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leviathan

The influence of Chinese cuisine on Western cuisin

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How has chinese cooking influenced Western cuisine?

I think you could argue that Japan has had quite a influence on Western cuisine. You see it from japanese style knives in american kitchens to the japanese aesthetic of simplicity and empty space in terms of plating to the increasing use of yuzu.

Even Southeastern asian cuisine has started to influence American cuisine, as you see its ingredients being used for non-asian dishes.

There's no doubt that Chinese cooking is undeniably popular with Americans. But, right now, I can't think, or more likely, don't know of how Chinese cuisine has influenced Western cooking.

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Before, way, way before, Japanese, Thai, Hawaiian, Vietnamese, Korean, etc. Chinese food was enjoyed in North America. Like, after the 1849 California gold rush. None of those othe "Asian" cuisines were around in any popular form until the middle of the 20th century. (Except for the Japanese cuisine, most of the others listed above can attribute most of their style to the Chinese way, due to the long historical hegemony of China in Asia). Each of the Asian cuisines have its own unique set characteristics and methods of using local ingredients, but the style is generally similar to the Chinese way...fresh, barely cooked veggies, flash wokking, pre-cutting ingredients, pervasive use of aromatics and condiments, etc.

I have looked in my old (non -Chinese) cookbooks from the 50s and 60s and I cannot find any reference to ingredients like soy sauce, hoisin sauce, fermented black beans, fish sauce, doufu (tofu), Szechuan pepper, star anise, etc. Now, these Chinese ingredients are in general use along with a plethora of "new" and exotic fruits and veggies.

In those same cookbooks, there weren't any reference to "stir-frying" (chowing), now it is one of the main cooking methods. Before that mainstream North Americans were doomed to eating cooked to death broccoli mush, greens that you had to eat with a spoon and huge chunks of meat that was boiled or roasted without even a "howdy-do" to a clove of garlic.


Edited by Ben Hong (log)

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In addition to stir-frying, I think steaming has not been popular in Western cooking until recently due to Chinese influence. Other traditionally Chinese foods that have now become fairly mainstream include soy milk, bean sprouts, and fresh ginger.

ETA: Also, ginseng is a commonly taken herbal supplement. And don't forget about the popularity of bubble tea.


Edited by sheetz (log)

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It seems to me that Japan's influence was linked to its phenomenal resurrection from the ashes of WWII. You had businessmen who would travel to Japan to close deals, and that would expand their palates. And, since Japan was where the money was, a lot of western chefs worked there and were influenced by Japanese dishes when they returned to their respective countries. Joel Rochubon is an example of this.

As China continues to grow economically, you'll probably see a similar result occur as well. Although, I doubt that the Chinese appreciation for certain textures will ever pass over into western appetite. Of course, this analogy could be totally wrong. After all, Germany also had phenomenal growth but I don't think it had the same influence. Ironically, you had a whole brigade of Germans at the CIA, but they were mostly carrying on French style dishes.

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It seems to me that Japan's influence was linked to its phenomenal resurrection from the ashes of WWII. You had businessmen who would travel to Japan to close deals, and that would expand their palates. And, since Japan was where the money was, a lot of western chefs worked there and were influenced by Japanese dishes when they returned to their respective countries. Joel Rochubon is an example of this.

IMO, the development of Japanese influence on Western cuisines is linked less to Westerners traveling to Japan than it is to waves of Japanese businessmen (and yes, it was mostly men) being sent to the USA and Western Europe for several years to establish subsidiaries of their companies here. Japanese restaurants sprang up in the 1970s and 1980s to serve these expats, and Westerners became more exposed to these foods as a result.


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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I thought the Japanese influence largely came about from Ferdinand Point's trip to Japan and how he drew on that as inspiration for nouvelle cuisine.


PS: I am a guy.

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Reasonably old influence even in the eastern half of the western hemisphere:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caribbean_Chinese_cuisine

Remember, these were port cities in the Caribbean. The influence is felt all along the coasts and ports in the foodways of the south.

Hard to believe. But true.

I find it very evident in the spicy/sweet flavor profiles of the southern port cities concoctions.

Then, there is the very convincing argument that Native Americans are descendant from the Shang people.

Very convincing.

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There is a saying in Chinese that wherever there's chimney smoke, you would probably find a Chinese presence. The Chinese presence and influence is very, very evident in most of the Caribbean island/countries and have been for centuries. On a business trip to Mauritius some years ago, I was absolutely gobsmacked to find that the Chinese and their descendants made up a great part of the population. Their food, though delicious was quite a bit "changed" from the original. Mauritius is a small island off the east coast of Africa.

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Mauritius is a small island off the east coast of Africa.

Historically, China has a strong tie with many African countries - since the Mao's days. The Carribean connections, I am not sure. Separated by Central America, unless one travels through the Panama Canal, I wonder how China begun trading with the Carribean countries.


W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"

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Mauritius is a small island off the east coast of Africa.

Historically, China has a strong tie with many African countries - since the Mao's days. The Carribean connections, I am not sure. Separated by Central America, unless one travels through the Panama Canal, I wonder how China begun trading with the Carribean countries.

Unfortunately, indentured servitude.


Edited by annecros (log)

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No expert here, but it seems as tho every major city had a Chinatown from way back when, and the clientele was Western. I'm probably the oldster here, and I can remember Boston's Chinatown from the 30s. When the chop suey palaces came along, they didn't seem to be in heavily Asian populated areas. Westerners just wanted "Chinese" food. And I read that the first canned bean sprouts were marked in 1922, under the brand name La Choy. We all know there has been that brand -- plus Chun King for a long while. There must be a marketing reason for it.

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Would it be accurate to say that western cooking has had a bigger influence on chinese cooking rather than vice versa?

Maybe, I'm wrong but I always thought blanching was a western cooking technique that later became popular in chinese cooking. With limited fuel, would it really be feasible for blanching to take place?

And, there's peanut oil which was introduced by western traders but has become so ingrained into chinese cooking that when I automatically associate peanut oil with chinese cooking.

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The more I study Chinese cuisine the more I find deep rooted influences not only on Western cuisine, but on many.

Particularly interesting to me lately is the influence of Confucianism and Taoism on Chinese cuisine from before 500 B.C. that seem to then translate and relate to philosophies of food adopted by other cultures - and I even find particular relevance in the philosophies of Western chefs and cooks – even in some of the “newest trends."

Particularly I find it interesting that Confucius loved cooking:

“Confucius dreamed about and fussed about food. He emphasized the art of cooking and enjoyment of life. He showed people how they could cultivate their palate and delight their senses. The art of cooking encompassed more than food. Culinary etiquette, social sharing of food, presentation and combining of tastes and textures was important in this school.”

“Confucius taught that while maintaining the integrity of the individual food it is important to blend taste and textures and the use of condiments to give the palette the whole experience. He also stressed the use of color and aroma in the presentation of the dish.”

As well, within Taoism:

“Taoism shaped Chinese cuisine by emphasizing the need to study the life giving properties of food. Taoism studied the effects (both physical and psychological) of foods and prepared dishes. It concerned itself with the nourishment of the body, prevention of disease and the search for longevity.”

“Over the centuries the Chinese have studied plants, roots, herbs, fungus and seeds to find their healthful properties. They discovered their medicinal value and how not to destroy this value during cooking. They explored seasonal cooking and understood the elements found in each ingredient.”

“Their contributions have resulted in Chinese cuisine embracing lots of vegetables, grains, herbs and cooking with little fat. Traditional Chinese cuisine is low-calorie and low-fat. Food is cooked using poly-unsaturated oils, and milk, cream, butter and cheese are avoided. Meats are used as flavorings and condiments and seasonings are used to satisfy the taste buds.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Within researching these things you find “Cooking as Art”, the importance of presentation, combining varieties of textures and garnishes to “give the palette a whole experience” while maintaining the integrity of ingredients, focusing on color, texture and aroma, the importance of "all the senses" in cooking and eating, the importance of seasonality, the medicinal affect of foods and avoidance of milk and dairy, the importance of seasoning and on and on – long before the Western world even existed.

Look even further and you find things like the interspersing of sweet and savory dishes in a progression of small presentations in Dim Sum all the way to the fact that any “liquid filled ravioli” is pretty much just a modern version of Xiaolongbao.

Though some of these things no doubt also evolved in isolation in other societies, it wouldn't be hard to argue that the Chinese were “first” in many – if not all these categories.


"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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