Chinese restaurant food: What’s not authentic?

The fortune cookie isn’t the only food that is not authentically Chinese. There are others–some I knew about just because many dishes served at Chinese restaurants in the U.S. didn’t originate in China, or if they did, have been altered to suit American palates. Most of the Chinese food I ate in Taiwan or Singapore didn’t look or taste similar to the food we pile on our plates at the China Buffet near our house in Columbus, Ohio. Although, it is a perfect place to eat with young children, unless you’re Anthony Bourdain, and, in that case, the food barely resembles food at all, authentic it’s not.

Back to Chinese food that didn’t hail from the “old country” meaning China. In this photo essay, Jennifer 8 Lee, New York Times reporter and writer of the book Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, presents info about food related items associated with China, but they aren’t really Chinese. Broccoli, for example, is not Chinese. That broccoli-chicken dish is an American version, although broccoli has made its way to Taiwan. I imagine there’s probably an altered American/Chinese version there. I don’t recall. I was too busy stuffing my face with other dishes.

Lee also knows a lot about what is Chinese culture and not Chinese culture about other food related topics, such as food containers. Cardboard cartons for Chinese take-out were created and popularized in the U.S., but Taiwan has a love affair going with Styrofoam. Environmentally friendly habits are not Taiwan’s strong suit. I do know that from experience. The few details presented in the photo essay, besides making me feel a bit hungry, put me in the mood for checking out Lee’s book.

Make Fortune Cookies

One night when I called one of my close friends she rushed me off the phone because she was in the middle of cooking. When I asked what was on the menu and whether or not see needed any taste-testers she quickly told me she was ruining the fortune cookies and had to go. Fortune cookies? Huh? Who on the planet makes fortune cookies? I thought a machine did that… How do you make fortune cookies? You can make them at home? After talking with her I wanted to look up a fortune cookie recipe to see what step she could have been at to be ruining the folded cookie like treats. After checking it out I’m not sure which it was and I’m sure glad she didn’t needed a taste-tester.

I won’t try this one, but has one from their Sweet Dreams episode if anyone is interested. In summary the prep time is what gets you in making the cookies. They take an hour of prep, 24 minutes to cook and yield about 20 cookies. This could be a fun way to travel to Asia by way of food with friends or family on an evening stuck in the house.