American Chinese food

Oyster Pail, Chinese Food Box

It’s frequently a standing joke that what Americans believe to be Chinese food is totally of our own making, and cooks and diners in China would locate them completely foreign (like chop suey–what on earth is that?) . But somewhere along the line, Chinese food has been adapted from our Asian immigrants, Americanized and became wildly popular, not only as a take-out but served buffet-style and sit-down as well. Many dishes are accompanied by plain white, brown or fried rice. Let us review our hottest:

Dim Sum: bite-sized dumplings stuffed with meat or veggies,basically a Cantonese preparation not necessarily offered at several restaurants; could be also presented as little sampling dishes, depending on the menu and the cook’s whim;

Hot and Sour Soup: a delightfully”sour” soup with a spicy broth, it contains red peppers or white pepper and vinegar; another favorite soup is a light broth with won ton (Bat Removal dumplings);

Quick Noodles: a staple in every Chinese home and found on many Chinese restaurant menus, it comes in several variations, often called lo mein and may be plain or have veggies;

Szechwan Chilli Chicken: a fiery Sichuan delight packed with pungent spices like ginger, green and red chillies and brown pepper; be cautious if you are not a fan of hot chilli peppers;

Spring Rolls: often a lighter version of traditional egg rolls, which are shredded meat and veggies encased in a papery thin dough, rolled and deep fried; a favorite to be sure;

Egg Foo Young: an egg pancake with veggies, often too dull for Oriental foodies, served with a brown sauce;

Shitake Fried Rice with water Chestnuts: mushrooms and water chestnuts are used frequently in Chinese cooking, and this is just another version of traditional fried rice; some things never go out of style;

General Tso Chicken: deep-fried chicken dish in a tangy sauce, an all-time favored; it may have been named in honour of a Qing dynasty army leader, but it’s really anybody’s guess;

Orange Chicken: yet another popular deep-fried chicken dish, coated with an orange sauce after cooking (not for a low-fat diet, to be sure);

Peking Duck: do not expect this specialty to be easily available at many Chinese restaurants, Peking duck harkens back to the Imperial Era (221 B.C.) and characterized by its thin, crisp skin; often must be ordered ahead of time but fit for an emperor;

soy sauce

oyster sauce

sesame oil

rice vinegar

rice wine

soybean paste

star anise

five spice powder

Chili sauce (or paste)

chili powder

sichuan peppercorns

black bean sauce

A number of these are available in the Asian aisle of the local grocery store or plenty of Asian grocers in larger cities and can be great fun to try in your own kitchen. So look up the closest Chinese buffet or restaurant, bring your appetite and get ready to sample some of American’s favorite foods. As the old saying goes, you may be hungry an hour later, but it’s well worth it.


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