By MARTIN MUNGER, REUTERS Chinese-style kitchen cabinets are now a household staple in some Chinese towns, with restaurants and homes offering their own versions of the custom.
The latest, from an industrial kitchen at a shopping centre in Wuhan, includes stainless steel cooking appliances, and can be ordered online for about 700 yuan ($8.50).
There are also more traditional designs in which the cabinets are made from a different material.
The new kitchen cabinet designs are more common in southern China than in the north, but there is no universal design for the most common Chinese kitchen appliances, which include a microwave oven, stove, stovetop and oven, as well as a rice cooker, rice cooker and a crockpot.
Wuhan’s kitchen is part of the country’s largest food manufacturing hub, which also includes a food manufacturing plant, a restaurant and a shopping mall.
In China, the average Chinese household consumes about 10 million square meters of kitchen space each year, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a report released last month.
It said the country has a huge appetite for more kitchens and more appliances, with demand for appliances like electric stoves rising in recent years.
“The demand for cooking appliances in China is rapidly increasing, which is making it difficult for the industry to meet,” said Zhang Jing, a director at consultancy firm CAC.
Many households are also opting to save money, as prices for kitchen appliances are increasing and they can be purchased online.
For instance, one of the latest kitchen cabinets, from a shop in Wuzhou, cost 2,400 yuan ($3.60) in the Chinese online marketplace Zhihu.
The cabinet comes with a single burner and a cooking oil burner and comes with an 18-inch wide range of cooking surfaces, including a cast iron frying pan, an aluminum baking pan and a cast-iron oven.
Chinese cookbooks are among the top sellers on the online shopping marketplaces, where consumers can choose from dozens of cooking books and cookware.
A few weeks ago, the Wuzhu kitchen cabinet was available for sale on a shopping site in Beijing.
According to a survey by the Chinese National Institute of Technology, the number of Chinese households using microwaves increased to more than 70 million last year, from only about 30 million in 2015.
Food manufacturers have been trying to tap into that appetite for new kitchen designs and have started producing new appliances, like electric cookstoves and rice cookers.
But it is difficult to say how many Chinese households are using the newest appliances, Zhang said.
There is no set definition for how many of them are using them.
This means that some households have more than one version of the same appliance, Zhang added.
Zhang said some people have used their kitchens to make rice, porridge and bread, but it could also mean they have two sets of kitchen cabinets.
Some households have an electric stove and oven to cook the rice and porridge, and others have a microwave, Zhang noted.
Others have two types of cooking stove, such as a stove with a metal grate and an electric burner, and still others have just one type of stove.
(Reporting by Martin Munger; Editing by Alison Williams)