Chinese Food VS American Renditions of Chinese Food
Chinese food is a staple everywhere in America, but are the Americans really doing it right? Legitimate Chinese food is hard to come by these days, so we make our own renditions of Chinese food, but most of the time, it doesn't come close.
Regional Chinese Cuisine
There are many different regions in China, and each have a unique cuisine. Yue (Guangdong, Cantonese) uses the technique Dim Sum, which means 'touch your heart', is a Cantonese term for small, but hearty dishes. These bite-size portions are prepared using traditional methods such as frying, steaming, stewing, and baking. It is designed so that the eater can have a taste of a variety of dishes. Some of these include rice rolls, buns, shui jiao-style dumplings, and lotus leaf rice. Another style of Chinese cuisine is Sichuan. Sichuan uses lots of chili peppers and garlic, as well as the unique flavor of the Sichuan peppercorn. Peanuts, sesame paste, and ginger are also prominent ingredients in the style. Anhui is similar to the Jiansu cooking technique, but with less emphasis on seafood and more of an emphasis on local herbs and vegetables. Shangdong Cuisine features a variety of cooking techniques and seafood ingredients. The typical dishes on a local menu are braised abalone, braised trepang, sweet and sour carp, Jiuzhuan Dachang, and Dezhou chicken. There are many, many more, but I can't list them all.
American Renditions of Chinese Cuisine
American Chinese cuisine is very different from the traditional Chinese cuisine. In the 19th century, the Chinese brought Chinese food to the states, but the Americans made the dishes to better suit their tastes. The American Chinese cuisine treats vegetables more as like a side dish, whereas traditional Chinese cuisine emphasizes vegetables. Also, American Chinese cuisine's most common cooking techniques are stir-frying, deep frying, and pan frying, which can easily be done in a wok. The food also has a high reputation for having high levels of MSG to enhance the flavor.Dishes that often appear on American Chinese restaurant menus include:
- Almond chicken - chicken breaded in batter containing ground almonds, fried and served with almonds and onions
- General Tso's chicken – chunks of chicken that are dipped in a batter and deep-fried and seasoned with ginger, garlic, sesame oil, scallions, and hot chili peppers.
- Sesame chicken – boned, battered, and deep-fried chicken which is then dressed with a translucent red or orange, sweet and mildly spicy sauce, made from soy sauce, corn starch, vinegar, chicken broth, and sugar.
- Chinese chicken salad – usually contains sliced and/or shredded chicken, uncooked leafy greens, crispy noodles (or fried wonton skins) and sesame dressing. Some restaurants serve the salad with mandarin oranges.
- Chop suey – connotes "assorted pieces" in Chinese. It is usually a mix of vegetables and meat in a brown sauce but can also be served in a white sauce.
- Crab rangoon – fried wonton skins stuffed with (usually) artificial crab meat (surimi) and cream cheese.
- Fortune cookie – invented in California as a westernized version of the Japanese omikuji senbei, fortune cookies have become sweetened and found their way to many American Chinese restaurants.
- Royal beef – deep-fried sliced beef, doused in a wine sauce and often served with steamed broccoli.
- Pepper steak – consists of sliced steak, green bell peppers, tomatoes, and white or green onions stir-fried with salt, sugar, and soy sauce. Bean sprouts are a less common addition
- Mongolian beef - fried beef with scallions or white onions in a spicy and often sweet brown sauce
- Fried wontons – somewhat similar to crab rangoon, a filling, (most often pork), is wrapped in a wonton skin and deep fried
- Beef & Broccoli - Flank steak cut into small pieces, stir-fried with broccoli, and covered in a dark sauce made with soy sauce and oyster sauce and thickened with cornstarch
If you like Chinese food, or, American Chinese food, you kind of have an idea of what Chinese food tastes like, but you'll probably never actually experience the taste of China unless you go to China. Try these recipes, and you may just get that oriental flare you need in your life.