Sunday 9 October 2011

The Debate: Why Does Japanese Food Cost More Than Chinese in London?

I recently mused, on twitter, why Japanese food in London is pricier than Chinese. There were some good points raised in response, but the thing is twitter's 140-character limit doesn't exactly encourage in-depth nuanced debate. So, I've decided to transfer the discussion to this blog post.

Now, let's get the bleeding obvious out of the way. Of course, a posh Japanese sashimi set will always be more expensive than an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. That's not what I'm driving at. The point I'm making is that, in London, a decent Chinese joint will invariably be better value than its Japanese counterpart. Not convinced? Well, let's look at a real life example.

Udon @ Koya
The other week I had lunch at Koya, the acclaimed Japanese udon specialist. I ordered a bowl of soup noodles with duck aka kamo atsu-atsu udon (£11) with a side of skate wing tempura (£7.70) and batter scraps aka tanuki (60p). I drank tap water but with a 10% service charge, the bill still came to £21. The food was excellent, and whilst I wasn't exactly hungry after this meal, I was far from full.

Dim sum @ Princess Garden
Later that week, I went for dim sum at Princess Garden of Mayfair, a classy Chinese restaurant. Between the five of us, we probably ordered in excess of 20 dim sum dishes, and together with tea, some soft drinks, and (an eye-watering) 15% service charge, the bill came to around £100 or £20/head. The dim sum is amongst London's best, and I was stuffed. We actually over-ordered, and the leftovers were taken home in a doggy bag.

Now some might think that I'm equating value to how full I was, but that's only half the story. The thing is Koya is a casual noodle bar, and it doesn't seem right to me that a quick lunch there should cost a wee bit more than a lengthy dim sum session at a proper restaurant like Princess Garden. By proper restaurant, I mean that Princess Garden has a cocktail bar, the management wear suits and there's table linen i.e. these are overheads it has to cover that Koya don't.

I appreciate that this is just one example, but there's plenty more instances that I can cite. So why is Japanese food more expensive than Chinese in London? Many theories were posited on twitter – and here's a summary of some of them.

Some believe there is a price premium for Japanese food because it's considered trendier than Chinese. I'm not so sure, after all, Vietnamese cuisine is very trendy, and that's cheap as chips. Some of you are of the opinion that Japanese food is better. That's subjective, and although it's not a view I share, it is one that many believe. Mind you, that isn't really a reason why Japanese food should be pricier.

After some further twitter exchanges, some pointed out that there is a perception amongst the Great British public that Japanese food is classier than Chinese. This is a theory that I can subscribe to, but why? After all, both cuisines have a long and proud history, so why should Japanese cuisine be considered posher? To answer that question, we need to consider the respective histories of Chinese and Japanese cuisines in Britain.

Although, there has been a Chinese presence in the UK for well over a century, significant migration only occurred post-World War Two. This generation, of which my parents are part of, came to these shores to better themselves and their families. And through their self-reliant industrious enterprise, many opened take-away shops and simple restaurants all across the land. These places served a hybrid cuisine that can be characterised as 'half chips-half rice', and as such a 'cheap and cheerful' image became associated with Chinese food. An image that persists to this day.

However, not all Chinese restaurants were cheap westernised joints. At the same time as Chinese food reached the mainstream, authentic restaurants sprung up, sometimes in Chinatowns, serving the Chinese community. Some dishes on the menu, such as abalone and lobster, could be expensive but prices, in the main, were reasonable. In particular, dim sum was especially good value.

By contrast, the Japanese first came in numbers to the UK in the latter part of the 20th century. Most were business executives, and Japanese restaurants soon sprung up to cater to this crowd. As the clientele were well remunerated, these restaurants could charge a little more for a reminder of home. Moreover, these were places where Japanese executives did their business entertainment. On expenses.

Nowadays, the divisions are less clear-cut. There are high-end restaurants that serve Chinese food and there are cheaper Japanese eateries, but by and large, Chinese restaurants remain better value. Anyway, that's my theory, but I'd love to hear your opinions on this matter. Especially, as I'm thinking of having more debate-based posts on my blog.


  1. I always think it' the ingredients that are more expensive. Miso paste, dashi, wasabi, fresh fish, even sushi rice; all that is more expensive than Chinese ingredients, much of which are sold cheaply here. Koya's noodles are hand made, with ingredients sent over from Japan so it's no surprise it's more expensive.

  2. I agree with Lizzie, I think there's a big difference in price of ingredients. Even taking the high grade sashimi fish and seafood out of the equation, many of the ingredients are not yet as common in the UK as to be sold cheaply at supermarkets. And there's quite a lot of effort in many of the dishes I enjoy at Japanese restaurants, so perhaps higher staff costs.

    BUT, I also think your example isn't very good - you need to compare like to like. A dim sum meal is not typical, nor in any way comparable to your sample Japanese meal.

    How about a meal of a main noodle dish, a seafood side and whatever you think might equate to the tanuki? I bet that would cost more than your dim sum divided between so many people?

  3. Lizzie - a good point. Especially as there are factories that churn out Chinese food products in the UK - which will also bring the cost down.

    Kavey - I used my example because it was during a dim sum session that I first pondered this question. That said, you are right in that I should consider a like-for-like comparison. And the results, if anything, are even more conclusive in that Chinese is cheaper.

    Let's take a bowl of roast duck noodles (£6), a seafood side (say also £6) and instead of 60p tanuki, I'll have Chinese tea (£1). That's £13 and with 10% service, I still get change from £15.

    That's cheaper than my dim sum example of £20/head and the example meal at Koya (£21).

  4. Will those roast duck noodles be handmade? I doubt it. Whether the premium added by having a supposedly specialised chef making them is worth it, that's down to how much you're willing to pay for 'craft'.
    Not sure how it is in China, but in Japan they certainly are willing to pay a large premium for foods which would be considered quite basic. Take the cult of ramen for example, something which I'm sure what with plentiful cheap and skilled kitchen staff in China is probably not adulated in the same way?
    So when the Japanese do open small restaurants here (all cheaper food controlled by mega chains in Japan) they maybe carry over this idea of a premium?

  5. Tommy - welcome! I take your point on places charging a premium as that's custom in Japan. On your point of how this arises, I also agree that it is less common for people to pay much of a premium in China for basic foods. Even in richer Hong Kong, where noodles are venerated, the prices remain cheap (see my HK noodle post). I guess there's a cultural difference at play in this instance.

    However, I do take slight issue on your point re: Chinese roast duck noodles. No, the noodles won't tend to be handmade, but the accompanying Cantonese roast duck is a labour of love. These ducks will have their cavities filled with ginger, garlic and a dry spice rub; their skin lacquered with vinegar and honey; and then it'll be hung for a day or so before going in the oven. By contrast, I can tell you (from personal experience) that the duck at Koya won't be prepared in such an elaborate fashion. And nor will many Japanese noodle places serve duck of a quality anywhere close to the Cantonese. So, shall we call it a draw in the 'craft' stakes?

  6. Hi Mr Noodles,

    Very interesting discussion! I agree with both Lizzie and Tommy in that a) we should look at cost of ingredients b) there is the craft aspect (where the Japanese are accustommed to placing value on).

    I think another big reason is that the Chinese are still undervaluing themselves, perhaps by design or perhaps they don't know their value (yet). You and I know there is a ridiculous amount of skill in making say, Xiao Long Bao. I would compare the training some dim sum chefs do to sushi chef training. It takes a lifetime to master many famous Chinese dishes, hand-pulled noodles, Roast Duck, Pork etc etc. Personally I think the human cost is kept low cos of the fierce competition, there are after all, over a billion Chinese people out there!

  7. I think it is partly the cost of ingredients and partly a positioning thing. There are a few cheaper Japanese places in London now but there arent many of them.

    Most people in this country know Chinese food via their local takeaway, which is usually cheap and greasy. There is one on every high st. This is not the best representation of the cuisine.

    Not quite the same with Japanese restaurants. When you mention Japanese food, most people only know sushi. They expect it to be expensive.

    What people will pay will determine the price. Simple economics in the end.

  8. I'm afraid it is because Footballers and Crap Celebs think Japanese food is great. Thus making it trendy. I think Vietnamese food is trendy amongst normal people - but I think most celebs wouldn't know what it would be. Sushi set the trend for Japanese food being expensive - and I think from then on people were expecting it all to be expensive.

    I find I eat so much more chinese food - as it is usually cracking value. I went to Dumplings Legend in Gerard St to try XLB. Awesomely delicious. And all of us were stuffed. £15 a head. Including service. JOY

  9. I think with Chinese food it is a bit of a cycle in the sense people believe it is "cheap food" through takeaway local experiences, which then gets perpetuated by cheap restaurants catering to this (and around and around - I know this is changing, but it is still the case for many). Whereas, there hasn't been that historical case with Japanese food, and the entry into the UK market has been different. I think cost of ingredients has a lot to do with it, but I also think a lot of people think Japanese food is a bit "special", and not everyday. This doesn't really answer your point as to why Japanese food is more expensive, but I do think perception kind of becomes self perpetuating in a way.

  10. Also this handmade noodle driving the price isn't really that valid. If you go to the fantastic Noodle Bar on Cranbourn Street - you can get hand made Chinese noodles with a great topping (soup or dry) for £6 and the portion is much bigger than Koya. You also get to see the guy make your noodles

  11. Hungry Female - absolutely. I, too, get annoyed when some think there's a technical reason why Japanese is more expensive, as Chinese kitchencraft is every bit as skilled as Japanese. In terms of undervalue, I see your point, but in a way it's credit to the Chinese that prices are kept low. Although, intense competition is, as you point out, a contributory factor.

    May/Sharmila - image and perception are definitely factors re: the price differential.

    Frank - LOL! There is certainly an 'in-crowd' that drives up the price of Japanese food. Call it a 'twat' premium if you will. That said, this also goes for Chinese food, where there are places that justify higher prices by dim lighting, cocktails and fancy design.

    On your latter comment, an excellent riposte to Tommy's point re: hand-made noodles. Moreover, come to think of it, the dim sum at Princess Garden was hand-made too, and that takes a shedload more effort than udon noodles.

  12. Does the nature of competition come in to it?

    Think of how many places you can choose to have Chinese meal as opposed to a Japanese meal. The fact that there is a China Town but no Japan Town speaks for itself.

    With the element of competition in the same vicinity can be a contributing factor to drive and keep prices for Chinese food lower and more competitive. Of course there are the exceptions where they believe they have a USP to charge slightly higher prices e.g. Four Seasons charge more for their duck as they are renowned for being the duck specialists!

    The perception that Japanese food is healthier than Chinese may have caused a trend in promoting it to be put on a shelf that Chinese food does not belong. As much as it may not be simply be a 'fad' that causes the price of Japanese food to be more expensive, it must be a factor. As I have pointed out on Twitter, if people are willing to pay more then why are you going to charge less? A business is always about maximising profitability.

    I also agree that the availability and perishability of certain raw materials for Japanese food is also a point well made.

  13. I like these debate posts - always raises interesting points.

    I think there are many reasons for the price differential, and certainly the availability of ingredients - and the necessity for those ingredients to be Japanese - for Japanese food is a factor. It costs me a lot more to make a Japanese dish at home than it does to do a Chinese one. This is particularly true when you see how many ingredients for Chinese food are grown/raised in the UK and Ireland, ducks being a prime example.

    But also I think there is a perception and scarcity issue. Chinese food (like Indian) is seen to be ubiquitous, and it's something we're used to popping out and grabbing at whatever hour we want to. Japanese food is seen to be a lot scarcer. And as with many high profile, but seemingly scarce things a premium can be charged.

    Finally, is it a matter of Japanese food being more expensive, or Chinese food being cheaper? If I go to a London pub for lunch, have a decent main, a pie or some sort of braise, a side of chips or veg and a drink, it could easily come to £20, even if the pub is fairly middling one.

  14. Thebao/Gworm - thanks for your detailed thought-provoking comments, as there's a bit of overlap, I'll deal with your points together:

    Ingredients - I agree, but the example of duck that Gworm uses is a poor one. Duck is used in both Chinese and Japanese cuisine. And in general, produce isn't the issue, for instance there's plenty of premium seafood (e.g. abalone) used in Chinese dishes that's every bit as expensive as the stuff the Japanese use in their cuisine. IMHO, it's the price of everyday condiments, spices and seasonings in Japanese cooking that bumps up the price of even the most modest dish e.g stuff like wasabi, miso paste etc cost more than hoisin sauce etc...

    Competition/Scarcity - Yes and no! No doubt Chinatown does drive down the 'going rate' for a particular dish. And yes, there are fewer Japanese places than Chinese, but then again there are even fewer Malaysian/Indonesian joints. However, in the case of the latter, a premium isn't charged and prices are more comparable to Chinese than Japanese food. I still think it's more to do with how Japanese food came to London, i.e. along with well remunerated Japanese business execs who could splash the cash on their grub.

    Healthiness - I can see this being a factor, especially as Japanese food is popular with stick-thin fashion types...

    The Economics - yes to the facts of supply & demand. The daily queues outside Koya are testament to the fact that they can get away with charging £10+ for a bowl of noodles, so why the hell would they charge less! And yes, let's consider Chinese (and for that matter, Malaysian, Thai & Vietnamese) as offering exceptional VFM rather than thinking of Japanese food as being expensive.

  15. We have to think about the way that we order as well.

    If I was eating Chinese food as a VFM meal then I would possibly have a one-plate meal of rice or noodles and possibly a plate of veg to share. On the other hand, if I went to a Japanese restaurant, I always tend to pig out more and maybe have a main dish with sushi and sides which is probably where it adds up!

    We mustn’t forget that it is possible to have a cheap (ish) Japanese meal if we were to follow the same mentality of just ordering a main and a side to share. But we tend to see it as being a more special occasion and a treat (or maybe it's just me!) which inevitably results in us being more willing to splash out more and order more food!

  16. Thebao - let's not drift away from the point that on a like-for-like basis - be it spending the same amount of money or ordering a similarly proportioned meal, Chinese food tends to be better value than Japanese.

    That said, I agree that you can get a cheap(ish) Japanese meal. However, say for example, you ordered a bowl of noodles plus a side of gyoza in a Japanese caff and compared that to essentially the same order of a bowl of noodles plus some guotie/wor tip dumplings in a Chinese place, the Japanese meal will, more often than not, be more expensive.

  17. Adding my two pence worth here - I think it is the ingredients - even without high grade sashimi there is a LOT of seafood in Japanese food and other expensive and not commonly available food. Let's face it Japanese food as a rule is not just more expensive than Chinese food it is more expensive than almost any other cuisine I can think of.

  18. Some really good points here, and got to agree with most of them.
    Chinese food unfortunately has had some really naff press over the years, due to as a lot of people having mentioned the cheap and mostly nasty takeaways that are situated on to many estates.
    But slowly people are realising that there is more to Chinese food than the bad version we have had to endure over the years.
    I'm not sure 10 years ago that many people would think that an Indian restaurant would receive a Michelin star. But it has happened and it can happen with Chinese food as well. People just have to be educated.

    Japanese food came popular during the 80's when Japan's economy was soaring, and all those city types lunching on expenses. But this was also the time of nouvelle cuisine and its smaller than small portions, so Japanese food kind of fitted into that mould. Thankfully only one of these survived.

    It may not answer as to why, but it's my point of view anyhows. To be honest I'm glad Chinese food is cheaper, as it means I can eat it more often . Makes me happy.

  19. Most people seem to associate Japanese food with seafood and sushi. While I do agree to some extent that the cost of ingredients could be more, but if you look at home cooked japanese meals, the cost will equate to a chinese meal. Order your steamed fish, add some meat dishes and vegetables + soup in a chinese dinner at a restaurant and how much will that come up to?

    Go to a Jap restaurant and order the same and there are many around that offers the same value although a lot less available all around London.

    I think it is also the perception associated with the two cuisines. I always had a thorn with chinese food being perceived as cheap and greasy. Think people should go and try Kai at Mayfair. I'll probably try to head to Beijing to find imperial cuisine.

  20. GChick - I take your point on expensive ingredients but Chinese stuff like abalone, shark's fin, sea cucumber et al isn't exactly cheap. The thing is it's across all price points where Japanese food is just that bit pricier.

    Mzungu - absolutely. How and when Japanese food came to London is pivotal to its pricing point. BTW - not that I set any store by Michelin but there are currently four Chinese restaurants in London with a star (Hakkasan, Hakkasan Mayfair, Kai and Yauatcha).

    Kay - I think a home-cooked Japanese meal, whilst not expensive, will cost more than a comparable Chinese one. Why? IMHO setting up a 'Japanese' store cupboard would cost more than a 'Chinese' one e.g. Japanese soy is pricier than its Chinese equivalent!

    And I have no doubt that there are Japanese bargains to be found across London but more often than not Chinese will be cheaper.

  21. Hi I'm Japanese and lived in London for a couple of years and now in Hong Kong...
    Very interesting debate..and sorry I don't have time to read all your comments throughly.
    In my opinion, the ingredients from Japan are one of the reasons. They are pricey with the import cost.
    Second, manpower cost; I have never worked for a Japanese restaurant in London but, I suppose, the Japanese restaurants pay more for their employees than for those working for Chinese restaurants...Many of students from Japan work for a Japanese restaurant in London and they would not work for meager wages which is, I guess, some of Chinese people would accept (sorry if I'm biased.).
    Lastly, I don't want to sound stuck-up but Japanese food generally have an expensive image (as French food does, I assume.) so people normally would accept the relatively high price to pay...

    These are all I can think of, and I agree there are less pricy ones in London (and nice). I remember some ramen shops in soho and one in Camden town being value-for-money.
    And I would be very happy if you enjoy Japanese foods more and more!
    Have a good day!

  22. Speaking of Japanese food - Tobiko in covent garden is having it's Birthday celebration and they are doing half-price sushi all day. I can't recommend this place enough - it's takeaway only, but the quality is tip top and at half price you feel like you are taking advantage of them.

    Map here:

  23. Oh by the way, from the perspective of the most Japanese, WAGAMAMA is not a Japanese's more of Chinese one..I suppose.

  24. I can't remember if I mentioned it in Twitter but I think in some cases, you are paying for the experience and the level of service you are receiving.

    Service by the Chinese is normally quite brash unless I am going to a 'posher' (for the lack of a better word) place whilst Japanese are always quite attentive and ... polite?

    Typically, in a Chinese restaurant, it's bums on seats, order and bring dishes out when it's done. Expect people to start eating and when they have finished, to leave. Staff then clear the table and another party is seated. Rinse and repeat.

    I sometimes think it's the business model that Chinese restaurants choose to operate in that they sacrifice margins slightly in order to gain loyalty, repeat business and more covers. Does that even make sense?

  25. Mari - welcome! Good point on manpower cost, although I would like to point out there's a minimum wage in the UK. That said, I take your point that Japanese staff might not want to work for the wages that the Chinese would. Then again, there is a 'chicken or egg' question - what came first? Expensive staff or expensive restaurant?

    BTW - although set up by a British Chinese businessman, Alan Yau, from my perspective, Wagamama isn't a Chinese restaurant. Granted, it's not exactly Japanese - I would say it's more pan-Asian given some of the creeping SE Asian influences on the menu.

    Frank - thanks for the tip

  26. Thebao - I don't want to sound like a schoolteacher again, but did you actually read the example set out in the post?

    Here we have a casual Japanese caff, albeit a damn good one, in the form of Koya where the meal cost £21 for a quick in and out lunch.

    On the other hand, we have a posh-ish Mayfair full service Chinese restaurant, Princess Garden, where I had a leisurely two hour dim sum lunch for £20.

    In short, better service, better experience, fuller stomach and cheaper bill at posh Chinese resto compared to casual Japanese caff.

  27. I have always wondered about this so it is good to have this debate here. I do agree that that there is a general view that Japanese food is more expensive but for me that rule only applies to sushi/sashimi. As much as I love Koya I find myself hard pressed to pay that much especially since the servings are not as generous. I can think if pho that is cheaper and just as complex to make that costs less. I also find that argument unsustainable because good dim sum is an art. Food is becoming more expensive generally and I feel that perhaps Chinese establishments have a greater number of clientele and turnover than Japanese ones and therefore can keep costs down by spreading them over a larger number of persons...

  28. Mr Noodles: Feel free to comment. I'm finding it hard to write down what I am thinking actually! Wasn't really using your examples but just talking about general experiences and why Japanese cuisine comes at a higher price in general. Probably just a sweeping statement!!

    Sorry Sir Noodles! I'll go sit in the naughty corner.

  29. CCE - having mulled over the many comments, including yours, I'm thinking about cause and effect. Does high customer turnover result in lower prices, or do lower prices result in more table turning? I'm thinking if Japanese was more expensive in the first instance for the reasons I cited in my post then they can afford not to have to turn tables so quickly.

    Thebao - no worries. I always welcome comments, but in this case, I just felt frustrated that points already covered in the original post were being cited as a factor. You're not the only one but your comment was one that tipped me over the edge. And you should know by now, food bloggers can be a temperamental bunch...

  30. I reckon it's to do with supply and demand. One of the things I've always wondered about is the fact that there are so few good Japanese restaurants in London. If you compare it to Chinese restaurants (where there's possible one every other 100m, regardless the quality, of course) I struggle to name the Japanese restaurants I like. There is one good one near me, but again, it's not a place I could go to frequently for a quick meal because it's just that little bit too pricey. Anyhow, because there are fewer Japanese restaurants, they get to charge higher prices, I reckon.

  31. Hi Mr Noodles. For what it's worth, my two cents.

    My feeling is that, because Japanese cooking is a bit more pared down than Chinese (and some other, e.g., Indian) cuisine, it's more important for the ingredients to be of high quality. The majority of Chinese and Indian restaurants (excluding the v high-end ones), because they use so much seasoning and spice, can get away with using meat and veg that isn't necessarily the best out there.

    But Japanese cuisine is more like Italian - where the star of the show is the cut of pork or beef, or the spinach, tofu or aubergine, and comparatively little else is added to it to create the final dish. So the restaurants source better (and more expensive) ingredients, which makes the final bill more expensive.


  32. monchiichi - your theory explains why Chinese is cheap, but not why Japanese is expensive. Take, for example, Malaysian restos - there are very few but they tend to be cheap. Try to explain this using your supply-side theory?

    C&T - I disagree to an extent, in that classic Chinese is as simple as Japanese. And I don't think the ingredients are necessarily better, rarer maybe, but not better.

  33. what an interesting discussion Mr Noodle! I've always wondered the same thing. I do find Japanese food more expensive in London with one exception Misato I think there're two things

    1. Ingredients. No doubt that many Japanese restaurants use fresh, good quality seafood and many of them use ingredients from Japan and I guess they have to budget in wastage especially for the fresh seafood.

    Also the supply of Japanese ingredients is less than Chinese in the UK, so there's less competition hence the price would be higher.

    2. Perception. Japanese food is seen as healthier and more trendy than Chinese so a premium can be charged. This is largely influenced by celebrities who don't eat anything apart from fish and veg :). Having said that many Chinese restaurants aren't helping the situation by getting the cheapest supply they can find... and to make up the lack of flavour, salt, sugar, oil and msg are largely used in every single dish, hence less healthy.

    Anyway my point is that I agree with you that Japanese are more expensive than Chinese. Part of the reason is due to the ingredients used and part is due to the premium added to Japanese food. I can give a good example to the second point Nobu vs Hakkasan. Both are considered to be top restaurant in their own cuisine and both are trendy and well covered in the media and using the top ingredients. However, a meal in Nobu costs considerably more than Hakkasan and I'm not even talking about the most expensive dishes!

  34. Mama Lan - not withstanding the price of fish, it's the price of the everyday wasabi, miso, etc that lifts the cost of Japanese food up. Perception also plays a large part.

    But at the end of the day, the Chinese win anyway. The Great British public is largely ignorant of the fact that many Japanese eateries are in fact owned and managed by the Chinese!

  35. I don't have an answer for why Japanese food costs more but I have found from personal experience that there are cheap and cheerful places selling Japanese food, and what they all have in common is that they are all run by non-Japanese. Many continental European cities now have all-you-can-eat conveyor belt sushi joints where free flow of sushi + hot food can be had for under 10 euros at lunchtime. I have tried a few in various cities and without exception, all are run by PRCs. It isn't the best sushi in the world but it is eminently edible and you can't really ask for more at that price. And you would never leave the place hungry.

    On a separate but related note, if I am making a Japanese dish at home, I almost always use the Korean equivalents because they are always cheaper and are virtually the same thing. I buy the Korean equivalents of panko, miso paste, gyoza wrappers, nori, wasabi, sushi rice etc. Always cheaper than the Japanese product and the taste is the same.

  36. Anon - thank you for your insights. Many 'Japanese' places are indeed run and managed by ethnic Chinese. Many of these, as you point out, are cheaper, but imho Chinese joints still tend to be better value. Good tip on using Korean sourced ingredients, too.

  37. A related thought - have you also noticed that Thai food costs more than the equivalent or very similar Chinese food? Or if the price of the dish is the same, the serving is always smaller.

  38. Anon - to be honest, when it comes to East Asian food, I think Thai, Chinese, and for that matter, Vietnamese are all at a similar price point. Korean is a tad pricier, with Japanese being the most expensive.

  39. My family own a chinese restaurant and they always tell me how cheap it is to buy chinese ingredients from the local chinese supermarkets, and you can them in huge bulks too, so you will notice that portions in chinese restaurants are always big. The ingredients for Japanese food is more expensive in England as the Japanese population is much smaller that their chinese counterparts. Also Japanese portion sizes tend to be traditionally small, just like in Japan. That's why they are so thin!

  40. I'm a little late to the party here, but I would just like to add, this is not a London/England phenomenon. It happens all over the world, in both Western and Eastern countries, in my experience.

    I'm a fan of both cuisines.