Kiwi pies and beers becoming popular in China
Kiwis are converting the Chinese to two of our own traditions - pies and craft beer.
Down a bustling side street in Jingan, Shanghai, former Christchurch brewer Fraser Kennedy is concocting craft beer recipes for the newly opened Goose Island Brew Pub, where he works as chief brewer.
Meanwhile, Ryan McLeod and Olivia Fowler, originally from Wellington, make their Tuck Shop pies out of a commercial kitchen in Pudong, Shanghai, and distribute them to about 250 supermarkets around China, along with a number of hotels.
Kennedy has been chief brewer since Belgium-owned AB Inv, the world's largest brewing company, opened its first craft beer bar in Shanghai three months ago. Home to an estimated 24 million, Shanghai has about five craft beer bars, and Kennedy says the frothy brew is starting to take off.
"There's a great little community here, and Shanghai has an amazing home brewing community with about 600 members."
Formerly of Nelson, where he learned to home brew with his father, Kennedy spends his days making specialty craft brews out of coffee stout, and blending ground orange peel and coriander seed into the Line 12 beer - a light golden Belgian wheat beer with a citrus aroma. The beer bar serves 29 tap beers, along with about six special craft brews. "We've got about three beers in the tank waiting to come out," he says, showing off the beers in barrels upstairs.
"We're trying to meet the local tastes, like not too bitter on the IPA. But we're also challenging the local consumers to try new beer styles. We've got a lot of events and beer tastings to try to introduce them to new things."
Kennedy, who used to have his own beer label, Ad Lib, in Christchurch, says that Indian Pale Ales (IPAs) have been popular in China since last year, when the China's president, Xi Jinping, sealed his "golden" friendship with UK Prime Minister David Cameron in an English pub, over a pint of Greene King IPA.
The biggest challenge for the brewer is sourcing hops, which he can't get locally, so he has to import American and Australian varieties. He does - proudly - use malts from New Zealand. "Beer styles tend to be more American because we can't get access to the hops."
"Chinese liquor licensing laws make it difficult to sell to outside bars and restaurants which is harder for a small brew pub like us, and it adds to the experience," says Kennedy, who once had his own beer label, Ad Lib, while at university in Christchurch.
Meanwhile, in a supermarket in a Shanghai mall, Tuck Shop pies made of New Zealand beef and dairy products sit among other frozen convenience foods.
Three years ago, McLeod was in Shanghai teaching golf, and also English as a second language, while his partner worked in marketing. The story of how their Kiwi pie business came about harks back to "eight months of hangovers when we were craving pies", says McLeod.
"We were struggling to find what New Zealanders crave the most - sausage rolls and pies."
Using a puff pastry recipe, a cookbook and what Fowler could remember learning from her mother, they made a batch of classic steak and mushroom pies. In good Kiwi entrepenurial style, they asked their local cafe owner if he wanted to sell them.
"He said, "I love these, let's give them a go. That's the New Zealand attitude too. We're young, give it a go, is our attitude."
In China, their gourmet Tuck Shop pies made of New Zealand meat and dairy products are now served in restaurants, hotels, schools, cafes and bars, along with 160 supermarkets. They recently launched a lower-cost pie made of Chinese beef and margarine, which is now sold in about 200 supermarkets.
Pies aren't in the Chinese diet, but locals do eat a pastry filled with minced beef and chives, which he says they call a burger. They also devour pork buns, while pizza chains are now on city corners. "The Chinese like the pies a bit soggy. They don't know what a pie is so education is our biggest challenge."
Tuck Shop's gourmet pies are filled with New Zealand ingredients, and there are no additives or preservatives, unlike many other imported convenience foods.
"One of the challenges is to make flavours that the Chinese like. At the moment we're trying to promote a vegetarian pie," says McLeod.
Made in a commercial kitchen through a partnership with an Italian-owned food producer, their next step is working with a hotel chain to get their pies in the breakfast buffet, and to develop a Chinese-flavoured pie. "We want to get them into the Chinese home freezers," says McLeod.