The Brief History of Chinese food in the US  

When you talk about Chinese food in US, most people think about General Tso, a bowl full of orange beef and kungpao chicken that they can eat at a Chinese restaurant. For many years, this Chinese cuisine has been a homogenous mixture of American and Chinese delicacies.

Research shows that there are more than 40000 Chinese restaurants in the US. And though they’re owned independently, they’ve had the same menus for decades. What most people don’t know is how Chinese food became popular in the US.

Read on to know how it came about.

History Of Chinese Food

The Chinese came to the US as immigrants in the 1800s. Most of them were seeking employment as railroad workers and minors. As they arrived in large groups, the American leadership enacted laws preventing them from owning many things, including land. As a result, they lived closely together in ghettos that came to be called Chinatown. Here, they began small businesses like laundry services and restaurants.

When they heard about the gold rush in San Francisco, they moved to that place. By the 19th century, they owned and operated sophisticated restaurants. These restaurants mainly served foods that customers requested. Some popular meals served in them include apple pie, eggs, beans, and pork sandwiches.

The restaurant owners didn’t go to school to become chefs but used their self-taught family skills and the available ingredients to come up with different delicacies. As they continued serving more customers, they created an American Chinese cuisine modified to suit the American taste.

By 1943, when immigrant restrictions on China were lifted, huge amounts of food began being imported from China to America. And with the growth of the railways, it spread to other states such as New York.

Chop Suey

This was one of the first cuisines that were developed by the Chinese immigrants who came to America. There was a challenge making the first chop suey because most immigrants didn’t know how to cook. They regarded cooking as a woman’s job.

With few cooking skills and a lack of ingredients from China, they couldn’t make Authentic Chinese food. So they began gathering food scraps that they had around and came up with the first chop suey.

Americans Begin Eating Chinese Food

Americans couldn’t eat in Chinese restaurants because of racism and rumors that they served dogs and cats. However, in the 18th century, a group of broke New York artists searching for cheap and exotic meals visited these restaurants and found out that Chinese food was sweet.

Other Americans also started getting their hands on Chinese food when President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972 and feasted on a Peking duck on live television. However, the food eaten in these restaurants wasn’t original: they were a hybrid of American and Chinese meals.

In the 2000s, restaurants serving food from Asia became common. Amidst this popularity, a new breed of Chinese chefs began serving old dishes. Today, if you visit a Chinese restaurant, you’ll have the opportunity to eat old delicacies or hybrids such as Chinese-inspired buggers, spicy hand-pulled noodles, dumplings, and soups. Other restaurants have also escalated Chinese food to greater heights by using expert techniques and quality ingredients in their preparation.


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