Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - Peking Restaurant in Cairo: Cooking Chinese in Twentieth-Century Egypt

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Silveroak II, Ground Floor

This paper explores the history of Chinese restaurants in Egypt. Whereas food history abounds, narratives of restaurants are rather limited, especially Chinese eateries in the Middle East. This is understandable as the Chinese diaspora communities there are significantly less visible than those in the West, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. However, the smaller size does not make them less important. In fact, Chinese restaurants in Egypt are uniquely different from other overseas Chinese restaurants as they have been operating in Islamic societies where dietary restrictions, culinary techniques, eating utensils, and even staple ingredients are significantly different from the customs of China.

By narrating the evolution of “Peking Restaurant,” the very first Chinese business of its kind in Egypt since the 1950s, this paper explains why one particular Chinese community moved to Cairo, how they lived through eventful historical moments in Egypt, and eventually survived and thrived in their faraway new home. Today, “Peking” has become one of the most popular chain restaurants in Egypt with franchised branches not only in different parts of Cairo but also in other cities. Its history, with many ups and downs over the years, therefore is not only about food, but more importantly about the process of Chinese diaspora’s adaptation and integration in Egypt, creativity, and innovation in food preparation, as well as menu presentation and advertisement for the image of Chinese communities in Egypt.

Shuang Wen

New York University Abu Dhabi, Singapore


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2 - Peking Restaurant in Cairo: Cooking Chinese in Twentieth-Century Egypt

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