What America Does to Ethnic Food

If we could trace the evolution of every cuisine that has ever been imported to the United States, what would it reveal about American taste? What happens to a cuisine when it becomes Americanized?

Sam Fujisaka notices that "more meat, fewer organs and heads, reduced spices in some cases, less fat, no blood, 'sanitized' fish, few or no small mammals, and no rodents large or small" are characteristic changes cuisines undergo during the process of Americanization. The idea is "is to make food look less like the animal it came from, such as removing bones, heads, and skin," says Dio Seijuro.

"Chinese food relies on texture as well as flavor, but most American palates tend to minimize texture. That's why you won't see something like sea cucumber on an Americanized Chinese menu," says raytamsgv. Paulustrious notes that as foods Americanize, they become sweeter, heat is reduced, bitter components of a dish are removed, portions get larger, and the proportional amount of meat gets much larger.

danieljdwyer thinks all of the above isn't exclusively a U.S. thing, but instead reflects how cuisines adapt to industrialization in general. "I have not been to an industrialized nation where the process of 'Americanization' has not become common," he says. "Where it is less common, this seems to be a function of poverty, rurality, nationalist pride, or severe governmental restriction of commerce. I don't see taste as a factor. Crappy fast food and takeout are as common in Tokyo as in New York—just as good, authentic fast food and takeout are just as common in either city."

Board Link: Elements of Americanization?

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