Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Food: From bananas to bok choy

Unit title:
Food: From bananas to bok choy

Year level:
Lower secondary

Key learning areas:
Studies of society and environment

Curriculum emphases:
From: Studies in Asia: A Statement for Australian Schools:
- Likely implications of closer Asia-Australia relationships.

Two to three 50 minute lessons

Students look at the contribution made by Chinese communities to the Australian diet. Many Chinese were market gardeners and merchants in the 19th century. With the recent influx of Asian migrants the Australian diet has become more varied

Teacher background material:
The following links provide an introduction and overview of the topics covered in this unit:
- Brief History of the Chinese in Australia on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.
- Look through some cookbooks of Chinese cuisine to become familiar with Chinese ingredients.
- Investigate your local area to find out if there are any Chinese restaurants close by, Asian grocery stores etc.
- 'Taxes on Chinese Immigration to Australia, 1901 Immigration Restriction Act and the Dictation Test' background article on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website for reasons for and the practice of restricting the immigration of Chinese into Australia in the early twentieth century.

Student outcomes:
Students will:
- describe the changes to the Australian diet that have resulted from Chinese immigration
- appreciate the important contribution made by early Chinese
- identify some 'Chinese' foods readily available in their local community.

Materials required:
- Computer/s with internet access. Alternatively could use a cached version of the site or print the relevant pages and copy onto overheads or handouts.
- Selection of foods to show the students - ingredients and prepared dishes if possible. Eg: jasmine rice, bamboo shoots, bok choy, lychees, dried mushrooms, sauces etc.
- Cookbooks.

Show the students a selection of foods/ingredients and ask:
- Who can name these ingredients?
- Who has eaten Chinese food in a restaurant or at home?
- Who has a wok at home?

Early Chinese contribution in food industries
Ask students to read the following information and answer the questions below (Multiple choice)

- 'Market gardeners' on the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website and
- 'market gardening' background article on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website

How common was market gardening as an occupation among the Chinese in Australia?
a) the next most common Chinese occupation after mining
b) very few Chinese involved in market gardening
c) no Chinese were market gardeners

Where were the market gardens located?
a) in rural areas far from towns
b) in the city suburbs

Chinese market gardeners faced opposition from their European counterparts. What were the Chinese market gardeners accused of doing?
a) cheating their customers
b) poisoning the crops of other farmers
c) using urine and faeces to fertilise their gardens and living in insanitary conditions.

Read the following information:
- 'Merchants and trading' on the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website
- 'Chinese and the banana industry' background information on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.

Using the above information answer the questions below:
- How important were the Chinese in the banana industry - in the late nineteenth /early twentieth centuries? today?
- How did the government in Queensland try to develop a 'white' banana industry?

Read the story of 'Leong Har: Successful Banana Merchant' on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website, then perform a role play.

Students take the roles of:
- Leong Har, banana merchant.
- His wife
- Leong Hop, son of Leong Har
- A Little Bourke St detective
- Atlee Hunt, Secretary of the Home and Territories Department

Perform a role play where Leong Har describes to his business partners his feelings in April 1925, when he learns that his son will not be allowed to come to Australia.

Chinese food in Australia today
List some easily obtainable 'Chinese' ingredients. Ask family members, teachers, local greengrocers, local supermarket managers which of these items were readily available in your local community 10 years ago.
- Can you explain any changes or lack of change to this availability?
- Explore what is currently available on the and Coles Online websites.

Extension activities:
1. Excursion:
- Cook a Chinese meal or go out to a Chinese restaurant.
- Visit a fruit and vegetable market in a large city.

2. Investigation:
Investigate the cuisine of another country. How readily available are the ingredients? Is there a restaurant specialising in this cuisine in your local area? List all the different types of restaurants in your local area. Can you explain why there might be several restaurants of one type of cuisine and none of another?

Karen Dowling

Summary of websites used in this lesson:
Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website - http
- Brief History of the Chinese in Australia - education/history.htm
- Stories - stories.htm
- Historical backgrounds - education/about.htm

'Harvest of Endurance Scroll' on the National Museum of Australia website - website -

Coles Online website -