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Could you give me a list of dishes that are considered Chinese-American food?

c oliver Feb 14, 2010 06:38 PM

This evening a Chow-buddy sent me a picture of cashew chicken that she had fixed tonight. It looked great. But it got me to thinking, is cashew chicken considered CA food? What dishes are? Almond chicken? Chop suey? Etc.? Its interesting to me to know more about this. thanks.

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  1. ipsedixit RE: c oliver Feb 14, 2010 07:02 PM

    This might be a place to start. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americ...

    But in truth Chinese American cuisine has less to do with a particular dish (eg egg roll or egg foo young) and more to do with how a particular dish is presented and prepared.

    Take chop suey for example. This is essentially a garbage plate - a stir fry of whatever is left in the fridge. An "authentic" version might be hot and spicy if made by a Sichuan family or more pungent if given a Hunanese flair. The ingredients could range anywhere from nappa cabbage to ong choy to things like lotus root or enoki mushrooms. Meanwhile, the Chinese American version might be what you'd find at a typical fast food place - a sweet slightly tangy glop of pedestrian veggies and canned mushrooms and baby corn.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit
      raytamsgv RE: ipsedixit Feb 15, 2010 09:58 AM

      Definitely agree. It has far more to do with the preparation and presentation style than anything else. Many dishes have the same ingredients, but they are prepared differently for Chinese and non-Chinese palettes.

      Take for example "moo goo gai pan." The literal translation is "sliced chicken with mushrooms." A typical Cantonese-American way of cooking that would include diced/sliced veggies, sliced chicken, and mushrooms all covered with a generic corn starch-based sauce. But a typical Cantonese way of cooking this might use different spices (e.g. ginger and scallions) and very little sauce. The veggies would be sliced differently and cooked separately with possibly a light sauce.

      Thus, you have the same ingredients but end up with totally different tastes and textures.

      1. re: ipsedixit
        Chemicalkinetics RE: ipsedixit Feb 19, 2010 08:09 PM

        What? Authentic Chop Suey is American Chop Suey. Sichuan and Hunanses Chop Suey are the unauthentic ones.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
          jgg13 RE: Chemicalkinetics Feb 20, 2010 04:43 AM

          You might want to watch your phrasing, "american chop suey" is a dish that would never be served in a chinese resto :)

          1. re: jgg13
            Chemicalkinetics RE: jgg13 Feb 20, 2010 07:53 AM

            :) Ok, the term may have an alternative definition, but Chop Suey (雜碎) which means "multi-component bits" was invented in USA. It is tough to pin-point the exact invention date as much dishes, but we know it existed as early as 1879, made by Chinese-Americans.

            When Li HongZhang (李鴻章), visited US, he was served Chop Suey. Consequently, Chop Suey full name is Li HongZhang Chop Suey (李鴻章雜碎). Of course, Chop Suey redate Li HongZhang, but it got famous afterward.

            When 梁啟超 (Liang Qichao) visited US, he also mentioned Chop Suey, but he mentioned it as a foreign food to him.

            I think my main point still stands. Given that Chop Suey is invented in US by Cantonese-American. The US Chop Suey is the authentic. Whatever Sichuan and Hunanses came up later is their re-invention, but cannot be more authentic.

            It will be like saying the Luxor pyramid in Las Vegas is more authentic than the Great Pyramid of Khufu in Giza. :)

      2. luckyfatima RE: c oliver Feb 14, 2010 07:19 PM

        Many American Chinese dishes are based on Cantonese or other Southern Chinese dishes, but made to suit local tastes and the "standard" recipes were developed a few decades ago with limited availability of ingredients, so the ingredients are different and based on local availability.

        1. PeterL RE: c oliver Feb 14, 2010 08:25 PM

          Chop suey, chow mein (with the crispy "noodles"), war won ton soup, and egg foo young.

          1. PeterL RE: c oliver Feb 14, 2010 08:26 PM

            Oh, and of course fortune cookies.

            1. Kajikit RE: c oliver Feb 15, 2010 03:58 AM

              Everything on the menu from the local take-out... General Tso's chicken and egg-rolls spring to mind.

              1. shaogo RE: c oliver Feb 15, 2010 04:44 AM

                Egg Foo Young
                Chow Mein (shredded meat, veggies in gloppy sauce, with crispy fried noodles on top)
                Shrimp with Lobster Sauce (although the egg-drop sauce is used extensively by the Cantonese)
                Chicken Almong Ding (many 'hounds may be too young to remember this)
                Fire Cracker Beef
                Steak Kew
                Crabmeat "Rangoon"
                Any dish that shamelessly combines chicken, beef, roast pork and shrimp on one plate.

                I also find it humorous that American Chinese restaurateurs have for over half a century been getting us to salivate over a dish that sounds so much like "poop;" the ubiquitous "Pu-Pu platter."

                3 Replies
                1. re: shaogo
                  c oliver RE: shaogo Feb 15, 2010 08:56 AM

                  So chow fun with a combo of meats and shrimp? C-A? My husband prefers that and I don't. Now I have a compelling argument :)

                  1. re: shaogo
                    KaimukiMan RE: shaogo Feb 15, 2010 09:33 PM

                    the funny thing is that the word pu-pu comes originally from spanish, was adopted in Hawaii and applied to appetizers from there. go figure

                    1. re: KaimukiMan
                      jgg13 RE: KaimukiMan Feb 16, 2010 07:27 AM

                      From what I recall of Sippin' Safari, the whole chinese-american/polynesian-american tie in with tiki drinks (zombie, scorpion bowl, etc) was due to the original joints hiring filipino cooks. I've also heard that a lot of the now ubiquitous C-A appetizers, like crab rangoons were created by the folks at Trader Vics and these same spots.

                      Jumping from "tropical feel with polynesian influences" to "polynesian joint with C-A influences" and further is a somewhat logical leap.

                  2. Passadumkeg RE: c oliver Feb 15, 2010 05:15 AM

                    I received the same photo and email as well. The caption is for happy Chinese New Year, but the recipe she used is Thai, not Chinese; ergo this thread is moot vis a vie the photo. I thought you were more open minded.
                    This should be a pretty long list....

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Passadumkeg
                      c oliver RE: Passadumkeg Feb 15, 2010 07:08 AM

                      Ah, I didnt know it was Thai, a cuisine I know next to nothing about. I'm not being critical of C-A food at all. But it gets mentioned on CH pretty often and I think its interesting. I first got involved in the discussion when I got "chow mein" in NYC and it bore NO relationship to what I'd always thought was CM. Seems that it was the C-A version.

                    2. c
                      Chefpaulo RE: c oliver Feb 15, 2010 05:33 AM

                      To me, all stir fried-and-dumped-on-white-rice are CA variants. My true eye-opening experience was going to China in 2000 and finding very little similarity between anything served there compared to here. Examples: I had some of the best sliced corned beef ever in Xian where corn fed beef is a specialty; Shanghainese grilled pigeon, quail eggs and sea cucumber in a sweet brown sauce baked in a clay crock; crispy breaded perch with a scallion and hot chili sauce...and the list goes on. And, believe it or not, rice was rarely served. My guide asked "Do you have mashed potatoes with every meal?" Point well taken.


                      66 Replies
                      1. re: Chefpaulo
                        Sam Fujisaka RE: Chefpaulo Feb 15, 2010 06:32 AM

                        There is no need to compare Chinese American and Chinese cuisines. It is like comparing Mexican and TexMex. It is like comparing humans and chimpanzees. The evolutionary splits took place too long ago to make comparison appropriate or reasonable.

                        1. re: Chefpaulo
                          PeterL RE: Chefpaulo Feb 15, 2010 08:22 AM

                          Rice was rarely served because rice is a southern china grain. For northern and western china wheat is the grain and noodles are the main carb. The early Chinese immigrants to the US were from southern China, thus the predominance of rice. Actually Cantonese do have rice with every meal. Americans have bread with every meal. Northern Chinese have noodles or steamed buns with every meal. Your guide's question was mistaken.

                          1. re: PeterL
                            c oliver RE: PeterL Feb 15, 2010 08:45 AM

                            That should have been my first clue that something as amiss, from my standpoint anyway, when they asked if I wanted steamed or fried rice with my chow mein.

                            1. re: PeterL
                              Chefpaulo RE: PeterL Feb 15, 2010 05:02 PM

                              Ummm....we do? They do? He was?
                              Sam's observation above rightly points out there is no need to compare the two. Furthermore, there's no support for cultural mandate of meal composition. I am American but do not have bread with every meal. I know Germans who do not insist on saurerkraut and Italians who do not demand pasta. Where does this actuality of yours come from?


                              1. re: Chefpaulo
                                PeterL RE: Chefpaulo Feb 15, 2010 05:52 PM

                                Of course there are exceptions. I am not speaking of every single individual in the US. I don't know every Chinese so I can't say 100% of Cantonese have rice for dinner. But close enough. Everytime I go out with friends for Cantonese food we have rice, even banquets where some kind of rice usually brings up the rare.

                                1. re: Chefpaulo
                                  PorkButt RE: Chefpaulo Feb 15, 2010 06:05 PM

                                  I'll back PeterL's comment about rice in southern Chinese cuisine. Aside from the likes of formal banquets, individual noodle-based dishes, congee, and dim sum, rice is served. That's been my experience in Cantonese-American homes in the US and travels to Hong Kong and both urban and rural southern China.

                                  Northern China can only support one harvest of rice a year while southern China can have as many as three.

                                  The crack about bread is a bit much though. But I do know some people who must have a starch, meat, and side. Plus bread ;^)

                                  1. re: PorkButt
                                    Miss Needle RE: PorkButt Feb 16, 2010 06:54 AM

                                    I've read something in my Cantonese cookbooks about the phrase "Have you eaten yet?" is answered in the affirmative when you have eaten rice. If you ate noodles the answer would be no.

                                    1. re: Miss Needle
                                      scoopG RE: Miss Needle Feb 16, 2010 07:11 AM

                                      In Chinese - whether Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese or any dialect, a common greeting is "Have you eaten yet?" Ni chi le fan mei? While yes fan literally means rice, here it does not denote rice.

                                      1. re: scoopG
                                        c oliver RE: scoopG Feb 16, 2010 08:34 AM

                                        A Chinese acquaintance of mine told me the same thing.

                                        1. re: scoopG
                                          Miss Needle RE: scoopG Feb 16, 2010 09:47 AM

                                          Hmmm... interesting. Perhaps I have misinterpreted the cookbook comment. Unfortunately I don't have that cookbook anymore (got destroyed from using it too much). I believe it was an older version of one of Eileen Yin Fei Lo's current cookbooks.

                                          1. re: Miss Needle
                                            buttertart RE: Miss Needle Feb 16, 2010 10:19 AM

                                            Her discussions of Chinese expressions are sometimes a bit odd. Fan means food in the most general form. Ni chi fan le meiyou or its variants are just a way of saying hello, how are you (because famine was always a possibility and eating food = wellbeing). Only a smartypants would say no if they had just eaten noodles.

                                            1. re: buttertart
                                              raytamsgv RE: buttertart Feb 16, 2010 12:58 PM

                                              "Fan" does not mean "food in the most general form." It means only "cooked rice." "Chi fan" literally means "eat rice" but people will generally understand that it does not necessarily mean eating just rice.

                                              I've been told that Shanghai people use a slightly different question:
                                              "Chi1 guo4 le mei2 you3?" 吃 過 了 沒 有 ("Have you already eaten?")

                                              1. re: raytamsgv
                                                scoopG RE: raytamsgv Feb 16, 2010 01:20 PM

                                                Fan has two meanings. One is "cooked rice" or any other cooked cereal i.e. millet etc. Second meaning of fan is "meal."

                                                Chi fan le mei?, chi guo le mei?, chi fan le mei you? chi guo le meiyou? All mean the same thing and are are polite greetings asking if the listener has eaten or not.

                                                1. re: scoopG
                                                  buttertart RE: scoopG Feb 16, 2010 01:30 PM

                                                  By "food in the most general form" I meant "a meal" as scoopG indicates here. A meal since rice - or another starch by extension - is the foundation of same. As in prepared dishes "cai" being often called "xia fan cai", things to make the rice go down, accompaniments to the main part of the meal.

                                                  1. re: buttertart
                                                    raytamsgv RE: buttertart Feb 16, 2010 03:59 PM

                                                    We're probably just splitting hairs at this point. Regardless, people will understand what someone is saying when they ask if someone has eaten.

                                                    1. re: raytamsgv
                                                      PorkButt RE: raytamsgv Feb 16, 2010 07:10 PM

                                                      It's not splitting hairs, the Chinese language relies on subtleties. In Cantonese a meal is chaan (don't have time to look up the character or to find the pinyin word), a dish is choi (as buttertart mentioned, cai3), and a cooked starch staple (but not noodles) is faahn (fan4)

                                                      Now if you were to tell people to start eating, the phrase in Mandarin is chi1 (ba) or chi1 fan4 (eat or eat fan4) while saying chi1 cai3 would be considered strange.

                                                      1. re: PorkButt
                                                        raytamsgv RE: PorkButt Feb 17, 2010 09:47 AM

                                                        For Chinese speakers, I agree that it's important. I am very careful in what I say to people in Chinese. But most people who have posted probably don't speak Chinese. For them, it is splitting hair. It has little importance to them, and if they tried say anything even remotely similar to "chi fan", they would be understood. My Mandarin isn't the greatest, and even when I butcher a phrase in Mandarin, people generally understand the intent.

                                                        1. re: raytamsgv
                                                          buttertart RE: raytamsgv Feb 17, 2010 10:01 AM

                                                          Some do, some don't, speak Chinese (a dialect, at least as a second or third language). Those posting in detail do, I expect.

                                    2. re: Chefpaulo
                                      Ruth Lafler RE: Chefpaulo Feb 19, 2010 04:09 PM

                                      While individuals may choose not to eat bread every day, it is considered conventional for an American meal to include bread of some kind. Rare is the American restaurant meal that doesn't include a bread of some kind. Breakfast, for example, usually comes with toast or some other bread variation (muffin, biscuit), even it if includes another starch like potatoes. The sandwich is the classic American lunch, or a bowl of soup that is often served with a roll, or for something like chili, with cornbread. Dinner usually comes with either a bread basket or a dinner roll, etc. I didn't grow up with bread on the table but I remember eating at friends' houses where there was always bread and butter on the table, even though there was another starch in the meal.

                                    3. re: PeterL
                                      ipsedixit RE: PeterL Feb 15, 2010 08:14 PM

                                      Actually Cantonese do have rice with every meal. Americans have bread with every meal. Northern Chinese have noodles or steamed buns with every meal. Your guide's question was mistaken.


                                      if that statement wasn't so outrageously incorrect it would border on food racism.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                        chowser RE: ipsedixit Feb 16, 2010 05:57 AM

                                        Do pop tarts count as bread?;-)

                                        1. re: chowser
                                          mcf RE: chowser Feb 22, 2010 08:53 AM

                                          Darlin', they don't even count as *food.* ;-)

                                      2. re: PeterL
                                        pikawicca RE: PeterL Feb 21, 2010 08:38 AM

                                        Most Americans I know do NOT have bread with every meal. Is this a regional thing?

                                        1. re: pikawicca
                                          alanbarnes RE: pikawicca Feb 21, 2010 08:54 AM

                                          Regional, maybe, but I think it may also be a generational thing. My great-grandparents (New Mexico) were born around the turn of the last century and would not have considered serving a meal without at least one kind of bread. My mom's husband's parents (Alabama) were maybe a decade younger and also felt that a meal was incomplete without bread on the table.

                                          Which, to bring things back to this thread, let to an interesting story about a meal in a Chinese restaurant in Tuscaloosa. Suffice it to say the waitress eventually broke down, went to the grocery next door, and bought a loaf of bread. Crazy Americans.

                                          1. re: alanbarnes
                                            Chemicalkinetics RE: alanbarnes Feb 21, 2010 08:59 AM

                                            A Chinese restaurant waitress "broke down" and went to grocery to buy a loaf of bread. I don't get it. She broke down because she was denied to have bread for herself or she broke down because the customers demanded bread?

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                              alanbarnes RE: Chemicalkinetics Feb 21, 2010 11:37 AM

                                              "Broke down" as in "gave up." The server explained that bread is not a traditional accompaniment to a Chinese meal; the response was "but where's the bread?" So she gave up trying to explain and bought a loaf of bread.

                                              1. re: alanbarnes
                                                Chemicalkinetics RE: alanbarnes Feb 21, 2010 11:42 AM

                                                Oh! I finally got it. Ha ha ha. Thanks. At first, I thought the waitress wanted to eat bread, but her coworkers won't give her any bread, so she broke down (as in crying), ran out and get her own bread -- of course, that didn't make much sense, but that was how I translated it.

                                            2. re: alanbarnes
                                              pikawicca RE: alanbarnes Feb 21, 2010 12:29 PM

                                              Very strange behavior, demanding bread in a Chinese restaurant.

                                              1. re: pikawicca
                                                buttertart RE: pikawicca Feb 21, 2010 03:36 PM

                                                Perhaps not in Tuscaloosa?

                                              2. re: alanbarnes
                                                buttertart RE: alanbarnes Feb 21, 2010 03:36 PM

                                                Very much a generational thing, my great-uncle (b. 1895) wouldn't ever have a meal without bread, my mother usually served some form of it (my mother-in-law always serves it), and I do or do not depending on what I'm serving. Change in diet due to increased affluence in the society as much as anything.

                                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                                  danieljdwyer RE: alanbarnes Feb 22, 2010 04:16 AM

                                                  Also, maybe cultural, in terms of descent. My Irish American grandparents, born in the Aughts, only used bread for sandwiches, toast, and stuffing. Pototoes, however, were part of ever meal, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I've never eaten a meal in an Italian American home, even served by folks born in the Eighties, that didn't include bread.

                                            3. re: Chefpaulo
                                              Ruth Lafler RE: Chefpaulo Feb 19, 2010 04:16 PM

                                              Food that is served in restaurants is not the same as food eaten at home, especially not what sound like rather high-end meals. Chinese banquets often don't include rice because rice is considered an inexpensive filler, and eating it implies that the host hasn't provided enough of the special dishes.

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                scoopG RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 19, 2010 05:20 PM

                                                No, rice is often not served at Chinese banquets because it is considered an "inexpensive filler" but because the host wants to impress his/her guests with an abundance of dishes. In most of the Chinese cuisines rice or noodles is considered a mandatory compliment tot he meal. One exception is Dongbei cuisine where breads take the place of rice.

                                                1. re: scoopG
                                                  c oliver RE: scoopG Feb 19, 2010 05:24 PM

                                                  I'm sorry, isn't that what she said?

                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                    scoopG RE: c oliver Feb 19, 2010 07:41 PM

                                                    No. Rice is not by any means an "inexpensive filler" in Chinese Banquets or Cuisine but is considered part and parcel part of the meal for most Chinese in everyday living. It completes the meal. If not served at a Banquet, it is not because it is "inexpensive filler" but because the host wants to showcase his/her wealth or prestige by serving extra dishes. Often there is a noodle dish served instead at Banquets since uncut noodles are a sign of longevity. Rice cultivation in China is very labor intensive - one Chinese peasant farmer feeds three people and while in the south there are two rice growing seasons, there is only one in the north. And every Chinese grows up being reminded that he/she must finish every kernal of rice in every bowl and not let even one go to waste.

                                                    1. re: scoopG
                                                      ipsedixit RE: scoopG Feb 19, 2010 07:59 PM

                                                      "And every Chinese grows up being reminded that he/she must finish every kernal of rice in every bowl and not let even one go to waste."


                                                      Or else you'll end up marrying a wife with a freckled face.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                                        FrankD RE: ipsedixit Feb 19, 2010 10:11 PM

                                                        I heard that children are told there will be one more pockmark on their face for every grain of rice left in their bowls.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                          raytamsgv RE: ipsedixit Feb 19, 2010 10:38 PM

                                                          I'm pleased to report that my wife does not have freckles--I must've been a very good boy at the dinner table. :-)

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit
                                                            KTinNYC RE: ipsedixit Feb 20, 2010 06:26 AM

                                                            "Or else you'll end up marrying a wife with a freckled face."

                                                            I heard pock-marked.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                              K K RE: ipsedixit Feb 20, 2010 08:05 AM

                                                              There are Chinese people with freckles.

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                chowser RE: ipsedixit Feb 22, 2010 04:54 AM

                                                                I was told you have to think about every grain of rice and how much work it took for someone to plant it, grow, harvest, ship, etc. to get it to us and we can't waste that effort.

                                                                1. re: chowser
                                                                  Chemicalkinetics RE: chowser Feb 22, 2010 05:07 AM

                                                                  It is from an infamous poem

                                                              2. re: scoopG
                                                                Ruth Lafler RE: scoopG Feb 19, 2010 08:28 PM

                                                                "it is not because it is "inexpensive filler" but because the host wants to showcase his/her wealth or prestige by serving extra dishes..."

                                                                In other words, serving rice does not show wealth or prestige.

                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                  c oliver RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 19, 2010 08:36 PM

                                                                  I'm glad *I* understood what you were saying.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                                    Ruth Lafler RE: c oliver Feb 20, 2010 08:38 AM

                                                                    Me. too! And this quibble is distracting from my main point, which is that you cannot extrapolate -- as the poster did -- based on a few experiences of high-end meals in what are probably tourist-oriented restaurants, that rice is not usually served as part of a *typical* Chinese meal and therefore serving a stir fry with rice makes a restaurant Chinese-American. That said, if a restaurant serves basically *only* stir fries "dumped over rice" and no braised dishes, clay pots, whole fish, etc., then it probably is Chinese-American.

                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                      FrankD RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 20, 2010 11:14 PM

                                                                      Just to put another note on it, we had a party at home to celebrate my elder daughter's 16th birthday. This was for her family (her party with friends was last week), and the "extended" family of long-time close friends. There were 7 white people and 12+ Chinese. Everything was home made, except the roasted suckling pig. We served on the buffet:

                                                                      a stew of cubed pork and vegetables (probably more Filipino than Chinese)
                                                                      whole fish in soy and green onions
                                                                      green mango salad (Thai, but we all love it)
                                                                      suckling pig
                                                                      lumpia Shanghai (spring rolls the size of the your little finger)
                                                                      coconut cream curry
                                                                      chicken adobo (again, Filipino)

                                                                      and, in the centre of table, to which virtually everyone helped themselves,

                                                                      glass noodle stir fry
                                                                      white rice

                                                                      And I wager if either of the latter two had been missing, people would have been asking for it. I noticed the rice bowl had to be refilled twice over the course of the evening.

                                                                      So a typical Chinese-Canadian extended family, enjoying a celebration banquet, expected to have both rice and noodles available, enjoyed large amounts of both, and no one batted an eyelash.

                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                        scoopG RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 21, 2010 03:23 AM

                                                                        In Dongbei cuisine, rice is NOT even served in restaurants unless one asks for it. The idea of not serving rice during banquets comes from Imperial China where up to 100 dishes would be served at the Emperor's discretion - having nothing to do with "inexpensive filler."

                                                                        1. re: scoopG
                                                                          Ruth Lafler RE: scoopG Feb 21, 2010 11:58 PM

                                                                          All right, "inexpensive filler" was a poor choice of words. However, the point is the same: plain rice is not served at banquets because it's not considered "special," does not reflect the status of the host and implies that the host has not provided enough of the "special" dishes to satisfy the guests.

                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                            scoopG RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 22, 2010 03:41 AM

                                                                            At formal Chinese state banquets, the exalted guest will be asked ahead of time for his/her favorite Chinese food. And if that turns out to be rice, fried rice or whatever, it will be served.

                                                                            1. re: scoopG
                                                                              scoopG RE: scoopG Feb 23, 2010 09:09 AM

                                                                              Oh, at the state dinner in the Great Hall of the People hosted by Zhou En Lai for Richard Nixon in February 1972, bread and butter was served on every table.

                                                                              1. re: scoopG
                                                                                buttertart RE: scoopG Feb 23, 2010 09:31 AM

                                                                                Because it's the custom to honor one's guests to the utmost of one's understanding of their customs and needs. Nice.

                                                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                          buttertart RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 21, 2010 05:15 AM

                                                                          Which poster said that? The point was that rice is not usually served until the very end of a Chinese BANQUET if at all, not that it's not usually served with a "*typical* Chinese meal". Rice being served with a meal in a Chinese restaurant in the West certainly doesn't make the food "Chinese-American" because rice is a staple in the Chinese diet. What is served with a typical Chinese meal in China varies with the area, rice or other staple starch, depending on geographic area. A formal banquet is a whole other thing from a typical meal, Chinese Chinese or Chinese American. If the poster you are referring to is the one I think it is, I would venture to say that s/he has more experience than many in the matter of authentic Chinese food in the US, and in China - not just in a "few probably tourist-oriented restaurants" . Since your knowledge is obviously considerable, I presume your experience is comparable? Extensive time spent in Asia and a consuming interest in the topic both gastronomically and as a scholarly pursuit? Welcome to the club.
                                                                          If interested in the Chinese take on CA food, at least of the Sichuan variety, I suggest a look at the essay on the subject on the Grand Sichuan NY restaurant's website: http://www.thegrandsichuan.com//?p=48
                                                                          It seems to me to cover the concept at least as it relates to Sichuan food. The other old warhorses, cashew or almond or pineapple chicken, moo goo gai pan (mushrooms with sliced chicken in a phonetic transliteration, a homestyle dish absorbed into the repertoire), fried rice with soy sauce added, chop suey, chow mein - these in myriad local US variations, and many others, are Chinese-American dishes in the sense of dishes provided by Chinese restaurants and cooked usually by Chinese people for non-Chinese Americans. The Chinese-X Western country adaptation has many iterations worldwiide, to cater to the local markets. There is an interesting thread here on Chinese food in various locations: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/489739
                                                                          I'm originally from Canada and I can assure fellow Canadians that that local favourite, the chicken ball, is nowhere to be found in any of the restaurants I've been in in China.

                                                                          1. re: buttertart
                                                                            Ruth Lafler RE: buttertart Feb 22, 2010 12:07 AM

                                                                            I'm not sure what your point is. I was responding to this post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6880...

                                                                            You seem to be disagreeing with me, but in fact, what you said in the first sentence is exactly what I said (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6880...) : you cannot extrapolate from what a visitor is served in what appeared to be -- as described -- upscale restaurants in China, as to what is served with a typical Chinese meal. And thus, you cannot say that because rice was rarely served at those meals, that serving rice means a restaurant is Americanized.

                                                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                        FrankD RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 19, 2010 10:10 PM

                                                                        At banquets, plain rice is never served, but I have often had a course of a special fried rice (filled with shrimp and scallops, usually).

                                                                        And at virtually every "everyday" Chinese restaurant in Toronto, where most Chinese are immigrants, not natives, "Pai foon" (white rice) is ordered at almost every table. People put a scoop of rice in their bowl, put some food from one of the communal dishes on top, and use the rice to sop all the sauce before they try the next dish. This prevents the different sauces from commingling in your bowl.

                                                                        At most banquets, new plates are brought out for every course, so the sauces aren't a problem.

                                                                        1. re: FrankD
                                                                          fourunder RE: FrankD Feb 20, 2010 06:43 AM

                                                                          I have been to many Chinese Banquets over the years....hundreds actually, in New York, Boston and Los Angeles and San Francisco. While no white rice was ever served with any dish, I cannot recall where any event did not end with a Special Fried Rice served....and noodles in the middle.

                                                                          1. re: fourunder
                                                                            K K RE: fourunder Feb 20, 2010 08:07 AM

                                                                            I've been to at least 5 banquets in different parts of Taiwan, two of them were weddings. The wedding ones were overkill, at least 20 courses. The starch/rice or noodle dish was nearing the end. But you really don't need it. It was literally torture halfway through.

                                                                            1. re: K K
                                                                              fourunder RE: K K Feb 20, 2010 08:33 AM

                                                                              I can't say I've ever been tortured with any of the food...items, number of courses and etc., but I can say I have been tortured in the beginning waiting for the festivities and dinner to begin.....many times over a two hour wait. Thankfully, there was always a bottle of 12 year old scotch and a cognac on the table.

                                                                              1. re: fourunder
                                                                                raytamsgv RE: fourunder Feb 22, 2010 02:53 PM

                                                                                That's why we always show up "late." We know it will start at least one hour late. I've seen some cases where the banquet invitation in in English and Chinese, and the banquet start time in English is later than the start time in Chinese. In the US, non-Chinese people take the start time more seriously.

                                                                              2. re: K K
                                                                                linguafood RE: K K Feb 21, 2010 08:28 AM

                                                                                literally? ouch.

                                                                        2. re: scoopG
                                                                          Sam Fujisaka RE: scoopG Feb 20, 2010 04:38 AM

                                                                          A substantial proportion of Chinese rice production has been highly upgraded to be more mechanized, less labor intensive, much more capital intrensive; including developments like using hybrid (in the true, genetic sense and not in the popular sense as is used on these boards) rice. Rural labor costs have increased greatly in the last decade or so along with high labor demand in the new manufacturing hubs along the coast.

                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                            scoopG RE: Sam Fujisaka Feb 21, 2010 03:38 AM

                                                                            While China has doubled the area of rice production under mechanization since 1995, mechanized rice production still is only about one quarter of overall Chinese rice production today - and is increasing year by year.

                                                                            1. re: scoopG
                                                                              Sam Fujisaka RE: scoopG Feb 21, 2010 07:25 AM

                                                                              Yes, that is a HUGE increase in mechanized area. In areas of favorable water control and use of hybids (now 50% of China's rice area), production can be two crops per year at eight tons per ha. Rice area has actually decreased in China due to increases in productivity in favorable areas.

                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                scoopG RE: Sam Fujisaka Feb 21, 2010 12:09 PM

                                                                                Yes, although rice production has decreased in China since 2000, they are still the world's number rice producer with over 31 million ha under cultivation (39% of their total grain production.) My understanding is that China uses multiple systems: One annual harvest using hybrid seed rice; two annual harvests using both inbred rice and hybrid rice and two annual harvests of hybrid rice. China is under tremendous pressure to both increase rural incomes and rice production at the same time - no small task in a land where fully 50% of the labor force is employed in agriculture.

                                                                                1. re: scoopG
                                                                                  Sam Fujisaka RE: scoopG Feb 21, 2010 03:33 PM

                                                                                  Yes, rice production in China has decreased due to changes in land use in less favorable rice areas, crop diversification, reduced per capita consumption in China, and increased agricultural labor costs. But give me a break. This is beginning to feel like work (I was at the International Rice Research Institute for years!)

                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                    scoopG RE: Sam Fujisaka Feb 21, 2010 03:56 PM

                                                                                    I know, I know Sam! Also there has been somewhat of shift from rice to vegetables in some areas as they generate more profits for the peasants. Let's start a separate Thrice Red er I mean Rice Thread :)

                                                                  2. re: Chefpaulo
                                                                    FrankD RE: Chefpaulo Feb 19, 2010 04:32 PM

                                                                    I married into a Chinese family. They have rice with practically chinese meal; if we're having something western like roast beef, then it might be yorkshires and potatoes. One thing I have noticed is if they're having noodles, they usually don't have rice, and if they're having rice, they usually don't have noodles. But I live in a heavily Chinese part of Toronto, and every time I grocery shop, I notice the Chinese families with 20-lb bags of rice in their carts. Most of these people are fairly recent immigrants (10 years or so), and I don't think they picked up the habit of eating that much rice here.

                                                                    Also, every Chinese appliance store has a wide selection of rice cookers, and it is a traditional wedding gift.

                                                                    Finally, since when do "corned beef" and "corn fed beef" have anything to do with each other? Corned beef refers to the coarse salt "corns" used to pickle the meat. It has nothing to do with the grain.

                                                                  3. Perilagu Khan RE: c oliver Feb 15, 2010 06:11 AM

                                                                    Would moo goo gai pan qualify?

                                                                    1. K K RE: c oliver Feb 15, 2010 09:24 AM

                                                                      Anything served by the likes of Panda Express, Mr Chao's (franchise in Northern California), and cough cough... PF Chang's interpretations of various Chinese dishes.

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: K K
                                                                        ipsedixit RE: K K Feb 15, 2010 09:50 AM

                                                                        Why Panda Express?

                                                                        While I'm not saying that Panda is authentic Chinese (whatever that means) but certainly not everything on the menu is Chinese American, right? Take fried rice or chow mein - are these dishes exclusively Chinese American? Certainly people in china were eating fried rice long before North America was settled by Europeans. And what of broccoli beef? I'm certain the Chinese were stir frying broccoli with marinated beef shank long before the panda became an iconic symbol of the far east.

                                                                        Like I said above, I think Chinese American cuisine has more to do with HOW foods are prepared and less with being about a definitive categorical list of dishes. So it might be more apt to say that the WAY Panda makes their food is indicative of Chinese American cuisine but even that may be too sweeping of a statement because what is so inauthentic about how they make their fried rice?

                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                          KaimukiMan RE: ipsedixit Feb 15, 2010 09:40 PM

                                                                          I don't dispute that chinese may have been cooking with broccoli for a long time, but i'm pretty sure broccoli isn't native to asia, rather the Mediterranean. Maybe Marco Polo introduced it to china in exchange for noodles.

                                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                                            Sam Fujisaka RE: KaimukiMan Feb 16, 2010 03:05 AM

                                                                            Although the Chinese have been cooking with other Brassicas since time immemorial.

                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                              scoopG RE: Sam Fujisaka Feb 16, 2010 07:20 AM

                                                                              Correct, Sam! Several different species of Brassica seeds were discovered at the Panpo site (near Xian) which date from the Yangshao culture - about 5,000 to 3,200 B.C.E.

                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                PorkButt RE: Sam Fujisaka Feb 16, 2010 07:32 PM

                                                                                I'd think that the first Chinese immigrant who encountered broccoli (brassica oleracea Italica) wasn't a botanist but thought it sure looked like gai lan (brassica oleracea Alboglabra) and cooked it in the same way.

                                                                                As for stir fried broccoli with marinated beef shank, I've never heard of that prep. Chicken or pork would be the choice in China but chicken in Gold Rush California was rare and expensive while beef was the common meat. I remember that beef flank was the typical cut used into the early 80s because white Americans wouldn't buy it and so it was a cheap leftover cut that Chinese immigrants could afford. How times have changed, now it's overtenderized chunks of cuts like bottom round.

                                                                            2. re: ipsedixit
                                                                              K K RE: ipsedixit Feb 17, 2010 09:18 AM

                                                                              Panda Express is an easy target... ;-/

                                                                              You're right, none of the dishes served by PanEx, PFC, Mr Chao's fast food etc are considered strictly invented in America type of Chinese American food, but rather interpretations and repackaging. But it is an answer, although not the direct one, that the OP is asking in the topic.

                                                                              By repackaging, I mean the steam table aspect of it if you go to deli's, supermarkets in America. Or practically most Chinatowns out there. The only time you'll find steam table Chinese in Hong Kong is maybe at most at a buffet or a Cantonese BBQ place, or in Taiwan, places that sell bento/bien dang. But even then over there, it's not the same stuff. Chinese fast food in Asia is all street food, a totally different mindset.

                                                                              Fried rice...let's see....for one thing it's pure laziness and I suppose American in nature to just add carrots, peas, and/or corn (from frozen packets) to mix in with the fried rice. PanEx fried rice, sure they've got the fried egg and look down, but carrots and peas for sure they have that. Maybe you'll get that prep at your local SoCal Shanghainese or HK style cafe restaurant where $5 gets you a plate of better than Pan Ex quality fried rice, with peas and carrots. But in Hong Kong or Taiwan? That won't fly.

                                                                              Not knocking PanEx in any way, but it's not a matter of authentic or inauthentic Chinese American. It is what it is. For the record, relatives from my better half's side of the family in Taiwan, who once studied in the East Coast for college, the last time I spoke with them, they actually missed having Pan Ex Chinese mall food. But I think it was more so the sentimental memories of that period, rather than the food itself!

                                                                          2. scoopG RE: c oliver Feb 15, 2010 09:26 AM

                                                                            Do you have the recipe or a photo? it seems Cashew Chicken is very big in Springfield, as is a Chow Mein sandwich in parts of New England....

                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                            1. re: scoopG
                                                                              c oliver RE: scoopG Feb 15, 2010 09:45 AM

                                                                              Passadumkeg pointed out that, in fact, it was a Thai dish so has no relevance for C-A.

                                                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                                                scoopG RE: c oliver Feb 15, 2010 09:53 AM

                                                                                This particular dish is served up only in Chinese restaurants in Springfield selling Americanized Chinese fare. Other than that, Chinese use every known nut and legume in their cuisine.

                                                                                1. re: scoopG
                                                                                  buttertart RE: scoopG Feb 15, 2010 03:22 PM

                                                                                  And then some. Isn't there somewhere in the Midwest that has a cashew chicken thing going on, even advertising it on the restaurant neon signs?

                                                                                2. re: c oliver
                                                                                  scoopG RE: c oliver Feb 15, 2010 04:20 PM

                                                                                  Yeah, like the Thai's invented Cashew Chicken. No one before, in 5,000 years of culinary history ever mixed cashews and chicken until the Thais, in when....1952? 1847? 1610? And yes Cashew Chicken served up in Springfield Chinese restaurants has every relevance to Chinese American food.

                                                                                  1. re: scoopG
                                                                                    c oliver RE: scoopG Feb 15, 2010 06:30 PM

                                                                                    Sorry. My point was that even though that dish prompted me to post this, I've just been increasingly interested in what constitutes Chinese-American food vs. "other" Chinese food.

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver
                                                                                      chowser RE: c oliver Feb 16, 2010 06:02 AM

                                                                                      I used to go by the "you know it when you taste it" but I swore the first time I had fried shrimp with mayonnaise and candied walnuts that they must be Chinese American food but have been told they're not. I never had mayo on any chinese food.

                                                                                      1. re: chowser
                                                                                        buttertart RE: chowser Feb 16, 2010 06:13 AM

                                                                                        That recipe originated in Hong Kong in the '80s as a banquet dish.

                                                                                        1. re: buttertart
                                                                                          chowser RE: buttertart Feb 16, 2010 06:42 AM

                                                                                          Yes, and I was so surprised to hear that, too. Don't get me wrong, I like it, for the candied walnuts alone, never mind the fried shrimp and mayo--add bacon and you've got a lot of good components!

                                                                                          1. re: chowser
                                                                                            buttertart RE: chowser Feb 16, 2010 06:56 AM

                                                                                            I like the candied walnuts but not in that context.

                                                                                      2. re: c oliver
                                                                                        Blueicus RE: c oliver Feb 17, 2010 08:29 PM

                                                                                        I've seen cashews used in stir fries at home and at Cantonese restaurants.

                                                                                    2. re: c oliver
                                                                                      Justpaula RE: c oliver Feb 15, 2010 05:09 PM

                                                                                      I am confused...perhaps the particular recipe you and Passadumkeg are referring to is Thai, but I have never seen a Chinese-American take-out menu in NYC without Cashew Chicken on it.

                                                                                  2. m
                                                                                    milkyway4679 RE: c oliver Feb 16, 2010 02:14 PM

                                                                                    As a college student, my friends and I go to the Chinese buffet for eating out (we're in a small town in NYS...the exotic eats are non-existent). So, I know my "Chinese". At the buffet I go to, they regularly have: vegetable fried rice, crab rangoon, sweet and sour chicken, pizza, veggie lo mein, pepper beef, general tso's chicken, "sushi", bacon wrapped pineapple, rice, egg drop soup, won ton soup, sweet and sour soup, fried shrimp, crab legs, seafood mixture (which is basically a bunch of seafood and veggies), chicken wings, french fries, sesame chicken, egg rolls, dumplings, and the list goes on. Haha, the food is yum though, even if it isn't "real" Chinese.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: milkyway4679
                                                                                      Sam Fujisaka RE: milkyway4679 Feb 16, 2010 02:33 PM

                                                                                      I like your atitude and outlook. We had the same approach when we were in college (yeah, yeah, I know! About a million years ago).

                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                        milkyway4679 RE: Sam Fujisaka Feb 20, 2010 11:45 AM

                                                                                        Hey, it tastes better than the slop they serve on campus :D

                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                          alanbarnes RE: Sam Fujisaka Feb 21, 2010 08:10 AM

                                                                                          Bad form to take more mastadon ribs than you can eat...

                                                                                      2. s
                                                                                        sillygoosedown RE: c oliver Feb 20, 2010 07:21 PM

                                                                                        I have quite a few Chinese American friends and they all eat the same things I eat. So to answer your question would be impossible. (I eat way too much LOL!) I even think some of my Chinese American friends are embarrassed to go to a Chinese restaurant because they have a weird hang-up about not appearing FOB.

                                                                                        12 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: sillygoosedown
                                                                                          c oliver RE: sillygoosedown Feb 20, 2010 08:06 PM

                                                                                          Why do you think that Chinese American people eat "Chinese American food"? So different.

                                                                                          1. re: c oliver
                                                                                            Caitlin McGrath RE: c oliver Feb 20, 2010 08:23 PM

                                                                                            You know, I do know Chinese Americans who are fond of some typical Chinese-American food if it is well made, which it certainly can be while still being what it is. My ex is one of them.

                                                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                                                              c oliver RE: Caitlin McGrath Feb 20, 2010 08:28 PM

                                                                                              I don't disagree with you but I'm not sure that sillygoosedown understands what Chinese American food means. It doesn't mean food that Chinese Americans eat.

                                                                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                Caitlin McGrath RE: c oliver Feb 20, 2010 08:36 PM

                                                                                                Okay, I see what you mean. If you reread your post that I replied to, though, you can probably see how the meaning you were trying to convey wasn't immediately clear, and why I read it as I did.

                                                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                                                                  sillygoosedown RE: Caitlin McGrath Feb 20, 2010 08:40 PM

                                                                                                  Even my dog is confused at this point. =D

                                                                                                  1. re: sillygoosedown
                                                                                                    c oliver RE: sillygoosedown Feb 21, 2010 06:40 AM

                                                                                                    So DO you understand that "Chinese-American food" is a genre, if you will, and not the diet of people who are Chinese-American?

                                                                                                  2. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                                                                    c oliver RE: Caitlin McGrath Feb 20, 2010 08:41 PM

                                                                                                    And now I see what you mean :) And I also saw my typo which I corrected. Thanks, Caitlin.

                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                      Chemicalkinetics RE: c oliver Feb 21, 2010 09:26 AM


                                                                                                      I think there are two two interpretations of Chinese-American cuisine. First, the more popular usage, is cuisine which is catered to Western Americans. Sometime, the dishes are based on authenitc Chinese food with a twist. P.F. Chang foods comes in my mind. These are fusion cuisine based on Chinese and many other Southeast Asia elements, most noticeable Thai. Second, dishes which are invented in USA and eaten by Chinese-Americans. The invention of Choy-Suey is as such. Choy-Suey was indeed consumed by Chinese who lived in America at the time, but not by Chinese in mainland. General Tso's chicken is as such. It is invented in US, but it got popular that it made it to Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan... I believe "Beef Broccoli has similar origin.

                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                        Sam Fujisaka RE: Chemicalkinetics Feb 21, 2010 03:35 PM

                                                                                                        Western Americans"???

                                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                          Chemicalkinetics RE: Sam Fujisaka Feb 21, 2010 03:46 PM


                                                                                                          Ha ha ha. Thanks for picking up that typo. Westerner and I really mean European Americans, though Western Americans also sound cool.

                                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                            Sam Fujisaka RE: Chemicalkinetics Feb 21, 2010 04:24 PM

                                                                                                            I was thinking those of us born and raised along the west coast!

                                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                              Chemicalkinetics RE: Sam Fujisaka Feb 21, 2010 04:39 PM


                                                                                                              :) I know. The moment I re-read it, I couldn't stop laughing. I have nothing against the West Coast. I did my middle school, high school, college, grad school all there. California has some of the best Chinese foods in this country.

                                                                                          2. s
                                                                                            smartie RE: c oliver Feb 21, 2010 09:02 AM

                                                                                            this is daft - I am Jewish and have yet to have chicken soup that tastes anything as good as my mum's/grandma's/sister's or my own. Ditto for noodle kugel (lockshen pudding), knishes or anything else I am used to. The food in Jewish delis is NOT like we get at home or had at grandma's growing up. I don't suppose much of it is like Jewish style food from 100 years ago either. The falafel in South Fl does not taste anything like the falafel in Israel.

                                                                                            Food evolves when people move to different countries, probably due to not being able to get all ingredients to start with and a mix of similar cultures but not exactly the same. Even Jewish style foods are different in the UK and America and that division probably began 100 or so years ago.

                                                                                            1. j
                                                                                              just_M RE: c oliver Feb 21, 2010 12:22 PM

                                                                                              How about sizzling rice soup? I love that stuff, but it does have the three meat thing. I will say that the only ones I have loved have been in California. The ones in CA always came with a delicious chiffonaid of veg the ones I've had in AZ and OR have all come with big fat frozen veg and that just ruins it for me. Ever the optomist, I keep trying.

                                                                                              1. Passadumkeg RE: c oliver Feb 21, 2010 03:44 PM

                                                                                                OMG, you mean crab rangoons are not authentic Chinese? I guess I'll have to stick to La Choy and cook t home!

                                                                                                1. m
                                                                                                  monamiestephanie RE: c oliver Mar 11, 2010 10:42 AM

                                                                                                  Fascinating thread.

                                                                                                  Even more fascinating is the notion that rice is not a staple in the northern Chinese diet. That's certainly news to me, as my family is Shanghainese, and we always have rice with every meal. I couldn't even imagine life without it!

                                                                                                  Then again, my family did move to Taiwan in the late 1940s before immigrating to the US in the 1970s, and, perhaps, adapted to the customs of the southern Chinese then.

                                                                                                  I feel somewhat sad though that I never knew this fact about rice, especially since I've visited the north. I'll definitely have to go back, and convince a family to take me in and feed me a traditional, home-cooked meal.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: monamiestephanie
                                                                                                    taiwanesesmalleats RE: monamiestephanie Mar 11, 2010 12:02 PM

                                                                                                    Shanghai straddles the divide between North and South so you'll see elements of both. You get the ubiquitous shengjian and xiao long bao made with wheat flour dough but also see nian gao and the origin of the fan tuan. But for purely Northern food, rice while present at times, is not the focus. Wheat flour products are.

                                                                                                    1. re: monamiestephanie
                                                                                                      Chemicalkinetics RE: monamiestephanie Mar 11, 2010 01:55 PM

                                                                                                      If you have to classify Shanghai, then it is considered as South. The classic definition is the Yangtze River divides the North and South and Shanghai is south of it.

                                                                                                    2. RealMenJulienne RE: c oliver Mar 11, 2010 11:15 PM

                                                                                                      Hi all, I am currently a student in Beijing, and being a second-generation Taiwanese American who grew up in the Midwest I can share a few things about Chinese vs Chinese American (CA) food as I've experienced it here. I think rather than comparative list of entrees it's more helpful to talk about general principles which set the two apart.

                                                                                                      Pretty much 100% of my eating is done in little diners, noodle shacks and street stands so my observations are definitely skewed toward the cheaper end of the spectrum. It's true that here in the north more people are eating wheat noodles and breads over rice, but not vastly more. Maybe like a 6 to 5 ratio. In my most frequented diner the biggest section on the menu is stir-fried stuff dumped on a individual plate of rice so that is not an invention of CA cuisine. Some CA standards like sweet and sour chicken, lo mein, pepper beef, kung pao chicken and so on are present in one way or another, but they all have far less meat, more vegetables, less sauce, and more "wok hei", that smoky flavor you get from high heat wok cooking.

                                                                                                      Beef is expensive and not used very much, making pork by far the meat of choice. Chicken is almost always dark meat. Surprisingly to me, northerners eat a lot of mutton, usually on roasted skewers seasoned with cumin and hot pepper. This is different from CA restaurants where beef is abundant, chicken is white, and mutton is nonexistent.

                                                                                                      The whole subgenre of CA cuisine which I would call "deep-fried-meat-chunks-in-sweet-sauce" and which includes stuff like General Tso's chicken, orange chicken, and sesame chicken does not seem to exist here. Or if it does, I haven't seen it.

                                                                                                      Soup noodles are very popular here and they go by a lot of names, but to me they all taste more or less the same: hand-pulled wheat noodles in a spicy clear broth, with bok choy, a meager portion of sliced meat, and scallion/cilantro garnish. I have not seen a CA equivalent to this commonly eaten dish.

                                                                                                      Fried rice is not a substitute for plain rice as it is in the States. Here it fills the niche of being about the cheapest complete meal you can buy and generally only contains two or three ingredients besides rice; egg, cucumber, carrot, and maybe a little bit of some kind of meat. No soy sauce is used in cooking, and you don't eat other foods on top of it.

                                                                                                      People eat a lot of dumplings here and in restaurant neighborhoods the streets are lined with bamboo towers of dumplings steaming outside. The dumplings I've had in the US have been mostly boiled or pan-fried, although I think this might be a north vs south chinese thing, not a chinese vs american thing.

                                                                                                      A very common street food here is a greasy flatbread fried crispy on a griddle. An egg is fried into one side and it's smeared with hot pepper paste and hoisin sauce and wrapped up. Again, never seen anything like this in a CA restaurant.

                                                                                                      I'll finish this long post by saying I love real Chinese food, but the first thing I'm gonna eat when I get home is a double portion of bourbon chicken served over fried rice, a fat crunchy cabbage egg roll with hot mustard on the side, and crab rangoons for dessert!

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                                                        taiwanesesmalleats RE: RealMenJulienne Mar 12, 2010 08:49 AM

                                                                                                        The mutton influence is from those who stay away from pork, such as the Uigurs from Xinjiang. I have fond memories of lamb skewers in Beijing and Xi'an. Lots of lamb is of the many reasons I really like Northern Chinese cooking.

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