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Ma Lie: Transforming from cook to unofficial 'ambassador'

(ezhejiang.gov.cn) Updated : 2018-12-10

Editor's note: East China's Zhejiang province is renowned for its large international population. Aloft on the wings of China's reform and opening-up policy, a group of Zhejiang people have gone abroad to make a living since the 1970s. As this year marks the 40th anniversary of the policy, the Zhejiang website (www.ezhejiang.gov.cn) is launching a series of stories about overseas Chinese who are originally from Zhejiang, as well as those who are active in the province's development. Stories courtesy of Zhejiang Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese and Zheshang Magazine


Ma Lie, formerly a cook in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, is now regarded as a promotion ambassador for Hangzhou cuisine and Chinese culture in Norway. [Photo/zjol.com.cn]

Ma Lie, an entrepreneur from East China's Zhejiang province who's been working and living in Norway for nearly three decades, came up with a new business plan, to make Norway's salmon available to more Chinese people.

Ma was previously a renowned cook specializing at making Hangzhou cuisines. 28 years ago, at the invitation of a friend, he prepared a dinner for Norwegian Prime Minister and other officials, and was highly praised.

Inspired by the experience, Ma opened a Chinese restaurant in Oslo, capital of the European country four years later and began exploring Norway's catering industry.

"People here prefer lightly-flavored, sweet and sour food, which coincides with the tastes of Hangzhou cuisines," said Ma. To better cater to Norwegian tastes, Ma made some improvements on his dishes by using local ingredients.

Ma's efforts have made Hangzhou cuisine and Chinese food become popular among local residents and an increasing number of Chinese restaurants have sprung up on this land.

After achieving success in business, Ma came up with the idea of building associations to help Chinese people in Norway strengthen the connection with the motherland. Together with some compatriots, Ma initiated the founding of two associations, one for Zhejiang people and the other for Hangzhou natives.

Based on the two platforms, Ma and the association members began serving as middle men for Norway and their hometown.

Ma personally will never cease his journey of promoting Hangzhou cuisine and culture to the whole world. A few years ago, he established a company in Hangzhou for creative designs of the city's traditional products, including silk, green tea and scissors. The newly designed products have been well received by foreign consumers.

"Many Norwegian people's understanding of China started from Zhejiang province," Ma explained. Last August, Zhejiang signed an agreement worth $200 million with Norway to facilitate the imports of aquatic products such as salmon and codfish, amazing Norwegian people and making them more aware of the great potential in cooperating with the East China province.

Ma planned to transport at least 10,000 metric tons of salmon from Norway to Hangzhou every year from 2019.