On a dreary winter day, Londoners are finding warmth and comfort in the hot and spicy food from Chongqing, as “Exploring Yummy Chongqing in London” officially begins as part of the 2023 UK “Happy Chinese New Year” celebrations. This event aims to share the joy of Chinese New Year by introducing authentic Chinese food to locals and features the famous dishes from the city of Chongqing in Southwest China known for their ability to fight the adverse physiological effects of humidity and their mood-lifting effect, thanks to the spicy food that is believed to boost the production of serotonin, the “feel-good hormone”.
At Mr. Meng, a Chongqing restaurant located near Covent Garden in central London, people swarmed in to get a taste of authentic Chongqing dishes. The event also featured a live feed of people in Chongqing enjoying the same delicacies, while presenters in both Chongqing and London explained the dishes to the curious and eager diners.
Amira Arasteh, a food journalist working in London, tried the mao xue wang (assorted meats in hot sauce) and la zi ji (fragrant chicken with chilies) and described them as “very spicy”, but with “lots of flavor”. For seasoned foodies, Chinese cuisine is not just about pleasure for the palate; it also signifies sharing and companionship.
In the run-up to the food-tasting event at Mr. Meng, local foodies and bloggers were invited to explore Chongqing food in London and share their experiences on social media. According to Tang Shi, the organizer of the event, “We want to use food to attract people’s attention to Chongqing. We hope that one day they can travel to Chongqing … and taste the great food in China.”
Daniel, a Londoner who has been blogging about food for over 10 years and has more than 43,000 followers on social media, shared his love for Chinese cuisine and his experience of visiting Sichuan province a few years ago. “I love Chinese New Year because you get to share a big table with dumplings, noodles, and meats,” he says. “It’s good to introduce to followers that open-mindedness to try new food, and expand your mind to try different cuisines.”
The celebration of Chinese New Year and the promotion of authentic Chinese cuisine in London is not just about indulging in delicious food, but also about promoting cultural exchange and understanding. Tang Shi adds, “Food is a bridge between cultures, and we hope to use food to create a better understanding and communication between people from different countries.”
Aside from promoting cultural exchange, the “Exploring Yummy Chongqing in London” event also aims to boost tourism in Chongqing and China. With the current global pandemic, travel restrictions have prevented many people from traveling, but through the promotion of authentic Chinese cuisine and culture, the event organizers hope to create a sense of anticipation and eagerness to visit China in the future.
The joy of sharing food and experiencing new cultures through food is a universal language that transcends borders and differences. “Exploring Yummy Chongqing in London” is a testament to the power of food in bringing people together and promoting cultural understanding and appreciation.