Unfortunately, if you’re hoping to finish off a meal in China with a fortune cookie, that isn’t likely to happen. That’s because fortune cookies don’t actually originate in China - they’re a completely Western concept! For those of you who love a good Chinese meal, you’re going to be in for a surprise as we delve into seven Western Chinese dishes you won’t actually find in China. Prepare to see some of your favourites on this list!
1. General Tso’s Chicken
Named after a historical military leader from Hunan, China, this dish is pretty much as elusive in China as the general himself. A favourite in Western countries, this crispy, deep-fried chicken dish is coated in a tangy, slightly spicy, and sweet sauce. This creation is widely attributed to Chef Peng Chang-Kuei in Taiwan, who then brought the recipe to New York in the 1970s. It may not be authentic, but it sure is delicious!
2. Fortune Cookies
Is any meal at a Chinese restaurant complete without receiving a fortune cookie? Despite their regular appearance, fortune cookies are anything but a traditional Chinese invention. This sweet, crisp cookie hiding life advice within, was actually first baked in the early 20th century in San Francisco. People even believe this dish might be Japanese, thanks to similar treats found in regions around Kyoto. Although it’s anything but authentic Chinese, it’s still a must-have finale to any Western Chinese meal.
3. Sweet and Sour Pork
Although a sweet and sour sauce does exist in traditional Chinese cooking, the sweet and sour pork that we know and love in Western countries is a completely different dish. With its neon orange colour and overly sweet sauce, this creation is far from the balanced and complex flavours you’d find in China. As you can probably tell, this dish has been transformed to better satisfy the Western palate for sweetness.
4. Crab Rangoon
As an incredibly popular dish, crab rangoon is a creamy, crab-filled, deep-fried appetizer that’s a staple at many American-Chinese restaurants. Despite its common appearance in such restaurants, it has absolutely no roots in China. Thought to have been concocted in the 1950s in San Francisco, this is one example of a dish that has nothing to do with Chinese culture.
5. Chop Suey
Literally meaning “assorted pieces,” chop suey was supposedly created as a dish to serve leftover vegetables and meat. Despite its Cantonese name, this dish is predominantly a product of Chinese immigrants in America. Adjusted to fit Western tastes, chop suey is a great example of how Chinese cooks managed to turn a simple, homestyle dish into an international phenomenon.
6. Egg Rolls
Although egg rolls are a commonly ordered dish in any Western Chinese restaurant, their roots don’t exactly go back to China. Thought to be created somewhere in New York back in the early 1900s, the egg roll is a distant cousin to the spring roll, a dish that actually hails from China and consists of a lighter, thinner skin with delicate filling. The egg roll on the other hand, perfectly represents the American tradition of making things super-sized.
7. Orange Chicken
Last but not least, orange chicken is another dish that does not exist in China. Actually introduced by Panda Express in the 1980s, this sticky, sweet, deep-fried chicken dish was inspired by flavours from the Hunan province. Though it transformed into something that is much more American, it’s a great example of how Chinese cuisine continues to evolve to captivate the Western audience.
These seven dishes are able to provide us with a glimpse into the many ways Chinese food has been reinvented and reimagined in the Western world. While sure, these dishes aren’t authentically Chinese, they’re still delicious staples that are enjoyed in numerous Western-Chinese restaurants. If anything, it just goes to show you how globally appealing and transformative Chinese cuisine can really be!