Top 10 (20?) American-Chinese dishes
- KilgoreTrout Jul 11, 2011 04:26 PM
Long story why I need this list. Basic reason people from different parts of the US complaining about the differences in regional American Chinese food. I hope to reconcile the various answers hounds post and eliminate regional specialties. Please note where you live or grew up.
In my mind they are:
Peking ravioli (pot sticker, dumpling etc...)
Egg or spring roll
Hot and sour
kung pao ----,
beef and broccoli
sweet and sour ---
cashew chix or shrimp
15 to 20 years ago I would have included egg foo young, lobster sauce and moo goo gai pan. I write this as a Southern New Englander with frequent NYC and Boston influences.
I haven't seen shrimp kew on here anywhere. Fresh fried shrimp in a light brown sauce with broccoli, snow peas, and water chestnuts. A little hole in the wall in Bellaire (Houston) does this along with great American classic egg rolls. My favorite Trout classic is Now It Can Be Told, the one that made Dwayne run amuck.
I grew up in Northwest Indiana, about 35 miles outside of Chicago. I have now lived in Florida for 21 years. I also lived Singapore for a year. He's my list in no particular order of preference:
1. Chili crab
2. Pepper crab
3. Beef with green pepper and onions in oyster sauce
4. Har gau (shrimp dumplings)
6. Hot and sour soup
7. Chicken rice
8. Salt and pepper calimari/cuttlefish/squid
9. Peking duck
10. Sweet and sour shrimp--if the sweetness and sourness are balanced. Most U.S. version of this dish just contain an overly thickened super sweet sauce. This was not the case 30 years ago.
I would also classify "Har Gau", "Hot & Sour soup" and "Peking Duck" as Chinese-Chinese dishes. One could say there are Americanized versions of these but the poster would need to specify what version he/she was thinking of in that case.
"Chicken Rice" could be considered as Chinese-Chinese or Malaysian-Chinese/Singaporean-Chinese depending on what exactly one is talking about.
I grew up in southern CT and am in my late 50s. Until the 1970s Chinese American Food was strictly Cantonese.
Every Thursday Night we had the same take out order from Golden Inn in New Haven
Won Ton Soup, which had seaweed, not scallions
BBQ Spare Ribs
Pork Egg Rolls
Lobster Cantonese, made with minced pork in white sauce NO peas
Roast Pork Egg Foo Yung
White Meat Chicken Chow Mein (NY style, not like lo mein)
Seven Stars and the Moon
No one had yet discovered Szecuan, General Tzo, Mu Shu, Hot and Sour or Broccoli.
In 1972 was living in Philadelphia, only places open after midnight for hot food were small Chinese joints in ChinaTown (10th and Race) with no English menu, we were usually served what the family was eating, often Mu Shu Pork
I rarely admit this out loud, but I was born in New Haven and lived there from 72 until 80ish. I remember the chicken chow mein now, celery and onions in a whitish sauce with crunchy noodles right? I also remember feeling grown up when I switched from won ton to hot and sour soup.
When I was a kid in the early 1970s (northen NJ) we got wor sho op, a pressed duck dish with brown sauce and crispy duck skin. I think it had pork in the layers, but as I was a kid my memory could be wrong on that. We also got:
Sweet & sour pork (with pinkish red syrupy sauce) the pork was large chunks in a light batter, not like what I have seen since.
In late 1970s a Hunan place opened and we always went there. I don't remember the names of any of that.
Here and now in central New Hampshire:
General Tso's (grown up sweet & sour)
Corn egg drop soup
Subgum Lo mein
House special bean curd ( which is almost always triangles of fried tofu in a black bean sauce)
Oh yeah, I love American Chinese food and I crave it to the point of dreaming about it when I am in China for too long. I grew up in central Indiana. Here's my top ten in the order that I would pick them off the buffet.
1) General Tso's chicken
2) Beef and broccoli with brown sauce
3) Egg roll - stufffed with shredded cabbage and thick as your wrist
4) Sweet and sour pork
5) Bourbon chicken - sometimes marketed as 'cajun chicken'
6) Chicken lo mein - soft, stir-fried noodles
7) Crab rangoon
8) Egg drop soup - unnaturally yellow
9) Sesame chicken - General Tso's weak sister
10) Mayonnaise shrimp
Beef chow fun deserves honorable mention for how awesome it is, but is not really 'American Chinese' so it doesn't make the list.
Apparently the General traveled under many names! Being a native New Englander (RI, then Boston, so I also call dumplings Peking ravioli), I always knew the dish as General Gau's. Down here in the DC area, it's usually General Tso's, but I've seen General Chang's, General Ching's, and probably others. I don't pay much attention any more since I don't order the dish much these days.
I learned about shrimp toast when I went to college in Baltimore in 1978. Similarly, crab rangoon seems to be a mid-atlantic favorite.
By the time I went off to college, I had become a szechuan snob -- the first szechuan resturant had opened in my hometown of Pawtucket around 1975 and the world changed forever. 8>D
re: Bob W
Not only are the names different, the ranks are too; I have even seen Governor's, and Admiral Tso's chicken on midwestern menus. Lucky for all of us the General is safely in his grave. If he were alive to hear so many people mispronouncing his name and slandering his service record, his vengeance would be served the same way he serves his chicken: viciously and deliciously!
When I was a kid I asked my mom why she never made General Tso's for us at home, when by all the visual evidence we appeared to be a Chinese family. 'That's white people food' she sniffed. Well I remember thinking as I stared down a steamed fish head for dinner, that white people must surely be on to something.
"Well I remember thinking as I stared down a steamed fish head for dinner, that white people must surely be on to something."
That cracked me up! It's good growing up with fish heads though...I'm the only person I know who can go through a whole fish and leave only bones left.
Given that there are multiple spoken Chinese languages, and multiple ways of transliterating them into English, there's not really a 'correct' pronunciation or spelling, especially since the dish doesn't seem to have originated in China.
For anyone interested, it's 左 (Zuǒ) according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_.... In Mandarin, this is pronounced as a dipthong of 'dzoo-uh' with a tone that falls, then rises (you can hear a sound recording at http://www.nciku.com/search/zh/detail... ), but most old-school Chinese restaurants were operated by folks from parts of China where Mandarin was not the primary language.
I won't be able to contribute here, since I'm Chinese but non-American. I just want to say how absolutely fascinating I find these lists of food which are somewhat similar, yet so very different from "genuine" Chinese cuisine.
I enjoy American-Chinese food (chow mein, mushu pork, etc) in their own right - I don't really compare them to Chinese food we get in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore.
I'm always amazed at how Chinese cuisine evolved in each country: in London, you get the crispy duck which you won't find outside the UK; in India, you'll find Manchurian chicken, which is uniquely "Chindian". In the Philippines, you get pancit Canton, siomai & siopao. In Japan, Chinese dishes have a gooey consistency, whereas in Korea, it takes on a Korean slant with dark soy sauce & sesame. Even in Malaysia & Singapore, Chinese food is spicier than what you'd find in HK or Taiwan, with chilli pastes & chilli dips a-plenty. To each his/her own, I'd say :-)
Chinese-American cuisine is in a separate category from Chinese-Chinese cuisine (so to say), ditto all the other national variants you cite. And in Malaysia/Singapore/Thailand, there's so much that straddles "Chinese" and "Local" cuisines that blur the lines between cuisines yet is "Malaysian" or "Singaporean". I myself would consider Penang Har Mee, as just one example, as kind-of "Chinese" yet is also heavily influenced by native cuisine but is wholly "Malaysian" and delicious!
Hmm, sorry, but that I would tend to think of as a mish-mash rather than an adaptation of a dish into a new 'integral' dish under new circumstances. It reminds me of what I read about Indian restaurants in France serving sliced baguette bread right besides the naan (or of bread served at "Chinese" meals in Chinese restaurants) because the French insist on having their bread, come Hell or High Water.
I personally don 't dismiss American Chinese food as 'inauthentic' (implying: 'bland', 'inferior' or 'ad-hoc') which seems to be so fashionable nowdays, I prefer to see it as just another Chinese regional food style, created by the Chinese given the local avalability of ingredients, climate, local taste preferences, etc.
I tend to the view that 'inauthentic food' does not necessarily mean 'bland', 'inferior' or 'ad-hoc' [?] even if there may be a bias by some against it in that regard. It depends on what the dish is, where you got it and who did the cooking. Many 'inauthentic' dishes - inauthentic in relation to the 'traditional'/'place of origin' dish - can be absolutely delicious. By the same token, 'authentic dishes' can be pretty bad, even if all the ingredients in it are 'authentic' - a bad cook/bad execution will do it, for example.
I feel the same way. My friend was talking about the "best" chinese restaurant, in her opinion, and asked me what I thought. I said it was very good American Chinese food. She thought it was a slam on the restaurant and I didn't mean it that way at all. It's good food. It's just not where I'd go if I were in the mood for Chinese food.
This topic sure took me a funny little trip down memory lane :)
I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and Arizona. Then as an adult meandered through Atlanta, coastal SC, the Czech Republic, southern Thailand, and finally (for now) Texas.
1. pot stickers - most everywhere
2. chinese bbq spare ribs - Pennsylvania
3. egg drop soup - Pennsylvania
4. cashew chicken - Arizona and SC
5. orange beef - Arizona and SC
6. egg foo young - imo the only good Chinese during my time in the CR
7. shrimp fried rice - Thailand
8. peking duck - Thailand
9. black pepper crab - Thailand
10. chow mein - Texas, Atlanta
The chinese food in Thailand was excellent! I'm extrmemly picky about it now, where as a 10 year old, bright red spare ribs with gloppy fried rice was a divine treat.
Midwest here. I grew up in an Asian family so there was a fair amount of bird's nest soup and char siu bao, but if I were to focus solely on the American Chinese we ate, which was not inconsequential, my list would feature:
Sweet and sour shrimp
Egg drop soup
Egg foo yung
Beef and broccoli
Most of the Chinese restaurants, particularly in downrent areas, included fried chicken and rib tips on their menus, though I never found them very good. Either way no meal would be complete unless it ended with oversized almond cookies. When I moved to New York, I was introduced to sesame chicken, orange chicken as well as General Tso's. I can't recall if that just wasn't common where I was from or if I was so set in my ways that I never deviated from the usual order.
Can stuff be included as long as it's widely available at most american chinese joints?
My favorites are below, they are almost always on Chinese restaurant menus:
Pepper steak & Onion
Singapore Mei Fun
Hot & Sour Soup
Kung Pow chicken
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Moo Shu Pork
Twice Cooked Pork
Mapo Tofu (usually called szechuan bean curd or something similar)
Sweet & Sour Pork
Eggplant w/ garlic sauce
Fried chicken wings
Growing up in Phoenix in the 80s:
- Egg Rolls (never spring rolls, always with the wonton that puffed/bubbled when fried)
- Hot and sour braised tofu (mom's favorite)
- Sweet & sour pork, always with large chunks of pineapple and green bell peppers
- Lemon chicken
- Broccoli beef
- Mongolian beef
- Cashew chicken
- Chow mein
- Egg Foo Young, always w/hollandaise and never w/brown sauce
- Fried shrimp (the term "prawn" was never used, even if that's what they were).
...and all of it served with dual squeeze bottles of sweet and sour (in the red) and hot mustard (in the yellow) on the table.
San Francisco now:
- Honey walnut prawns
- General Tso's chicken
- Sesame chicken
- Xio Long Bao
...though most of my favorites tend not to fall into the American Chinese category these days. Most of the dishes from Phoenix can be found here as well, with the egg rolls using the more traditional wrappers, and hot mustard seems to be an exception rather than a mainstay.
Okay here's my top ten in Denver:
1) shrimp with lobster sauce
2) subgum wonton
3) Szechuan (meat choice)
4) Hunan (meat choice)
5) pineapple (meat choice)
6) (meat) with garlic sauce
7) moo shu (meat)
8) moo goo gai pan
9) Singapore chow mei fun
10) Fried chicken wings (often w/ 5 spice)
These are standards and/or favorites. I'm not sure how many are American/ Chinese or Americanized but there you go!
Everything on my list is pretty standard except subgum wonton, which I order when I see it usually but isn't served everywhere- just a local personal favotrite. I would also add kung pao, of course and Mongolian beef which are everywhere, I think.Singapore Chow Fun is getting to be pretty standard nowadays as they have it at all three of my regular take-out places
Sweet and Sour
Beef and Broccoli
Mu shu pork with raw wheat egg roll skin wrappers
Chicken Almond Ding
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Lomein (probably chicken as preferred protein)
Hot and Sour Soup
Egg Drop Soup
fried won ton
I love American Chinese food, love it!
In the Northwest-
Sweet and Sour---(the kind with the florescent pink sauce and fried won tons)
BBQ Pork with hot mustard/ketchup/sesame seeds to dip
Kung Pao Chicken
Egg Drop Soup
Sub gun Chicken Chow Mein
Pork Fried Rice
...and I can't resist the stale fortune cookie with my tea, thank you very much :)
I haven't eaten it in like 20 years, but if memory serves it tasted like no one measured the water going in the jello mix and the strength of the jello flavor could vary. Sometimes it was dried out and stiff in corners, too.
Oh, I remember candied bananas on buffets, too. And biscuits from tube cans deep fried and doused in sugar.
Actually, that is interesting because folks in SE Asia & other parts of E Asia etc make various kinds of jellies using agar-agar, sometimes molded, often (esp. in SE Asia) of a consistency appreciably firmer than the "standard" Jello one would find in N America (if one followed package instructions). There's also a kind of firm, black grass jelly foodstuff, used often in sweet preparations/drinks, widely found in Malaysia/Singapore as well as other parts of E Asia.
When I first had "Western-style" Jello I remember thinking that it was too wobbly and too "un-dense", if that makes sense.
I also had 'Vietnamese jello' or agar agar jelly sweets at friends houses as a kid and recall the distinct firmness. The Chinese buffet jello is definitely just the North American standard pork gelatin based product. It just seemed to me that on the buffet it was just made haphazardly.
Most of the dishes described on this thread are Chinese restaurant standards all over the world. I'm not sure what's making them particulalrly American Chinese? Just looking at my local takeaway menu includes
Chow Mein with your choice of meats
Fried rice ditto
Sweet and Sour whatever
Kung Po style whatever
Black Bean dishes
Hot n Sour Soup
Chillie Chicken wings
Salt and Pepper wings
And that's in Central Scotland. I know I'll find much the same in anywhere in the UK, Germany, France etc.
When I visit other countries, I like to try Chinese food there--not "authentic" chinese food but their versions of it because even the same dishes like sweet and sour dishes are different from American Chinese. But, then again, even American Chinese dishes are different in each restaurant. I never know what I'll get when I order Mo shu pork.
i think chinese food in the western hemisphere is fairly similar, with regional differences. obviously from this thread there are even regional differences in chinese-american food within the US alone. but yeah chinese menus i've seen in germany, ireland and scotland were pretty familiar to this american.
although i HAVE to say that the most surreal chinese meal i've ever had was in ireland. friend's parents took us out. i ordered the black bean beef, which you reference but which i never see in california. during the meal i looked around and realized that i was the only person in the room eating white rice and using chopsticks. there were maybe five people eating fried rice with their meal, and the rest were eating chips!