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Feb 14, 2010 06:38 PM

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

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. This might be a place to start.

    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

      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

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

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          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

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

          1. Oh, and of course fortune cookies.

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