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What is "Americanized" Chinese food?

danhole Feb 9, 2009 11:08 AM

I suspect that I probably have only eaten americanized chinese, but when someone asks for a recommendation for that type of a restaurant, what are they expecting? And if it isn't americanized then what would they be serving? I am confused, as usual!

  1. s
    sisterfunkhaus Jan 3, 2010 10:35 AM

    Isn't most everything we eat essentially bastardized by personal taste or personal creativity? It seems like it's pretty easy to say, "That's not authentic." Like, some people on here insist that an authentic Ceasar salad has raw egg and anchovy, when the chef who created it did not put either of those things on it. I also have also noticed that there are a certain group of people turn up their noses at Tex-Mex becasue it isn't "real" Mexican. And no it's not Mexican, it's Tex-Mex, and as a Texan, I LOVE both.

    I would say that there are few dishes that many people eat that are truely in their original form and have not been tinkered with by someone. I'm not sure what authentic means these days.

    1. Bob W Mar 4, 2009 10:40 AM

      Great discussion. Let me pose a question to the travelers among us:

      I know there are chinese restaurants all over the world (even, famously, one in Greenland). Do people in other countries speak of "Frenchified" Chinese food, "Egyptianized" Chinese food, "Bolivianized" Chinese food, etc?

      Some Indian-Chinese restaurants have recently appeared here in the DC area. Supposedly they offer reasonable facsimiles of what Chinese food is like in India.

      I'd like to know what "homeboy" Chinese food is like in other countries (since authentic Chinese food should be the same no matter where you are).

      4 Replies
      1. re: Bob W
        d
        dpan Mar 4, 2009 10:59 AM

        Well, for starters, in Peru you have the "Chifas," which are Chinese foods given the local Peruvian flavor. There is even a Chifa restaurant in the 7 corners area of Fairfax County outside of DC. I've previously mentioned the Dominican Chinese restaurants that used to be quite common in certain parts of NYC.

        1. re: Bob W
          Sam Fujisaka Mar 4, 2009 12:37 PM

          Yes, the Peruvian chifas are good - and unique to Peru. Never, ever go near a Chinese restaurant in Colombia! A couple arrived from China when I living in Tarija, Bolivia, in the 70s. They opened a restaurant and prepared foods like I later had in China. Really good, but local demand couldn't support them; and they eventually went somewhere else. There are Chinese populations and restaurants all over southeast Asia - largly Cantonese with some local influences.

          1. re: Bob W
            pepper_mil Mar 4, 2009 11:35 PM

            Indian Chinese food is very hot and salty and way more Indian than Chinese. ( I only ever ate high end 'Chinese' food in India...the menus and buffets are divided into veg and non-veg, and if you got 'non-veg' every option had meat...it was a little strange. )

            If you have a chance to eat Chinese food in Korea, go, go, go. Better than the Chinese versions: Ja jiang mian (fried sauce noodles), tang su yuk (sweet and sour pork), jam bong (SPICY fish noodle soup - not sure if this even has a Chinese version, but is considered Chinese to Koreans).

            1. re: pepper_mil
              d
              dpan Mar 5, 2009 03:34 AM

              We can get all these Korean dishes in the local (Wash DC) H Mart food court.

          2. m
            matrixinchina Mar 4, 2009 02:41 AM

            Wow, this is a great thread, it actually motivated me to register and post instead of sitting on the sidelines.

            I've been living, and eating, in mainland China (Mandarin speaking China, which is the vast majority, not Cantonese speaking China, which is basically Hong Kong) for 2 years working in the Western travel & tourism industry now and would like to make a couple of points.

            Four Seasons reply's are pretty much on the money. Cantonese food, dim sum, etc. are products of Hong Kong, not the bulk of China. While China considers Hong Kong to be part of China (and technically they're right as of 1999), the people of Hong Kong hate to be associated with the mainland Chinese.

            I have grown to enjoy many Mandarin (when I say Mandarin, I mean commonly available throughout the mainland of China, which predominantly speaks Mandarin) dishes. When I ask my Mandarin friends who travel abroad if I will be able to find these dishes in the US or Canada, they say basically--No. I asked them if I could ask Chinese restaurants outside of China to prepare these dishes for me special, and they say they have tried and failed. So based on my concept of Western Chinese restaurants, my new knowledge of Mandarin Chinese dishes, and what my Mandarin friends say after travelling abroad, I'm convinced that I will not be able to get authentic Chinese food in the US, and I hope that one of you can prove me wrong.

            So my first point, from the above, is that in America you will not find authentic Mandarin food, and that includes Sichuan.

            My second point, is that if you travel to China with a tour group, you will also never taste authentic Mandarin food. The tour operators and hotels with Western style toilets make sure you never get close to the real thing. What you will eat the length of your tour in China is the Chinese version of Westernized Chinese food. Which will leave you wishing you'd stayed at home and dined at your favorite Americanized Chinese restaurant!

            If you travel to China on your own, not part of a group or package, or if you're a student or here on business, you will get to eat authentic Mandarin/Chinese food--if you leave your hotel. And when you do get the real thing, you will still wish you were at your favorite restaurant back home!!!

            Now the argument here about 2 menus is interesting. Because here in China some restaurants have as many as 4 menu's. And the 4 menu's have nothing to do with palate's, and everything to do with price & portions. If you can read the Chinese menu--or just pretend you can, willing to try what you get--your portion will be twice as big for half the price than if you ordered off of the English or Russian menu's. And regardless of which menu you order from, they will still make it different for you than for a Chinese person, because all Chinese people are convinced that only Chinese people eat hot peppers. Many of them honestly believe that peppers only exist in China. Until you learn a few phrases of Mandarin Chinese (I spelled these phonetically in English--not Pin Yin--so you can actually say them correctly the next time you go to a MANDARIN restaurant), such as "Wo yow la duh" (I want it spicy), "Wo she huan ma la" (I like the mouth numbing and hot peppers combination), "Fu wu u n" (waiter or waitress), and of course "pee joe, beeng duh" (beer, cold), you will be condemned to eating mostly bland, oily, salty, disgusting food.

            And unless you limit yourself to Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong, Mandarin Chinese food will be the only thing you get to eat. The Chinese love their Chinese food, and even in cities the size of New York, your only ethnic food option (as in something different from Chinese every day) will be Mcdonalds or KFC.

            Finally, let's stay in our hemisphere for an example of this thread. After living in Mexico, and the desert southwest, for many years, I grew to love authentic Mexican food. Until recently, the Mexican food served in 99.9% of all Mexican restaurants was "Tex-Mex", or "Americanized Mexican food"!

            Here is a simple test to determine authenticity. Do the small pieces of Chicken, such as in the Americanized version of 'Kung Pao Chicken', still have all of the bones and bone fragments in each morsel, is the your table wrapped in thin plastic so that you can spit these bones out on the table top or floor, is there a roll of toilet paper on the table instead of napkins, are the Chinese people at the table next to you hawking and spitting and throwing toilet paper all over the place, is there no soap in the disgustingly filthy bathroom, is there a child taking a dump right in front of you while the parents laugh and chat, even though the real toilet is only 20 feet away? If you can say yes to any of these questions, you might be at an "authentic" Chinese restaurant!

            So in closing, I would like to give a big THANK YOU to all of the Chinese Chef's living in America (and to me this includes Canada), that have not only made Chinese food edible, but made "Americanized Chinese Food" delicious!!!

            7 Replies
            1. re: matrixinchina
              Firegoat Mar 4, 2009 04:13 AM

              Thank you, I learned something today. Based on your post which mentioned the hotels with the wesern style toilets, I googled and learned quite a bit about Chinese, Japanese and American type toilets. How this will ever be useful to me, I have no idea. But I did learn something.

              1. re: matrixinchina
                Sam Fujisaka Mar 4, 2009 05:01 AM

                Your test of authenticity is authentic! It is also a real challenge in China (outside of the new modern parts of the major cities) finding a place to take a dump that doesn't make me vomit at the same time. The horror!

                1. re: matrixinchina
                  pepper_mil Mar 4, 2009 08:06 AM

                  Whoa, whoa, whoa, I've kept quiet til now since I'm not American but it is not that hard to find a variety of good food in China - it's one of the best places in the world to eat Chinese food, in fact.

                  I live in a city less than half the size of NY (Chengdu, capital of Sichuan), and we have many, many restaurants here that do not make Sichuanese food. There are tons of north Chinese bakeries and noodle/dumpling shops, high and low end Guizhou restaurants, Yunnan places, Hunan food, high and low end Guangzhou/Hong Kong (cha can tings, dim sum, high end seafood); we have French restaurants, many German restaurants, lots of Brazilian barbecue, a handful of Italian and Indian places as well as more casual pizza outlets, Tex-Mex, Taiwanese (mostly low end or chains), and a tapas bar where you are served and your food is cooked by the proprietors from Spain. Several Korean and Japanese places. Since we are in Western China there is a huge Tibetan neighbourhood full of Tibetan restaurants, Xinjiang and halal restaurants...my point is that there is a lot of variety, not only from other regional Chinese cuisines but also from other countries' cuisines.

                  And I have definitely been in places like the one you describe, but lack of hygiene is not a sign of authenticity. There is plenty of great and very authentic food to be eaten in nice environments here.

                  1. re: pepper_mil
                    scoopG Mar 4, 2009 01:05 PM

                    Thank you pepper mil! Also, not all Chinese like to make loud noises when they eat and create an unsightly mess while doing so. And as huaqiao states, plenty of authentic Chinese food in the US if you know where to look.

                    1. re: scoopG
                      danhole Mar 4, 2009 01:52 PM

                      Oh, thank you both! I was beginning to think I would just be happy with what I knew and never venture into the . . . "unknown!" You have made me feel better. Matrix had me a bit scared.

                  2. re: matrixinchina
                    h
                    huaqiao Mar 4, 2009 09:11 AM

                    You can definitely get authentic Chinese food outside of China. There are many many Chinese restaurants here in LA that don't even have real English menus.

                    1. re: matrixinchina
                      l
                      lergnom Mar 4, 2009 12:33 PM

                      One of my kids spent a semester in high school in Xian, one of 6 non-Chinese in her whole school. She lived with a family in a non-western part of the city, fended for food on the streets, and ate in the father's restaurant (he was an owner / chef). It's hard to find Xian food in the US, particularly the lamb soup with hard bread that's the local specialty. I knew of one chef who made it but he's moved on. It is possible to get good versions of the various cumin dishes - like lamb with cumin - that come from the Muslim influence.

                      The headmaster of the school would take the American kids to the Sheraton every 6 weeks or so for American food, meaning Xian's take on American food and not real American food, something she thought was necessary for their digestion. The kids really preferred the local food, though of course some ate at McDonald's or KFC from time to time. There is a very strong bias that westerners can't eat and don't want the local food. (BTW, the same chefs at the Sheraton would do banquets for locals that had terrific regional food. And amazing sculptures, sometimes of lard, of local landmarks.)

                      The food at the high school was generally served so covered in Sichuan peppercorns it looked like a tree had dumped its seeds all at once on the plate. Astringent but wonderful.

                      And yeah the toilets in China, even at many of the big tourist attractions, are not exactly western.

                    2. r
                      relizabeth Feb 17, 2009 04:39 AM

                      I grew up on my beloved suburban NJ Chinese food. Now living in London, I sometimes crave beef with broccoli or moo shoo tofu or those fried noodles with duck sauce. They seem to have their own Anglo/Chinese food here. Recently at an Indian restaurant that specializes in dosas, I ordered Gobi Manchurian and the experience was Proustian; all of my memories of flavors and textures rushed back to me. Sublime.

                      1. l
                        lergnom Feb 16, 2009 08:06 AM

                        I was visiting my mother in the hospital in Sarasota and I stopped in at a Chinese place in the strip mall near Publix. It was late. I hadn't eaten since breakfast. So I asked the woman behind the counter where they were from. Yangzhou. That's great. We talked about my kids speaking Mandarin, etc. and her husband came out and we chatted about how life was going for them. When I asked if they had any "real" food, the husband shook his head and his wife said, "They don't like that here." We settled on a large order of dumplings as the closest, so I ate those.

                        1. thew Feb 16, 2009 05:47 AM

                          this thread, and the blog article in the sidebar have me thinking about egg foo young.

                          everyone calls it americanized chinese - are they saying there are no omelettes served in china with a sauce on them? i find that very hard to believe

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: thew
                            h
                            huaqiao Feb 16, 2009 08:33 AM

                            The closest thing I can think of is something my mom makes that is similar to Japanese tamagoyaki. Only not as pretty or shapely, no sugar, and with green onions and pickled radishes mixed in. Eaten for breakfast, usually with porridge.

                            You can find omurice in a lot of the Chinese parts of Asia, but more as a Japanese import.

                            Westerners don't usually eat omlettes for dinner, either. So I don't find it so strange that there's no popular omlette-style Chinese dinner entree. I do like me some steamed egg custard, though.

                            1. re: huaqiao
                              g
                              gafferx Feb 16, 2009 12:11 PM

                              Westerners don't usually eat omlettes for dinner, either. So I don't find it so strange that there's no popular omlette-style Chinese dinner entree. I do like me some steamed egg custard, though
                              ____________________

                              Eggs were a dinner dish in America years ago especailly during the Great Depression and WW2. Not a frequent one but when other protein was expensive more eggs were eaten. I'm sure Joy of Cooking has dinner time egg recipes

                              I like egg fu yung when done in a non greasy way

                              1. re: gafferx
                                j
                                jumpingmonk Feb 16, 2009 02:29 PM

                                What about that odd "stir fried fresh milk with crab meat" (odd sice its supposed to be an authentic Chinese dish involving milk) that (for Manhattanites) The Phoenix Garden makes such a big deal about. That's sorta like an ommlettem (okay tecnically its more like scrambled eggs, but you get the idea) and its part of the dinner menu.

                                1. re: gafferx
                                  monku Feb 16, 2009 04:45 PM

                                  Besides egg foo young, how about shrimp and egg (omelette)?
                                  Some Cantonese places I go to have shrimp and egg chow fun or beef and egg chow fun. Rice noodles topped with "runny" scrambled eggs, shrimp and green onions. One of my favorites.

                              2. re: thew
                                a
                                AndyGanil Feb 16, 2009 04:22 PM

                                In Taiwanese cuisine there is an omelet type dish that consists of egg batter and oyster covered in a sweet sauce, but egg foo young? nope

                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyster_o...

                              3. thew Feb 15, 2009 05:32 AM

                                i like chinese food. i like "authentic" chinese food. i like "inauthentic" americanized" chinese food. i like it whether regionally consistent or not. As long as it is well prepared and delicious i do not care if the 1st person to cook was a neolithic farmer in zhangdou,, or john doe from hicksville.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: thew
                                  applehome Feb 15, 2009 01:11 PM

                                  Yeah - I sorta agree, and we're on dead horse ground, for sure, but I have one question for those that keep saying that they like both "authentic" and Americanized Chinese as long as it's good.

                                  How do you know it's good? Are we back to that old Chowhound canard, if it tastes good to me, it's good? How do we know when we've hit something better? Is there any inkling on our part, as people interested in good food, to understand what the dish was intended to be (by whomever) so we understand what to rate it against?

                                  Does this "tastes good to me" test mean that if a place serves sheeps stomach and it's not good to me, it must be bad food? If a Chinese restaurant serves sushi and it's good to me, it's good sushi?

                                  I've always said that authentic has meaning - not necessarily good or bad, but just authentic. A cuisine that's been around for a hundred years can certainly be called authentic on its own merits, so there must be such a thing as authentic Americanized Chinese. But does that include more recent inclusions like "authentic" pu-pu platter from post wwII?

                                  There's a penchant for Chinese restaurants to integrate all kinds of Asian foods and represent them to the American public because they are omnipresent. So we have our local Americanized Chinese places serving Pad Thai, sushi, even teppanyaki. I see no difference in these places integrating other Chinese regional foods. There is an accepted level of Americanization involved in this process - what you get is the same as calling Olive Garden red sauce, Italian food. Yes it is... to a point.

                                  My point is this: Is it good? Yes, maybe, but it could be better. Saying that things are done to American tastes is like an euphemism for saying that it's made bland, with less interesting components, less exciting spices. That's what American Chinese restaurants have become good at for 100 years. But today, American tastes are growing up, becoming more worldly. Let's hope that American Chinese restaurants help us and lead us out of our flavor morass, rather than just keep modifying everything good to fit the lowest common denominator taste bud. (Not much chance for that, really - ultimately, they'll make what sells. And in Tulsa, pu-pu platter will outsell spicy tripe for many years to come.)

                                  1. re: applehome
                                    j
                                    jumpingmonk Feb 15, 2009 02:19 PM

                                    This is all beginning to remind me of a character in a book I read, who was served a meal and was disgusted at it's "inathenticity" on the grounds that waht he was served was deicious and an "authentic" meal in this cusine was supposed to taste absoutely disgusting (even to the natives)!

                                    1. re: applehome
                                      scoopG Feb 16, 2009 01:42 AM

                                      You raise a good point. In the Midwest it is common to see a type of chow mien served by many Chinese places which I've not seen elsewhere. It's a concoction of ground meat, celery, molasses, chicken stock and soy sauce and thickened with cornstarch; then served over La Choy style crisp noodles with rice on the side. While it is what I would call Americanized it can be delicious.

                                      1. re: scoopG
                                        bbqboy Feb 16, 2009 05:12 AM

                                        Can't forget the much loved Springfield Cashew Chicken :)

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/119964

                                        1. re: bbqboy
                                          scoopG Feb 16, 2009 05:23 AM

                                          Have you ever had it? Looks like there are some fans in MO. It reminded me of something I saw on the NE Board about Chow Mein Sandwiches!

                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/566259

                                  2. Firegoat Feb 14, 2009 05:45 AM

                                    My rule of thumb, is that if it is served on a 200 foot super buffet with a soft serve ice cream machine, it is probably Americanized Chinese food.
                                    That being said.... don't take my sesame chicken away!

                                    1. monku Feb 13, 2009 08:01 PM

                                      On the subject of "Americanized" Chinese food:
                                      "Jewish people like Chinese food"
                                      It's a legitimate subject discussed on other internet boards.

                                      Grew up in Great Neck, NY back in the 60's and all my friends loved Chinese food, most of the time it was from a take out place. Back then I could name every Chinese family who lived there. The Chinese food we got in NYC Chinatown was somewhat authentic as you could get back then, but there were also the Chinese American classics that appealed to the non-Chinese who ventured there.
                                      My grandfather owned a popular Chinese American restaurant in Bexley, OH in the 40's....one side of the menu was Chinese American and the other side American (items like steaks, chops, spaghetti & meatballs, veal parmigiana, Maine lobster, prime rib, etc.).

                                      12 Replies
                                      1. re: monku
                                        h
                                        huaqiao Feb 14, 2009 12:52 AM

                                        My question is, is Chinese food and a movie on Christmas better with Americanized Chinese food than with authentic Chinese food? I can see how the tradition started with more Americanized Chinese food and as such authentic Chinese food wouldn't feel "right", but authentic is in and new restaurants certainly go to great lengths to distance themselves from the stigma of being too Americanized.

                                        I'm genuinely curious.

                                        1. re: huaqiao
                                          a
                                          AndyGanil Feb 15, 2009 09:30 PM

                                          Huaqiao <-- LOL i know what it means.

                                          anyway i live in LA in the SGV. seriously the biggest chinatown outside of any large city. and i wanted to know. would you consider shanghai xiao paigu as american chinese or authentic. it was totally ketchupy and sweet and sour but what i think is that. that dish is appealing to both Chinese and American palates.

                                          1. re: AndyGanil
                                            monku Feb 15, 2009 09:43 PM

                                            "Huaqiao <-- LOL i know what it means"........since you "LOL," then I know I was right too.

                                            1. re: AndyGanil
                                              h
                                              huaqiao Feb 16, 2009 09:03 AM

                                              Are you refering to something like this?

                                              http://curiouslyravenous.blogspot.com...

                                              There are plenty of sweet and sour type dishes in Chinese cooking. But the sauce isn't typically ketchupy sweet and goopey(there are definitely exceptions). Like the link describes, it's usually more of a carmelized glaze. And in the Chinese version you would taste the vinegar and anise much more than in an Americanized version.

                                              Incidentally, one thing I noticed about Americanized Chinese food is the use of batter. Many Chinese dishes involve frying the meat in oil first and then cooking it with other ingredients. I'm sure Orange Chicken and other American inventions were originally based on such recipes. But where the Chinese would actually just fry the chunks of chicken in oil(or at the most, a light dusting of corn starch), Americans would batter it first because there's really not much tradition in these parts of dropping meat into hot oil by itself. Similar to how many places screw up buffalo wings by battering them first. :P

                                              1. re: huaqiao
                                                raytamsgv Feb 16, 2009 11:52 AM

                                                I don't think the Chinese have come to appreciate fully the joys of batter-fried foods as Americans. This is easily seen at any American county fair, where half the food deep-fried, and the other half is very deep-fried: ice cream, candy bars, etc. :-)

                                                1. re: raytamsgv
                                                  j
                                                  jumpingmonk Feb 16, 2009 02:31 PM

                                                  Oh, so my salt and pepper fill-in-the-blank (Shrimp, Squid, porkchops, frog) is Amercanized too. I never knew that.

                                                  1. re: jumpingmonk
                                                    h
                                                    huaqiao Feb 16, 2009 03:46 PM

                                                    I was refering to "Americanization" resulting in battering food items that weren't battered in the original Chinese incarnation. Not trying to suggest that there are no battered foods in Chinese cooking.

                                                    The Taiwanese really love their version of popcorn chicken. Small fried chunks of breaded chicken dusted with spicy pepper and garnished with deep fried basil leaves. A dish like that should translate perfectly to the American palate, and yet it's confined to Taiwanese boba cafes that you have to hunt for.

                                                    1. re: huaqiao
                                                      j
                                                      jumpingmonk Feb 17, 2009 03:50 AM

                                                      oh and to finsish the Americanizations, a resturuant near me makes a great appetizer by basically battering and frying a steamed pork crepe (the kind you often find on dim sum menus, wrapped in beancurd skin) They're great (an marginally easter to pick up than the standard stamned version)

                                                    2. re: jumpingmonk
                                                      c oliver Jan 3, 2010 10:56 AM

                                                      IMO, there's batter and there's batter :) I just had s&p crispy fried pork the other day and, yes, there was a batter on it but not the kind that you can actually peel off.

                                                      1. re: c oliver
                                                        f
                                                        fourunder Jan 3, 2010 11:06 AM

                                                        c,

                                                        The dish you had was probably not a batter, but rather, the pork was coated/dusted in seasoned rice flour or cornstarch and pan fried in a wok.

                                                        1. re: fourunder
                                                          c oliver Jan 3, 2010 11:46 AM

                                                          I kinda meant to put "batter" in quotes. You're right, definitely. And then there's BATTER :(

                                                          1. re: fourunder
                                                            j
                                                            jumpingmonk Jan 3, 2010 12:03 PM

                                                            I'm not saying thats impossible but simply putting a flour skim on the surface would not "seal it" as well as it does. The pork in question is really closer to a stew than anything else. Oh and you most defintey can pull the stuff off (its how I discovered the bean curd skin underneath). Either way I'm fairly sure that they freeze the inside before dipping unless they put so much cornstarch in the filling that its jelly whne they dip (which sice I eaten them when they are cold and they're just a liquid doesnt seem likey)

                                            2. c
                                              currymouth Feb 13, 2009 03:50 PM

                                              For Pete's sake......... Who gives a f**k?. The fact of the matter is that what we Americans call "Chinese Food" is for the most part a bastardization of many mainland as well as HK, Tiwanese, and god knows what else influences all wrapped into a beautifully designed white cardboard box. Love it or hate it, it's now ours so embrace it.
                                              The influx of "Real Chinese Chefs" has for all practical purposes , trickled down to next to nothing not only because the USA is no longer considered the land of opportunity,but also due to the strenght of the euro and the amazing boom on mainland China. So order that sweet and sour pork and RP fried rice from your local Panda Express and enjoy the dumplings at PF Changs but realize that it is indeed American Chinese.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: currymouth
                                                applehome Feb 13, 2009 09:55 PM

                                                I don't know Pete, but who gives a fuck? You do. "The fact of the matter is that what we Americans call "Chinese Food" is for the most part a bastardization of many mainland as well as HK, Tiwanese, and god knows what else..." Clearly, there's some level of interest in understanding the origin of foods - otherwise why bother knowing and experessing what you understand to be true?

                                                I think that's part of this site and certainly part of what this post was about - the op asked about the difference between Americanized Chinese food and non-Americanized, presumably authentic, Chinese food. It's clear that there are differences, and lots of people have contributed to the whys and wherefors. There's a state of flux today, despite the lack of "Real Chinese Chefs", as new dishes and cuisines are introduced not only in Chinatowns, but all over. After all, the lack of real Itamae hasn't slowed down the growth of Chinese restaurants rolling out their Americanized sushi. I'm sure that the American-Chinese chefs are learning ma-po tofu as quickly as their predecessors all learned General Tso's or PuPu platters.

                                                Hopefuly the op got some answers, and other people got some new information (I know I did). If that's not what Chowhound is about, then what?

                                              2. FourSeasons Feb 13, 2009 01:20 AM

                                                There is no such thing as "Chinese food". This is a term for non-Chinese. For Chinese, we will always distinguish whether it is Cantonese, Chiu Chow, Hakka, Fujian, Fuzhou, Hanzhou, Shanghai, Guizhou, Hunan, Yunan, Sichuan, Xinjiang, Beijing, Shanxi, Dongbei cuisine etc etc etc. And then there are many sub-categories again within each cuisine. And in each region, the other regional food may not be authentic too. For example, in Hong Kong, you will have problem finding authentic Hunan food; in Shanghai, the Si chuan food is not as "ma la" (meaning spicy and numbness) as in Si chuan.

                                                Most of the "Chinese food" in America is brought in by immigrants mostly from Hong Kong and Taiwan, thus has more influence from Cantonese food, and then transformed further to become "Americanized Chinese food". And then for visitors like us, the most "Americanized Chinese food" is fortune cookie. Based on my recent visit to US, even the "authentic Chinese food" is more like Cantonese or Fuzhou cuisine. You don't get so much varieties in America, so people just simplify the term. If you visit Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, nobody will talk about "Chinese food".

                                                33 Replies
                                                1. re: FourSeasons
                                                  Soop Feb 13, 2009 01:40 AM

                                                  Well of course not. Listen, let's not be nitpicky. Chefs tend to specialise in a certain style of cooking, because each country tends to have a way of doing things, and certain staples and ingredients. Indicating a style of cooking based on country is an entirely sensible thing to do, moreso if the audience doesn't have knowledge of varying regions within that country: ragu and pizza are made in varying ways in different parts of Italy, but I think it's fair to classify them as being italian.

                                                  For me, "Chinese food" would probably be defined by the spices, sauces and vegetables used, as well as the prevalance of noodles or rice in many dishes, but I'm fairly sure the cooking methods would have fundemental differences to other cuisines too. I think Chinese chefs tend to chop rather than slice, for example, and the wok is quintissentially Chinese in my eyes (although it may not be in reality)

                                                  1. re: Soop
                                                    FourSeasons Feb 13, 2009 02:29 AM

                                                    This is not nitpicky. And not too sure what you mean "of course not" since you did not complete your sentence. Since you are not a Chinese, you will define "Chinese food" as the style of cooking based on country. But if you are a Chinese, such definition is superficial. That is my point. And "Chinese food" is not homogenous, your definition of "Chinese food" is laughable, you might as well define "Asian food", if there is such a cuisine.

                                                    1. re: FourSeasons
                                                      Soop Feb 13, 2009 03:50 AM

                                                      I was following on from the last thing you wrote "If you visit Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, nobody will talk about "Chinese food".", so yes, I was agreeing with you on that point in the first place. I don't call roast dinners "English food".

                                                      But basically, you'd say that across China, there is no single thing that groups the countrys cuisine together, in either the preparation, ingredients, or the way it's eaten?

                                                      1. re: Soop
                                                        Karl S Feb 13, 2009 04:15 AM

                                                        As a technical matter, it might be more accurate to refer to a Chinese family of cuisines, like a Franco-Italian family of cuisines, or a Turkish-Persian family of cuisines, and Indian Subcontinent family of cuisines, and a Mexican-MesoAmerican family of cuisines. Which are often esteemed as the five great cuisine families.

                                                        But that's technical.

                                                        1. re: Soop
                                                          FourSeasons Feb 13, 2009 04:58 AM

                                                          Hi Soop:

                                                          Let me clarify what I meant on that quotation. I agree I was not specific enough. Let me give an example, if your friend ask you: "What do you want to eat?", you may reply: "Ok, let's try Chinese food." But that would not happen in a conversation among the Chinese in China. One would reply: "Ok, let's have Si Chuan ma la hotpot" or "Let's have Dim Sum." No Chinese would reply:"Ok, let's have Chinese food." Just like no American will say:"let's have American food." You will reply: "let's have burger", "let's have Cajun","I crave for Texas BBQ." That is what I meant by that quotation.

                                                          And to your second paragraph, I did not say "no single thing groups the country cuisine together". Of course, most Chinese eat rice or noodle, but your definition applies to most other Asian cuisines as well. But each region has its own specific cooking style that may or may not be appreciated by other Chinese. Cantonese people may not like the ma la taste of Si chuan cuisine. Si chuan people may not like the sweet taste bud inherent in Beijing food. They are all Chinese food, but yet they are different. That is what I meant. In US, you are unlikely to distinguish such difference because most "Chinese food", whether it is marketed as Cantonese, Hunan or Shanghai, would need to appeal to the same segment of customers.

                                                          So my final point is: this is an American-centric website, so yes, sure you can write "Chinese food". THat is not a problem. But I just want to explain that is a term more for non-Chinese.

                                                          1. re: FourSeasons
                                                            Soop Feb 13, 2009 05:09 AM

                                                            In that case, I think I agree with you :)

                                                            I'm not American though.

                                                            1. re: Soop
                                                              FourSeasons Feb 13, 2009 05:21 AM

                                                              Sorry, just took a look at your profile. I was assuming you were an American.

                                                        2. re: FourSeasons
                                                          g
                                                          gafferx Feb 15, 2009 01:41 PM

                                                          You are not being nit-picky/
                                                          You are correct
                                                          I am just a regular old white guy American but I can tell you are correct

                                                      2. re: FourSeasons
                                                        h
                                                        huaqiao Feb 13, 2009 08:56 AM

                                                        I'm sure people in Mumbai don't often use the term "Indian food" when talking about where to go eat, either. You can make the same case for any cuisine with regional varities. If you live somewhere where 80% of what you eat is from the same cuisine, it's silly to refer to the cuisine in a general sense.

                                                        You can't have it both ways. How can you have Eight Great Traditions of Chinese food if, as you suggest, there is no such thing as Chinese food?

                                                        1. re: huaqiao
                                                          FourSeasons Feb 13, 2009 07:22 PM

                                                          Hi huaqiao:

                                                          True, if I have a chance to edit, I will withdraw my first statement (too late now as "edit" function no longer working). But such proclaim of Eight Majors (八大菜系) is more like a nationalisic movement to distinguish Chinese from outsiders. On grassroot level, I think it is quite meaningless. There are some who would argue there should be ten while others want to limit to four major ones (同时,也有四大菜系之说). But my point is "Chinese food" is not homogenous, there are huge regional varieties (certainly more than eight), and the availability in US is limited, so this is something I think most here are not aware of. I get the impression most here feel that if they go to an "authentic" restaurant in US, that is by de facto "Chinese food" but it is more likely "Cantonese food" for Chinese.

                                                          1. re: huaqiao
                                                            l
                                                            lilinjun Feb 16, 2009 02:42 PM

                                                            Hmm, I'm Indian and use the term "Indian food"...

                                                            And on that note, do Chinese people call themselves Chinese or do they specify what province they're from?

                                                            I think it's just for simplicity. Or laziness.

                                                          2. re: FourSeasons
                                                            scoopG Feb 13, 2009 01:57 PM

                                                            Looks like an "annulled set" to me - a fallacious tautology. I talk to my Chinese pals about Chinese food all the time. As Huaqiao points, Indians in Mumbai do not say they are eating Indian. In how many other cultures would this be true? The reason for the lack of a wider range of Chinese cuisines in Hongkong is because their immigration doors have been closed a long time and the lingua franca of Hongkong was Cantonese.

                                                            Most of the "old" Chinese food in America was brought by immigrants from Canton and Taiwan. That was 40-50 years ago. Since 1977, up to 20,000 mainland Chinese have been immigrating to the USA and they are not all Fujianese. This figure does not include the undocumented ones. Some 2.9 million ethnic Chinese now live in America and 70% of them live in only five states. Plenty of varietal, "authentic," home-style Chinese deliciousness can be found if you know where to look. Probably not in Des Moines but certainly in New York and California. Oh, and the fortune cookie was invented in Japan.

                                                            1. re: scoopG
                                                              Ruth Lafler Feb 13, 2009 02:23 PM

                                                              Actually, most of that was much more the 40-50 years ago. Many Chinese, mostly from the Canton region, came to the "Gold Mountain" in the 1800s to work in the mines, build the railways, fish, farm, etc. One reason that Chinese food in America is what it is, is that most Chinese immigrants were poor laborers, or if they weren't before they came to the U.S., found themselves mired at the bottom of the economic ladder by means of various discriminatory laws. There wasn't a significant population of a class that would support a restaurant culture -- it was survival food -- and one way they survived was by adapting it to appeal to a non-Chinese clientele and going into one of the few businesses available to them whether they were actually from a restaurant background or not.

                                                              The post-1977 immigrants and the 1990s HK immigrants were from a much broader socio-economic spectrum (including many students who quickly made their way into technical and professional jobs) and were better able to support restaurants that featured a broader variety of cuisines and catered specifically to a middle and upper middle class Chinese clientele.

                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                h
                                                                huaqiao Feb 13, 2009 02:57 PM

                                                                The Taiwanese name for San Francisco literally translates as "Old Gold Mountain". I've never heard the term "New Gold Mountain", but I think it's somewhere in Australia. :P

                                                                And Taiwanese didn't start immigrating in large numbers to the US until the 70's and 80's when Taiwan got tossed out of the UN.

                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                  scoopG Feb 13, 2009 06:26 PM

                                                                  Ruth, where are you getting your information from?

                                                                  The Chinese were settled in New York long before Yerba Buena became San Francisco. And they were not only the poor - that's mythology. Merchants were first. It was the Chinese (a man nicknamed Poison Jim) who "discovered" wild mustard in the Salinas Valley. They were also miners, cowboys, shopkeepers, gamblers (they brought Keno to America) and doctors. And laundrymen. It was the Chinese who introduced commercial fishing in the West. There were 30 Chinese fishing camps along the California coast in the 1850's and they opened a processing plant in Monterey. Like a lot of Europeans and White Americans, they went to California after gold was accidently discovered at Sutter's Mill. Quong Gee Kong, owned several restaurants and was a friend to Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. He's buried in Tombstone's Boothill Cemetery. By 1870, the Chinese comprised 25% of all miners in the American West. Between 1870 and 1900, 40% of all Chinese in Sacramento and San Francisco were shopkeepers or merchants. Ah Bing, a grafting expert, introduced a hybrid cherry tree in Oregon in 1875. When Dr. Ing Hay's wife died in 1902, the Governor of Idaho visited him to pay his respects.

                                                                  There were three Chinese restaurants in San Francisco and a Chinese owned hotel in Monterey by the end of 1949. New York Tribune reporter Bayard Taylor wrote in 1850 that Chinese restaurants were very popular with Americans "on account of their regard to quantity."

                                                                  Chinese students (as well as professionals) from Taiwan and Hongkong started coming to the US in the 1950's after passage of the McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act in 1952.

                                                                  A much broader spectrum of Chinese immigrants; from Taiwan (up to 20,000 allowed per year ) and Hongkong (up to 600 allowed per year) started arriving after the 1965 Immigration Act was passed.

                                                                  Oh - and Huaqiao, the Mandarin Chinese name for San Francisco is "the old gold mountain" (Jiu Jin Shan) - same as in all of the other spoken Chinese languages.

                                                                  Please see my first post above on this for links to a more thorough analysis with sources listed.

                                                                  1. re: scoopG
                                                                    h
                                                                    huaqiao Feb 14, 2009 12:54 AM

                                                                    You know, I actually knew that the Mandarin word was the same, but the Taiwanese word popped into my head first since I seem to only use that word when I'm speaking Taiwanese. Go figure...

                                                                    Where's New Gold Mountain, btw?

                                                                    1. re: huaqiao
                                                                      scoopG Feb 14, 2009 06:29 AM

                                                                      Omaha? Don't all roads lead us to here:

                                                                      http://www.newgoldmountain.com/

                                                                      ;-)

                                                                    2. re: scoopG
                                                                      raytamsgv Feb 14, 2009 04:15 PM

                                                                      Minor correction: lots of older Cantonese/Taishan people refer to San Francisco as "Dai Fow," which sort of translates into "large city/town." Sacramento is called "Yee Fow", which translates into "second city/town." They are familiar with "old gold mountain," but it's usage is not as frequent.

                                                                  2. re: scoopG
                                                                    FourSeasons Feb 13, 2009 07:01 PM

                                                                    Hi scoopG:

                                                                    Well, I don't know if fortune cookies was invented in Japan, but I have been to Japan more than 20 times for last 3 decades and I have never been served fortune cookies. All I know is that everytime I finished a meal in a Chinese restaurants in US, I am being given fortune cookies. So it is exclusively "Americanized" Chinese since you cannot find it in China at all. And I seriously doubt in Japan after a Chinese meal.

                                                                    I have been to New York and San Francisco a few times, I have stayed in LA for 3-4 months. Yes, sure, you can find "authentic" (which to some degree, still "Americanized"
                                                                    with the size of the portion and the fortune cookie etc) but my argument it is still limited to mostly Southern Chinese region And for those "Chinese food" marketed as Shanghai, Si chuan etc, even in NY or CA, you will get bigger variation from the real thing. And like what I wrote before, the varieties in US is limited, so what you think of "Chinese food" is actually more like "Cantonese food".

                                                                    It is not true that Hong Kong lack a wider range of Chinese cuisine. Just because I wrote it is difficult to find authentic Hunan food does not mean there lack a wider range. Authentic Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing, Si Chuan, Yunan, Chiu Chow, Hakka cuisine etc etc are widely available there. The immigration door has been opened for more than 20 years (and Mainland Chinese is now the single largest tourist group in Hong Kong), and even before that during the "closed" period, there has always been a legal quota of Chinese immigrants to Hong Kong. And many merchants from Shanghai etc moved to Hong Kong just prior to the victory of Communist Party so it is not an exclusive Cantonese zone like the way you think.

                                                                    As to you talking to your Chinese pals about Chinese food all the time, I don't even understand why you made this point. It is irrelevant to what I wrote. You are an American, and your Chinese friends have lived in US for sometime, so of course, you talk about "Chinese food". That is my point. But I am not from US, and I am writing from a perspective from outside (yeah, this is internet era, so what is an American-centric website is available to non-Americans too, just you be aware of that).

                                                                    And if you want to try " "authentic," home-style Chinese deliciousness", it is a much better bet to try it in Vancouver or Toronto rather than NYC or CA.

                                                                    And one more thing most here are not aware of the "Americanized Chinese" from the real authentic is the size of the portion served in America. Just compare the size of wonton noodle in NYC or CA to one served in Hong Kong or Guangzhou.

                                                                    1. re: FourSeasons
                                                                      scoopG Feb 14, 2009 05:31 AM

                                                                      Hi FourSeasons,

                                                                      It does seem to me you are making sweeping generalizations based on limited visits and a lack of finding the true Chinese deliciousness that exists. No? If I recall correctly on your recent NYC visit you went to Manhattan's Chinatown, failed to find any of the 8-10 Fujianese restaurants you thought you might find and then ended up at some disappointing place. That happens!

                                                                      Some of the finest Chinese spots here are in no way Americanized or dumbed-down and are found in what are now called "ethno-burbs" like the San Gabriel Valley of southern California (not LA) the Bay Area of San Francisco, Flushing and yes, even Manhattan. As mentioned in an earlier post above, there are 2.9 million ethnic Chinese in the USA and 70% are concentrated in just five states: New York, California, Texas, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

                                                                      You are wrong about the classifications of Chinese cuisine as being some type of fabrication for Westerners only. Yes there is debate among scholars on how many and where to start drawing lines. As anthropologist E.N. Anderson states in “The Food of China” (Yale University Press, 1988) “one person’s sub-region is another person’s region.” In general we can start with a North and South divide, then move to Eastern (Shanghai, Fujian, Taiwan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang,) the West (Hunan, Sichuan, Yunnan,) the Far South (Cantonese, Hakka,) the North (Beijing, Hebei, Henan) and the Xinjiang or Hui in the northwest.

                                                                      Hongkong now has a wide open door to immigration? When did that policy change? Tourists are one thing, settled new immigrants is another matter. I think there is a very tiny allowance for family re-unification, but Hongkong just does not have the space to accept unlimited immigration. And it does not have the same level of Chinese food diversification that one finds in Taiwan.

                                                                      My point about discussing 中國菜 - Chinese food with my Chinese friends (in Mandarin) is to negate this notion of yours that there is no such a thing as Chinese food. Or that it is a term for foreigners only. Vancouver and Toronto have some wonderful havens for Chinese food mavens but this does not obviate any need to have to forsake the USA.

                                                                      The fortune cookie was invented in Japan, according to Jennifer 8. Lee "(The Fortune Cookie Chronicles") but popularized by the Chinese here. Most Sino-foodies just ignore them and dive into the fresh fruit.

                                                                      Yes there exists Americanized and dumbed-down Chinese restaurants serving glop here - after all there are some 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the US. But there are true gems catering to Chinese deliciousness if you know where to find them.

                                                                      1. re: scoopG
                                                                        FourSeasons Feb 14, 2009 07:03 AM

                                                                        Hi scoopG:

                                                                        Surprise you still remember my trip to NYC. But you recall incorrectly that I was looking for Fujian restaurants since that was never my intention. Well, my ethnic background is Fujian, and many of my relatives love to cook for me, so travel all the way to NYC to look for Fujian food is not really my priority.

                                                                        To me, 2.9 million ethnic Chinese with 70% concentrate to 5 states is not a big figure. That is like an average of 400-500k in each of the 5 state. For comparison, I live in Singapore now, our population is about 4.5-5 Million (with 70% ethnic Chinese population) in an island perhaps 4-5 times the size of Manhattan. Hong Kong has 7 million Chinese in a slightly bigger island. Most Mainland Chinese cities I visit are certainly even bigger with more than 10 Million people.

                                                                        I notice you like to make comments based on research from books and wiki. Nothing wrong with your approach but when it comes to food, I personally prefer to have a direct experience to deduce my conclusion rather than to depend on another source (unless it comes from a friend who is a trusted serious foodie as well). I would only make a statement after I have tried the food; I won't make "sweepng generalization". And I don't know where you get the conclusion it is based on "limited visits". I have lost count how many times I visited NYC, probably around 10 times in the last 30 years. And I have visited San Francisco and LA even more so than NYC.

                                                                        Please read carefully, I never said Hong Kong has a "wide" open door to immigration. I simply wrote that the immigration door has been opened for 20 years, and even before then as well. Based on Hong Kong government's projection, the population will increase to 8.38 Million in 2033. And it has an annual tourist population of about 25 million, about half is from Mainland China, descending to Hong Kong so you have to wonder what the influence is on the culinary scene. But this is all irrelevant; it started when you wrote Hong Kong lack wider range of Chinese cuisine, which makes me wonder if you have ever even been to Hong Kong or did you simply make a "sweeping generalization"?

                                                                        I seldom visit Taiwan. The last visit trip was quite short, and I think I tried more Japanese food then, so I am not an expert on Taiwan's dining scene. But I do have many Taiwanese friends, and many of my social friends and business associates travel there often. It is a common consensus that the dining scene in Taiwan is not in the same level with Hong Kong. But anyway, to each his/her own, everyone has his/her opinion. There is no point to argue on this issue unless you want to open another thread on the Greater China Board (which I am an active participant on the Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing scene).

                                                                        Ok, coming back to 中國菜, yes, I agree, from my response to huaqiao earlier, perhaps I went too far with my opening statement. I kept reading everyone's experience with authentic "Chinese food" so I wrote that on impulse. But I standby my comment that if you are a Chinese, you won't say to another Chinese in Mainland or Hong Kong: "今晚我们吃中國菜." Maybe you can because you are a 老外 (I assume you are not Chinese).

                                                                        It is my personal opinion that the "Chinese food" scene in Vancouver is way better than San Francisco and NYC though I have to say the quality has deteriorated in the last 5 years as more chefs have returned to Hong Kong or China for better opportunities. But again unless we wanted to start another thread, I will drop this issue as it is quite irrelevant here. I am sure there are more Canadians who are more anxious to defend that position than me.

                                                                        I don't know, maybe Jennifer Lee is right about fortune cookie. Again, I don't research as much as you. I am just saying I have never seen it in Japan despite so many visits there but I also never go to Chinese restaurants over there. To me, I only observe it in US, and to me and many other visitors, that is simply the most "Americanized" Chinese food (or maybe dessert???).

                                                                        I never wrote that I gave a thumb down to Americanized Chinese food. I expect Chinese food to be Americanized there. To me, even when one writes "Chinese food" in Chowhound, it is already on the way to being Americanized. I already wrote on the earlier post even when regional Chinese food is introduced to another Chinese city, the chefs sometimes need to adapt to the local Chinese as well. So I certainly expect that to happen in US. There is nothing wrong. It is perfectly normal.

                                                                        My point is that if you think that "authentic" Chinese food in US represents "Chinese food", that is just the tip of the iceberg. When Americans talk about "Chinese food", they most likely refer to Cantonese food, or maybe Fujian food. I personally have never tried every regional Chinese food, but I have tried Cantonese, Hakka, Chiu Chow, Xiamen, Pu Tian, Fuzhou, Ningbo, Shaoxin, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Suzhou, Beijing, Tianjin, Dong Bei, Shanxi, Xinjiang, Hunan, Si chuan, Guizhou, Yunan, Guangxi food. They are all 中國菜, but they each have their distinct flavor. This is something you will not understand in US, even with 2.9 Million ethnic Chinese population.

                                                                        1. re: FourSeasons
                                                                          scoopG Feb 14, 2009 01:33 PM

                                                                          Thanks for your comments - we will just have to agree to disagree I guess! I do read the China board as I lived in Hongkong for five years (Stubbs Road) and another five in Taiwan and China. I was last in Asia in 2005 and hope to return this year. I do rely on my taste buds for any sense of deliciousness but use books (never wiki!) for further research. As Robert McKee says: "Facts are always neutral - it is the interpretation of them that are not."

                                                                          On your Feb. 13th post above, you mention 3-4 visits to NYC and San Francisco and living in LA for a few months - so my reply was based on that statement. I guess coming from Asia you are comparing to what you have available there, to what you so far have been able to find here. Of course one is very hard pressed to eat any better Chinese food than what you can find in Hongkong, Taiwan and even Singapore.(China now takes a back seat due to pollution and food safety issues.) I did not say that Hongkong lacked Chinese food diversification, only that there was far more in Taiwan IMO.

                                                                          For many Americans, they want their Americanized Chinese food. For the rest of us who don't seek that - we look for the deliciousness and nurturing comfort from good hearted souls here who strive every day to prepare Chinese treats which we can savor, sample and devour.

                                                                          One does not have to only be in Sichuan to get an "authentic" Gong Bao Ji Ding. The "Little Pepper" version in Flushing takes me to Sichuan everytime. And if I want a Cantonese take on Gong Bao Ji Ding, I can sample "Amazing 66's" version in Manhattan, which has celery in it for god's sake! What is the world coming too!

                                                                          1. re: scoopG
                                                                            Sam Fujisaka Feb 14, 2009 04:55 PM

                                                                            Your statement, "For many Americans, they want their Americanized Chinese food." is worth examining. My eating in China over the last 35 years has simply led me to the conclusion that most Americans simply don't know what they're missing. Americans aren't familiar with a lot of foods from China, but might appreciate them if available.

                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                              scoopG Feb 15, 2009 12:02 PM

                                                                              Is that American tourists Sam you've been encountering on visits to China? The massive tour bus sized crowds? I agree with you that many Americans have grown up on Americanized Chinese food, which is generally what you will get in many many places.

                                                                              1. re: scoopG
                                                                                Sam Fujisaka Feb 15, 2009 12:23 PM

                                                                                In China I rarely see or meet American tourists. My work there has always been with the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences and in the field. Americans in America probably have not tasted many if not most of the foods I've been fortunate enough to have in China.

                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                  scoopG Feb 16, 2009 01:35 AM

                                                                                  Sorry to hear that! Probably experts then in some field but not well versed in the dining ways of the locals?

                                                                              2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                h
                                                                                hungryungry Mar 9, 2009 09:08 PM

                                                                                I visited China for 10 days a few years ago and although I had tons of crappy food (just like the chinese food you get here, sometimes worse) I also had the single most delicious bite of food I have ever eaten, I dont remember whatthe plate looked like, or where I ate it, I just remember slumping back in my chair in pure ecstasy. My mouth is watering now... mmmm

                                                                              3. re: scoopG
                                                                                FourSeasons Feb 14, 2009 05:46 PM

                                                                                Hi scoopG:

                                                                                Let's close this episode: agree to disagree.

                                                                                Just one more MAJOR disagreement that you wrote "China now takes a back seat due to pollution and food safety issues." I used to think likewise too 5 years ago but not anymore. If you have a chance to visit China again, hit the China Board and I will offer some recommendation that will surprise you. Yes, you can have Gong Bao Ji Ding in Flushing, but where can you get a real authentic 酸辣念鱼汤 (from Guizhou), 剁椒鱼头 (hunan), 汽锅鸡 (Yunan) etc etc.

                                                                                1. re: FourSeasons
                                                                                  c oliver Feb 14, 2009 07:09 PM

                                                                                  I'm ready to slam my virtual shoe on the table and say enough already. You say let's close this but, of course, you have to put in just one more thing. And including Chinese words in the middle of English sentences is so excusionary (is that a word?). This started out as a fun post and then became very informative. Now it's just two oh-so-superior people trying to one-up each other. Where are the mods when we need them to lock down a thread. Argh. I need Sam to growl loudly :)

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                                                    FourSeasons Feb 14, 2009 07:29 PM

                                                                                    Hi c oliver:

                                                                                    I wrote to ScoopG knowing he/she reads Chinese. Sorry forgot to translate for other readers:

                                                                                    中國菜- Chinese food;
                                                                                    今晚我们吃中國菜 - Tonight we eat Chinese food;
                                                                                    老外- Mandarin slang for foreigners;
                                                                                    Below 3 are dishes which I may not have the proper translation:
                                                                                    酸辣念鱼汤- sour spicy fish (a lake fish from Guizhou) soup;
                                                                                    剁椒鱼头- fish head with lots of chilli;
                                                                                    汽锅鸡- chicken on a soupy hotpot with herbals from Yunan province.

                                                                                    1. re: FourSeasons
                                                                                      g
                                                                                      gafferx Feb 15, 2009 01:47 PM

                                                                                      I could care less if you include Chinese writing
                                                                                      Good exchange with scoop
                                                                                      You are courteous and know what you are talking about

                                                                            2. re: scoopG
                                                                              E Eto Feb 14, 2009 07:43 AM

                                                                              Regarding the fortune cookie, I don't think Jennifer 8 Lee states that it was invented in Japan, but that its roots are in Japan. From what I recall from listening to interviews with her, Lee explains that the fortune cookie was created by Chinese Americans after they took over Japanese pastry businesses in California when the Japanese were forcibly interned during WWII. While the cookie itself might be of Japanese origin, I believe the fortune cookie shape was created after the Chinese took over the business.

                                                                              You can listen to an interview via this link on Splendid Table
                                                                              http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/...

                                                                              1. re: E Eto
                                                                                scoopG Feb 14, 2009 12:52 PM

                                                                                You're right - she says it was invented in San Francisco by a Japanese immigrant named Makoto Hagiwari. Somehow by the 1940's, they started to be served up in Chinese restaurants!

                                                                      2. Soop Feb 12, 2009 08:16 AM

                                                                        There's a place called Beijing Bistro in the UK, which I'm sure must be westernised, but I like the food. I think it must have a bit of MSG in it. The stuff you can get is beef ho fun, fried dumplings (potstickers) crispy lamb, and soups with noodles and meat. Stuff like that. They also do a specialty menu.

                                                                        so I dunno how close it is to authentic, but it's damn tasty.

                                                                        1. h
                                                                          hungryungry Feb 11, 2009 06:43 PM

                                                                          did you know ginger beef is a Calgary creation? how's that for americanized?

                                                                          I had the single best ever bite of food in my life in China...somewhere...
                                                                          but the rest of the month i spend in china we ate a really cheap places and honestly, it was gross

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: hungryungry
                                                                            monku Feb 11, 2009 06:50 PM

                                                                            So are you telling us there's such a thing as "Canadianized Chinese" food too? or do they refer to it as "Americanized" in Canada?

                                                                            Agree with your experience with Chinese food in China.

                                                                            1. re: monku
                                                                              h
                                                                              hungryungry Feb 11, 2009 06:54 PM

                                                                              yeah we use the term canadianized but when i hear the word "americanized" I think "north american" so I use the terms pretty interchangeably

                                                                              are you in the states... do you guys have ginger beef there?

                                                                              1. re: hungryungry
                                                                                monku Feb 11, 2009 06:59 PM

                                                                                Yes we have ginger beef down here (Los Angeles)..........but never imagined ginger beef came from Calgary in a million years.

                                                                                1. re: monku
                                                                                  h
                                                                                  hungryungry Feb 11, 2009 07:26 PM

                                                                                  I know! crazy eh!

                                                                            2. re: hungryungry
                                                                              raytamsgv Feb 13, 2009 09:41 AM

                                                                              Would you describe the dish, please? The Cantonese have a version more or less called "beef with ginger and green onions." It's simply stir fried beef with sliced ginger root and green onions.

                                                                              1. re: raytamsgv
                                                                                h
                                                                                hungryungry Mar 9, 2009 09:01 PM

                                                                                The beef is served in this thick sticky brown gingery sweet sauce... never seen green onions, or noticeable pieces of ginger in it, it's probably grated?

                                                                            3. Karl S Feb 10, 2009 12:47 PM

                                                                              Well, it's not only a matter of different ingredients but a whole structure of balance, not only for aesthetic or pleasure but even more importantly for what we might call medicinal purposes based on hot/cold/neutral (rice is neutral) and the five elements of air, fire, water, metal and earth (ideas like these, btw, once guided Western eating habits in the more distant past):

                                                                              Balance of flavors: Sweet, sour, butter, pungent, et cet.
                                                                              Balance of textures: crisp, soft, firm, slippery, et cet.

                                                                              Then there is the issue of festive dishes versus more ordinary homey dishes versus street snacks (the repertoire of snacks would simply overwhelm the imagination of most Americans):

                                                                              Thus, a lot of the ways Americans enjoy Chinese would be considered very strange. Like dousing fried rice with soy sauce. Or having meat without some greens (unless one were ill in a certain kind of way). Et cet.

                                                                              The single most obscure thing to most Americans would be how to sequence a balanced array of dishes in the way Chinese might do it. As some joker once quipped, where Europeans eat from soup to nuts, the Chinese might eat from nuts to soup.

                                                                              1. h
                                                                                huaqiao Feb 10, 2009 09:45 AM

                                                                                One thing to keep in mind in this discussion is that Chinese food is often bastardized in China itself to fit different regional tastes. What ended up happening is that Sichuan dishes were modified to fit the tastebuds of Cantonese or other non-spicy eaters and then that version was further modified to fit American tastebuds.

                                                                                A great example is the very simple dish of Mabo Tofu. It's pretty much just tofu with ground pork and spices. An authentic version would have Sichuan peppercorns where you could feel the numbing in your mouth. But it's been bastardized so many times by Chinese themselves that even in a restaurant catering spefically to Chinese where no English is spoken, you end up with a version of the dish that's far from the original. Even the Japanese got in on the act with their version.

                                                                                So there's no clear line between authentic and bastardized when it comes to Chinese dishes. You just have different degrees of change from the original.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: huaqiao
                                                                                  c
                                                                                  cimui Feb 10, 2009 03:28 PM

                                                                                  Very true, huaqiao, even in my own household. My mother used to make mabo dofu with full -- and I mean full! -- heat, as she was taught, when I was but a small dumpling. (I remember burning my tongue on it.) But my Cantonese dad couldn't eat it that hot and it got more and more mild over time. My family's version is now authentically bastardized, I suppose.

                                                                                  1. re: huaqiao
                                                                                    j
                                                                                    jumpingmonk Feb 12, 2009 01:03 PM

                                                                                    This brings up something interesting that happend to me yesterday in Chinatown. among the so called "Americanized dishes" I love is beef (or even better lamb) with scallions, which I like enough that If I see it on a menu somewhere I haven had it, I am likey to order some to test. Yesterday while sitting eating an fairly pleasing order I suddenly realized something rather odd. As I understand if meat with scallions can be attributed to any region of China it would be somewhere to the north, where heavy use of spring onions as a vegetable (as opposed to a flavoring) is common. But when I checked my notes as to where I have had versions that really pleased me I find something rather odd, namely that most of the best ones I've had have come from places that specialize in Fouzou cuisine. There tedn to be lighter brisker, have more ginger flavor and be genally deviod of the sour, fermented or stewish notes that mar a lot of the other ones. so basically The versions that plase me best are Fouzou adaptaions of a (presumably) americanized dish based on a (probably) northern Chinese dish

                                                                                    1. re: jumpingmonk
                                                                                      monku Feb 12, 2009 05:25 PM

                                                                                      Only thing I can think of that's beef with scallions is Mongolian Beef.

                                                                                  2. l
                                                                                    laliz Feb 10, 2009 09:27 AM

                                                                                    The term ‘Chinese-American’ was a necessary marketing development for many Chinese restaurants to attract non-ethnic diners.

                                                                                    “ In fact, most of the Chinese restaurants outside of Chinatown proclaimed in their windows that they were Chinese-American, lest Occidental customers shy away for fear of being served duck feet and bird's nests.”

                                                                                    ----America Eats Out, John Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 76-80)

                                                                                    http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodasian...

                                                                                    1. f
                                                                                      foodperv Feb 10, 2009 08:01 AM

                                                                                      i would venture to say if the rest. offers what is called dim-sum it is at least closer to real than what your used to

                                                                                      1. Sam Fujisaka Feb 10, 2009 07:02 AM

                                                                                        Food in China includes many fruits, vegetables, and, more importantly, all of the parts of animals and whole fish. I've been very surprised at the food aversions of a good portion of my fellow Hounds, so all the more expected that Chinese food had to be Americanized for the general public. A lot of food in China is also labor intensive; and Americanss are probably not prepared to pay top dollar for food so prepared by skilled chefs who would be very highly paid in the US.

                                                                                        1. monku Feb 9, 2009 07:43 PM

                                                                                          The two most popular ethnic foods in the US are Italian and Chinese, with Mexican threatening to knock them off the top. In Europe Chinese food is the most popular with a 42% market share. http://www.newswiretoday.com/news/24168/

                                                                                          Chinese food became "Americanized" so that it could appeal to the American palate using familiar ingredients found in US grocery stores.

                                                                                          Not sure where you live, but when you get to areas where you have a significant number of Chinese immigrants you're going to find more authentic Chinese food using ingredients you aren't going to find in your neighborhood grocery store and you won't find the Americanized Chinese.

                                                                                          1. applehome Feb 9, 2009 06:57 PM

                                                                                            One important historical fact to add is that because of prejudice and bigotry, all Chinese immigration was stopped shortly after the Chinese helped to build the intercontinental railroad, and this lasted for nearly a hundred years. From the 1870's until the 1960's, the US let in no Chinese immigrants. That meant that the population that had come over for the gold rush in the 1850's, primarily from Guangdong (Canton) province, were isolated and lived in virtual ghettos, which became China Towns. Their food developed in isolation for 100 years into its own cuisine, with American influences, but with little influence from China.

                                                                                            It's only been since immigration was opened up that we've gotten the benefits of people and their cuisine from so many other parts of China, from Hunan to Sichuan and beyond. It's as if we found an entirely new bunch of countries with unique cuisines starting in the 1960's and 70's. Of course, this "new" cuisine has become integrated into the established American Chinese menus - so you now see Kung Pao, Yu Hsiang, and Moo Shu everywhere, and more and more places are carrying Ma Po Tofu and Dan Dan Noodles. But it will probably be a while before we see spicy shredded tripe or beef tendon everywhere. The much freer exchange of people and commerce today allows for all kinds of specialty cuisines to become popular here - from Dim Sum to Soup Dumplings, Hot Pots, and all manner of noodle soups.

                                                                                            China's incredible diversity of food is just becoming known here in the US. As our tastes open up to world cuisines, we're finding out that all the foods that our ancestors brought over and integrated into the melting pot, are being reinvigorated with new discoveries (new to most of us) - but none are more complex and diverse, perhaps, than the foods from the many regions of China, Mexico, and Italy.

                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: applehome
                                                                                              scoopG Feb 12, 2009 02:51 AM

                                                                                              Not entirely accurate here, applehome.

                                                                                              US Chinese immigration ban occurred in 1882 with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act and formally ended in 1943. The Chinese Exclusion Act never prevented Chinese Merchants, Scholars, Students and Officials from immigrating and of course there was always a flow of undocumented aliens. Chinese banded together in urban Chinatowns for self-survival after much anti-Sino violence erupted - mostly in the West. Diversity of Chinese cuisine became much more well known, as well as more available in the US when "China Fever" erupted after Nixon's 1972 China visit and relations with China were normalized.

                                                                                              For more:

                                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/491041

                                                                                              1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                applehome Feb 12, 2009 12:36 PM

                                                                                                Right - thanks for correcting the dates - there have been several discussions of this before, and I was trying to summarize what I had taken away. I think it's important to understand the period of time that the cuisine stood alone in the US, developing mainly with local (American) influences. That length of time makes it a legitimate cuisine of it's own standing, in my view, not just a quick adaptation of a foreign cuisine to available ingredients, as we see in so many foods that are brought over. A prime example of the American influence post wwII is the integration of the then popular Tiki-bar food (e.g.- pu-pu platters) which really have nothing at all to do with any region in China.

                                                                                                The secondary point is that there was a grand re-awakening starting slowly in the 60's and accelerating ever since, whether credit is due to Nixon or not. That awakening is why the OP and other Americans are just now seeing these wonderful alternatives becoming more widely available.

                                                                                                These two movements are as important in understanding today's Chinese food in America as the Jewish immigrant experience in the Lower East Side is in understanding deli and Jewish foods in general.

                                                                                                1. re: applehome
                                                                                                  KaimukiMan Feb 13, 2009 08:29 AM

                                                                                                  right, pupu platters may have been adopted by some Chinese restaurants, but the word pupu is really polynesian in origin (Hawaiian), which is why they first showed up (on the US mainland) in "Tiki Bars". Pupu pretty much just means appetizer.

                                                                                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pu_pu_pl...

                                                                                                2. re: scoopG
                                                                                                  g
                                                                                                  gafferx Feb 15, 2009 01:36 PM

                                                                                                  Good post
                                                                                                  You are correct on the Exclusion Act

                                                                                              2. PeterL Feb 9, 2009 03:08 PM

                                                                                                Used to be chopsuey, egg foo young, and chowmein, with the crunchy noodles rather than soft noodles. All of these had some basis of "real" Chinese food. Nowadays American Chinese has evolved to something like beef with broccali (not Chinese broccali, aka gai lan), walnut shrimp, paper wrapped chicken, very large fried egg rolls, etc.

                                                                                                10 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: PeterL
                                                                                                  Ruth Lafler Feb 9, 2009 03:28 PM

                                                                                                  Except you know, that walnut shrimp is popular with Chinese diners. In fact, I think it orginated in Hong Kong as modern "fusion" dish -- there was a thread about it on this board a while back. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/551111

                                                                                                  A good egg foo yung can be great comfort food! I think of chop suey, though, as the quintessential American-Chinese dish, since it supposedly originated by Chinese cooks in early California. Except, maybe not: http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontr...

                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                    k
                                                                                                    kobetobiko Feb 9, 2009 07:09 PM

                                                                                                    In addition to walnut shrimp, paper wrapped chicken is actually a very very old-fashioned Chinese dish. It is authentic Chinese but it is so old fashioned that most modern authentic Chinese restaurants won't even bother to make it anymore.

                                                                                                    1. re: kobetobiko
                                                                                                      danhole Feb 10, 2009 06:23 AM

                                                                                                      I had my first taste of paper wrapped chicken a few months ago at a chinese place that has been around for at least 30+ years. I didn't know what it was, but man was it good. I had never seen it on a menu before. It came on a pu pu platter. The cook/chef was an older chinese man who kept hovering between the kitchen and the dining room. The egg rolls weren't your usual mushy, fried messes, either. They were full of hunks of vegetables and lightly fried, and the crab puffs had crab!

                                                                                                      1. re: kobetobiko
                                                                                                        PeterL Feb 10, 2009 07:29 AM

                                                                                                        The "real" dish is indeed paper wrapped chicken. But as it evolved into American Chinese dish, it became foil wrapped chicken. It's now usually served in an appetizer platter.

                                                                                                        1. re: PeterL
                                                                                                          danhole Feb 10, 2009 08:13 AM

                                                                                                          This was actually served in a foil packet, but inside that was a paper packet and then when opened was the chicken and the most delicious juices. It came on the platter or as a separate appetizer. My 2 yr. old granddaughter and I loved it.

                                                                                                          1. re: danhole
                                                                                                            f
                                                                                                            fourunder Feb 10, 2009 09:44 AM

                                                                                                            From my recollection, chicken in paper/foil was a popular item back in the 60's and 70'sm served as an appetizer and on Pu Pu platters. It was boneless chicken marinated in a soy sauce and hoisin sauce mixture and sealed in foil. When the foil pouch expanded with the steam from inside, the chicken was read to be served.....and quite tasty

                                                                                                            1. re: fourunder
                                                                                                              danhole Feb 21, 2009 06:38 AM

                                                                                                              I have to correct myself. I went back to this place I like, the China Doll, and got the paper wrapped chicken, and it was just in foil, not in cellophane. I got it as a separate item, but i8t is offered on an appetizer sampler that I said was a Pu Pu platter, but it is a Bo Bo Platter. I also got the Pork Egg Foo Young and it was very good. Not greasy, good amount of meat, and the gravy was just right. There are a lot of dishes on the menu that I don't see on most chinese menus, so I asked what types of chinese food did they serve. The regular older woman was out sick and there was a young man there, so it was hard to get him to understand what I meant, but I finally got it across, and he said it was a combination of many different types. I'll get more info when the "mom" (and I am assuming here) is back.

                                                                                                              1. re: danhole
                                                                                                                f
                                                                                                                fourunder Mar 4, 2009 04:43 AM

                                                                                                                .....I said was a Pu Pu platter, but it is a Bo Bo Platter.
                                                                                                                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                                                                                                danhole,

                                                                                                                (Bo Bo) is the phonetic English translation of Pu Pu in Chinese speak. (Gee Bo) is the phonetic translation of paper wrapped

                                                                                                                Pu Pu Platter > Bo Bo pawn

                                                                                                                Paper Wrapped Chicken or Chicken in Foil > Gee Bo Gai

                                                                                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                        flourgirl Feb 12, 2009 10:31 AM

                                                                                                        Yes! I ate a lot of egg foo yung when I was in college precisely because it was great comfort food. Yum.

                                                                                                      3. re: PeterL
                                                                                                        raytamsgv Feb 13, 2009 09:37 AM

                                                                                                        Walnut shrimp is a Hong Kong invention. In Cantonese, the name is something like "Western-sauce shrimp." Paper-wrapped chicken is an older, classic Cantonese dish, but it is difficult to make in its traditional form that required actual paper. Current versions use aluminum foil because they are much cheaper to buy and faster to use.

                                                                                                      4. ipsedixit Feb 9, 2009 01:07 PM

                                                                                                        Panda Express, Pei Wei, PF Chang's are good examples of Americanized Chinese food.

                                                                                                        44 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                          danhole Feb 9, 2009 02:13 PM

                                                                                                          Although I have already stated that I believe I have mostly eaten americanized chinese, I have never eaten at any of the places you mentioned! I really don't like the deep fried stuff that most places serve. In Houston there are many to choose from, and some are pretty ordinary, and then there are those where I have no idea what to order, so I have to go with someone more educated than I am.

                                                                                                          Rockandroller, thanks for the link. It was very informative.

                                                                                                          1. re: danhole
                                                                                                            Ruth Lafler Feb 9, 2009 02:42 PM

                                                                                                            Isn't there a fairly large Chinese immigrant community in Houston (or its suburbs)? If so you should be able to fine "authentic" Chinese restaurants. If you're interested in descriptions of specific dishes people order, you might want to look at some of the reports of chowdowns at Chinese restaurants on the SF Bay Area board. In particular, you should learn to recognize names of signature regional dishes that might indicate the *real* specialty of the restaurant. Often, there are really two restaurants running side-by-side: one serving Americanized food to its American customers and one serving more authentic dishes (often on a separate menu or written on the walls or white board in Chinese only) to its Chinese customers. I actually wrote a post about finding and ordering the "real" Chinese food hidden inside a "regular" Chinese restaurant. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5124...

                                                                                                            This thread degenerated into various arguments about whether or not these tips were obvious (maybe to some, but not to all), and whether they somehow exaggerated the existence of hidden/secret menus (not in my experience in the Bay Area). But even throughout that argument there are some helpful points.

                                                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                              PeterL Feb 9, 2009 03:10 PM

                                                                                                              The Chinese population in Houston are largely Vietnamese Chinese, not quite the same as Chinese Chinese. I have been to Houston several times and the quality of their Chinese restaurants leaves a lot to be desired. Up to about 3 years ago there wasn't even a dim sum place.

                                                                                                              1. re: PeterL
                                                                                                                luckyfatima Feb 10, 2009 09:24 AM

                                                                                                                Oh no, I strongly object to this! Long live Bellaire! I had dim sum on Bellaire over 15 years ago as a kid! There is GREAT Cantonese and other Southern Chinese restaurants, Chinese-Vietnamese Restaurants (Chinese of Vietnam, just like Chinese in other parts of SE Asia, still have a strong Chinese identity and that is reflected in their food!!!), Taiwanese restaurants, even Buddhist food (veg) restaurants. I happen to disagree that the Chinese is lacking there. There are so many Chinese that the street signs are in Chinese on Bellaire and there are several Chinese and Chinese Vietnamese hypermarkets in addition to loads of different types of restaurants. Me and some girlfriends actually drive at least once a year for an eating vacation weekend in Houston and stay near the Galleria. We used to go as teenagers with their parents, too back when one couldn't find Chinese and Vietnamese goods so readily in our hometown about 3 hrs from Houston. The food was a huge highlight and we ate and still eat 3 heavy meals a day on those trips. I am now an adult and well travelled, and Houston Southern Chinese and Chinese Vietnamese is on par with Bay Area, San Francisco, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Vancouver Chinese that I have had! I love it and would highly recommend that any Chinese food lover chowhounder head over there...check CH Houston for recs...Sinh Sinh and Tan Tan are two of my faves (that's right, owned by Chinese from Vietnam!)

                                                                                                                1. re: luckyfatima
                                                                                                                  PeterL Feb 10, 2009 10:30 AM

                                                                                                                  Well our tastes differ. But seriously, Houston is no where near SF standards, not to mention Vancouver. We've been to Sinh Sinh several times. That's pretty much our standard when we travel to Houston. After that, not much. We have yet to find a dim sum place in Houston. I heard rumors that there is one, but so far we have no luck in finding it. And Sinh Sinh is at best would be a mid level in SF, and at the lower end in Vancouver. The Chinese supermarkets remind me of the San Gabriel Valley Chinese supermarkets about 20 years ago.

                                                                                                                  Sorry but that's my take. If you live in other parts of Texas sure. But if you live in LA, SF, Toronto or Vancouver, not so much.

                                                                                                                  1. re: PeterL
                                                                                                                    Ruth Lafler Feb 10, 2009 12:22 PM

                                                                                                                    The issue of whether the restaurants exist is independent of their quality. It's clear there is a variety of "authentic" and regional Chinese food in Houston, regardless of whether it's as good as it might be elsewhere.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                      danhole Feb 11, 2009 12:43 PM

                                                                                                                      After hunting around, like a chowhound should, I found a place in town that is where I need to go. It is Peking Cuisine, off the SW Fwy, where you have to call a couple days ahead to get the Peking duck. It is recommended that you bring someone who can speak and read chinese because they are in chinese and the english translations are full of typos, so pointing doesn't quite work. Some oof the dishes that have been described sound a lot like dishes some of you have mentioned. Now, I just have to make friends with someone fluent in chinese and I'm there!

                                                                                                                2. re: PeterL
                                                                                                                  a
                                                                                                                  AndyGanil Feb 15, 2009 07:42 PM

                                                                                                                  oops

                                                                                                                  1. re: AndyGanil
                                                                                                                    monku Feb 15, 2009 07:56 PM

                                                                                                                    In Los Angeles Chinatown there is significant Vietnamese population and many of them own Chinese restaurants. There is a Vietnamese influence on the spicy Chinese dishes they prepare.

                                                                                                                    When I lived in Miami there were a number of Chinese restaurants run by Chinese from Cuba. I grew up in New York and there was a difference in the Americanized Chinese I had on Long Island and in NYC Chinatown and the Cuban influenced Chinese American food.

                                                                                                                    1. re: monku
                                                                                                                      e
                                                                                                                      equinoise Feb 16, 2009 02:37 PM

                                                                                                                      Several of the Cantonese/dim sum places in Seattle's International District f/k/a Chinatown are owned by ethnic Chinese who emigrated from Vietnam.

                                                                                                                      http://www.seattleweekly.com/2008-08-...

                                                                                                                      1. re: monku
                                                                                                                        d
                                                                                                                        dpan Mar 4, 2009 05:04 AM

                                                                                                                        There were a number of Chinese restaurants in NYC run by Chinese from the Dominical Republic. One was near the college I went to in downtown Brooklyn. It wasn't unusual to get fried plantains instead of rice.

                                                                                                                      2. re: AndyGanil
                                                                                                                        h
                                                                                                                        huaqiao Feb 15, 2009 08:45 PM

                                                                                                                        There is a significant Chinese population in all countries in SE Asia. Over 10% of the population of Thailand is of Chinese background according to some surveys.

                                                                                                                        A large number of Vietnamese of Chinese ethnicity(called Hoa) immigrated out of Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and the Vietnam/China border wars.

                                                                                                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoa

                                                                                                                        My favorite noodle shop ever is a Chiu Chow place run by Vietnamese Chinese immigrants.

                                                                                                                        1. re: huaqiao
                                                                                                                          FourSeasons Feb 15, 2009 10:08 PM

                                                                                                                          Most Chinese in Thailand are from descendents from Chiu Chow (or Teochew) background. 70% of Singaporeans (mostly from Fujian background), over 30% of Malaysia (mostly from Guang Dong background), about 5% of Indonesia (mostly from Hakka and Fujian) is of Chinese back ground.

                                                                                                                          1. re: FourSeasons
                                                                                                                            luckyfatima Feb 17, 2009 08:04 AM

                                                                                                                            Yep the Chinese Vietnamese are the same ethnic backgrounds, especially Teo Chew, and also Hokkien, Guang Dong background, Hakka, etc.

                                                                                                                            I have usually heard them called Tau (nguoi Tau) , I think Hoa is the formal name from "Chung Hoa."

                                                                                                                            In my experience they call themselves Chinese-Vietnamese or Chinese from Vietnam, not Vietnamese Chinese.

                                                                                                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                      danhole Feb 10, 2009 06:20 AM

                                                                                                                      Ruth,

                                                                                                                      Here in Houston we have more than one Chinatown. There is the old one in downtown Houston, where you see mostly Chinese people eat. I went with a friend to a small hole in the wall place that had a tiny little buffet. This was many years ago. Nothing looked familiar, so she told me what to put on my plate. I have no idea what I ate other than it wasn't anything I had ever had before, or since. This was one of those places you describe with the chalkboard specials written in Chinese.

                                                                                                                      The newer Chinatown in more in the burbs and it is a broader mix of asian cultures. I haven't ventured out there, just because it is really inconvenient for me. I do think there are a lot of Vietnamese places there.

                                                                                                                      As far as Chinese restaurants goes there is one in particular that has a large menu that features "classics" such as Sweet & sour, orange beef, sesame chicken, etc., and then has another section that is chef's specialities, which has things I have never heard of but boy they sound really good. The chef has gotten high praise from the chinese community and has a lot of chinese customers.

                                                                                                                      1. re: danhole
                                                                                                                        Ruth Lafler Feb 10, 2009 08:27 AM

                                                                                                                        Ah yes. I've seen other restaurants deal with the two-cuisine problem by using a classic/specialities type system. China Village was mentioned in the post I linked. When they combined their formerly separate "authentic" and "Americanized" menus they designated the Americanized dishes as "classic."

                                                                                                                        It sounds like there's authentic food to be had, you just need to educate yourself a little so you recognize it when you see it.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                          sbp Feb 10, 2009 08:49 AM

                                                                                                                          The fun part is when you DO find the real thing, and the waiter tries to talk you out of it. Braised pork shoulder is a good sign of non-Americanized cooking. It's basically braised in soy sauce and five spice powder. Once in Edison NJ and once in NY Chinatown, I was told "you won't like this -- too fatty." I insisted, and it was great.

                                                                                                                          I've also taken to ask if they have gai lan -- Chinese broccoli -- or pea shoots. Gai lan, you mei you? goes a long way.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sbp
                                                                                                                            c oliver Feb 10, 2009 09:05 AM

                                                                                                                            We started eating chicken feet about a year ago (is it pronounced something like xaio fung?) and OMG the Chinese people get so happy when they see us eating it. When we first ask for it, they're dubious that we really want it but once we're chowing down, the whole joint is smiling. And when we leave, they're all nodding and smiling. We've been eating dim sum for decades and, if I'd known the positive reaction, I'd have been getting it years ago. And, yes to danhole, they're really delish :)

                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                              danhole Feb 10, 2009 09:23 AM

                                                                                                                              Chicken feet . . . I've heard a lot about those lately. What would you compare them too? I will try anything once. I actually have a feeling I would really like them. Dim sum, too.

                                                                                                                              1. re: danhole
                                                                                                                                Sam Fujisaka Feb 10, 2009 12:03 PM

                                                                                                                                The best are actually the filipino BBQ sauce finished chicken feet.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                  c oliver Feb 10, 2009 12:12 PM

                                                                                                                                  Are they common in filipino restaurants? Sounds great.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                    Sam Fujisaka Feb 10, 2009 01:09 PM

                                                                                                                                    No, they're a street food best eaten with cold San Miguel beer - and hot balut.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                      c oliver Feb 10, 2009 02:22 PM

                                                                                                                                      Oh no, I am SO not going there with ya! SM beer fine. I know one should never say never but I ain't NEVER eating balut!!!!! The Filipino people I know mostly gag when I ask about that. One DID say he'll eat the white but not the "chicky." Noooooooooooo.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                        c
                                                                                                                                        currymouth Feb 10, 2009 02:38 PM

                                                                                                                                        Adidas and San Miguel. Now that is THE late night pick me up, and fresh buko juice with Alka Seltzer in the morning.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: currymouth
                                                                                                                                          c oliver Feb 10, 2009 02:46 PM

                                                                                                                                          What is buko? Does it rhyme with puke-o?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                            c
                                                                                                                                            currymouth Feb 10, 2009 06:05 PM

                                                                                                                                            Water coconut sold fresh door to door in Manila.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: currymouth
                                                                                                                                              c oliver Feb 10, 2009 06:15 PM

                                                                                                                                              And does it taste good?

                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                                c
                                                                                                                                                currymouth Feb 10, 2009 06:32 PM

                                                                                                                                                Great. I grew up in the West Indies and there was nothing quite so refreshing and versatile as coconut juice, My teachers in High school would have us climb the trees so as to have some to mix with their lunchtime Rum and Juice.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                              Sam Fujisaka Feb 11, 2009 07:02 AM

                                                                                                                                              Buko also refers to young coconuts that are somehow mutated or different in their development. The flesh is made into buko pies - for which Los Banos south of Manila is "famous".

                                                                                                                                    2. re: danhole
                                                                                                                                      Stephanie Wong Feb 13, 2009 11:06 PM

                                                                                                                                      With braised chicken feet, it's all about the flavor absorbed from the braising sauce. There's virtually no meat -- skin, tendon, and bones (think poultry wing tips).

                                                                                                                                      Bit off a toe through the joint, then work the soft tissues off bone with your tongue and discard the bone. If it's tasty and you like the texture, you'll end up with a small mound of bones on your plate which, hopefully, the wait staff will exchange with a clean one.

                                                                                                                                      I hope you enjoy them.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Stephanie Wong
                                                                                                                                        c oliver Feb 14, 2009 06:32 AM

                                                                                                                                        Thanks for taking the time to explain. I didn't feel like I was up to it. But I sure do enjoy the flavor --- as well as the hugely positive reaction from all the Chinese who are present :)

                                                                                                                                    3. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                      raytamsgv Feb 13, 2009 09:24 AM

                                                                                                                                      If it's a dim sum dish, the Cantonese pronunciation would be something like "foong jow."

                                                                                                                                    4. re: sbp
                                                                                                                                      danhole Feb 10, 2009 09:22 AM

                                                                                                                                      Sounds good. I'll look for that. Thanks for the specifics.

                                                                                                                                    5. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                                      danhole Feb 10, 2009 08:53 AM

                                                                                                                                      I just need to jump in, get out of my Kung Pao comfort zone, and order something I have never tried before!

                                                                                                                                      Now speaking of Kung Pao. I have noticed that some places serve it with little chunks of chicken, some tofu, I think, dried red peppers, few vegetable and a spicy thick brown sauce with peanuts. Other places serve it with large chunks of chicken, lots of vegetables, big hunks of mushrooms, peanuts or not, and a lighter spicy sauce (not so brown.) Which is more authentic? Or neither. In the wiki article R&R posted Kung Pao was considered a native dish that had been americanized, so I am guessing the first one is that version more so. Right?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: danhole
                                                                                                                                        f
                                                                                                                                        fourunder Feb 10, 2009 09:37 AM

                                                                                                                                        Dinner in the Chinese home did not have the knife and fork set on the table like western homes.... as a result, when possible, food preparation with the knife meant cutting the food items into small dice and small chunks to aid in the easy pick of the food items with chopsticks and or a soup spoon. To find the more authentic version, it is the smaller dice cut for vegetables and protein.....the larger chunks at some point may have been deemed to be more attractive for presentation purposes......the sauce by nature of the dish is supposed to be spicy, but not killer spicy....the heat level is a personal preference though and can be adjusted to suit the eater.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: danhole
                                                                                                                                          Ruth Lafler Feb 10, 2009 09:56 AM

                                                                                                                                          The first version sounds more Americanized. In general, when a dish becomes Americanized the sauces become thicker and sweeter (even the spicy ones have stronger sweet elements).

                                                                                                                                          In general, Chinese cooking embraces a much wider array of flavors and, especially, textures, than European cuisines. Dishes like beef tendon, chicken feet and jellyfish are really more about the texture than flavor (beef tendon is chewy, chicken feet are braised to be soft and cartilaginous and jellyfish are mild flavored and surprisingly sort of crunchy). These elements that fall outside the norms of Western cuisine are the ones that are likely to get a "you won't like it" response from the waiter.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                                            e
                                                                                                                                            Ericandblueboy Feb 10, 2009 01:53 PM

                                                                                                                                            Actually beef tendon, chicken feet and jellyfish are only good if they have flavor. Serve me bland tendon, feet or jellyfish and I'll blast the restaurant for incompetency.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Ericandblueboy
                                                                                                                                              Ruth Lafler Feb 10, 2009 02:07 PM

                                                                                                                                              But the flavor comes mostly from the saucing/prep method, not from the tendon, chicken foot or jellyfish itself -- they add mostly texture and a vehicle for the saucing.

                                                                                                                                              Or rather, chicken feet taste chickeny -- the main reason to eat them is because of their unique texture, not because of their unique flavor. Same with jellyfish -- it tastes vaguely oceanic, but the reason it's served instead of (or in addition to) other fishy/oceany foods is again because of the unique texture.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                                                e
                                                                                                                                                Ericandblueboy Feb 10, 2009 02:12 PM

                                                                                                                                                I see your point. Yes they are quite bland naturally.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                                              pikawicca Feb 14, 2009 05:06 PM

                                                                                                                                              You've hit the nail on the head, Ruth, more viscous and sweet are the hallmarks of Americanized Chinese food. I really don't think that most Americans would care for authentic Chinese cuisine. Tendon, chicken feet? Not gonna fly with most here.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                c oliver Feb 14, 2009 05:13 PM

                                                                                                                                                I agree with you and then I don't. We spent many decades in SF and still visit regularly. We'll eat anything especially if we're with Chinese friends who clue us in. Just got "into" chicken feet and now love them. So I think if one lives somewhere with a good-sized Chinese population and the restaurants, then it's much easier. Let's face it, most of the U.S. doesn't have the choices to even be rejected.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                                  pikawicca Feb 14, 2009 05:31 PM

                                                                                                                                                  c,

                                                                                                                                                  I salute you. I eat many "weird" things, but chicken feet are beyond me. These things just don't seem edible to me. Glad I tried them, though.

                                                                                                                                            3. re: danhole
                                                                                                                                              raytamsgv Feb 13, 2009 09:29 AM

                                                                                                                                              I don't think there's any "official version." It's like asking for an authentic hamburger. There are a few things in common (e.g. bun, patty), but there are many variations in patty sizes, bun sizes, bun types, shredded/whole lettuce, etc. Having said that, some versions of Kung Pao chicken may be closer to what you find in China than others. Others have posted more information about this matter.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                                          e
                                                                                                                                          equinoise Feb 16, 2009 02:46 PM

                                                                                                                                          Interesting. Here is an analogous account of one Sichuan restaurant's struggle with the two-menu dilemma, peripherally involving myself. BTW, the restaurant is located in Bellevue, WA and is quite good.

                                                                                                                                          http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/voraci...

                                                                                                                                    6. b
                                                                                                                                      breadzone Feb 9, 2009 12:28 PM

                                                                                                                                      I grew up in the midwest, detesting what I knew as Chinese food. I've always been very sensitive to salt/sodium in my food and I think that was the big turn off for me. Then I managed a mall bookstore and the store next to mine was a Chinese gift store owned by a Cantonese family. We formed a friendship and had a trade-off of dishes. She brought me home made Chinese food and I brought her mid-western fare. I definitely had the better end of the deal. The "real thing" was better than good and I miss it.

                                                                                                                                      A couple of times I tried eating in her husbands restaurant, thinking it would be the same food and it was far from it, having been "Americanized" and definitely not what they were eating at home.

                                                                                                                                      1. rockandroller1 Feb 9, 2009 11:25 AM

                                                                                                                                        There's a big difference between "authentic" Chinese and what most Americans consider Chinese food, which is the "Americanized" type. Americanized is generally the same all over and not really reflective at all of what real Chinese cuisine is like.

                                                                                                                                        Pick up just about any typical Chinese delivery menu and you'll see all the same players across the country - cashew chicken, beef broccoli, sweet and sour pork, etc. These are not authentic Chinese dishes but are what most americans like and request in "Chinese" food.

                                                                                                                                        More authentic Chinese can be hard to come by depending on what city you live in. Chinese are great at utilizing the entire animal and consume a lot more parts of an animal than a typical American would, for starters. They also base a lot more dishes on veggies than meat.

                                                                                                                                        Here's a good overview:
                                                                                                                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American...

                                                                                                                                        15 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: rockandroller1
                                                                                                                                          c oliver Feb 9, 2009 11:38 AM

                                                                                                                                          Thanks, danhole, for asking and thank r&r for replying. I've wondered this. I always laugh at --- and drive right by --- any place that has a sign for "Chinese American" food. Would you say I'm on pretty solid ground because we are generally the only non-Chinese in the restaurants we frequent? Also that I have a strong aversion to the three dishes, especially sweet and sour anything (blech). Now I knew my suspicions were correct.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                            rockandroller1 Feb 9, 2009 11:47 AM

                                                                                                                                            A room full of Chinese peeps is a great indicator that you've found a good and authentic place, for sure.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: rockandroller1
                                                                                                                                              c
                                                                                                                                              cimui Feb 10, 2009 03:19 PM

                                                                                                                                              I have friends who grew up in NYC's Chinatown who love the really gringo stuff you get at the type of places that use "wok" in the name in punny ways -- like Wok 'n' Go. And I have gringo friends who know much, much more about Chinese food than I do, though I grew up on the cuisine and have spent some time in Beijing.

                                                                                                                                              So racial composition of the clientele is not always the best indicator. :)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: cimui
                                                                                                                                                b
                                                                                                                                                bmorecupcake Feb 20, 2009 06:17 PM

                                                                                                                                                Agreed. People will say the same thing about Indian/Pakistani restaurants, "Look and see if a bunch of Indians are eating there." This is patently false. I have found most Indians and Pakistani can't even judge their own foods correctly. Good restaurants will close and people will continue supporting the same old poor quality places. Just like any culture I suppose.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: rockandroller1
                                                                                                                                                s
                                                                                                                                                sisterfunkhaus Jan 3, 2010 10:17 AM

                                                                                                                                                We have one we frequent where we are generally the only Americans in the room. It is Cantonese and is far different from the Americanized Mandarin joint we love. I think real and Americanized each have their own strong points. I try to appreciate each for what it is and not play the, "Is it authentic or not?" game. If you like it, you like it.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: sisterfunkhaus
                                                                                                                                                  c oliver Jan 3, 2010 10:44 AM

                                                                                                                                                  Er, plenty of Chinese people are Americans. Perhaps you meant caucasian.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sisterfunkhaus
                                                                                                                                                    alanbarnes Jan 3, 2010 11:12 AM

                                                                                                                                                    What is "Americanized Mandarin" food? It's been my experience that Americanized Chinese food is based loosely on Cantonese cuisine. Which makes sense - until very recently, the vast majority of Chinese immigrants to America came from the southeast of the country. If you go to any Americanized Chinese restaurant, it's a fairly safe bet the language spoken in the kitchen is Cantonese.

                                                                                                                                                    Americanized Chinese, like any other cuisine, is good when done well. A little monotonous compared to any of the traditional cuisines of China, but tasty nevertheless. But when done poorly, Americanized Chinese food is gloppy, sugary, greasy, and generally downright nasty. The problem is that most places do it poorly.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                                  Ruth Lafler Feb 9, 2009 12:15 PM

                                                                                                                                                  Let me just stick up for "Americanized" Chinese food here. Instead of judging food by whether it is authentic or inauthentic, I prefer to judge food by whether it's delicious or not. There are some "Americanized Chinese" dishes that can be delicious if made with care and decent ingredients, just as there are some American Italian dishes that can be delicious. Conversely, there are some "authentic" Chinese restaurants where the food is just mediocre: sloppily made or made with poor ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                                                    Midlife Feb 9, 2009 01:07 PM

                                                                                                                                                    I'd agree that, if you take Americanized Chinese food as a 'cuisine' by itself, it can be judged on a separate basis and, like anything else, there's great to horrible and everything in between.

                                                                                                                                                    In Los Angeles' Chinatown there's a restaurant called Yang Chow that I first went to on its opening day (in the 80's I think). They do what I consider a first class job of what connoisseurs call 'Americanized' Chinese. To someone who is more used to Panda Express, I'm sure Yang Chow is a world apart and would seem like 'the real thing' in comparison. But Yang Chow IS Americanized and you rarely see Chinese people eating there as you do in the 'authentic' places in the same neighborhood. I really love Yang Chow's food and often see it demeaned on the LA board as not being worth the trip. I also love 'the real thing'. Two essentially different animals though you have to be familiar with both to know the difference.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                                                      luckyfatima Feb 10, 2009 09:38 AM

                                                                                                                                                      I absolutely agree with this, Ruth Lafler...and although I have a very strong penchant for authentic Chinese food, there is nothing wrong with the genre of Americanized Chinese as long as it is well made. Sometimes I even get cravings for some good ole beef and broccoli or kung pao chicken.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: luckyfatima
                                                                                                                                                        c
                                                                                                                                                        cimui Feb 10, 2009 03:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                        shoot, kung pao chicken (kun1 bao3 ji1 ding1) isn't authentic? i'm going to be really mad at my mom if this is true.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cimui
                                                                                                                                                          raytamsgv Feb 13, 2009 09:20 AM

                                                                                                                                                          AFAIK, Kung Pao Chicken is a real Chinese dish. But its implementation in most Chinese restaurants is not authentic. This is true of other dishes, such as chow mein, soups, stir fry, etc.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                                                        kchurchill5 Feb 10, 2009 09:41 AM

                                                                                                                                                        Extremely well put. It is like many of the blogs on here ... True pizza or true pastrami or reubens, etc. I am not knocking any of the dishes or recipes, just that every recipe has a true origin, but maybe years and years ago. No, each part of the country and every city and state has their own versions what they consider authentic. And it may be for their city or town. To me it is whether it is good or not which is all that matters.

                                                                                                                                                        Someone wrote about Panda Express ... below. We have one and it is horrible, but others said it is good. China Palace another one I don't like but others do. But there are many in the area which I like. So all personal tastes and likes and dislikes.

                                                                                                                                                        I visited back home a couple of years ago, Detroit ... I went to the China area and visited a couple of local places. Very similar to what we eat or call Americanized Chinese but unique and done their way. I was not impressed because I am so used to American Chinese. Well done, just not to my liking.

                                                                                                                                                      3. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                                        t
                                                                                                                                                        thinks too much Feb 10, 2009 09:25 AM

                                                                                                                                                        I always read "Chinese American" signs to signify that it was even more American than your standard Chinese takeout. You could probably get a plate of spagetti or a pork chop there.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: thinks too much
                                                                                                                                                          c oliver Feb 10, 2009 12:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                          I think that's what I meant also. Those signs just seem to shout that message, don't they?

                                                                                                                                                          I live at Lake Tahoe in NoCal after years in SF. We have NO good Chinese restaurants here so when I get to SF I stick with non-Americanized simply because I can't get it except when travelling.

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