6 fast facts: Chinese American Food

Newspaper Ad for the grand opening of a Chinese restaurant in Southern California. Foodimentary

Along with Mexican, Japanese and Italian, Chinese food has captivated the public and has earned a place in the dining pantheon of American Cuisine. What we consider Chinese food here, however, are actually derivatives of dishes normally found in China, but made for an American audience, and would more than likely be off-putting or unappealing to many here in the states if presented in thier original forms.

We took a look at some quick facts on Chinese food in America. And it all starts right here in California in the 1800’s

  1. The start of Chinese cuisine in America began during the California Gold Rush of 1849. Chinese immigrants made their way to the gold fields, but ended up setting up businesses to support the miners as their direct presence on the gold fields was not welcome. Among the business owners were cooks who opened up restaurants in San Francisco. By 1850, 5 chinese restaurants were active in the city alone.
  2. Certain ingredients in American Chinese food would not normally be found in native Chinese Cuisine. For example, Broccoli is native to the Mediterranean region and was only introduced to the US in the 1700’s. Carrots and Onions other than the spring onions are also not native to China.

    An Oyster Pail, typical take out containers for Chinese food. Well Designed Objects
  3. The Oyster Pail was originally invented to hold raw oysters, which back in the 1800’s wereinexpensive and were opened by the seller for the convenience of the shopper to use at home. Due to overfishing and therefore an inevitable price increase, the companies behind the take out boxes sold them to other restaurants, but the iconic box has been largely associated with Chinese takeout in general.
  4. Some dishes invented in America by Chinese chefs include Chop Suey (mixed vegetables bound by a starch based sauce and served with rice) Crab Rangoon (a crispy wonton shell filled with imitation crab or cream cheese), but one of the most famous dishes has to be General Tso’s Chicken, which is named after Zuo Zongtang, a Qing Statesman back in the late 1800’s. Many of these dishes more than likely derived from native Chinese dishes, but are considered far removed by the Chinese themselves.
  5. General Tso’s Chicken. The Daring Gourmet

    One very popular stereotype regarding Chinese American food is the popularity of the food amongJewish communities in America. This is rooted in fact as many dining establishments aside from the Chinese restaurants would be closed on Christmas as well as the restaurants having a less anti-semitic attitude towards them compared to other groups.

  6. Fortune cookies are often given out after a meal as a sort of dessert. The cookies themselves, however, are not originally from China and may have actually come from Japan by way of San Francisco. Makoto Higawara of the Japanese  Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park was said to have served the first modern versions of the cookies, which were normall given at shrines and temples in Japan.

H/T to Foodimentary



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