10 Delicious Truths About American Chinese Food

April 12, 2014

Most of you have DEFINITELY gotten Chinese take-outs at least once in your life. But did you know the Chinese food you have been ordering are not actually "Chinese food"? The truth is, most items on Chinese take-out restaurants don't even exist in China! As a Chinese native who has lived in China for 11 years, I definitely had some culture shock when I saw these following foods. Here I have compiled a list of popular Americanized Chinese dishes that real Chinese people don't really eat. Enjoy!

1. General Tso's Chicken


Sweet, slightly spicy, deep-fried chicken...but nobody in China knew about it. Although the dish is commonly considered to be a Hunanese cuisine, but the Hunan residents had no idea about this battered chicken dish before its popular debut in the US during the 70s.

2. Beef (or Chicken) and Broccoli


Chinese people do love to stir fry beef with vegetables...just not really with broccoli. This dish is really simple: flank steak pieces, broccoli, and a thick brown sauce (made with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and cornstarch).

3. Chop Suey


I totally had a WTH moment when I heard about chop suey the first time. Basically meaning "assorted pieces" in Chinese, the dish is generally comprised with a mix of vegetables and meat dressed in a thick brown sauce. It's believed to be invented by early Chinese immigrants and the cooking method is based on something called tsap seui from Taishan, China. In short, all you need to know is that this dish is a plate of meat and vegetable (can be leftovers) all stir-fried together.

4. Wonton Soup

I love wonton, but when I first had wonton soup from American Chinese take-outs, I was slightly disappointed because it was completely not the same dish I had in mind! The authentic wonton I grew up eating are folded with thin wonton skin and stuffed with a good portion of meat and/or shrimp. But when you order take-outs here in America, wonton are made with a thicker dough skin and they are BIG. Very little meat is inside these big "dumplings."

5. Crab Rangoon

Nonexistent in traditional Chinese culture, crab rangoon are popular deep-fried dumpling appetizers here in America. They are fried wonton stuffed with a combination of imitation crab meat, cream cheese, and some scallions.

6. Egg Roll


If you tell Chinese people you like to eat egg rolls, they would generally think you mean these. An egg roll in America is basically a bigger version of a spring roll and it's made with a thicker flour dough wrapper, commonly wrapped with different vegetables and meat inside.

7. Sweet n' Sour Pork

It's my all time favorite Chinese dish...if it's authentic. The American version from take-out restaurants looks nothing like the original. Round chunks of deep-fried pork/chicken, served along with a cup of red Kool-aid colored orange sauce? Seriously? The original looks a lot more presentable: textured, deep-fried meat stir-fried with pepper and pineapple chunks, all simmered in a vinegar, ketchup based sauce.

8. Pu Pu Platter

Totally unknown to Chinese natives, this appetizer combination platter usually consists of nothing but deep fried chicken, greasy egg rolls, beef teriyaki...wait are we still eating Chinese food here?

9. Orange/Sesame Chicken


I feel like they're the same thing, except sesame chicken is topped with sprinkled sesame. Both dishes use deep fried, battered chicken chunks which are then dressed with a sweet orange sauce.

10. Fortune Cookies

Every American's favorite entertainment at the end of the meal, these goodies are said to be inspired by tsujiura senbei, a Japanese cookie with fortunes inside. Instead of a fortune, nowadays you would only find Chinese word lessons and an inspiring quote on the paper slip.

Don't get me wrong, some fake Chinese dishes are actually pretty good, like beef and broccoli. But if you want to try authentic Chinese food, you're better off eating at REAL Chinese restaurants in Chinatown. And sorry to disappoint you, real Chinese restaurants don't serve you fortune cookies as dessert. 

What is your favorite Chinese dish?

Header image is from here.

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