Who hasn’t savored a meal of sweet and sour chicken with fried rice and an egg roll at one time or another? Chinese-American cuisine is full of classic tastes, even if many the most common dishes have no place in traditional Asian cooking. If you’re taking online cooking courses, you have the opportunity to explore both authentic dishes from this diverse culinary history and the widely beloved variations that have emerged in the U.S. Get started by learning about how chefs across the country are making great Chinese-American food:
The authenticity debate
For chefs and food enthusiasts, it’s important to be aware of the cultural backgrounds of the foods they prepare and enjoy. That gets complicated when it comes to the meals served in Chinese-American restaurants. Business Insider pointed out that there are numerous fantastic examples of authentic Chinese food that many Americans have never tried despite eating in Chinese restaurants all their lives.
“Many Americans have never tried authentic Chinese food.”
Chicken with chilies, or la zi ji, consists of marinated, deep-fried chicken stir-fried with ginger, garlic and – of course – chili peppers. Zha jiang mian is a wheat noodle dish topped by fermented soybean paste and stir-fried ground beef or pork. There are tasty steamed buns, like xiao long bao, commonly featuring pork and a broth.
Every chef should try his or her hand at some of these classic dishes. Still, while General Tso’s chicken and crab rangoon may be American creations, that doesn’t make them any less delicious. Writing for CNN, food journalist Clarissa Wei contended that since orange chicken and other such items come from the culture developed by Chinese immigrants living in the U.S., they have an authenticity all their own.
Break out your chopsticks and dig in
Whether you prefer Peking duck prepared just as it’s done in Beijing or a westernized bowl of beef and broccoli, there are plenty of chefs out there producing excellent examples. You can find ideas to develop dishes of your own that draw on either background or even combine ingredients in daring new ways.
Fans of classic Chinese dishes and the Americanized counterparts alike find plenty to rave about when they visit Lao Sze Chuan in Chicago’s Chinatown. The absolutely massive menu includes many takeout favorites alongside Sichuan-style tea-smoked duck and unusual offerings featuring pork stomach, intestine or kidney. Tony’s Three Chili chicken, named after owner Tony Hu, is a specialty that brings together plenty of spice with a touch of sweetness.
If you want to taste a truly exceptional take on traditional Chinese dumplings, visit one of the several Din Tai Fung locations in California or Seattle. Forbes described the ones served at this chain, founded in Taiwan, as the best in the world. Customers have a wide array of options, like shrimp and pork pot stickers, steamed fish dumplings and a vegetarian option. Soup dumplings contain pork and, if you like, crab. There are also great steamed buns – stuffed with pork, red bean paste or taro – and dishes featuring noodles or wontons.
Those who love the flavors of Chinese food but don’t eat meat have plenty of dishes to dig into at Enjoy Vegetarian Restaurant’s two locations in San Francisco. Classic dishes drawing on Buddhist traditions are joined by modern items featuring soy-based substitutes. The meat imitations include chicken with bok choy in soy sauce and braised ribs and broccoli.
At New York City’s Fung Tu, chef Jonathan Wu draws on old-school techniques and locally sourced produce to take Chinese food in exciting new directions. The menu includes an array of small plates like a fava bean curd terrine accompanied by pickled mustard greens, bacon, and chili oil or steamed buns filled with smoked king trumpet mushrooms. You can also try chow fun noodles with chorizo, shishito peppers, soy sprouts and celery or a pastrami fried rice with broccoli and rhubarb. Among the entrees are beef short ribs that are braised in the Cantonese char siu style and served with broccoli rabe and rice.
There are countless ways to bring together American palates and Chinese cooking methods. You’ll develop the knowledge and skills to put your own spin on Chinese-American cuisine by studying at an accredited online culinary institute. Your cooking can give you a fascinating glimpse into a complex cultural backdrop even as you turn out fantastic dishes.