Whenever I think of Chinese food those white containers with the wire handle come to mind. Each is steaming with white or brown rice and sesame chicken and cooked vegetables dripping with soy sauce. Or beef Lo mien or General Tso’s chicken. My mouth waters when egg rolls, and sweet and sour sauce, and fortune cookies pop into my head.
This however is American Chinese food. It is not the food that Chinese people eat today and it is certainly not the food they ate many years ago in ancient China. Not only is the food different but the ingredients and the cooking methods are also vastly different than how American Chinese food is prepared.
Firstly Americans fry the majority of the Chinese food that they make either with a deep fryer or with a wok. Chinese people traditionally don’t even fry their food. They will use methods such as stewing, braising, baking, steaming, boiling, and even fermenting. Those are all authentic cooking styles Chinese people use to produce their food.
Not only do they not deep fry their foods (typical Americans making any dish unhealthy) but they do not use the majority of ingredients that we do in their traditional Chinese dishes. We use meat as our main part of the dish and vegetables and rice or noodles as side dishes or fillers. In authentic Chinese cuisine, that is reversed. They put the emphasis on the vegetables and rice (no wonder everyone is skinnier than us). Although they uses vegetables, it isn’t the steamed broccoli and carrots like Americans use. The meat that is used in Westernized Chinese is pork chicken or beef. In China however they utilize a much wider variety of meats including pig ears, snake, chicken feet (I have actually tried this at an authentic Chinese restaurant, ew!), duck blood, and jellyfish. They also use more common sources of protein regularly, such as tofu. Since everything else about American Chinese food and Authentic Chinese food, the spices might as well be different also! Americans of course season our “Chinese Food” with salt and sugar, but authentic Chinese food is usually seasoned with more fragrant spices.
To be honest nothing about American Chinese food and Authentic Chinese food is the same, or at least it appears to be so thus far. Whole dishes have been created in America and are said to be “Chinese”. One example is Sweet’n’Sour Chicken (YUM!) is completely American. There isn’t even a dish similar to it in China. Can you say false advertising?! In an article by Mary Kong about the Western Chinese food not eaten on Eater.com, the point is made that this dish is more southern than Chinese with its sweet sauce and deep fried meat.
Another dish that Americans have in a sense fabricated is Crab Rangoon. Before researching this I had never actually heard of this but this is a Wonton shell filled with imitation crab meat and cream cheese, and then of course it follows the trend set of being deep fried. Cream cheese isn’t really an ingredient they use in China (that’s where they could learn something from Americans!).
Yet another example of a dish that Americans simply dreamed up is Beef and Broccoli. First broccoli is not an ingredient that is used in Chinese cuisine. Also beef is not a regular meat that the Chinese use. Therefore the entire dish screams Americanized Chinese.
While I am crushing everyone’s dreams about Chinese food in America I might as well point out that under no circumstance is a fortune cookie authentic Chinese.
Next time you order Chinese take-out just remember, somewhere in China…. just kidding! no one is having sesame seed chicken!