On British Food

We all know Britain is famous for fish and chips, and often people believe British food to be greasy, bland and boring. The Sea Turtle speaks of her experiences and quandaries with swapping noodles and dumplings for sausages and baked beans.

When I first came to Britain, many people would ask me if from a Chinese point of view, British food really is inedible. In all fairness, I think British food is not so bad. The most famous controversial “dark cuisine” in Britain is “Stargazy pie”. However, you can only find this pie in a remote small town. In my personal opinion, the ordinary food such as the English breakfast or fish and chips, are all fine.

Let’s start with the fish and chips. The dish includes a fried fish, fries (chips), and mushy peas with ketchup, mayonnaise or tartar sauce. To my surprise, when I tasted this popular cuisine, the flesh of the fish was more tender than I expected, and it really tasted flavorsome with sauce. But it also has disadvantages. The outer crust of the fried fish was too dry and too greasy for me. I have since noticed that I have to drink more than three glasses of water every time I eat fish and chips.

It seems that the English breakfast exists on almost every restaurant menu. Although the dish contains high oil and salt, it generally tastes good. English breakfast includes poached or scrambled egg, grilled tomatoes, grilled sausages, mushrooms, toast, bacon, and baked beans. It’s really enjoyable and satisfying when finished such a “huge” plate of food. At the end of the breakfast, you can also have a cup of hot tea and feel refreshed for the new day.

Similarly, the United Kingdom also draws upon various food from all over the world. Among them, Indian food is the most popular among British people, and Indian curry restaurants are found everywhere in Britain. In 2001, British Foreign Minister Robin Cook also said in his speech that the famous Indian dish chicken tikka masala has become a “national dish” in Britain. My school cafeteria also sells a variety of curry with rice almost daily. The main course is usually beef or chicken curry with Indian rice. Indian rice is much longer in length than Chinese rice, but also softer, which I think tastes odd, but it’s okay to serve with curry.

When the documentary ” A Bite of China” became popular on the internet, I heard people discussing how to shoot the documentary “A Bite of Britain”. Their proposal was very interesting. Episode one was named “The gift of nature: potato”, episode two titled “The stories of main course: fish and chips”, episode three referred to as “Kitchen’s secret: salad” and the last episode was ” Five flavors: ketchup and mayonnaise.” This funny notion certainly captures a precise summary of the composition of British food.

In fact, ingredients in the United Kingdom are usually very good and wholesome, especially the corn, the most delicious and surprising food I tried here, after simply boiling it. The British beef and mutton are superb as well. I think the reason why British food is often given the negative stigma is actually because it can be very simple and sometimes fall into two extremes: greasy or bland. Commonly, the average British meal comprises a plate divided into two halves, half of which is generally a piece of meat, and the other half potatoes and vegetables. In general, British people fry ingredients in oil, or roast them into the oven, then boil carrots or other vegetables, before finally adding different kinds of sauces.

For me, at the beginning of my dietary routine, this kind of “meat and vegetables” pattern was acceptable, but now after eating them every day, the problem is starting to arise. There are only a few kinds of meats, and cooked in few ways. Whether roasted or fried, the flavors of the meat are always the same. And it becomes unbearable when you keep eating the same thing for a long time! Besides, I usually cook at home. However, my cooking skills are limited. For my convenience, normally I like to buy some semi-cooked meats like fried pork cutlets or fried chicken fillets in the supermarket. That means just quickly heating them in the oven, adding some boiled vegetables, then my simple meal is ready. However, both the food in restaurants and semi-cooked store products contain too much salt and oil, and also a lot of cheese, which means it’s easy to feel tired and nauseous.

When I get tired of the British food, I always miss Chinese food. In China, the layers and flavors of cuisine are rich and plentiful. Carrots alone may have led to more than one hundred recipes. I really regret that I did not learn how to cook Chinese dishes before I came to the United Kingdom. I even felt very sad when I ate some frozen dumplings, because it had been a long time since experiencing the genuine Asian flavors. However, this motivated me to start learning to cook and now, I can make a few decent Chinese dishes! Taste is always inseparable from everyone’s hometown, and for me, it carries key memories of the land on which I lived, but also shows my own identity.