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Robot ‘sous-chefs’ save time, energy in Chinese restaurants

By Ning Liu (People's Daily Online)    14:47, May 19, 2017

Noodle-making robots have become great helpers for many Chinese chefs. They hold sharp knives and move their arms back and forth, peeling noodles off a piece of dough into boiling water. Although not a new concept in China, the robots never cease to attract attention from diners. And why is that? Probably because, in addition to their noodle-making skills, they are dressed like chefs in white uniforms and boast human-like facial features.

A noodle-making robot in a canteen in People’s Daily headquarters in Beijing, dressed just like its human counterpart. Photo by Ning Liu

The robots were designed to improve the efficiency of making “dao xiao mian,” or knife-cut noodles, a specialty of nothern China’s Shanxi province. The noodles are a staple in northern Chinese cuisine.

Traditionally, chefs have to hold a large block of dough at a tilted angle in one hand, and use a sharp knife with the other hand to cut or peel the noodles. This is energy- and time-consuming work for even experienced chefs. Fortunately, robots can step in and contribute the manpower required to cut noodles.

“It does 60 percent of the work,” said one chef as he patted the robot’s head. “The other 40 percent - adding sauce and dressing - then becomes a piece of cake for me.”

The use of robots in restaurants, not just for cutting noodles, has become increasingly popular in China over the past few years, especially in university cafeterias. A cafeteria at South China Normal University has introduced intelligent dining tables, an Internet of Things technology that recognizes the prices of different dishes to calculate how much money is due. The intelligent table has vastly improved the efficiency of food payment and minimized calculation errors.

At South China University of Technology, students can enjoy rice served by an automatic vending machine. The machine can place rice into a bowl without spilling a single grain in just two and a half seconds. Its warming function also maintains the flavor of the rice. 

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(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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