Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Why Jews Like Chinese Food


Recommended Posts

Important, too, was that the Chinese were even lower on the social scale than the Jews. Jews didn't have to feel competitive with the Chinese, as they might with Italians. Indeed, they could feel superior.

Was that statement a slag, or one that is supposed to denote cameraderie? Hmmm, I'm not sure whether to be offended or to laugh.

Edited by cwyc (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites
I learned that the Cantonese salted and dried foods because they mostly lived on boats with no refrigeration.

Hong Kong is mostly comprised of Cantonese-speaking people, so I suppose the people living on the boats might do that, but there's a huge number of Cantonese in mainland China as well. I think for most Cantonese, salted and dried foods are made for about the same reason anybody else would have them made.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I learned that the Cantonese salted and dried foods because they mostly lived on boats with no refrigeration.

Hong Kong is mostly comprised of Cantonese-speaking people, so I suppose the people living on the boats might do that, but there's a huge number of Cantonese in mainland China as well. I think for most Cantonese, salted and dried foods are made for about the same reason anybody else would have them made.

If you take a close look at the coastline of the Canton region, you'll see that it's filled with miles and miles of irregular coastline that goes inland and then out to the sea again, inland and out to the sea. It ain't smooth is what I mean to say. This allows for ten fold the number of families which at first glance would fit there. Millions live on boats and historically have had no way to preserve food other than salting, drying or drying to remove water. Even today refrigeration on Cantonese boats is rare.

On my early visits to Chinatown here in Manhattan the shops were filled with cellophane packages of dried everything including shrimps, fish, mushrooms, chestnuts, noodles, and a few unmentionables. I learned a lot by picking up some strange looking thingy and asking someone what it was, and how to prepare it. It took a while until I could convince anyone I was serious, and longer to find anyone who spoke English. I had the feeling people felt I was either well meaning but stupid, or that I'd never understand their cuisine. But this was years ago. Wonderful times, a wonderful people, fantastic cuisine.

Edited by mymymichl (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...

Ok, so I'm not Jewish, but there are plenty of Jews in my family - all of them eat Chinese food voraciously. My Uncle Harvey used to sit down with my Dad and eat ribs almost non-stop. The contest ended when the first one got indigestion.

But every other Sunday, after church at Saint Brigid's, we would head to New Garden Chinese Restaurant, on Avenue B, somewhere between 8th street and 3rd. I just remember it was on our way home. My grandmother knew the owner, servers, and chefs, all by first name, and they all knew ours.

Alternately, on the off Sundays, we would head down Houston street to Katz's, for corned beef on club bread. We preferred the club to rye, because the rye would turn to mush from the steam emanating off the meat.

I have to admit, our palates had it good when we lived there. I'm in PA now, and you can't get good Chinese food here since Joe died (the owner of my former fave Chinese restaurant, NYC quality), and the Jewish foods, well, since 7th Street Deli closed, the local idea of hot corned beef is to heat it on the flattop until it is crispy. It tasted like jerky gone wild, so I send it back, and never returned to that restaurant again.

It's a good thing I taught myself how to cook a corned beef in the New York City style. Now, if I could only find club bread here....

Theresa :biggrin:

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

- Abraham Lincoln

Link to post
Share on other sites
Ok, so I'm not Jewish, but there are plenty of Jews in my family - all of them eat Chinese food voraciously.  My Uncle Harvey used to sit down with my Dad and eat ribs almost non-stop.  The contest ended when the first one got indigestion.

But every other Sunday, after church at Saint Brigid's, we would head to New Garden Chinese Restaurant, on Avenue B, somewhere between 8th street and 3rd.  I just remember it was on our way home.  My grandmother knew the owner, servers, and chefs, all by first name, and they all knew ours.

Alternately, on the off Sundays, we would head down Houston street to Katz's, for corned beef on club bread.  We preferred the club to rye, because the rye would turn to mush from the steam emanating off the meat.

I have to admit, our palates had it good when we lived there.  I'm in PA now, and you can't get good Chinese food here since Joe died (the owner of my former fave Chinese restaurant, NYC quality), and the Jewish foods, well, since 7th Street Deli closed, the local idea of hot corned beef is to heat it on the flattop until it is crispy.  It tasted like jerky gone wild, so I send it back, and never returned to that restaurant again.

It's a good thing I taught myself how to cook a corned beef in the New York City style.  Now, if I could only find club bread here....

Theresa :biggrin:

I always chose club rolls for the same reason. Not too many good kosher delis around anymore!

Link to post
Share on other sites

For years it has been no secret why Jewish peoples go out for Chinese food and almost always early Sunday eve. They eat a late breakfast of bagels, lox, CC, whitefish, sturgeon, and sable such that they get hungry around 5:30, six o'clock and crave an antidote to all that appetizing. What more polar-opposite than Chinese food, especially Cantonese. So-called European/American fine dining is out of the question if only because these restaurants open later, whereas the Chinaman is open all day. Japanese food is also out of the question since lox, sturgeon, etc. are a form of sashimi. Eastern European food is too heavy even though you would expect the Jews to have an affinity for that, given their roots. So there's your answer. Or as my grandmother used to say, "That's it and settled."

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...
Important, too, was that the Chinese were even lower on the social scale than the Jews. Jews didn't have to feel competitive with the Chinese, as they might with Italians. Indeed, they could feel superior.

Was that statement a slag, or one that is supposed to denote cameraderie? Hmmm, I'm not sure whether to be offended or to laugh.

My father's family was Jewish, and my mother's Italian-Catholic, so I'd have to say that the social dynamic described, did exist. At least until the dispersal to the 'burbs. Where the "Chinese" food was often Polynesian. I didn't know what the difference was until I was in high school and had a friend who lived in Chinatown.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 years later...

Important, too, was that the Chinese were even lower on the social scale than the Jews. Jews didn't have to feel competitive with the Chinese, as they might with Italians. Indeed, they could feel superior. As Philip Roth points out in Portnoy's Complaint, to a Chinese waiter, a Jew was just another white guy.

I doubt this dynamic/sentiment has died out

Link to post
Share on other sites

Of course we went out for Chinese food every Sunday, my husband, son and daughter. My daughter, aged 4, always pre-empted the banquette. A few minutes after imbibing the wonton soup, her favorite, she would gently slide sideways and fall into a sound sleep. It took us a while to figure out this was probably because of the MSG and another while to request that the chef leave it out. Problem solved. One of my fondest memories.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Growing up on the upper west side--and around the corner from Barney Greengrass--the lox and bagels on Sunday morning was a no-brainer. As for dinner on Sunday, it was likely the only night my family ate out, and yes, usually it was Chinese. There must be a myriad of reasons for this tradition. First of all there were a million Chinese restaurants within walking distance. And they were open on Sunday. Now most restaurants that close one night a week chose Monday, but I think it was very common in the 50's and 60's for Italian restaurants to close on Sunday. Another reason why Chinese might have been appealing to extended Jewish families is that cheese and dairy was not a major part of the diet, so anyone who ate semi-Kosher would have a wide array of beef and chicken dishes that were dairy free. And if, like my family, you were into pork and shellfish but didn't typically cook them during the week, this was a big opportunity. Plus, all children eat Chicken Sizzling Rice soup, right? Oh, and don't forget the value of sharing: no one gets stuck with a plate of food they don't like, since Chinese food is the equivalent of eating off each other's plates, only much more civilized.

Link to post
Share on other sites

As for Christmas, my immediate family gave up on Chinese food... too many restaurant are closed on Christmas. So, on Dec 15 it's Thai food for us!

However, for the last 40 years or so, my entire extended family gets together (usually around 2pm) to celebrate Thanksgiving at Chinese seafood restaurants.

Snails, clams, crabs, salt-pepper shrimp, whole fish, peking pork chops, lots of dim-sum dishes, is on the menu, depending on the restaurant selected for the 14 to 20 people attending.

We give thanks that no one has to cook for a crowd that day. Lauren and I cook a turkey (this year, the first time sous vide) for our immediate family, later in the week.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Similar Content

    • By Dejah
      Re- thread on "favourite Chinese cookbook": There is much discussion on what is authentic, recipes that are not found in any of today's Chinese cookbooks. Muichoi suggested starting a collection in eGullet. This may be a way for all of us to start actually recording recipes that have been passed down through generations.
      Muichoi requested a recipe for dried bak choi soup. I am sure there are many "recipes" for this favourite. I can recount the different ingredients, but not the amounts - just a bunch of this, a few of those, etc.
      Start your engines, folks, and let's get posting!
    • By aroberts
      I went to chinatown in London today and came back with just a few items.
      A 1Kg packet of frozen mixed seafood.
      A squeezy bottle of hot chilli sauce
      Tin of Wasabi peas
      Bottle of Saki
      What do you always pick up from oriental food shops?
    • By infernooo
      Hi everyone!
      I am looking for recipes that you might consider as "home style" cooking that are common/popular in Shanghai (or around that area). Preferably things you grew up with that may or may not be widely known... I have a friend who was born and raised there and want to surprise them... (so asking them what their favourites or what they grew up eating is a NO-NO - they will see it coming a mile away).
      Any ideas?
      Thanks in advance!
    • By liuzhou
      Congratulations are due to Fuchsia Dunlop, whose "Food of Sichuan" has just been published in a Chinese language version - a rare honour here. I've ordered a couple of copies as gifts for local friends who loved the Engish version, but struggled with some language issues.
       

      《川菜》,
      中信出版社。
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      Chinese food must be among the most famous in the world. Yet, at the same time, the most misunderstood.

      I feel sure (hope) that most people here know that American-Chinese cuisine, British-Chinese cuisine, Indian-Chinese cuisine etc are, in huge ways, very different from Chinese-Chinese cuisine and each other. That's not what I want to discuss.

      Yet, every day I still come across utter nonsense on YouTube videos and Facebook about the "real" Chinese cuisine, even from ethnically Chinese people (who have often never been in China). Sorry YouTube "influencers", but sprinkling soy sauce or 5-spice powder on your cornflakes does not make them Chinese!
       
      So what is the "authentic" Chinese food? Well, like any question about China, there are several answers. It is not surprising that a country larger than western Europe should have more than one typical culinary style. Then, we must distinguish between what you may be served in a large hotel dining room, a small local restaurant, a street market stall or in a Chinese family's home.

      That said, in this topic, I want to attempt to debunk some of the more prevalent myths. Not trying to start World War III.

      When I moved to China from the UK 25 years ago, I had my preconceptions. They were all wrong. Sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice was reported to be the second favourite dish in Britain, and had, of course, to be preceded by a plate of prawn/shrimp crackers. All washed down with a lager or three.

      Yet, in that quarter of a century, I've seldom seen a prawn cracker. And egg fried rice is usually eaten as a quick dish on its own, not usually as an accompaniment to main courses. Every menu featured a starter of prawn/shrimp toast which I have never seen in mainland China - just once in Hong Kong.

      But first, one myth needs to be dispelled. The starving Chinese! When I was a child I was encouraged to eat the particularly nasty bits on the plate by being told that the starving Chinese would lap them up. My suggestion that we could post it to them never went down too well. At that time (the late fifties) there was indeed a terrible famine in China (almost entirely manmade (Maomade)).

      When I first arrived in China, it was after having lived in Soviet Russia and I expected to see the same long lines of people queuing up to buy nothing very much in particular. Instead, on my first visit to a market (in Hunan Province), I was confronted with a wider range of vegetables, seafood, meat and assorted unidentified frying objects than I have ever seen anywhere else. And it was so cheap I couldn't convert to UK pounds or any other useful currency.
       
      I'm going to start with some of the simpler issues - later it may get ugly!

      1. Chinese people eat everything with chopsticks.
       

       
      No, they don't! Most things, yes, but spoons are also commonly used in informal situations. I recently had lunch in a university canteen. It has various stations selling different items. I found myself by the fried rice stall and ordered some Yangzhou fried rice. Nearly all the students and faculty sitting near me were having the same.

      I was using my chopsticks to shovel the food in, when I noticed that I was the only one doing so. Everyone else was using spoons. On investigating, I was told that the lunch break is so short at only two-and-a-half hours that everyone wants to eat quickly and rush off for their compulsory siesta.
       
      I've also seen claims that people eat soup with chopsticks. Nonsense. While people use chopsticks to pick out choice morsels from the broth, they will drink the soup by lifting their bowl to their mouths like cups. They ain't dumb!

      Anyway, with that very mild beginning, I'll head off and think which on my long list will be next.

      Thanks to @KennethT for advice re American-Chinese food.
       
       
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...