Chinese cuisine aficionados know that what passes for Chinese food in North America was really invented by Cantonese rail workers in Canada, after the completion of coast-to-coast railway construction.
In the U. S. A goldmine workers who found work too tiring decided to open restaurants to cater to their Chinese brethren and other adventurers.
Practically any food labeled Chinese in North America does not exists in China proper. This immense county has many regional cooking styles using ingredients readily available in the vicinity; the general direction comes from four main cuisines; Shanghai, Cantonese, Szechwan, and Beijing which some call the Imperial cuisine.
Cantonese being the most southerly region of all, uses fruits in main dishes, rice is the main starch, a variety of seafood, but practically no beef, veal or lamb.
Pork means meat to the Chinese.
Szechwan is highly spicy and hot; Shanghai’s cuisine includes seafood dishes more than any other.
In Beijing chefs use potatoes, noodles, duck, chicken, pork, more root vegetables, and a lot of soy sauce with a lot of salt.
There are well over 36,000 Chinese restaurants in the U. S. A, and approximately 4,000 in Canada, and practically all feature confusing and extremely long menus. Chop suey, Crab Rangoon (Rangoon is not in China), sweet and sour pork, fortune cookies are never heard of in China.
Chinese food has become popular because it is perceived to be quick, unpretentious, informal, and quite inexpensive.
The majority of what is served consists of inexpensive ingredients, meat cuts, and a lot of rice.
In mainland Europe, Chinese restaurants are expensive, the service is very attentive, the food authentic, and highly sophisticated with prices to match.
Originally, Chinese restaurateurs in North America were good business people recognizing correctly that their clientele is interested
in filling, inexpensive meals that pleased their palates and which tasted better than bland English inspired dishes, almost tasteless standbys.
Since 1960’s the situation started to change for the better and Chinese restaurants hang out their signs indicating the style of foods they serve or feature such as Cantonese, or Szechwan.
Also Chinese rich enough demand exquisite food and service and dine in restaurants that satisfy their demands.
They pay willingly for appropriate décor, food quality, and service. This market segment of the population is well educated, travels extensively on business, and experiences the sophistication of Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai or Taipei.
Authentic Chinese cuisine is one of the finest along with French, Italian and Japanese. If you want to experience a Chinese feast, talk with a Chinese friend or business associate, call the Chinese Cultural Association in your city, consult reputable food guides, or ask newspaper food critiques for guidance.
Chinese in China, never go to restaurants featuring all you can at buffets, they are for tourists.