hix: My sweet and sour feelings on takeaways

I vividly remember my first Chinese meal. I was 14, on the sofa taking part in my father's dinner party and ate sweet and sour pork, spare ribs and egg fried rice.

But it wasn't until I moved to London that I realised what real Chinese food was all about and even then it was often thoroughly disappointing at times. Most of the nation's experience of Chinese food is sadly down to the one or two local restaurants which use cheap ingredients to get the price down.

I've now come to terms with the fact that good Chinese food isn't cheap and I'm always suspicious of those menus that you see all over the UK in takeaways and restaurants.

Only recently have I had the opportunity to visit China and, rather like my trips to Tokyo, I have a completely different outlook on what's on offer.

Although Chinese is probably our most popular food we still have a lot to learn about its real origins and not be too convinced by the popular sugary, chemical concoctions that most of us have become addicted to.

I've also become rather addicted to Vietnamese food and, although Vietnamese food is a completely different kettle of fish, most people's perception is that they are similar because most Vietnamese restaurants offer at least 50 per cent Chinese food to win over the public. Sad, really, because the Vietnamese should be proud of their own cuisine, rather like my friends at Viet Grill and Cay Tre in east London, and steer well away from anything Chinese.

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