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Critical Analysis of Authenticity of American Chinese Food

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The South takes pride in its iconic and sometimes bizarre dishes. For many generations, Southerners have prepared countless servings of boiled peanuts, fried green tomatoes, and my favorite, banana pudding. Southerners have classified themselves as unofficial professional chefs. Growing up, I spent many Saturday mornings in the kitchen making everything from homemade biscuits to pecan pie with my grandmother. From there my spark for more knowledge and information about different cultures and cuisines grew. Now after working in a restaurant where I serve, prepare, and cook every single day, for almost a year, my interest in the food industry has helped me attain more knowledge about not only the food industry but the culture and history behind the meals. Since I was a child, my favorite food has always been Chinese food. One day I began to wonder how authentic the Chinese food that is served in America is compared to the food served in China. To begin my research, I started with a simple Google search. Then after reading a few articles, I began to do more in depth and real research. My findings were that the Chinese food served in America is far from the traditional meals served and prepared in China. The actual food itself, the preparation, and how it is served is very different from what is actually served in China. To understand what classifies food as Authentic Chinese or American Chinese, it is important to understand the original history and how Chinese food became Americanized.

For thousands of years, the Chinese have taken pride in their many customs and traditions. A Chinese meal is made of multiple components that have been passed down from generation to generation. To begin with, their meals are served with a carbohydrate source and a protein-based item. The most popular carbohydrate source is rice or noodles, so that is what most families serve. Another source of carbohydrates is mantou. In American culture, it can easily be compared to a fluffy and light steamed bread roll. Popular sources of protein include vegetables and fish. Although rice is one of the most well-known and famous Chinese dishes, it is very rare for it to be served at formal celebrations. The fish is usually cooked whole, including the head and tail. At the end of a Chinese meal, to help with a person’s appetite, soup is traditionally served. To eat their food, the Chinese rarely use forks but rather chopsticks and instead of using spoons as common Americans use, they use a wide, flat-bottomed spoons. Chopsticks are two long sticks that are the same size and used to ingest food. Forty-five billion pairs of chopsticks are made every year but in 2006, China passed a five percent tax on disposable chopsticks in effort to preserve not only trees but bamboo as well. Unlike in the South where it seems like the dessert is more important that the actual mal, in China they very seldom actually enjoy a dessert. If they were to partake in dessert after the meal, it would more than likely consist of fresh fruit or a soup containing red beans and sugar.

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During the Gold Rush Era, in the mid 1800’s, Chinese settlers travelled to America. They entered the country through California and began to settle in small groups and communities. When they relocated, they did not leave behind their heritage, but rather continued to carry out their traditions and ways in their new homeland. They did not try to impose and compel the natives to adapt to their beliefs and customs but by the 1900’s, the cuisine had spread from the small Chinese settlements into the American cities. During this time, Chinese food was more authentic but over the years, it has changed and adapted and became more Americanized.

The different cultures between the American and Chinese, lead to different adaptations of Chinese food. In China, there are fresh food stands on almost every corner. You can buy anything from fresh-caught fish to fresh-picked vegetables. They rarely use processed foods, but fresh bought products, unlike most Americans. Vegetables, spices, and herbs play a major role in cooking traditional dishes. The most popular being ginger, chilies and mushrooms. Soy sauce, composed of soybeans, wheat, and wheat bran, also plays an important role in traditional Chinese cooking.

Over the years, Chinese food has adapted and changed from traditional Chinese cuisine. Not only is the way that traditional Chinese food is prepared different, but also how it is served, and the actual ingredients are different. One day I would love to travel to China and try real traditional Chinese food instead of the American versions of the same dishes.

Work Cited

  1. Chen, Yong. “Rise of Chinese Food in the United States – Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History.” Rise of Chinese Food in the United States – Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, 22 Oct. 2019, crefore/9780199329175.001.0001/acrefore-9780199329175-e-273.
  2. Wertz, Richard R. The Cultural Heritage of China:: Food & Drink:: Cuisine:: Introduction,
  3. Wu, Annie. “The 12 Must-Have Chinese Seasonings.” China Highlights, 1 Aug. 2018,
  4. Wu, Annie. “What Chinese Eat, Chinese Food Ingredient.” China Highlights, 5 Aug. 2019,

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Critical Analysis of Authenticity of American Chinese Food. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
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