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What else is "Americanized"?

We all sort of know what Americanized Chinese food is ... e.g. chop suey, egg foo young, lemon (or orang) chicken, etc.

Same for Americanized Mexican ... think Chipotle or Baja Fresh, maybe.

And then we have of course American Japanese ... the always present party favorite California roll for example.

But are there other Americanized cuisines?

Is there such a a thing as Americanized Spanish?

Or what about Americanized Italian (is that Bucca di Beppa or Olive Garden?)?

How about Americanized Portuguese or Americanized Czech?

What would Americanized Ethiopian be like?

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  1. I think the opposite (sort of) question is interesting too, not to hijack your thread. What ethnic cuisines AREN'T Americanised or otherwise "adapted"? Chinese varies the world over, as every Chowhound knows, but from what people tell me, Vietnamese is quite similar in Canada, Australia, France, and yes, Vietnam.

    1. In Thai/ Vietnamese recipes when it says it is okay to substitute soy sauce for fish sauce. ughhh. Not even close.

      1 Reply
      1. Um...most everything is to some extent or another. An interesting corralary question would be "what does it mean to be Americanized?" So, if some ingredients are substituted (not soy for fish sauce, that's just wrong...at least, its wrong to do that and still call it "Thai" food) for available regional items (I'm thinking sorts of vegetables or meats while the preparation method stays the same as the traditional cuisine) is that Americanized?

        6 Replies
        1. re: ccbweb

          Americanized means dumbing down the food and making it available to a large audiance of palates.

          The less wide-spread the cuisine, the less likey it is to be Americanized. The OP post mentioned Czech and Portuguese which pretty much stick to their origins. I'm Polish-American and the food served in Polish restaurants is pretty close to what I was eating at home.

          There's lots of Chinese, Mexican, Thai and Italian restaurants, so many places cater to American Palates.

          I think that upscale and fusion restaurants tend to Americanize lesser known cuisines like Peruvian.

          1. re: rworange

            I don't think it's just "dumbing down" the food. If you look at immigration from the past, most immigrants (Not All) were from either poor backgrounds, as in brought to the U. S. and other "richer" countries as labor, or refugees from war torn countries. These people were used to making meals from what ever was available and stretching them as far as possible. Soups and stir fry's were ways to either stretch or combine limited resources into a meal. Intense spices were a way to flavor or disguise otherwise extremely bland ingredients. Suddenly they are in a country that has a huge wealth of foods, with so many different things available. That, I think, was the biggest factor in "..izing" the foods.

            1. re: hannaone

              I agree - I don't think it is so much "dumbing down" as it is/was an evolution - based on ingredients available (or not readily available) in the US. I've also read - don't know whether it is true or not - that because a lot of times men would immigrate first, bringing over their families over later, men were left to cook for themselves, and to try to recreate dishes cooked by the women in the family "back home", leading, understandably, to different results.

              There was a fascinating article - maybe in the NYT a while ago - about a woman's attempt to trace back her family's red sauce recipe, including, I believe, going to the town/village in Italy where her family was from.

              Edit - found the article:


              1. re: hannaone

                It depends on the cuisine... .when referring to Mexican... then yes there has been a noticeable dumbing down particularly when talking about migration in the last 30 years (when the U.S. has started to get a greater depth & breadth of quality ingredients) and given the numbers of Mexican immigrants.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Mexican is a different story. Mexican influence has been around as long as the U. S. The Spanish/Mexican settlement of the southwest met the westward expansion of anglo/euro settlers and fused into a distinctly different cuisine which evolved into the tex/cal mex of today.
                  The cuisine in Mexico, itself a fusion of spanish and native cuisine, evolved in it's own direction, and later immigration brought this influence with them.

                2. re: hannaone

                  I agree too. Much of <insert ethnicity>-American food is derived from peasant food in the country of origin mixed with the available and abundant American ingredients.

                  But I also think there is something of an inevitable "drift" effect as the food served here by a given ethnicity changes and evolves in ways different from what is happening back in the country of origin. Like the poster above who says that the food in Polish restaurants is pretty much the same as what he/she had in their Polish-American home. But I wonder if it is like what is being served in Poland today?

                  Certainly the "German" food served in my German-American family, and represented in German restaurants in the U.S., is different in some very noticable ways to what one is served in Germany now.

            2. I think Ethiopian is Americanized in the US--possibly for the better if the Americanized is compared to food in rural Ethiopia (and Ethiopia is mostly rural). Rural Ethiopia is mostly poor, and the food reflects that condition.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                That's a good point and true of many other cuisines in poorer parts of the world. I have friends from Madagascar who invited us to dinner and served food similar to what would be eaten in their home country. Except that there would be no meat, little oil and much smaller portions.

                1. re: cheryl_h

                  So you had Malagasy "hotely". One could usually find good and adequate amounts of beans and rice in rural Madagascar. There is meat, but often served in smaller bits and integrated into the dish.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    I forget the name of the main dish, but I don't think it sounded like "hotely". It was a kind of stew with lots of boiled vegetables together with rice and some herbs and other seasonings. Our host said he cooked greens as close as he could find to the ones in Madagascar, but there was some essential bitter green (or herb) that he couldn't find. They had some other protein - meat or fish - which he said would not be traditional. To be honest, the greens and rice stew wasn't particularly tasty. I expected something fairly spicy, but this was not, perhaps because of our hosts' tastes?

                    1. re: cheryl_h

                      "Hotely" refers to food and is the small sign on small eateries in rural Madagascar. I would then ask, "So, if I'm looking for a hotel, I look for a sign saying 'foody'?" Malagasy food is not very spicy; and is probably a cuisine that won't be established much outside of the country. Love the people, their incredible singing, and one of the most beautiful countries on the globe. Fortunately, you can get some of the best French food in Tana.

              2. Italian is VERY Americanized in the US, even home-cooked food in Italian-American homes. it's not always a bad thing....it is just what the cuisine morphed into in the late 19th century-early 20th century when Italians emigrated here, and worked w/the available ingredients.

                6 Replies
                1. re: JaneRI

                  I was going to bring this up as an example of a clearly Americanized cuisine that has deviated quite significantly from the modern cuisine of their origin country, but has also produced some pretty good stuff (Olive Garden and their ilk notwithstanding). There are certainly several very good, and now quite venerable, Americanized Italian restaurants in the NYC area, and elsewhere in the country where there were sizable Italian immigrant populations many decades ago.

                  In fact, now that more-or-less "authentic" modern Italian restaurants have popped up in most major cities in the country, I generally find it necessary to ask when folks want to go out for "Italian" food, "Italian-American or Italian-Italian?"

                  1. re: JaneRI

                    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Italians that came to N America were mostly poor and starving and "Italy" was still a new concept. The majority of the immigrants in that era created a cuisine based on cultural ideals they brought with them and ingredients that were new, and most could never have afforded in their home land. It might be argued that what we consider to be "Italian-American" is really American as interpretted by the Italian immigrants.

                    Modern Italian (the "Italian-Italian") however, since utilizing American ingredients, would probably better represent the term "Italian-American" as its preparation and presentation, though essentially authentic, is crafted for an American market.

                    1. re: ChefNet

                      Well, not necessarily. For "Italian-Italian" I'm thinking more about the incresing number of restaurants one sees in NYC and elsewhere that serve dishes that are essentially identical (within the limits of American law - like no unpasturized cheese) to what one would get in Italy today.

                      Although I will agree that as these types restaurants diffuse out of big cosmopolitan cities, and as a commercial necessity conform more and more to the expected conventions of American restaurants and American restaurant goers, their cuisine will inevitably become more "Americanized." But they still wont be serving spaghetti with meatballs or veal parmesan.

                      1. re: Woodside Al

                        I'll begin by saying that when I use the term "Americanize" I do not mean "dummying down" or other negative connotation. I use the term to mean modifications and substitutions made in the course of translation from one culture to another.

                        American foods like spaghetti and meatballs and veal parmesan were never found in Italy. They were invented here, out of necessity, availability, and the fantasy/ideals of the immigrants who were, for the first time able to enjoy the abundance America had to offer. Even red sauce is only roughly translated from Italian.

                        The NYC restaurants that serve "essentially identical" dishes (to those found in Italy) are not representative of what you will find anywhere outside the immediate area... even here, most accommodate American palates and appetites, as well as the American marketplace and seasonality... therefore Americanizing authentic-style cuisine.

                        1. re: ChefNet

                          It seems to me that alot of people are idealing the abundance available in the U.S. when all these early immigrants were coming, reading up on my history of immigrants... alot of them were barely eating bread & eggs. Abundance for the urban working class didn't really come until after WWII when the food was really industrialized.

                          I think Americanization happened not because of abundance, but because of ingenious methods to make do with less.

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            I agree with you on that point. However, for most of the immigrants from the "Mezzogiorno" in the late 19th/early 20th century, bread and eggs WERE considered an abundance. Pasta was a food for feast days that was only consumed a few times each year.

                  2. To me, "americanized" anything usually means a bucket load more of sugar or toning down of spices and also, putting milk or butter when it's not necessary. Way too sweet for my taste. There's an expression in Korean "neu-kki-hae" which basically is untranslable but is usually referred to anything too buttery, milky and sweet. I feel like I'm eating dessert when I eat Americanized Korean food.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: koreankorean

                      Then there is the Philippines' Jollibee hamburger: sugar added to the meat and topped with ketchup with way more sugar than Heinz!

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Great point! my dad is from Manila and my older brothers and sisters that grew up there put loads of sugar in their stews and sauces. Even our Chinese great-grandmother put lots of rock sugar in certain braised meat dishes, so I suppose that is why today I love combining sweet with spicy more than anything. I can live without the processed foods though...

                      2. re: koreankorean

                        that is exactly the way I see what's called italian-american food. my family came over in the 30-40's, and they don't cook anything like veal parmesan, spaghetti with meatballs ( we have meatballs but on a separate plate, and they're served with penne). mostly we eat vegetables, legumes, and fish in a much greater abundance than other americans.
                        i hate what's known as an "italian sub." i had this awful step-father(anglo) that used to criticize me for not liking that disgusting concoction - it was "real italian" according to him.
                        ok, done ranting. but there is a real spectrum of immigrants from different times over the past century, with varying degrees of relatedness to their home countries. it's annoying that italian-american is always classified as sicilian, red sauce, mozzarella and ricotta in everything. i guess some italian-americans eat that at home, but none that I know.

                        1. re: fara

                          I was all over Italy touring with a band in November and an Italian sub was essentially what they served us for breakfast every day. A platter of cured meats, cheeses, vegetables and bread. Similar in France, except croissants and boiled eggs were there too.

                          1. re: michelley

                            italians do not eat meat nor vegetables for breakfast. that was food for your band. italians i met even got disgusted by the idea of an egg for breakfast, so i think meat is definitely pushing it.

                            1. re: fara

                              Fara's right... Italians don't eat breakfasts like that, they typically have espresso or cappucino (only at breakfast) and some kind of bread. Some eat something a bit more substantial a couple of hours later, but still nothing like American breakfast.

                              1. re: ChefNet

                                I think michelley was given the tourist or hotel breakfast not a traditional Italian one. I was served the same thing and noticed that the local Italians were eating other things instead. Holland, Germany and Switzerland were the same way. Different meals for tourists.

                        2. re: koreankorean

                          like korean bulgogi or kalbi - sometimes that stuff tastes like candy when you eat it at crappy korean restaurants...kind of like bad americanized chinese food. At home, my mothers is always savoury with a hint of sweetness not overloaded with sugar

                          what's worse? eating americanized korean food or hearing someone ask for the "bah go geee"? (:

                        3. What about beers and wines? For the beers got to keep the bitterness in check, make it watery, make it cold, make it fizzy...

                          For wines, make it jammy, keep the alcohol high but not too high and keep the tannins in check...

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: renov8r

                            And yet when I go out with my Irish friends, one of the guys ALWAYS orders Bud while the Americans at the table are drinking Smithwicks.

                            1. re: lulubelle

                              Hey, in Europe, Bud is the import.

                              1. re: lulubelle

                                all the irish people at the bars here in boston drink bud or bud light and my boyfriend and I alwyas drink smithwicks...how funny is that. I have never seen an irish person (when I say irish I mean real "for fuck's sake" irish) drink guiness. I wonder why that is? I bet because the guiness tastes a hell of a lot better back in ireland and here it's just not worth it

                            2. A lot of Americans have a much more adventurous palate nowadays than they used to. It's not just foodies who want bold, big, satisfying flavors. But then there are those stereotypical "Americans" who cannot tolerate the slightest bit of heat or exotic flavoring (I know someone who finds rosemary to be exotic-tasting!). So when it comes to pleasing their palate, heat must go down, sugar should go up, and flavors meld. Sugary pad thai, greasy and tame Indian food, sweet-tasting spaghetti with too much sauce. The other route is to add starch: witness the limitless naan baskets at Indian restaurants and battered, deep-fried everything at Chinese restaurants. Not exactly traditional.

                              1. Once a cuisine reaches another shore, it is immediately subject to being "---ized." Even McDonalds in China or Korea has been Chinized or Koreanized by adding items you would never find on a US menu. That does not mean you can't find a "pure" outpost of one cuisine or another, but even in those instances the cuisine has been influenced by local tastes, ingredients, etc. in order to appeal to the locals. It doesn't only happen in this country. Think Indian food in Britain, for instance. It bears little resemblance to the food in India, except perhaps at the British embassy. Most cuisines in the US, whether German, Polish, Italian, Hungarian, Spanish, etc., do come from somewhere else and have now been incorporated into the American pantheon of food, it just happened over different time frames. If you see it in Better Homes and Gardens, then it's happened. The same will likely happen to Thai, Portugese, etc., as these groups assimilate into the larger population as did earlier waves of immigrangts. If you look up the recent and huge discussion about German food, the issue of how various cuisines evolves over time and become incorporated into the food pool in this country and in others was discussed at length. If you see it in Better Homes and Gardens, then it's happened. That said, I haven't found americanized Ethiopian yet, but it's probably only a matter of time...

                                1. Since Americanization seems to be rampant and usually has a negativ connotation, an interesting thread could be to identify positive effects of Americanization... or quality dishes that have come out from this Americanization process.

                                  As a Mexican that usually bashes Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex, U.S.-Mex... I have to say Fajitas, when executed well and not mindlessly paired with Tomatoe Rice & Beans, are a pretty good dish they almost make bell peppers tolerable.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    On that point...My mother and grandmother were the typical Irish cooks - potatoes, canned veggies, salty meats. My grandmother came to this country when she was fairly young but died without ever trying any foods of other ethnicities. My mother slowly became exposed to other cuisines once she was single again and in her late forties (unfortunately it was after I had moved out). Now she's willing to try anything, though she does think rosemary tastes like pine needles and can't handle anything too spicy. If she'd lived all her life on the family farm in Ireland, she never would have tried Chinese, Thai, Mexican, etc.

                                  2. Teriyaki (at least in the form that most Americans would recognize it) is another example of an americanized dish. In Japan, teriyaki refers primarily to a type of sauce, but outside of Japan, the term applies mostly to grilled/barbecued meat dishes that use a teriyaki sauce in their preparation and are served with rice (or at some places here, they might not add the sauce to the dish at all and serve it on the side with grilled chicken.)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Vexorg

                                      Might not be that simple: Japanese from Japan are often plesantly surprised at my Japanese cooking--they recognize it as the way their grand parents and great grand parents did it. I kid such friends, saying they've lost the ability to cook "real" Japanese.

                                    2. Restaurants have difficulty staying in business these days so they must cater to as many palates as possible. There is bound to be homogenization.

                                      And I agree with the posters that said Americans use too much sugar.

                                      1. How about that grand old not-Irish dish of Corned Beef and Cabbage? Who could imagine St. Paddy's day without it? But corned beef was not especially common in a country as protein-short as 19th-century Ireland, especially in the cow division.

                                        1. The cuisines least likely to be Americanized are those whose signature ingredients and cooking styles have long been most readily available in America. Even then, the unusual early abundance of cheap but fairly high quality meat in America also invited changes in those cuisines that were formerly based on the rarity of such.

                                          1. I would say that 99% of food in the United States is Americanized. Ethnic restaurants typically use local meats, produce, spices, staples, and water which can produce different results even following the same recipe. I remember visiting Germany for the first time and expecting them to eat sausages, schnitzel, and dumplings all the time, but most meals were Germanized Italian, Germanized French, Germanized Turkish, etc. I tried to cook a real Mexican dinner, but since I did not have any good ingredients, the results were not excellent.

                                            In the end, who really cares if something is "Americanized"? As long as it tastes good, there is no problem. Plus, Americanized is the story of the United States unless you are talking about Native American cuisine, and can be a good thing when done well - just like "pure ethnic" can be truly horrible if done poorly. Plus, my strudel from Germany will always taste better since I was in Germany enjoying myself - like Italian coffee or steak frites in Paris.

                                            1. How about thinking things through in the opposite direction? How can we think of other cuisines without recognizing them for being "Americanized?" Hold your horses. I'm not talking about McDonalds. I'm talking about the produce that has been exported from American. Can we imagine Italian foods without tomatoes? How about Thai and Chinese food without peppers. While peas, chick peas, and I believe fava beans are native to Europe (or at least Eurasia), you can't have an authentic cassoulet without a descendent of American beans. Of course "American as apple pie" isn't truly American since the apple came out of Central Asia. You can even blame the Irish diaspora on Americanizing their diet, since the potato was a relatively new crop when the blight hit Erin.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: thinks too much

                                                Well, Spanish cuisine (especially the regional variations in the Canary Islands) acted as a bridge from Old to New World cuisines. Specifically, if one considers the moles of Mexico and the curries of Indo-Asia, and the arc of food between those two poles, you will see the blending of Indoasiatic, Persian, Arab, Spanish and Mexican cuisines. Before the late 1400s, the greatest trading and culinary crucible had been sustained for millennia by the monsoons of the Indian Ocean (and enslaved Africans). After the 1400s, courtesy of the Iberians (and, again, enslaved Africans).

                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                  What a great reply! I read Ramond Solokov's "You are What You Eat" last year, and he expounded that the way North American cuisine evolved depended predominently on how the Europeans approached colonization. If they wiped out a race through slaughter and disease (West Indies), then they approached all native ingredients with a native eye. If they imported slaves (like Brazil) they also tended to import some foods from their native country and it was a blend. If like Mexico, there was still an indiginous population, the original culture maintains at least some flavor in the cuisine, clearly marking Spanish from Mexican, since Mexican is a more marked hybrid.

                                                  With the 1421 theory of the Chinese discovering America first, I wonder if anyone has done research to see whether use of capsicum peppers goes farther back than the 1600's as well. Hmmm.

                                                  1. re: thinks too much

                                                    Well, I would not place much weight on the 1421 thesis at all.

                                                    The only New World to Old World transPacific food hypothesis that I am aware of that is seriously considered is the sweet potato, which reached China in the middle of the last millennium and may have been via Oceania from South America or may have been courtesy of the Iberians. In any event, it quickly became an important foodstuff in China.