Traditional Asian Meals That Have Been Americanized

As we all know, America is considered a “melting pot” of cultures. There are over 20 million Asian Americans living in this country, so there was bound to be some Asian culture that found its way into the Western world. Asian cuisine was quickly picked up by Westerners and just as quickly Americanized. Some of the “Chinese,” “Japanese,” and “Thai” food Americans love to order for Football games and weekend dinners is far from the actual dish it originates from. Here are five of the most common examples of Asian food that has been heavily influenced by American consumers.

Egg Rolls

This first dish is always prominently featured at Asian restaurants around the country. Americans love Egg Rolls, and they have for decades. However, what they love is not truly a Chinese dish at all. There is no equivalent dish back in China, and the closest that exists is the Spring Roll. No one is 100% sure where Egg Rolls originated from, but they’re hugely popular in the states. They usually have a thicker, deep-fried shell than Spring Rolls do, and the ingredients used differ substantially. While authentic Chinese Spring Rolls contain mushrooms, tofu, and local vegetables, Egg Rolls can contain cabbage, pork, bean sprouts, and other hearty vegetables. In China, Spring Rolls are filled with in-season, locally-sourced ingredients. Americans have the luxury of produce import year-round, so American-Chinese restaurants played around with the recipe and started to add their own “flair.” Egg Rolls and Spring Rolls are often used interchangeably (incorrectly so) in reference to any burrito-like roll. Authentic Asian dishes have specific ingredients, but Americans tend to add whatever they like and keep the same name for the meal. 

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a dish from Thailand that was first created in the mid-20th century. It’s a relatively new dish compared to other Asian recipes, but it was quickly popularized in America. Traditional Pad Thai is focused on the ingredients that make it great; rice noodles, shrimp, garlic, and herbs. Authentic Pad Thai is much lighter than it’s Americanized version and subsequently more healthy. Americans enjoy hearty meals, so as Pad Thai became more popular, more meat and vegetables were added. If you order Pad Thai from an American chain, you might see broccoli or bell peppers, two vegetables that would never be found in authentic Pad Thai. You can also find different meat variations from chicken to beef to pork. The American version has more sauce, and it’s thicker, and the noodles often have an odd consistency. Without authentic, local ingredients, Pad Thai just isn’t the same! Luckily, 99 Ranch Market has all the ingredients that real Pad Thai calls for:

Wonton Soup

Wonton Soup has its origins in China, though it’s quite different than what you’ll find at Panda Express and other American restaurants. In China, Wonton Soup is typically served as a meal in itself. The dish is usually a salty broth with noodles and balls of meat. It’s Americanized counterpart looks strikingly different! Rather than simple balls of meat, Americanized Wonton Soup contains pork-stuffed wontons. You’ll commonly see the soup as a side dish or appetizer on American menus, which leads us to question American portion control. The US version of Wonton Soup would be too much for those in China to eat, especially if it isn’t even the main course! You’d be surprised to see the nutritional differences in American-Chinese versus authentic Chinese foods. We encourage you to be a bit critical the next time you’re skimming a menu; ask yourself, “If I were in the actual Asian country, what would they be eating, with what, and how much?” It’s fascinating to see how different cultures have such drastically different relationships with food and meals.

Orange Chicken

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Orange Chicken is not Asian in any capacity! You might find it offered in the countries for tourism reasons, but the dish was fully developed in America. Orange Chicken is believed to have started from a far more humble dish; chicken coated in a light sauce flavored with orange and lemon peels. It quickly became apparent to American-Chinese restaurant owners that their traditional meals were not living up to the US palate. You see, Americans have a much larger sweet tooth than Asian countries, and the US prefers things that are rich and thick. As such, chefs fiddled with the recipe to create a much sweeter and thicker sauce for orange chicken. They also took to deep frying the chicken to add more American style to the dish. Orange Chicken quickly became a crowd favorite. In fact, Panda Express sold 65 million pounds of Orange Chicken alone in 2013! 

Sushi

We couldn’t possibly write this list without including arguably the most Americanized Asian dish – sushi. Japan is considered the world’s sushi capital, though the dish can also be found in China, Thailand, and other Asian countries. American sushi is not at all like the real thing. Traditional Japanese sushi never contains fruit, beef, chicken, avocado, or cream cheese. More and more American “recipes”are prominently featuring these ingredients! Rolls are also a hit in the American sushi realm, but they’re essentially non-existent in Japan. Most Japanese people eat nigiri sushi, which is just rice, wasabi, and fish. No sauces, no gimmicks, no funky ingredients. Americans that travel to Japan will likely be disappointed to see sushi menus. Without the dressed up rolls and very American ingredients, the dish is not the same. That being said, Japanese sushi is almost always fresher, and it’s far better for you. You can find a huge selection of sushi ingredients at 99 Ranch Market. We offer frozen seafood, authentic spices, an assortment of rice, and fresh produce. When you shop with us, you’ll get exactly what you need to make the best sushi you’ve ever had!

Did you know that any of these dishes are heavily Americanized? It’s pretty widely known that the Asian cuisine we eat in the states is not authentic, but many people don’t realize how far we strayed from the path. Because American-Chinese and American-Asian foods are essentially their own genre of cuisine, Asian residents struggle to find food from their culture that remains true to the original recipe. Most rely on small, family-owned restaurants or make the dish at home by themselves. If you’re looking for authentic ingredients, check out 99 Ranch Market! 

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BLOG, Grocery - Sauce and Noodle | April 13th, 2021