Every person grows up around certain flavors that bring memories of home. In China these are things like soymilk, tea and chicken broth-ed items for all meals. Fun fact: chickens originally came from Asia. So when Western foods meet Chinese tongues they can stand out as alien. Unless, they do what these three brands did.
Chocolate does not have a long history in China. It has been likened to something that looks like poop. So what happens when a chocolatey Oreo cookie stares into the mouth of China? Something's got to give.
The original cookie had too much of a malted flavor. It was too bitter and yet still too sweet at the same time. For Oreo to succeed it had to become a more subtle and light cookie. It became thinner, lighter, less bitter and less malted. The chocolate flavor changed from deep and robust to a light dab. Even the frosting changed. It was too sweet and thick before, so it became lighter and less sweet. Oreo even started offering savoury and spicy flavors like Hot Chicken Wing and Wasabi to fit the market.
Pizza Hut actually has a better reputation in China than it does in its origin country. There are no buffets or drive-thrus in China’s Pizza Hut. It isn't seen as cheap or quick. Instead it is a family sit down dinner establishment akin to Olive Garden in the U.S. This makes it seem of a higher class and menu changes go along with this. It offers a variety of special items beyond pizza, such as pasta, snails, steak, salad and specialty mixed drinks.
The pizza has less sauce, which is also less salty, and a less pungent cheese. The result is a more subtle flavor. If you would like more sauce, make sure to ask for marinara: if you ask for tomato sauce, they will give you sweet ketchup. Some pizzas, like durian or seafood pizzas, have no tomato sauce at all. With less tomato sauce there is less oil break down from the acidic tomato, so the tongue reaction is not the same. The dough is also less crispy and more oily.
Chips: Frito-Lay & Pringles
Chips too, followed the flavor change trend. Cheetos have no cheese because so many people in China are lactose intolerant. They keep the slight corn flavor and texture but use flavors like seafood, seaweed, Flamin’ Hot Lime, barbecue, Japanese steak and turkey varieties. Other brands have similar flavors like crab and shrimp but also have flavors such as hot pot, fish soup, Hong Kong Fish Ball, Indonesian satay, and Italian Red Meat. Lays incorporated ideas from Traditional Chinese Medicine and made some “cooler” chips to counteract the “heat” from fried foods. The result is fruit and tea potato chips like blueberry, lemon tea, and cucumber.
Taste Twisting History
Many of the reasons why Western foods have to be changed in China are because of the lack of sugar and dairy in China. The West is used to complex buttery items and sugary baked goods (and everything else). In China, sugar and excessive herbs are used sparingly, so people have more delicate taste buds. Many Chinese people are actually super tasters. They don’t taste the decrease in flavor as bland. Their tongues are sensitive enough that they still get plenty of taste sensation even with less flavor.
Westerners can feel put off when they travel to China and find the foods they liked at home have changed. In a Chinese market they should taste as the Romans taste. Take it as an opportunity to try something new!
What kind of foods taste like home to you? Do you want to try some of these flavor twists? Comment Below!