How Chinese Food Came To The US? and What Really Is Chinese Food?

How has Chinese immigration to the United States impacted the evolution of Chinese food in America? how and when did distinctively American Chinese cuisine emerge? According to the New York Public Library, there has been a history of 150 years of Chinese food in America.

In the 1800’s the first Chinese immigrants settled in Lower Manhattan. During 1849, there was the California Gold Rush. For those who don’t know, the California Gold Rush sparked a rapid influx of fortune seekers in California that began after gold was found at Sutter’s Mill in early 1848. Because of this Chinese immigration to the West Coast increased to about 20,000 to 30,000 immigrants. In 1849, the first known Chinese-owned restaurant was opened during the Gold Rush. Canton Restaurant. Chop Suey, a dish that consists of meat, assorted vegetables, and sometimes egg, is rumored to be the first to appear on the East Coast. This happened in 1896. This dish was introduced during the Chinese Exclusion era. This was considered a staple Chinese food in America. Because the majority of immigrants were male, they usually lacked the skills to cook, because the women did it. Chop Suey was an easy dish that could be prepared with food scraps. It was often seen as a cheap dish, but American consumers still associated it with exoticism. As the dish gained more attention, restaurants started moving out of Chinatowns as they gained more attraction. This helped secure jobs for Chinese people in the cooking industry and increased business.

But what is Chinese food anyway? some usually associate it with noodles, but it is way more than that.  Americanized Chinese food is typically fried. While traditional Chinese food may also be fried, it is not the main cooking method. The methods usually used are usually stewing, braising, baking, steaming, boiling, and fermenting. Americanized Chinese food flavors tend to focus more on sweeter, heavier tones, whereas traditional Chinese food flavors typically have more “fragrant” chilies, onion, garlic, ginger, and other spices.

Fortune cookies, you would think that fortune cookies would be authentic Chinese food, but it is not. Fortune cookies actually originated in Japan during the 19th century. Later made famous by Chinese restaurants in California.

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