We’re happy to introduce you to the best of American Chinese food. This cuisine is popular and comes in a variety of flavors. For those who do not like Americanized Chinese food, we suggest returning to traditional Chinese restaurants, for example, in Ottawa. They have vegan options, too.
Ottawa has some of the best Chinese restaurants in the country, including:
Now, let’s talk about how America Chinese food differs from its ethnic source: Chinese cuisine.
American Chinese Food vs. Real Chinese Food
For some, this distinction may seem strange. After all, we assume that what we know to be Chinese food is the real thing. However, the fact of the matter is that what we may be considered Chinese cuisine here is America Chinese food, or at least Westernized Chinese food.
Throughout history, people have attached names or labels to things with obscure origins. The following are great examples of what we think we know to be Chinese but are not.
Here are some good examples of food-related things we’ve grown to associate with Chinese cuisine:
Though egg rolls belong more to the “fruit not falling far from the tree” kind of food, they are likely to be a New York invention. They seem Chinese-ish enough and are closely related to Hong Kong spring rolls.
Asian, Chinese or Oriental salads
These salads make use of Asian or traditional Chinese ingredients such as mandarin oranges, sesame oil, and cashew. However, most Chinese dishes featuring vegetables are generally cooked, even if just lightly stir-fried, but never raw. What we know to be Asian, Chinese, or Oriental salads are a purely American invention that started in the early 1900s.
Rather than being a Chinese original, fortune cookies are believed to have been served in Japanese chop suey restaurants. These restaurants closed down during World War II. However, it’s believed that fortune cookie factories were taken over by American Chinese who promptly served them in their restaurants.
The phrase Chinese takeout is synonymous to the paper boxes used for Chinese food packaging. The takeout box we know today originated in Chicago and was invented by Frederick Weeks Wilcox in 1894. However, it was only in the 1970s when an unknown graphic artist added the red pagoda and the words “thank you” to the takeout box.
The Beginnings of Americanized Chinese Food
The earliest Chinese immigrants who came to the USA sought employment in mining and railroad works. To control the rapid increase in numbers of coming Chinese, laws were put in place. Such laws prevented Chinese people from owning any land. Most of them ended up living in ghettos called “Chinatowns.” It was in these places that the Chinese began establishing small businesses such as laundry shops and restaurants.
When the 19th century came, luxury, upscale restaurants in the vibrant San Francisco Chinese community were frequented mostly by the Chinese themselves. In small towns, restaurants, where Chinese were owners, began serving food according to their customers’ wishes.
They also had to make use of whatever ingredients were available. These self-taught cooks learned to improvise and alter traditional Chinese cuisine based on what was available and in demand.
It was in these smaller restaurants that the American Chinese food menu originated. Americans began exploring these restaurants, further influencing the cooking with their tastes and preferences.
The gold rush in California led to a bigger influx of Chinese immigrants, and this meant the opening of more Chinese restaurants.
When the Chinese merchant visa was introduced, Chinese restaurant owners also migrated to the US. This led to an unprecedented rise in the number of restaurants with Chinese food in America. As a result, what we know to be Asian-American cuisine has mostly Chinese origins, but with heavy western influence.
The Chinese Don’t Understand America Chinese Cuisine
And it’s not just about American Chinese food; the same can be said for Canadian Chinese cooking.
Chinese who are born and bred in Asia don’t identify with what we all know to be Chinese food. These include
- Chop suey,
- Kung Pao chicken
- Orange chicken
- General Tso’s beef
Well, General Tso was a real Chinese war hero, but they wouldn’t know anything about his beef.
It’s safe to say, however, that America Chinese, Canadian Chinese, and various other international versions of Chinese food are here to stay. After all, we’ve all found a way to make something foreign our own. It also helps that it’s delicious.