For years I’ve been attempting to explain (and cook) the differences between real Chinese food and American Chinese food. At first, it surprised American friends to discover that the Chinese have never heard of dishes like Crab Rangoon, General Tso’s Chicken, Egg Rolls, Egg Foo Young, and Chop Suey. All were created in America for American taste buds.
Crab Rangoon was actually an American creation that has been served in San Francisco since the 1950s.
Egg Foo Young was an adaptation on a real Chinese dish and made its American debut in the 1930s.
General Tso’s Chicken [pronounced ‘TSAO’] was coined after a famous Chinese general but the people of his modern-day hometown in Xiangyin, Hunan province have never tried it before! (See Jennifer’s talk below)
Egg Rolls in China are actually just egg-based wafers that are enjoyed as a dessert.
Spring rolls are a little bit similar to the 春卷 you might find around Asia, in my opinion.
Chop Suey literally translates as “leftovers” and is simply a mix of various unfinished dishes. It’s origins are debated, although I’m sure every culture has their method of dealing with uneaten portions.
(How would you describe ‘leftovers’ in your home?)
Fortune Cookies are to this day still a Japanese creation which American Chinese restaurants started serving when we put Japanese Americans in internment camps in 1942.
The classic Chinese Takeout Box has never seen the light of day in China and probably never will. It’s 100% American!
(Disposable chopsticks are used all over Asia though.)
Jennifer 8. Lee gave a hilarious talk at TED in 2008 and gets into more detail not only about American Chinese food but French, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, and Korean versions of Chinese food. All have their own unique twist but are still called Chinese!