I love food, to the extent of obsession. A few years ago this might have come across as a serious psychological problem but now, not so much anymore. People are fearlessly shunning going-skinny obsessions and embracing global cuisines heartily. That said, it made me wonder what is that one cuisine which is favored by people around the world. So it turns out, Chinese foods are eaten, adored and raved over by millions of culturally diverse people every day. That said, I just ordered my favorites off the menu and my oh my, I feel so Chinese already! A bit of xing xiang xung and I claim relations to Mao Tse Tung (so deep, haha). Not authentic, yeah? Something quite similar happens to be the case with almost every popular item on the menu cards of our favorite Chinese restaurants, outside of China. So here are 6 popular, yet quite un-Chinese dishes that raise a lot of Chinese brows.
This is one of the highest selling dumplings which is basically a wonton filled with cream cheese, crab meat or imitation crab meat, scallions and garlic. Here’s the thing: cheese was nonexistent in Southeast Asian and Chinese cuisine. That should help cut a few dishes off the “Chinese” menu card. Verdict: Not Authentic.
General Tso’s chicken/ Orange Chicken/ Sesame Chicken
The Chinese, and probably the remaining descendants of General Tso, are tired of saying this but… General Tso never invented such a chicken dish. It’s essentially a hot, deep fried chicken dish made with rice wine, rice wine vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, dried red chili peppers (whole) and garlic. Sounds authentic, yes? Although what makes it not Chinese is the use of dark oil or overused sesame oil. And not originating in China helps too, haha. Verdict: Not Authentic.
Chinese Chop Suey
A prominent part of American Chinese, Indian Chinese, German-Chinese, the Filipino and Polynesian cuisine is anything but authentic. On the contrary, Chop Suey is considered a fowl word in Mandarin so… there goes the authenticity out the window. Made from what looks like miscellaneous leftovers, this Chinese dish is the invention of the Chinese immigrants in the US. Consisting of meat (often chicken, fish, beef, prawns, or pork) and eggs, cooked quickly with vegetables such as bean sprouts, celery, and cabbage and bound in a starch-thickened sauce.
It is served with stir-fried noodles mainly which right there is very un-Chinese; the Chinese really love their rice. Verdict: Not Authentic.
Chinese Egg Rolls
We’ve all seen this at Chinese restaurants as a part of the starters. Here’s the thing: the Chinese like the skin of their rolls/dim sum/wontons to be rather thin with a certain transparency. They despise thick, impenetrable coatings and the filling combinations aren’t to their liking as well. Verdict: Not Authentic.
Oftentimes I order something Chinese, could be stir fry or could be some vegetable gravy, and I find western broccoli in it. Here’s the deal: China had never grown western broccoli. There is an Asian variant although it doesn’t resemble this Western distant cousin at all. So when you spot that green cauliflower-like vegetable, you’d know that you’ve just been conned. Verdict: Not Authentic.
Alright so I find this the most interesting. The Chinese don’t eat their ducks with any sauce at all; that said, this sauce contains no duck either. So if a Chinese judges your ‘Chinese duck sauce’ love, you must remember that they have legitimate reasons to do so. The sauce is a concoction of water, apple juice, soy sauce, apricot preserves, brown sugar, garlic powder, and dry mustard. No luck whatsoever. Verdict: Not Authentic.
I love Chinese foods: authentic or otherwise. It is always flavorful, simple and balanced. The article was meant only so we eat and know our palates better.