Explore Eat & Enjoy
Restaurant Critic & Food Blogger
Asian Food Through The Years
Asian food has been an integral part of America. It was first introduced when Chinese immigrants landed in California to find a new life. They formed communities to feel comfortable in the new land. Food was a common community interest. They tried to use the local produce to duplicate a lot of their favorite meals, Names like Chop Suey, Chow Mein. These dishes were made of a lot of vegetables with lots of sauce indicative of Southern Chinese cuisine from Canton, China.
As more and more immigrants came to the United Staes, Chinatown expanded to the point that the younger generation moved out for better job opportunities and to live the American Dream of owning a home with some property. Where could they get this dream, well it was the suburbs. But what was missing? Something definitely missing, their favorite meals improvised. But like most Asians, they took pride in preparing fresh meals. You couldn't help but appreciate that delicious aroma travelling all around. Our noises followed the scent. Hey, when it comes to food, if it smells good then it must taste good. The Asian population eventually blended into American society. The reverse happened to the younger Asian population. They loved pizza, hot dogs and fried chicken with a nice ice cream gone to boot. Good Humor ice cream was popular with his white uniform and white truck going up and down the neighborhood streets. Everyone got to know good Southern Chinese food from Canton because most of the immigrants were from Canton, China, the rice bowl of China. Everyone was familiar with an egg roll, wonton and egg drop soup. Soy sauce was the American salt alternative but tastier than salt made from fermented soy beans, recipe brought over from China. The Southern food was light, lots of gravy to help the rice go down smoothly, not spicy but rather bland, but it was the mainstay of Asian food for a long time.
Japanese food came into the picture by the early 80's with the introduction of teriyaki and California rolls but the idea of eating raw fish, not so fast. It took quite sometime for total acceptance of eating raw fish. The only place was going to Japanese restaurants to try them. Back in the day, Japanese sushi chef were popular, but today because of a huge profit margin, the Chinese have taken over. Today everyone knows how to make sushi.
Southern Chinese food and Japanese food was the mainstay for quite sometime, then Northern Chinese became popular, hot and spicy, more friend food versus braised, stir fry Cantonese food, now Northern cuisine had no gravy so to speak, more meat, why. Well, in Northern China it would get pretty cold and meat would be the hot fuel to warm your body. Southern cuisine was hot and humid, so bland food was cooler.
Then the Americanization of Chinese food. More meats, like chicken, beef, pork and seafood made up the majority of the dish. Sweetness made every dish delicious. and fry it and the American public would go crazy. How the dishes were prepared created good value for the money and everyone swarmed to their local Chinese restaurants. For 100 bucks you can feed a family and more back then. BUT as we be ame more of a melting pot, more immigrants from Asian came over, Thais brought their cuisine, Korea immigrants brought their delicious barbeque and now Vietnamese immigrants who made it to the United Sates in the 70's to 80's from the war made their home here. Younger generation wanted new flavors and curiosity was the driving force to try certain cuisines.
If you want authentic traditional food, go where the immigrants or younger generation go and order what they order.
Here's a story that is truly funny highlighting the Americanization of Chinese food. One ollege student studying in the U.S made friends with a college student from China. They were pen pals and developed a close friendship to the point that the girl in China was invited by her friend to come to the U.S. They finally met and what a way to have a celebration but to bring her to a Chinese restaurant. Her friend was pretty interested in what type of Chinese food was going to be served. Well, her friend ordered her favorite dish and that was General Tso's Chicken. Her fiend from China said, who is General TSO? Her friend from American was stunned she didn't know the general was. Her friend from China said, China never heard bout a General named Tso's? They looked at each other and began to laugh together. The American girl said, who the heck invented that name? Whoever did, it became famous and stuck. Fried morsels of chicken with a spicy sweet sticky sauce. It's so popular, that 100% of all Chinese restaurants and take out places offer some form of General Tso's chicken. Now we have General So' beef, shrimp and probably pork too.
Her Chinese friend said the traditional Chinese meal consist of 80% vegetables and only 20% meat. It seems to her that in America, its 80% meats and 20% vegetable 1and of the 20% vegetables, 10% used for decorations.
Her American friend said to her Chinese friend, Welcome to American Chinese Food!
When I taught Chinese cooking at the local community college, I had to tell my students I was making Traditional Chinese dishes nd they had lots of questions about what they thought was traditional. I definitely burst their bubble!
By Chef Woo Can at www.chefwoocan.com
#Asainfoodthru theyears, #Asianfoodhistoryinamerica