A popular British idiom talks of "taking coals to Newcastle". It pokes fun at the foolhardy act of transporting coal to an area of England once famed for producing coal from its mines. It led to similar enterprising practices, like selling ice to Icelanders.
Now the focus has switched from Newcastle, Britain to China, eaters' paradise, with statistics showing nearly two billion pounds worth of food and drink was exported from Britain to Asia in the past year.
Soya Sauce, a condiment originating in China in the 2nd century BCE, has proved to be a popular export from the Britain to China in the past year, according to the British Government's overseas trade arm, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).
The China and Asia food connection was highlighted at a Food and Drink Summit on the evening of July 3, hosted by UKTI in the splendor of one of England's stately homes, Knowsley Hall.
International celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey was VIP guest at the event, organized to encourage British food producers to export even more to China and the surrounding region.
Ramsey, who runs 12 restaurants in London, told diners at the event: "I am extremely passionate about supporting British suppliers on a global scale and I will be working with a number of UK suppliers as we expand into Asia this September."
China and Asia is the top focus in UKTI's 'Food of GREAT Britain' campaign, described as the most ambitious international marketing initiative ever in Britain.
Britain of course is famed for its traditional dish of fish and chips. Indeed generations of Chinese families have made their fortunes in England opening their own 'fish and chip shops'.
And it seems people in China and Asia are eager to sample what is the staple diet for millions of families in Britain. Among the most popular foods exported to Asia from Britain in the past year included fresh fish worth more than 100 million pound (171 million U.S. dollars), potatoes (for the chips!) worth over 7 million pounds, green peas worth almost 7 million pounds and almost 400,000 pounds worth of sausages coated with batter.
UKTI Chief Executive Dominic Jermey said: "It is clear the Asian palette is not only accustomed to, but is now demanding British cuisine. This has led to a sharp rise in British chefs exporting their services to the Asia market."
No self-respecting British family will tuck into a meal of fish, chips and mushy peas without the all important condiments. And similarly in Asia it was the same story, with condiments worth over eight million pound exported from the UK. It included tomato ketchup, mustard and soya sauce.
Northern England restaurant, Sweet Mandarin, based in Manchester, is currently exporting 6 million pounds worth of its British produced Chinese sauces to China.
A typical English family will consume a cup of tea with their fish and chip meal, and tea worth 8 million was exported in the past year from the Britain to China, another classic case of 'taking coals to Newcastle'.
The desire of diners from China and other regions to enjoy British food is crucial to the British economy, says UKTI. More than 380,000 people currently work in Britain's 7,700 food businesses, contributing more than 24 billion pounds to the British economy.
The banquet proved to be a fitting finale to China Week at the International Festival of Business, currently taking place in Liverpool. It is the biggest business event anywhere in the world this year, and the largest business showcase in the Britian for more than 60 years. (1 pound = 1.71 U.S. dollars)