When it comes to dining out, Chinese cuisine has long been a popular choice worldwide. The rich flavours, diverse ingredients, and unique cooking techniques make it an enticing option for food enthusiasts. Read on as we explore what you can expect from a Chinese restaurant and discover some tasty dishes you’ll be dying to try.
A brief history of Chinese restaurants
During the 1950s and 60s Britain saw an increase in its Chinese community due to the influx of Hong Kong Chinese. Many of these newcomers went into the restaurant business, setting up takeaways across the UK, with much of their hard-earned money going back to Hong Kong to support family there. Several Chinese takeaways cleverly adapted to their British customers’ tastes in food by offering buttered bread, pies and chips alongside Chinese dishes. The more prosperous 1960s, however, also saw a rise in eating out and a more adventurous approach to sampling different cuisines. Today, Chinese food is very much part of the British diet, widely available in ready-meal form, eaten in restaurants and bought from takeaways, while upmarket Chinese restaurants are now winning Michelin stars and glowing reviews.
Popular Chinese meals to try
Chinese food is thoroughly enjoyed across the nation, with the rich flavours and enticing aromas capturing the hearts of the British people. Here are a few examples of Chinese food you absolutely cannot miss:
Sweet and sour pork
Sweet and sour pork has a bright orange-red colour, and a delicious sweet and sour taste. At the very beginning there was only sweet and sour pork, but to meet demands, there have been some developments on this dish. Now, the pork can be substituted with other ingredients like chicken, beef, or pork ribs.
Dumplings are a traditional food type that is widely popular, especially in North China. Chinese dumplings consist of minced meat and/or chopped vegetables wrapped in a thin dough skin. Popular fillings are minced pork, diced shrimp, ground chicken, beef, and vegetables. Dumplings can be cooked by boiling, steaming, or frying.
Chow mein is the Cantonese pronunciation of the Mandarin chǎomiàn, which means 'stir-fried noodles'. This stir-fried dish consists of noodles, meat (usually chicken, beef, shrimp, or pork), onions, and celery. It is said that chow mein was invented by a woman called Shan Gu in Jiangsu Province. She was making food for workers who were building a great dam to prevent flooding of the Yellow River, and found that food went bad quickly in the hot weather. So, she invented chow mein, which can be kept for a longer time and is easily reheated and eaten. Since then, stir-frying has become a popular way of cooking noodles.
Beijing roasted duck
Peking duck is a famous dish from Beijing, enjoying world fame, and considered as one of China's national dishes. Peking duck is savoured for its thin and crispy skin. Sliced Peking duck is often eaten with pancakes, sweet bean sauce, or soy sauce with mashed garlic.
Fried rice is a dish made from fried cooked rice and other ingredients, often including eggs, vegetables, seafood, or meat. Fried rice is one of the most common Chinese foods. It is easy to make fried rice at home using leftover rice and other meat or vegetables from the last meal.
Wontons are a kind of Chinese dumpling. Different from jiaozi, wontons have less filling and are wrapped in much thinner dough wrappers. The shapes of wontons can be different depending on how they're made. Wonton fillings are most often minced pork or diced shrimp, with the food commonly boiled and served in a soup (broth), but sometimes deep-fried.
What to look for in an authentic Chinese restaurant
There are several notable qualities that make a quality authentic Chinese restaurant. Here are some important things to look out for:
Cuisine and meal options
As you probably already know, Chinese cuisine is filled with a variety of flavours and culinary traditions. When you step into a typical Chinese restaurant, you can expect to be greeted with an extensive menu that showcases the diversity of Chinese cuisine. From the fiery and numbing flavours of Sichuan cuisine to the delicate and balanced tastes of Cantonese dishes, there truly is something for everyone.
Here at Jimmy’s Express, an established Chinese restaurant in Edinburgh, we believe authenticity is a crucial factor when evaluating the quality of a Chinese restaurant:
● You should look for establishments that prioritise using genuine and high-quality ingredients. Fresh vegetables, aromatic spices, and quality meats are all indicators of an authentic Chinese dining experience.
● Additionally, pay attention to the cooking techniques employed by the chefs. Stir-frying, steaming, braising, and deep-frying are just a few of the methods that contribute to the authentic flavours of Chinese cuisine.
Dine-in experiences and friendly customer service
Chinese restaurants are famous for their vibrant and bustling atmosphere. The decor often reflects Chinese cultural elements, such as red lanterns, Chinese paintings, and intricate woodwork. This ambiance creates an immersive experience, transporting you to the heart of China.
When it comes to customer service, Chinese restaurants take pride in their friendly and attentive staff. From the moment you enter, you can expect to be greeted with a warm smile and a genuine desire to make your dining experience memorable. The staff is knowledgeable about the menu and can provide recommendations based on your preferences and dietary restrictions. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a regular, the staff will ensure that your needs are met with utmost care and professionalism.
Experience and local reputation
The local reputation of a Chinese restaurant can be a useful indicator of its quality. A restaurant that consistently receives glowing reviews and has a loyal customer base is likely to offer an exceptional dining experience. Of course, the experience and expertise of the chefs and staff are crucial in determining the overall quality of a Chinese restaurant. Chefs who have honed their skills over many years and have a deep understanding of Chinese culinary traditions are more likely to create dishes that are flavourful, balanced, and authentic to the cuisine's roots. Similarly, well-trained and knowledgeable staff can enhance your dining experience by providing excellent service, tips and guidance.
Options for dietary requirements
Chinese cuisine is highly adaptable and offers plenty of options for those with specific dietary requirements. Vegetarians and vegans will find an abundance of vegetable-based dishes, tofu stir-fries, and plant-based protein alternatives. Chinese restaurants are also known for their extensive use of fresh vegetables, making it easier for those seeking a healthier or plant-based meal.
Additionally, for individuals with allergies or dietary restrictions, Chinese restaurants are usually accommodating. Many establishments are experienced in handling requests for gluten-free alternatives or accommodating specific allergies. Just make sure to inform the restaurant staff about your dietary requirements when placing your order, allowing them to guide you through the menu and suggest suitable options.
Unbeatable Chinese food at Jimmy’s Express
Jimmy’s Express is the home of authentic, lovingly prepared Chinese meals in the heart of Edinburgh. Based a stone’s throw away from the Royal Mile - which courses through the city’s Old Town and is peppered with historical buildings, shops and attractions that evoke Edinburgh’s vibrant past - our restaurant is helmed by our fantastic chef, who has over 45 years of experience with devising delicious traditional Chinese food. We provide a range of dining options to meet your every need and requirement:
Our Chinese restaurant is perfect for friends, family or simply dining alone! Sit amongst the beautiful décor as you are waited on by friendly staff who serve only the best in Chinese cuisine.
Takeaway and collection
Fancy a takeout tonight? Order your food to collect, or pop in and wait while we prepare it for you! So if a night-in is on the cards, make sure it’s an evening to remember with a delicious Chinese meal served piping hot and ready to take away.
An appetising menu
Our menu is packed with the Chinese meals you know and love (plus a few dishes concocted specially by our artisan chefs). There are vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, which means there's something for everyone!
If you’d like to try delicious Chinese food in the heart of Edinburgh, don’t hesitate to get in touch today.