5 Myths and Misconceptions about Chinese Food in America

From spoonuniversity.com, by Jennifer Kuo
5 Myths and Misconceptions about Chinese Food in America

Photo by Nguyen Le

I still remember my first time eating at a Chinese restaurant in the States. So many dishes on the menu confused me; why, for example, had I never heard of “General Tso’s Chicken” and “Crab Rangoon” before? In fact, most of the dishes in that restaurant were not authentic Chinese stuff. This isn’t to say American-Chinese food isn’t delicious; I’m always up for creamy crab filling encased in perfectly crisp wonton skins and love opening up a fortune cookie at the end of a meal. However, it’s surprising how many misconceptions Americans can have about what is Chinese food. Here’s my take on five distinctly un-Chinese parts of American-Chinese cuisine.


Photo by Joanna Wicks

1. Broccoli is Chinese

In the States, Broccoli seems to find its way into every plate of stir-fry. There are dishes named after broccoli, like “Beef and Broccoli.” Even foods like Sesame Chicken will have little obligatory florets of the vegetable. The funny thing is, broccoli is a cold-season crop; it doesn’t even grow in the tropical regions of Asia.

Photo by Maliz Ong

Photo by Maliz Ong

2. Put Soy Sauce in Everything

Sometimes, when I order a bowl of hot-sour soup, the waiter hands me some near-black concoction that tastes overwhelmingly of soy sauce. Too often, half-hearted restaurants seem to think that if they add enough soy sauce to the food, it will become Chinese. However, so many of my favorite Chinese foods, such as ma-you-ji (sesame oil chicken), don’t use any soy sauce.


Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

3. Stir-fry, Stir-fry, Stir-fry

Yes, stir-fry is a part of Chinese food. But, it’s really only a tiny part of the picture. There are countless delicious non-stir-fry foods you should try out if you ever have the chance. For example, treat yourself to a street food tour. You can’t go wrong with classics like cong-you-bing (scallion pancakes) or ma-qiu (sweet sesame balls).

Photo by Hoicelatina

Photo courtesy of Hoicelatina

4. Menus have 200+ choices

Going to a new Chinese restaurant here usually means I have to read through a dizzying menu selection. Even if I knew for sure that I wanted noodles, I’d have to choose between 20 types of chow mien. In comparison, most restaurants back home have short menus with only three or four types of noodles.

//www.flickr.com/photos/dslrninja/350982990/

Photo by Scott Waldron

5. That take-out box

I love the take-out boxes they give you at Chinese restaurants. They’re microwaveable, come with a useful little handle, and are generally adorable. However, I’d never seen them before coming to the States. Instead, restaurants usually put leftovers in plain old plastic bags, tied up with a rubber band.

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