The differences between Chinese food in China and in America originated In 19th century San Francisco. Chinese immigrants owned and operated opulent restaurants that served authentic Chinese cuisine to the Chinese. In smaller towns, Chinese restaurants served what their American customers wanted. Chinese food was modified to satisfy the American palate. Chinese immigrants opened restaurants to serve coal miners and railroad workers who had never eaten Chinese food. Chinese immigrants were not allowed to work on the railroad, so they opened restaurants and laundromats. By adapting local ingredients, they served food that catered to the customers’ tastes. Chop Suey, a southern Chinese dish, was made into a style of Chinese food not found in China, and became very popular with the coal miners and railroad workers. Today, authentic Chinese foods can be found in large cities that have “Chinatowns”. These authentic Chinese food restaurants have two menus. Those who are not Chinese are given an American menu and Chinese customers are given Chinese menus.
Chinese food in China differs from Chinese food in America through ingredients, preparation, how the food is served, and the differences in the palates of Chinese and Americans.
The three criteria for native Chinese food are color, aroma, and taste. Rice, noodles and tofu (made from soy bean) are Chinese staples. Breads, rolls, and cakes made of white flower are American staples. Traditional Chinese food is seasoned with ginger, garlic, scallions, cilantro, and sesame oil. Chinese eat more fruits and vegetables than Americans. Chinese use more seafood and animal viscera such as livers, lungs, and intestines. Other meats used in China are snakes, alligators, frogs, and rabbit, while American Chinese restaurants rarely serve dishes made of these meats. The ingredients used in China are purchased daily so that they are fresh. Chinese food in China never comes from refrigerators or freezers. Native Chinese food uses leafy vegetables such as bok choy and kai-lan. Soy bean sprouts are commonly used in Chinese cuisine. American Chinese food uses Western broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and onions. Tomatoes are “new world plants” and rarely used in China.
In preparation of authentic Chinese foods, monosodium glutamate is used very liberally. American Chinese food does not contain as much monosodium glutamate because of the high sodium content, and reports of headaches caused by monosodium glutamate. Chinese food in China is cooked in soy bean oil and sesame seed oil. Chinese food in America is often cooked in animal fat (lard), because of the taste. There are many more fried items in American Chinese restaurants. In China, there are several cutting styles that are used in preparation. In China, food is decorated because they believe that all delicious food must depend on the view of the food. Many authentic Chinese dishes are steamed. Very few American Chinese foods are steamed.
In China, each individual is given their own bowl of rice. Accompanying dishes are served in communal dishes or bowls. They are shared by all the individuals at the table and eaten directly from the common dish or bowl. Chinese believe the use of forks and knives are barbaric as they are considered weapons. Chinese people only use chop sticks and porcelain soup spoons.
American Chinese foods that are not eaten in China include crab wontons, General Tao’s Chicken, Pu Pu platters, sweet and sour pork and chicken, egg rolls, hot and sour soup, and beef and broccoli. Westernized versions of native Chinese dishes include Moo Shoo Pork, Kung Pao Chicken, Lo Mein, Egg Foo young, Wonton soup, and Beijing beef.
Interestingly, fortune cookies are almost unknown in China. They were invented by the Japanese on the west coast in the early 1900’s. After WWII, fortune cookies became popular in Chinese restaurants.
In conclusion, cultural diversities between China and America are apparent in how Chinese foods are prepared and eaten in China and how American Chinese foods are prepared and eaten in America. In the 19th century, Chinese immigrants operated Chinese restaurants. Chinese food was adapted to the American palates of railroad workers and coal miners. Chinese food in China and America differ in ingredients, in preparation, and in how the foods are served and eaten. American Chinese food is very popular in the United States, despite these differences between Chinese food in China and Chinese food in America.