Monday, November 17, 2008

History of Chinese Food

Most of the Chinese who immigrated to America did so in the 1800’s (The Brown Quarterly). Many came to America to work on new railroads that were being built. They came to Los Angeles and started their own community, opening up restaurants as a way to retain a part of their culture. “From the 1870s, Chinese were the dominant group in agricultural produce as growers, vendors and market proprietors. They distributed their produce from carts around the Plaza. Later others ran restaurants, meat markets and groceries.” (Chinese American Museum).

Many of these produce peddlers were taxed unfairly by the Californian government. The newly immigrated Chinese population would face many hardships over the years especially before the time of World War II (Chinese American Museum). Before this time, racial tension was high, which played a factor In the Americanization of Chinese food. The Chinese used food as a way to reach out to the American population. By changing their menus, they were able to cater to a western palate and at the same time ease tension between the two cultures.

There are many types of Chinese cuisine mainly because China is a huge country with many different climates. Here in America we have barely scratched the surface of Chinese cuisine. Sichuan cuisine, later Americanized to Szechuan, is probably the most famous (Fong). “Characterized by its spicy and pungent flavors, Sichuan cuisine, with a myriad of tastes, emphasizes the use of chili. Some typical Sichuan dishes are Hot Pot, Smoked Duck, Kung Pao Chicken, Twice Cooked Pork, Mapo Dofu.” (Fong). You would be hard pressed to find such dishes at your local Chinese restaurant, but they are typical in Sichuan cuisine. Another Chinese cuisine well known to Americans is Cantonese. “The basic cooking techniques include roasting, stir-frying, sautéing, deep-frying, braising, stewing and steaming. Some typical menu items are Shark Fin Soup, Steamed Sea Bass, and Roasted Piglet.” (Fong). Again, not something you would find everyday here in America. A third and final example of traditional Chinese cuisine is Hunan. Hunan, “is characterized by thick and pungent flavors. Some typical menu items of Hunan are Dongan Chicken and Peppery and Hot Chicken”(Fong). All of these different cuisines represent Chinese food as a whole. The Chinese food we know today is hardly a good measure of the culture at large.

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