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Mar 7, 2006 11:05 PM

Ethnic food differences in various countries

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i am interested in the peculiarities of immigrant cuisine of varying countires.

for example -chinese-american food is probably a lot different than chinese-british or chinese-german.

any great examples?

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  1. An interesting question. On the whole I've found that American renditions of ethnic foods (by which I mean primarily Asian foods) replicate other American taste preferences, tending to be sweeter and sometimes fruitier than their European counterparts. Other differences depend on the local ethnic origins of the population. So Indian food in London, for example, is almost entirely Northern Indian (especially Punjabi -- think rich sauces and great buttery breads), with some Bengali food around Brick lane (more complex spices, coconut). US Indian food is both more various and worse, imho, with more South Indian influences (vegetarian food, dosas, dal etc.)
    Colonial and imperial history plays a huge role. That must be why I had an incredible prix fixe ($8) Vietnamese dinner at a hole in the wall in Paris a couple months back. The Pho was much richer and much meatier than any US version I've had; a shrimp salad contained an incredible variety of very delictate herbs (many not known to me) rather than the overpowering mint of my local chains. Sigh.
    But I'm sure some things are much better here! I've seen interesting spins on pan-mediterranean/Turkish food in my local area (Boston), at restaurants like Oleana and Casablanca in Cambridge. In many European cities (even Berlin) the kebabs are great, but Turkish food is _just_ kebabs.

    1. chinese-british is definitely different from chinese-american! ever since i moved to england i've searched for a bowl of american-style wonton soup, some moo-shoo pork, and other dishes that were my comfort foods growing up. i either can't find them here, or they're completely changed. and lots of the chinese here seems to be deep-fried. of course i'm sure none of this food bears any resemblance to real chinese food. i just miss what i'm used to!

      the other food i have some experience with is middle eastern/mediterranean. i've found very little variation in foods like felafel, hummous, matabal, and grilled meats among the u.s., london, and actual middle-eastern countries that i've been to. each has a range of quality, but i've found the tastes to be similar no matter where i've eaten the food.

      3 Replies
      1. re: hobokeg

        Yes, but in California at least, hummus has become something you can graft nearly any flavor onto. Besides the pistachio hummus in Persian restaurants and the hummus with ground beef in Lebanese restaurants, in the supermarket you'll find Americanized versions with garlic, sundried tomatoes, carrots, you name it.

        1. re: Chowpatty

          hummus with ground beef? I'm half Lebanese with several good cooks in my family and have never heard of such of thing. In fact it would probably produce the same, "ewwww" in my family as it did me. And garlic is a normal ingredient in basic hummus.

          1. re: LisaLou
            Seamus Mitwurst

            My first encounter (that I remember) with hummus was at a Morrocan restaurant in Atlanta many years ago.

            It was spiced and sweet.

            Everything I've ever had after that was garlicky and savory.

            I miss that first taste, though I love the rest.

      2. If you go to a "ristorante cinese" in Rome's little Chinatown, expect something different than Americanized Chinese food indeed.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Karl S

          Well yeah, but examples please.

        2. There are actually 2 varieties of immigrant cuisine in new countries.

          The first type is probably the most well known changes to ethnic cuisine and deals with immigrants changing, or even dumbing down (in the case of heavily spiced food), their cuisine to the tastes of the local population and can be seen in the ubiquitous Chinese and Mexican restaurants throughout the mall food courts.

          The second type deals with immigrants varying their cuisine for their own tastes based on the availability of certain ingredients in their new country. An example would be like the Chinese-Indian food which was created in the 1800's when Chinese immigrants moved to India. Their cuisine changed based on the availability of certain types of chile peppers, lack of available beef in a Hindu country, etc.

          1. The Chinese food I had in Madrid had ham in _everything_.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chorus Girl

              I live in Madrid and haven't found that to be the case at all.

              What I have found is that Chinese food here tends to focus a lot more on fresh seafood that you will find in the States. The portions are smaller (and cheaper) and you don't find the sweetness of Americanized Chinese food. Also at places that have a significant Spanish clientele, there tends to be a section of ther menu devoted to tapa-like offerings.

              All and all, there is quite a burgeoning Chinese population here and the quality is surprisingly good, if you know where to look.

              For other cuisines, it is similar. Lots of places--cuban, indian, peruvian, colombian, mexican--have small plates or street-food-type offerings.