Which menu do you pull out of the junk drawer when you call for takeout? Chances are good that you go for Chinese foods. Americans love their General Tso’s chicken, lo mein, and hot and sour soup (even though those dishes aren’t the healthiest options). But did you know many popular Chinese recipes, at least those served at restaurants across the United States, don’t actually come from China?
Check out 15 Chinese foods that aren’t authentically Chinese.
1. Moo shu pork
Moo shu pork isn’t an authentic part of Chinese cuisine. But it does conveniently illustrate how Chinese-American food evolved in the first place. First We Feast reports the first Chinese immigrants to the United States came mostly from the city of Taishan in the southeast coastal province of Guangdong. There, the cuisine consisted mostly of simple stir-fries. And flavor profiles “veered toward the sweeter end.” First We Feast explains, “This fare established the foundation of Chinese food in America.”
The second major wave of immigration came during the 1960s. It brought regional cuisines by chefs from Taiwan and Hong Kong. These chefs introduced recipes for moo shu pork, kung pao chicken, and orange chicken. Those dishes were based on Beijing, Sichuan, and Hunan dishes, but chefs adapted them to suit American tastes.
The Chicago Tribune reports moo shu pork was likely invented by someone from the “late 1940s-early 1960s generation of predominantly non-Cantonese immigrants.” That means it’s not an authentically Chinese dish.