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May 16, 2007 10:09 PM

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 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 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.