Eating out, Beijing: Kiwi bites
2007-10-10 13:51:02 [ Big Normal Small ]     Comment
Eating out, Beijing: Kiwi bites

The Kiwi country hopes to create a new zeal for New Zealand foodstuffs among Chinese foodies and is now setting its sights on the capital. Since May 2006, the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) has been pushing the country's posh nosh and fine wine in Shanghai. Now, it's gearing up for its Beijing rollout as part of the NZ$19 million campaign to expand support for its food and beverage (F&B) export to China, its fourth largest trading partner, as well as in Japan and the United States.

But the Middle Kingdom will be the central focus of the new campaign, as New Zealand exports to China have increased 250 percent over the last decade, totaling NZ$1.877 billion for 2007 by the end of June.

And the plans to grow this further means Beijingers should expect to find more New Zealand fare on store shelves and dinner plates across the capital. But when it comes to New Zealand chow, it's less about the country's cuisine than its raw ingredients.

"In New Zealand, we have all of these great products to put together, but there's no culinary tradition," says New Zealand chef Tony Bullot.

To promote awareness about Kiwi foodstuffs in Beijing, NTZE hosted a lunch at the ambassador's house last Thursday. Bullot, who is F&B director for he Holiday Inn Lido Beijing, cooked up cuts of Canterbury lamb, lobsters drizzled in avocado oil, and kiwi- and strawberry-topped pavlova for the capital's gastronomes and media. Between bites, Bullot made dinner conversation about the dinner, explaining the virtues of the victuals diners were digging into.

With no longstanding culinary tradition to sell, the pitch to Beijingers is that New Zealand food is among the world's healthiest, safest and most sustainably produced.

"New Zealand offers a solution that few countries in the world can match: A wide range of sustainably sourced food and beverage of the highest quality, or put simply, pure tastes from a pure place," says NZTE's counselor commercial Jonathan Watt.

If the selling point is natural nosh rather than Kiwi cuisine, the question becomes: will Beijingers bite? Watt believes they will. "The growing Chinese middle-class, typically located in the major cities on the Eastern seaboard of China, is seeking quality and value. They are focused on wellbeing and are increasingly looking for the healthiest, freshest foods, with food safety being a key buying trigger," he says.

Beijingers could expect bigger portions of the seafood, beef, lamb, milk, honey and butter they eat to hail from the South Pacific nation. According to NTZE marketing and communications manager Ziena Jalil, while there are more drinkers of New Zealand wine and vodka in Shanghai, Beijing now is the prime destination for beef and mutton. This lean meat, all of which comes from grass-fed livestock, is mainly distributed to high-end hotpot restaurants.

"All of our food is harvested sustainably, and all of our lamb and beef are all products of low-intensive farming," Jalil says. She adds that most poultry and eggs from the country are raised free-range, while its honey is known not only for being exceptionally sweet but also for its medicinal qualities.

Bullot points out that because Kiwi cuisine is based not only on dishes from Europe but also on meals from Asia and the Pacific Rim, its New World wineries have adapted to this diversity, so many of its wines would match well with Chinese cuisine.

According to the NZTE's Wine and Food Matching Guide's section on China: "The most important premise to follow is that wines should help to balance hot, sour, salty and sweet food sensations rather than overpower them. The best wines for Asian foods are often those with moderate levels of alcohol, as heat from the alcohol will intensify the heat sensation from the food."
While there are no Kiwi-cuisine restaurants in the capital yet, New Zealand meat is served at the Holiday Inn Lido Beijing, Aria and Outback Stake House. Coffee from the country is served at Caf L'affare and wine and dairy products from the country can be found on shelves at Jenny Lou's.

(China Daily by Erik Nilsson October 8, 2007)
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