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The History of Chinese-American Cuisine

Category : Chinese Fusion, Chinese History

Chinese food has become a staple in American culture, sparking the blend of the two. This combination is what we call Chinese-American cuisine. Like all monumental moments in history (and yes, chicken fried rice is monumental), there are interesting stories behind it. Here is the history of Chinese-American Cuisine.

In the early 1850’s, the gold rush attracted many people from all over the world to the bright cities of California. Rumors of the gold rush opportunities in the United States spread all the way to Southern China and began the wave of Chinese immigrants to America.
The first Chinese immigrants were traders, grocers, merchants, and restaurant owners. With them, they brought their vibrant culture (including the best part of all culture, FOOD). The emergence of Chinese restaurants–known as Chow Chow houses–attracted the attention of many California residents due to not only their great flavors but also their excellent customer service and cleanliness. The formations of “China Towns” grew all around the city of San Francisco.

Fun Fact- The Rice industry began to boom and was worth over a million dollars in 1865.

As time went on, the Chinese became a targeted reason for declining wages and the shrinking job market for American Citizens. This led to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited Chinese laborers from entering the United States. Prejudice groups developed and Anti-Chinese food sentiment grew. However, the “Chop-Suey” dish became popularized quickly. This dish was a concoction of meat, veggies, and many other random ingredients. This was an American take on Chinese food; however, this dish is rarely recognized in authentic Chinese restaurants.

Despite these pitfalls, people’s hunger for Chinese cuisine didn’t waver. The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943, and Americanized Chinese grew into boneless meats, deep-fried entrees, and sweet, savory sauces.

In 1967, Shun Lee Palace became the first Chinese restaurant to receive a four-star review from the New York Times. This started a wave of skilled Chinese chefs to the United States. In 1972, President Nixon fueled this wave by being the first American President to visit China since its revolution. This visit was aired on television, along with all the Chinese delicacies that the president had indulged in. Thus began a demand for Chinese food, and it has since taken off.

Today commonly recognizable elements of Chinese dining include fortune cookies, orange chicken, fried rice, and more. According to the Chinese American Restaurant Association, there are roughly 45,000 restaurants, and Aling’s is at the top of the list (not because the list is in alphabetical order).

In March of 2011, Aling’s Hakka Cuisine opened its doors in Sugar Land, Texas. Aling’s is unique in the fact that it effectively blends the flavors and spices of Chinese cuisine with Indian cuisine in what is popularly known as “Chindian.”
Aling’s owners, Sam and Irfan Motiwala, got the idea to bring their native flavors to Texas. Their biggest task: deciding exactly which flavors to bring. The Moitwalas knew exactly what the missing piece of the puzzle was. It was their brother-in-law, Chef Gary Yan. Chef Gary Yan has worked all over the world and brought his own native flavor to the Aling’s menu. The Aling’s clan wanted to bring home-cooked food to their community and enlisted the help of yet another Motiwala, Lin Motiwala. Chef Gary Yan and Chef Lin Motiwala serve as Aling’s executive chefs. The restaurant has become a large part of the family and even contains dishes created in the homes of the Yans and the Motiwalas. As Aling’s continues to grow, one thing remains the same–their dedication to authenticity and unique flavor.

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