It wasn’t until we read this interview in Salon with Jennifer 8. Lee (and that’s not a typo, folks), New York Times journalist and author of the book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, that we suddenly realized that it has been forever since we’ve had beef with broccoli or General Tso’s chicken. We think it’s because we haven’t made room in our ordering agenda given the unbelievable amount of variety and selection in Shanghai in terms of Chinese food. The interview definitely wants to make us read the book as a way to cross-check and validate our experiences as a Chinese-American raised on American-Chinese food (go Panda Express!).
Her adventures are illuminating, and the big picture of how American taste has altered Chinese food, and vice versa, sheds complex light on both cultures. The evolution — or devolution — of Chinese food in America has similarities with other major ethnic foods, especially Italian and Mexican: As Americans adapt to new flavors, we simultaneously impose our own lustiness onto every cuisine we touch. The portions get bigger, the meat-to-vegetable ratio is reversed. Everything must be breaded, fried, sauced beyond recognition.
Breaded, fried, sauced beyond recognition — sounds disgustingly good and makes us a little homesick. Any of you readers have recommendations for good American-Chinese food here in Shanghai? We have a hankering for it, especially now that we know MSG is not going to make our hair fall out.
Thanks for the tip, Clint!
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.