Asia is a huge continent with a diverse culinary history. Take China for instance: From hot and spicy Hunan dishes to plump Cantonese dumplings, the cuisine varies greatly by region. In American culture many of these regional cuisines have been thrown together (and mixed with a little American flair) to form something altogether different. Often these new dishes are looked down upon, or dismissed as being “Americanized” cuisine. Are they authentic? Perhaps not, but they can still be quite delicious. Here are eight dishes worth eating straight out of the takeout carton.
1. CRAB RANGOON
These deep-fried wontons are filled with cream cheese and flaked crabmeat (often imitation crab). Dairy is very uncommon in Asian cuisine, so the authenticity here is low, but if you’re looking for a greasy treat, crab Rangoon definitely won’t disappoint you.
Photo and image from Blog Chef
2. CREAM CHEESE WONTONS
Cream cheese wontons are basically crab Rangoon with the crab swapped out in favor of chives—the dish is so good we had to invent two forms of it. Neither of which you will find in China.
Photo and recipe from Moore Cookin'
3. GENERAL TSO'S CHICKEN
It’s debatably the most famous American Chinese dish, but General Tso’s chicken has dubious roots. General Tso was, in fact, a real person, but this dish has certainly morphed beyond recognition from his original recipe. That being said, modern General Tso’s chicken is sweet, slightly spicy, and very satisfying.
Photo and recipe from Jake's Recipes
4. FORTUNE COOKIES
This one is no surprise: Fortune cookies are an American-born treat. Some of them are slightly orange-flavored, and some of them seem to have no flavor at all, but all of them come with a nonsensical strip of life advice. These cookies made the list not because they are bursting with flavor, but because the vague fortunes are always fun to play with … in bed.
Photo from Unravel a Gift
5. DUCK SAUCE
This sweet bright-orange sauce might have evolved from the sour plum sauce that is popular in many southern parts of China. The version found in American restaurants today is pretty much just tangy, viscous sugar, but it’s the perfect accompaniment to savory fried appetizers.
Photo and recipe from Jeff's Kitchen
6. EGG ROLLS
Traditional Chinese egg rolls (or spring rolls) should have a smooth, crispy skin that crackles when you bite into it. They are small, and have a delicate filling. American egg rolls are much larger and have a thick, bubbly skin. They are typically full of coarsely chopped cabbage and carrots and probably some pork. They have a totally different texture, but the thick skin has an enjoyable and satisfying crunch.
Photo and recipe from Tara's Multicultural Table
7. CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI
The main fault of this dish is that American broccoli isn’t really found in China. Chinese broccoli is a leafy green vegetable. American broccoli is much more hearty, but if you like American broccoli then this dish is enjoyable and might even be healthy.
Photo and recipe from Table for Two
8. SESAME CHICKEN
Loosely inspired by Chinese flavors, sesame chicken is prominent on American Chinese menus. It’s very similar to General Tso’s chicken, and it’s definitive proof that sugar makes everything taste better. This sticky and sweet fried chicken is accented nicely by crunchy sesame seeds. Although it’s definitely a Western dish, it’s totally worth bringing home on occasion.
Photo and recipe from Creme de la Crumb; header image from Fold-Pak
By day, Madeline manages the video program at Astor Wines and Spirits and Astor Center. At night, she can be found biking around Brooklyn, seeking out new dumplings in Chinatown, or experimenting in her tiny kitchen in Clinton Hill.