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Michael Wong
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you run a Chinese supermarket

By Time Out London contributor

...according to Michael Wong, 45.

The biggest seller for Chinese New Year is rice

‘At New Year we have a big meal called the reunion dinner. It’s a superstition in China that your rice pot must be full for New Year, so every family will pick up a sack of rice when they’re in my shop around this time of year. We also sell a lot of fortune cookies, and people cook symbolic foods like yú (fish) which signify surplus and prosperity. And we have a Chinese New Year pudding made from glutinous rice called nian gao, which translates as “starting the new year on a high”.’

Chinatown isn’t just for tourists

‘I manage the Croydon branch of Wing Yip, and we have everything I need to cook with – which makes dinner easy! But before I worked here I spent a lot of time in Chinatown, and it’s brilliant for restaurants and for shopping. The main advantage we have in Croydon is better parking.’

Korean food is overtaking Thai

‘I constantly notice new trends with food. Ten years ago, Thai food was the big seller – it was booming. But right now Korean food is slowly and surely getting bigger, as well as spicier Chinese ingredients and cuisines.’

Most Chinese dishes sold in other supermarkets have been Westernised

‘Let’s just say that your Tesco or your Asda Chinese food caters more to Western tastes. That’s not a bad thing, but it is different. If you want to see what’s authentic, I would recommend taking a look at what Chinese families eat when you’re out having Chinese food.’

Interview by Rosie Gizauskas.

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