Term Paper: Hong Kong Food Culture

Pages: 6 (2127 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] "Soyfoods have been part of Asian food systems for millennia," and the domestication and processing of soy beans represents one of the earliest instances of a complex food culture arising around a single ingredient (Mintz & Tan, 2001, p. 113). Despite their long history in Chinese cuisine, however, "developments during the last century have done more to transform the meaning of soybeans for world consumption than practically anything since their domestication," and the emergence of a variety of previously unheard-of uses of soybean curd in Hong Kong demonstrate this (Mintz & Tan, 2001, p. 114). Thus, "entrepreneurs in Hong Kong have been introducing and perfecting new bean-curd products, aiming to cater to changing popular tastes" in a kind of local mimicry of international phenomena (Mintz & Tan, 2001, p. 126). For example, whereas previously bean-curd custard came only in one flavor, Hong Kong has seen the emergence of a variety of different flavors, thus transforming the custard from a singular, traditional food into something more similar to and with the variety of Western desserts such as ice cream or American pudding.

The emergence of new forms of soybean foods represents the "modernization" of traditional tastes as a result of globalization, and there is one other related but distinct process occurring in Hong Kong food culture as a result of globalization. In addition to the transformation of traditional foods and the blunt insertion of Western foods in the form of American fast food restaurants, Hong Kong has also seen a more comfortable blending of Western foods and traditional culture in the relatively high consumption of cognac. "The successful integration of cognac as the liquor of choice at wedding banquets since the 1970s," and its use as "a common item in gift exchange at important calendar and social occasions" represents "the resilience of cultural diversity within an increasingly integrated global economy," because in contrast to the somewhat blatant attempts at using local culture to sell fast food, the conspicuous popularity of cognac in Hong Kong represents a more natural convergence of international food and traditional Chinese culture (Smart, 2004, p. 219). Thus, while the most obvious and pervasive effect of globalization is the undermining of traditional Chinese culture through the changes seen in Hong Kong food culture, the fact remains that in certain instances globalization has served to reinforce and support local traditions and customs.

Hong Kong has seen rapid changes over the course of the last three decades, and the changes in its food culture are some of the most conspicuous. By examining these changes one is able to see how globalization has greatly undermined traditional Chinese culture by inserting Western products and commodifying local traditions in order to sell them on the international market, but it has also resulted in more natural evolutions of local customs which ultimately serve to reinforce traditional Hong Kong food culture, albeit in modified forms. Chinese and Honk Kong has shown itself to be surprisingly resilient in the face of unfettered global capitalism, which seeks to commodify everything, and thus one may see both the detrimental and positive effects of globalization in the changes occurring in Hong Kong's food culture.


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