Thursday, 5 February 2009 by Dr Maytel
In Thailand, Chinese food is mainly influenced by Teow Chiu people from Northern Quangdong, this cuisine is known as chew chow in Hong Kong. But Chinese Thai has, as Jennifer explains, has transformed into an "open source" food in its own right. In Cambodia, much of what is considered "special" or celebrationary food appears to be of Chinese origin, such as black chicken and various stir fired dishes. Consumption of specific cooler climate vegetables, such as wom bok or "chinese cabbage" in Cambodia rises at Chinese New Year, and other festival occasions. These vegetables are imported from Vietnam mainly. There is definitely an association in Cambodia of Chinese foods as luxury items.
I'm trying to recall if there are anything that is specifically New Zealand or Australian-ified about Chinese food down under. But we never really ate "chinese" take out much when we were young. We did obligatory Sunday yum cha when I was a child, on account of my father being Chinese Thai and having been educated in Hong Kong for the most part of his formative years. But at that stage we were the only family I knew that did this. I guess yum cha has become in many ways, the standard New Zealand lunch for many families now too. It makes me wonder how yum cha in NZ may have adapted to accommodate these new palates.
There's not much good yum cha in Thailand, even Bangkok. I find dumpling making standards are pretty low, especially compared Malaysia. In fact some of the best "canto-style" dumplings I've had were in Penang.
In many Australian and New Zealand cities, the recent wave of mainland Chinese is changing the face of Chinese restaurants from the sad old tired suburban take out stores that were once a common site in most neighbourhoods. What I did notice when we drove around the South Island is that Thai food seems to be the new Chinese restaurant in small country towns. And just as I once, as a child wondered about the poor isolated Chinese family who owned the only Chinese restaurant in say...whakatane or whatever, when in the South Island I couldn't help but wonder about the poor isolate Thai woman stuck behind a stove in a small country tow, with no lemon grass or Thai basil.