We're not going to beat around the bush here: There are some major idiosyncrasies that separate American Chinese food and mainland Chinese cuisine. After all, China is made up of 23 provinces, each with vastly different dishes and culinary styles. So, yeah, it's not really fair to fry some boneless meat in cornstarch batter, douse it in super-sweet soy-based sauce, and call it "Chinese food". Hell, most local Chinese probably wouldn't even recognize your sticky orange chicken.
That being said, we love that stuff from the local takeout spot. Americanized Chinese food, blasphemous as it may be to some, has carved out a place for itself in Western culture—Jews eat it on Christmas Day, busy families and bachelors order it straight to their doors, and pretty much everyone else eats it when they're just craving those comforting, umami flavors. Hey, we're not trying to fuck with tradition—we're just trying to fuck with some delicious dinner.
This is the sweet, umami, oily goodness we're talking about. The recipe makes a ton of kung pao sauce, which tastes just like it does at your nearby Chinese spot—and you're going to want to swim in the stuff. Trust.
Egg rolls are the unsung heroes of the Chinese takeout box. LA Chef E-Dubble made it his mission to give these fried cylinders of goodness the love that they deserve—shrimpy, bacony love, that is. Don't forget his "makes everything better" chipotle-garlic-honey dipping sauce.
We couldn't write about American interpretations of Chinese food and not mention Danny Bowien. That's like writing about rap and leaving out Biggie. Bowien's Mission Chinese Food locations in San Francisco and New York are known for super-inventive menus, but these tongue-zapping wings are mainstays at both—make 'em and you'll know why.
When something is as easy to make as it is delicious, it becomes a problem. Therefore, this scallion pancake recipe, courtesy of the ladies at Mimi Cheng's Dumplings, is a problem. These bad boys are crispy, doughy, and just perfect with a tangy black vinegar dipping sauce.
Noodles are probably the most iconic and quintessential component of Chinese takeout. But these perfectly chewy udon noodles tossed with a creamy sesame sauce, chili oil, spicy pork and pickled greens? Well, they're downright killer. Freddie Janssen, the brilliant mind behind this recipe, describes the noodles as, "an AZN version of spag Bol, essentially Asian noodles with meat ragu." We can't compete with that take on this iconic Sichuan dish.
What makes this dish so "special" is—well, besides everything—the fact that the rice gets dried out after cooking, then crisped up in a pan with oil. The garlicky hoisin "Chinatown Sauce" certainly doesn't hurt, either. Then, of course, there's the pork belly, broccoli, egg crepe, and red-skin peanuts.
If you're a stickler for authenticity, just remember—Americanized Chinese food is very much American. But boy, is it good.
This first appeared on MUNCHIES in April 2017.