A Chinese restaurant is an establishment that serves Chinese cuisine outside China. Most of them are in the Cantonese restaurant style, often adapted to local preferences, as in the American Chinese cuisine and Canadian Chinese cuisine. The Chinese restaurants in the Netherlands usually combine Cantonese and Indonesian meals on their menu. Chinese takeouts (United States and Canada) or Chinese takeaways (United Kingdom and Commonwealth) are also found either as components of eat-in establishments or as separate establishments, and serve a take out version of Chinese cuisine.
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Chinese restaurants in the United States began during the California gold rush, which brought twenty to thirty thousand immigrants across from the Canton (Kwangtung or Guangdong) region of China. The first documented Chinese restaurant opened in 1849 as the Canton Restaurant. By 1850, there were five restaurants in San Francisco. Soon after, significant amounts of food were being imported from China to America's west coast. The trend spread eastward with the growth of the American railways, particularly to New York City. At the ratification of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 there were only 14 restaurants in San Francisco. However, the Chinese Exclusion Act allowed merchants to enter the country, and in 1915 restaurant owners became eligible for merchant visas. This fueled the opening of Chinese restaurants as an immigration vehicle. The Chinese Exclusion Act forced Chinese immigrants to move away from wage work to self employment through laundries and restaurants. As of 2015 , the United States had 46,700 Chinese restaurants.
There has been a consequential component of Chinese emigration of illegal origin, most notably Fuzhou people from Fujian Province and Wenzhounese from Zhejiang Province in Mainland China, specifically destined to work in Chinese restaurants in New York City, beginning in the 1980s. Adapting Chinese cooking techniques to local produce and tastes has led to the development of American Chinese cuisine. Many of the Chinese restaurant menus in the U.S. are printed in Chinatown, Manhattan.
In 1907, the first recorded Chinese restaurant in London, England was opened. The rise in the number of Chinese restaurants in the UK only began after the Second World War, and has been attributed to returning service personnel.[unreliable source?] The restaurants were operated by Hong Kongers who moved to the UK. One restaurant that stands out in the history of Chinese restaurants in the UK is the Kuo Yuan which in 1963 was the first restaurant to serve Peking duck.
In 2003, the first British Chinese restaurant achieved a Michelin star. In the United Kingdom, the business employed a large percentage of Chinese immigrants in the 1980s (90% in 1985). Opening a restaurant or takeaway gave a relatively low capital cost entry for Chinese families into self-employment. Many takeaways served a pseudo-Chinese cuisine based around western tastes, and the limited cooking skills and experience of the shop owners.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Chinese restaurants had been present in a significant majority of Australian cities and towns for over fifty years, and in many places for over one hundred and fifty years.
The significant majority of original Chinese migration came from Kwangtung Province in southern China, heavily influencing the style of food, consisting of fresh vegetables and fruit, with fish, poultry, and pork, with rice, herbs and spices.