Overseas Chinese American Diaspora Foods


Published on

Perspectives on three types of foods that are part of the Chinese American diaspora experience and identity. This approach probably applies to other ethnic groups, as well.

  • Be the first to comment

Overseas Chinese American Diaspora Foods

  1. 1. Overseas ChineseAmerican Foods Alan A. Lew Dept. of Geography, Planning & Recreation Northern Arizona University, USA http://alanalew.com ----------- Asian Studies Program Northern Arizona University December 4, 2013
  2. 2. NEW: Humans Are Becoming More Carnivorous w/China + India
  3. 3. Chinese Americans • 3.35 million in 2010 – Largest Asian population in the US – 38% increase over 2000 • More Diabetes & Heart Diseases than Chinese in Asia – probably due, in part, to different diets • Traditional Chinese Diet: – High fiber, Low saturated fat, Well-balanced • After US immigration: – Western eating habits – AND Traditional Chinese eating habits
  4. 4. Chinese or American ? Immigrant Chinese (1st generation) • Immersed in Chinese culture prior to migration to the US – Shapes interaction with American culture • Adopting some American traits • Dropping some Chinese traits • “Chineseness” = Degree of Dropping or Keeping Chinese Cultural Traits • Some drop more than others • May re-adopt with older age Liu/Lau/Lew Family Association, Chinatown, San Francisco
  5. 5. American or Chinese? “ABC” – American Born Chinese (2nd + … generations) • Immersed in both American and Chinese culture from birth – Chinese culture = Family Chinese community Chinese food – American culture = School Work Friends Public settings Chinatown, San Francisco • “Chineseness” = degree of engagement with Chinese culture – Some engage more than others – May engage more with older age
  6. 6. Ways of “Performing” Chineseness 1. Chinese Language Ability 2. Affiliate with Chinese People 3. Participate in Chinese Activities 4. Pride in Chinese Heritage 5. Exposure to Chinese Culture 6. Preference for Chinese Food (Tsai, et al. 2000)
  7. 7. ABC - Food & Acculturation - 20 First Generation Chinese Couples in Pennsylvania - At least 1 child age 5+ enrolled in a Chinese school • Results: (1) Chinese American Families eat: Asian Grocery • Breakfast: Convenient American food Store, Mesa, • Lunch & Dinner at Home: Chinese food Arizona • Meals away from home: Children prefer Western foods (2) Family Food Conflicts • Children’s Preference for Western Foods • Children’s Dislike of Vegetables • Father’s Food Preference – had biggest impact on Chinese/Western conflicts • Implications: 1. Primary contrast with Western convenience/fast foods 2. Demonstrate engagement with Chineseness through Chinese meals 3. Impose Chineseness on children through parental power (Lu & Brown, 2010)
  8. 8. Chinese and Indian Vegetables at Lee Lee Market in north Phoenix, AZ
  9. 9. Food & Travel Neophobics vs Neophyllics (Cohen 1979) Fear of Newness vs. Love of Newness • 1. Recreational/Mass Tourists (passive hedonists) – Seek relaxation & enjoyment – No interest in local food authenticity • 2. Sightseeing Tourists (gazing on “others”) – Interested in local dishes & food habits – Might try local food in a “safe” tourism settings • 3. Experimental/Participatory/Adventure tourists (trying local life) – Try local foods in local establishments • 4. Existential/Identity tourists (adopting local life) – Subsist on local food – Culinary ‘‘switching worlds’’ A dish for Experimental & Existential Food Neophyllics at the Great Wall Restaurant, Phoenix, AZ
  10. 10. A Typology of U.S. Overseas Chinese Foods 1. “Chinese American” Foods – Safe for Food Neophobics - Recreational & Sightseeing Foodies 2. “Real Chinese” Foods – More Authentic (similar to China) - Desired by Food Neophyllics - Adventure & Identity Foodies 3. “American Chinese” Foods – Home Cooked Chinese dishes - Not common in restaurants
  11. 11. 3 Types of U.S. Overseas Chinese Foods Similarity to China Restaurant Foods Less Home Foods 1. Chinese American 3. American Chinese More 2. Real Chinese
  12. 12. Typology of US Overseas Chinese Foods 1. Chinese American Foods – Safe for food neophobic Recreational & Sightseeing Foodies – Chinese & American Fusion • since 19th c. in railroad & mining towns of the western US • Chop Suey (‘Tsa Sui’), Sweet & Sour Pork, Orange Chicken, Fried Wontons, Fortune Cookies – Non-Chinese and “Banana” & “Twinkie” ABCs Orange Chicken & Fried Rice
  13. 13. (1) Chinese American Foods Early Chinese Food in the US (1849-1900) • Stir- fried, rice-based Cantonese food • Used every part of the animal = not palatable to Americans • Very basic establishments – for railroad & mining camp workers By the 1920s • Chinese restaurants throughout U.S. • Foods adjusted to US palate • Separate English menu & Chinese menus First Chinese Buffet opened in San Francisco in 1850 “Chinese-American cuisine is 'dumbed- down' Chinese food. It’s adapted... to be blander, thicker and sweeter for the American public.” Ming Tsai, Blue Ginger restaurant owner, Wellesley, Massachusetts
  14. 14. Ethnic Food Preferences in the U.S.
  15. 15. (1) Chinese American Foods Typical 100% Chinese American Restaurant Foods Mainland China Restaurant Foods - Vegetables as minor part of meal: mostly carrots, broccoli, cabbage & onions - Meat is focus of the meal - Sweet, sticky sauces, often with tomatoes - Much more soy sauce - Fried rice & brown rice are more common - Thick flour battered meat that is deep fried - Vegetables are major dishes: diversity of leafy vegetable & roots - Meat in small pieces, except fish - Greater variety of sauces - More soups, especially with herbs - White rice only - more “fluffy” - Fried rice & thick battered meat is rare - Mostly stir frying & deep frying with a wok - Huge, but stable menu covering different regions of China, though mostly Cantonese - Very few innovations - Much more steaming & boiling - Focus on single regional food or specialty food - Frequent food innovations & fusions - Fortune Cookies - Chinese takeout boxes - Cantonese Romanization & translation - Family-style eating - Less takeout - Translations are rare
  16. 16. Typology of US Overseas Chinese Foods 1. Chinese American Foods 2. “Real Chinese” Foods – Desired by Food Neophyllics, Adventure & Identity Foodies & many ABCs – “Yellow Fever”, “Egg” & “Pineapple” Non-Chinese – High “Authenticity” Chinese Foods - Similar to China • Chicken Feet, Dim Sum, Clay Pots, Peking Duck, Tofu, Soy Milk, Roast Duck, Herbal Soups – Ordering from the “Chinese Menu” • Even if you cannot read it! Dried meats in Chinatown, San Francisco
  17. 17. (2) Real Chinese Foods & Foodies
  18. 18. (2) Real Chinese Foods More “Authentic” to China & Hong Kong – Immigrant enclaves in large U.S. cities – Formal Chinese Banquets • Weddings & Elder Birthdays – “Dim Sum” - allows experimenting Culinary Authenticity – Objective Authenticity • (1) Reproductions of Heritage Dishes – Family traditions • (2) Reproductions from Homeland – Subjective Authenticity • Personally Perceived as an Authentic Food – Existential/Experiential Authenticity • Peak, Euphoric, or even Spiritual, Food Experiences – Independent of Objective or Subjective authenticity measures A Pot Sticker (gyoza) restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona
  19. 19. Dim Sum: - Siu mai (pork & shrimp dumplings) - Spare ribs in black bean sauce - Chicken feet
  20. 20. Restaurant Ratings & U.S. Chinese Food Types Similarity to China Restaurant Foods Less Home Foods 1. Chinese American 3. American Chinese More 2. Real Chinese • Ethnic Chinese Reviewers - Compare to Hong Kong & China • Non-Chinese Reviewers - Compare to “Chinese American” Restaurants - Food Neophyllics – compare to New York or Los Angeles
  21. 21. ChineseFoodMap.com This website is for Chinese people to rate Chinese restaurants in the U.S.
  22. 22. This note warns Chinese readers that the reviews for this restaurant are from English language source and do not reflect Chinese tastes. The English translation is via Google translate.
  23. 23. This review was written entirely in Chinese (right). It is translate by Google translate (Left and below).
  24. 24. Examples of “Real Chinese Food” – yes, including boba/pearl drinks, which originated in Taiwan
  25. 25. Typology of US Overseas Chinese Foods 1. Chinese American Foods 2. Authentic Chinese Foods 3. American Chinese Foods – Home-cooked Chinese dishes – Not common in restaurants – More regional dishes • reflect homeland of 1st Generation immigrant ancestors – Most authentic foods of Chinese living in the US? These photos represent food commonly eaten at home by Toisan (Taishan) immigrants – which is where my ancestors are from. Ancestral offering
  26. 26. (3) ABC Home Foods The (Post)Modern Human Condition 1. Rapid & Constant Global Change: – Creates Uncertainty, Displacement, Lack of a Center, ‘Placelessness’ • Leading to anxiety & doubt about one’s identity (Ong, 1999) 2. Continually emerging opportunities: (Ohmae, 2000) – Transcending time-space barriers – Enabled new forms of global relationships & identities Nostalgia for an Idealized Past • Offers Sense of Connections to a larger Social Identity • Varies from the Fake to the more Authentic The ancestral offering become dinner for the living later in the day
  27. 27. (3) ABC Home Foods Major way of engaging with Nostalgias 1. Genealogy / Roots/ Identity Tourism 2. Eating Traditional Foods … can strengthen: • Ethnic identities (race, culture) • Personal heritage identities (family, genealogy) • Place identities (homes, travels) - Home made whole wheat BBQ pork bun (left) and Sticky rice tamale (above) - Pomelo, grown in Tucson, the original grapefruit (right)
  28. 28. Chinese-American home vegetable garden in San Diego, California
  29. 29. (3) ABC Home Foods Mix of 1. Chinese American Restaurant Foods 2. Real Chinese Foods & Fusion Creations 3. Traditional Family Recipes – Passed down from parents Unique Foods of the Chinese in the US • Turkey Congee – juk/ju zi, rice porridge Mushroom Chicken & Mustard Greens; Lotus root & Taro Pork; Turkey Congee
  30. 30. Steamed white water fish (bai shui yu) and other dishes
  31. 31. From American to Chinese through Food … on the issue of food, our taste buds were firmly entrenched [in Western foods]. [Our Chinese parents] groused about our inability to appreciate ‘real Chinese food.’ I never really understood what ‘real Chinese food’ meant until I went to China. … I encountered a variety of cuisines that were more akin to my mom's cooking than the ones of America's Chinese restaurants: more vegetables, less meat, less oil. I began spitting bones out onto the table and drinking watery soup after a meal to wash it all down. I even drank hot tea—no fortune cookies to be found. I began to roll my eyes at the take-out Chinese food I had grown up with; it wasn't authentic. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles – by Jennifer Lee
  32. 32. For comparison, these recent photos present an example of a regional restaurant in Dali, Yunnan, China. More photos can be found on my Google+ account: google.com/+alanalew
  33. 33. A type of mushroom/tree fungus
  34. 34. Savory steamed egg
  35. 35. Fried caterpillars >>>
  36. 36. Picking vegetables for one’s meal (left); and picking out live hornets and larvae for one’s meal (right), which is an option – the larvae are eaten raw/live.
  37. 37. Summary Chinese or American – 1st & 2nd (ABC) Generations – Engaging with Chineseness through Food – Food Neophobics & Neophyllics 1. Chinese American Food = Chinese food eaten by American Food Neophobics - Less Similar to China foods But Authentic to the Chinese Historical Experience in the US 2. Real Chinese Food = Preferred by 1st Generations & Food Neophyllics - More Similar/Authentic to China foods 3. American Chinese Food = Regional & Family Chinese foods eaten by Chinese at Home - More Authentic to the Daily Life of Chinese in the U.S. Chinese Fast Food at the Central Market in Los Angeles