Chinese Food in US

While I greatly enjoy Chinese food, most of my experience has been in Panda Express which while not completely native Chinese is not as heavily Americanized as other places? But what about individually owned Chinese restaurants in the East and Midwest? How Americanized are those foods? Also has anyone ate Egg Foo Young or Chow Mein sandwiches?

Individually owned places very quite a bit. Almost all Chinese restaurants in America are American-Chinese. But some are Chinese-Chinese. You have to know where to look, how to spot them, and what to order once you get there.

While I’m not sure how “Americanized” it is because I’ve never been to China, Panda Express is actually fairly representative of the type of Chinese food widely available outside of Chinatown in Chicagoland. I mean, most Chinese places have *fresher *food, made after you order it instead of sitting around in steam trays, but the basic flavor profile (salty, sweet, greasy, lots of gravy in many dishes) is pretty much the same.

And it seems in my neighborhoods, most of the Chinese places are Korean or Vietnamese owned, with Mexican cooks.

Lived in China for 2 years.

  1. Yeah, it’s mostly Americanized. However, some things are not too far off. General chicken dishes aren’t actually all that different from some in China.

  2. I had American food in China that was made by Chinese owned and operated restaurants. The hamburgers were pretty good, but a lot of other dishes were really plain and below average.

Panda Express is to Chinese Food as Chef Boyardi is to Italian. I mean, it can be tasty in it’s own way, and sometimes it might even not be lightyears away from what you get in the home country. And if you’re really jonesing for some rice in a fast food mall, it’s better than nothing. But it’s not very representive of good Chinese food that you can find in China. At least not in my 20 years of eating Chinese food in China.

Qin Shi -

Aaargh! I know you’re in SoCal and I was going to recommend a BUNCH of really authentic Chinese restaurants. But I forgot that you’re in Orange County and not old enough to drive yet, or even to have RL friends who would be driving.

Darn. If you were able to come out here to the San Gabriel Valley, I would take you to lunch…


Recommend some please. I don’t get to LA often but knowing where to eat is always key.

I’ve been to a few locally-owned Chinese restaurants which have actual Chinese menus, which you’d never see unless you specifically knew about them and asked for them (and, usually, aren’t terribly useful to you unless you can actually read Chinese). These menus feature different items from what’s offered to their non-Chinese patrons, and, as I understand it, are considerably closer to actual Chinese food. My old boss loved places like that, and always wanted to have things off the “authentic” menu (despite being a Jewish guy from St. Louis :wink: ).

I googled “chow mein sandwich,” because the concept seemed so unlikely to me. Yes, there is such a thing, though I’m not sure why. Egg noodles (mein) are already starchy, so why put them between slices of bread?

Some tips for finding authentic ethnic restaurants:

  • Look in places where there are a lot of people of that ethnicity. For example, San Francisco has a big Chinese population, so the Chinese restaurants there lean toward authenticity.

  • Look for restaurants that have regional or otherwise special cuisines - for example, a Chinese restaurant that specializes in Shanghai cuisine or in dim sum.

  • Look for menus printed in the language of the ethnicity. For Chinese restaurants, look for specials written in Chinese on butcher paper posted on the walls (or in better restaurants, written on a whiteboard). Either go with someone who reads the language, or ask a lot of questions.

My neighborhood borders a now heavily Asian-centric neighborhood, and this is exactly correct. According to one of the hole-in-the-wall owners who used to shop at a nearby store, most Westerners’ stomachs would be turned if they actually experienced what actual Chinese food is like. Or at least that’s the theory.

One of the larger restaurants is a buffet-type place in a strip mall. Anyone can go in, the menu is all the same, but it is definitely marketed more toward the Asian palate. Lots of fish, lots of offal, and especially a lot of dishes you can’t even discern because of the sauce or preparation. All the signs are in Chinese and the staff barely speaks English. We went there once for dinner and I was so timid that I barely ate anything.

When they say that it wouls turn our stomachs, do they mean people would be disgusted by where it came from, or would it actually not fit American palates at all? Because I never care where the food is from, but I do have some texture problems with some foods–it’s the real reason I have a problem with sushi, and, gasp, even lobster.

A previous thread, Why are all Chinese carry-out places the same?

The good places are in Arcadia in general. I don’t live in L.A., so I don’t have many specific suggestions. They do have a Din Tai Fung there, and that place is always worth a trip.

Chinese food is really diverse, so hard to say what the owner meant. Dishes like intestine & blood hot pot, stinky tofu, birds-nest soup, shark-fin soup, etc. wouldn’t be well-received by Americans. The “ma la” flavor of real Sichuan cuisine can taste like you just injected Novocain into your mouth. Sichuan food also has a lot of cold meat dishes, often with things like tendon. Cold noodles served in various regions may turn people off as well.

When I went to Hong Kong and southern China a few years ago, most of the food would be accessible to Americans, though. I’d say only about 15% of the dishes would be considered strange. That kind of Cantonese food is probably the most westerner friendly of the Chinese cuisines I’ve come across.

Probably a good call. A strip mall Asian buffet restaurant is generally not the place you want to go and start experimenting with unique Asian delicacies. I’ve never had even halfway decent food at one of those places when I’ve been taken to one (emphasis on taken; my parents love that shit), and I even know what everything is (supposed to be).

I take it this is vastly different from the American version, also sometimes called Ramen noodles?

Ramen is a Japanese invention, and it’s quite common in Japan in the exact form you find it in the US. Ssometimes fancied up with fresh ingredients like meats, eggs, etc, but the noodles are the same and the broth is basically the same. In the Korean version, it’s spicy, but otherwise the same thing.

Bird’s nest soup is made from the spit of cave-nesting swallows. That’s not a metaphor. It’s actually made from the spit of cave-nesting swallows.

Here’s the congee menu for Daimo, a restaurant in El Cerrito CA with a heavily Asian clientele. I think it’s a pretty good illustration of the sort of Chinese food most Americans don’t tend to indulge in - rice porridge with sliced fish , pork meatballs and “varieties of pork organs” just isn’t going to appeal to the average American palate ;).

At least not on paper.

Mmm, congee. So good when you’re feeling unwell. We get it sometimes from a local Hong Kong style restaurant. It’s so fun to go to authentic ethnic restaurants, we’re pretty lucky here in the Bay Area in that regard.

Oh! A nearby Korean restaurant advertised “Gruel” in English in big letters out the front. It was taken down after a while and replaced with “Porridge.” Whoops.

Toronto’s Chinatown has lots of Chinese restaurants that can cater to both Chinese and Canadian/American tastes. The Chinese menus would be basically unrecognizable to someone who knew nothing other than westernized dishes.

I’m sure that the communities with real Chinatowns all have these restaurants, but that they’d be rare in smaller cities.