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American Chinese cuisine

2012-11-14 print



Carryout Chinese food is typically served in a paper carton with a wire bail.

American Chinese cuisine often uses ingredients not native and very rarely used in China. One such example is the common use of western broccoli (xīlán, 西蘭) instead of Chinese broccoli (jie lan, 芥蘭 jièlán) in American Chinese cuisine. Occasionally western broccoli is also referred to as sai lan fa (in Cantonese) in order not to confuse the two styles of broccoli.[citation needed] Among Chinese speakers, however, it is typically understood that one is referring to the leafy vegetable unless otherwise specified. This is also the case with the words for carrot (luo buo or lo bac) or (hong luo buo hong meaning red) and onion (cong). Lo bac, in Cantonese, refers to the daikon, a large, pungent white radish. The orange western carrot is known in some areas of China as "foreign Daikon" (or more properly hung lo bac in Cantonese, hung meaning "red"). When the word for onion, chung, is used, it is understood that one is referring to "green onions" (otherwise known to English-speakers as scallions or spring onions, green onions). The many-layered onion common in the United States is called yang cong. This translates as "western onion". These names make it evident that the American broccoli, carrot, and onion are not indigenous to China and therefore are less common in the cuisines of China. Since tomatoes are New World plants, they are also fairly new to China and Chinese cuisine. Tomato-based sauces can be found in some American Chinese dishes such as the "beef and tomato". Hence, if a dish contains significant amounts of any of these ingredients, it has most likely been Americanized . Even more divergent are American stir-fry dishes inspired by Chinese food, that may contain brown rice instead of white, or those with grated cheese; milk products are almost always absent from traditional Chinese food.

Ming Tsai, the owner of the Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Massachusetts, said that American Chinese restaurants typically try to have food representing 3-5 regions of China at one time, have chop suey, or have "fried vegetables and some protein in a thick sauce," "eight different sweet and sour dishes," or "a whole page of 20 different chow meins or fried rice dishes." Tsai said "Chinese-American cuisine is “dumbed-down” Chinese food. It’s adapted... to be blander, thicker and sweeter for the American public."

Most American Chinese establishments cater to non-Chinese customers with menus written in English or containing pictures. If separate Chinese-language menus are available, they typically feature delicacies like liver, chicken feet or other meat dishes that might deter American customers. In New York's Chinatown, the restaurants were known for having a "phantom" menu with food preferred by ethnic Chinese, but believed to be disliked by non-Chinese Americans.

     Keywords: American Chinese cuisine


    

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