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Chinese food, American style

Mar 2, 2021
Chinese food

It is often a running joke that what Americans consider Chinese food is entirely of our own making, and would be found by cooks and diners in China completely foreign (like chop suey, what the heck is that?). But somewhere along the line, Chinese food was adapted from our Asian immigrants, Americanized, and wildly popular, not just as a takeout, but also served buffet-style and sit-down as well. Many dishes are accompanied by white, brown or fried rice. Let’s review our most popular:

Dim Sum: bite-size dumplings stuffed with vegetables or meat, essentially a Cantonese preparation not always offered in many restaurants; They can also be presented as small tasting dishes, depending on the menu and the chef’s whim;

Spicy and sour soup: a deliciously “sour” soup with a spicy broth, contains red or white pepper and vinegar; Another favorite soup is a light broth with won ton (dumplings filled with meat);

Quick noodlesA staple in every Chinese household and found on most Chinese restaurant menus, it comes in several versions, often called lo mein and can be plain or with vegetables;

Szechwan Chilli Chicken: a fiery Sichuan delicacy loaded with hot spices like ginger, green and red chili peppers, and brown pepper; be careful if you are not a fan of hot peppers;

Spring rolls: often a lighter version of traditional egg rolls, which are shredded meat and vegetables wrapped in a paper-thin dough, rolled up and fried; a favorite without a doubt;

Young foo egg: an egg pancake with vegetables, often too soft for lovers of Chinese food, served with brown sauce;

Fried rice with shitake with water chestnuts: mushrooms and water chestnuts are frequently used in Chinese cuisine, and this is one more version of traditional fried rice; some things never go out of style;

Moo Shu: sautéed vegetables and meat, chicken, shrimp or tofu, rolled in thin pancakes spread with plum sauce (this author’s favorite dish);

Kung Pao Chicken: tasty pieces of chicken cooked in a wok with vegetables and flavored with peanuts and spices; from the time of the Qing dynasty (around 1876);

General Tso Chicken: fried chicken dish in a spicy sauce, an all-time favorite; It may have been named after a military leader of the Qing dynasty, but it really is anyone’s guess;

Orange chicken: Another popular dish of fried chicken, topped with an orange sauce after cooking (not for a low-fat diet, of course);

Peking Duck: do not expect this specialty to be available in many Chinese restaurants, Peking duck dates back to imperial times (221 BC) and is characterized by its thin and crisp skin; often must be ordered in advance but is suitable for an emperor;

Like many other cuisines, Chinese cuisine uses sauces and condiments native to its regions, which may include:

soy sauce

Oyster sauce

Sesame oil

rice vinegar

rice wine

soybean paste

star anise

five spice powder

chili sauce (or pasta)

chilli powder

sichuan peppercorns

black bean sauce

Many of these are available in the Asian aisle of your local grocery store or in a multitude of Asian supermarkets in larger cities and can be a lot of fun trying them in your own kitchen. So find the closest Chinese buffet or restaurant, work up an appetite, and get ready to try some of America’s favorite foods. As the old saying goes, you may be hungry an hour later, but it’s worth it.

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