Quick history lesson

How did Chinese Cuisine evolve in America?

by Yiting Liu

Food cultures define identities.

We also understand how people who have identities such as Asian-American, Indian-American and etc., consider the fusion food as part of their identity since that’s what they grew up with and that represents the mix of cultures they learned from growing up. (Jessie Zhang)

It is completely fine to explore fusion food and share the love of fusion food. However, for the goal of the game, we want to educate people to make the traditional way of cuisine.

How did Chinese Cuisine evolve in America?

The first wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the US around 1815 due to railroad and mining operations. The first American Chinese restaurant opened in 1849. Its cuisine style is mainly Cantonese. In order to cater to the taste of their American audience, their dishes were hybridized to appeal to local tastes.

Around 1970, with the fading of the Polynesian phase, a fresh wave of immigrants from the East helped to expand the Asian cuisines in America with a wider range of regional food.

Let’s bust some myths.


Fortune cookies are not from China.

Fortune cookies are from Kyoto, Japan. Before World War II, there are several japanese factories making fortune cookies. During World War II, all the Japanese people are locked up, therefore, Chinese took over to populate the production of fortune cookies. In China, there are little to none existence of fortune cookies in restaurants. In a way, you can say the mixed cultures in America help to prolong the traditional of fortune cookies in Chinese restaurants in the us.

Chinese broccoli is traditional while broccoli is a delicacy in China.

When I first encountered chinese dishes that have broccoli in a chinese restaurant when I was in Madison, WI, I have mixed feelings. For one thing, broccoli is considered foreign in China since it is imported vegetables.

Also, my closest encounterance with broccoli is in an American restaurant in China where they serve steak with broccoli, fries, and specialized sauce.

Therefore, in traditional cuisine, we rarely use broccoli. Instead, we use Chinese broccoli which is a more common vegetable in China.

What is Chop Suey?

I have to say that living in the US for more than four years is an interesting experience in terms of getting to know what others consider as Chinese may be different than what I consider as Chinese in terms of cuisines. I have no idea what Chop Suey was until I searched on Wikipedia. The first time I found “Chop Suey” printed on the menu of a Chinese restaurant, I thought to myself, maybe it is Vietnamese cuisine or other Asian cuisine. They put the dish inside just to be inclusive. However, it sounds like Cantonese.

Chop suey is widely believed to have been invented in the U.S. by Chinese Americans, but anthropologist E. N. Anderson, a scholar of Chinese food, traces the dish to tsap seui (杂碎, "miscellaneous leftovers"), common in Taishan (Toisan), a county in Guangdong province, the home of many early Chinese immigrants to the United States.Hong Kong doctor Li Shu-fan likewise reported that he knew it in Toisan in the 1890s.

So what is Chop Suey?

In 1898, Wong Chin Foo, a Chinese-American activist, journalist, lecturer defined the dish as

A Hash of Pork, with Celery, Onions, Bean Sprouts, etc.


It’s all about education.

We would love to educate people the traditional cuisines from our cultures through this playful game. In the future, we would make the console more accessible to more people and develop variations of the interactions to teach people about the authentic dishes that they can make at home.

Here is the TED talk to leave you informative about how the journey of what we perceive of Chinese American food has developed.

We are on the path of innovating cuisines constantly. It is nice to still remind people of the traditional cuisines.