General Tso’s Chicken is not actually authentic Chinese cuisine

Posted on 17.02.2011

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And that’s the story of my dilemma here in Germany, the land of all products pork.

There are things that you expect to be different when you move to a new country: the language, currency, clothing, government, architecture. Things that I didn’t expect to be the same generally fall under a few categories, of which the largest is definitely ‘food’.

I’m not talking about German food or what we might refer to as “German Cuisine”. I’m talking about the food of other ethnic groups and how they manifest in different locations. As the title of this blog states, I didn’t know until moving here (and being forced to do the research) that GT’s Chicken is not, in fact, a chinese dish, but rather a chinese-inspired dish that is entirely native to America.

After my disappointment and further research today, it appears that other dishes like Sweet+Sour Chicken, Beef and broccoli and Cashew Chicken are ALSO purely for Americans with more sensitive sweet-tasting taste buds.

I was at another ‘Asian’ restaurant here, since I have yet to find a place that is strictly Chinese food. I really wanted GT’s Chicken, but knew it wasn’t going to happen. I read the menu, looking for ANYTHING even remotely resembling Chinese food.

There are Thai restaurants here (solidifying that yes, in fact, the rumors are true, all Germans appear to love Thailand. It’s their Costa Rica. No joke) that are reasonably ok. However, you can get Pad Thai at any ‘Asian’ restaurant as well. Just like you can get Curry on any street corner, and it will NEVER be spicy like we expect it to be.

The only remotely Chinese thing I could find on my menu was something kind of like shrimp fried rice, except the shrimp were smaller than what we call prawns. They were minute. I ordered it. I got it. Practically no flavor. I don’t know why I even expect anything different anymore. Seriously.

The rest of the menu could have fit on one page, but they felt the need to separate every type of meat to its own page. Every page offered the same options, with just a different meat. I could have had duck, chicken, pork OR beef fried rice. These appeared on 4 other pages, away from the seafood page, where I found the shrimp fried rice. I could have also had any of them with fried noodles, or with fried noodles AND vegetables, or fried noodles with vegetables a curry sauce. There were three different options for curry sauce. This is how you fill a whole menu page. Spelling out every possible combination. Noodles+Co., it ain’t.

As I was sitting there about to cry into my fried rice with mini shrimps, I decided to Wikipedia my dilemma. I read about how American Chinese is a far cry from real Chinese, which focuses more on vegetables, seafood and not so much other kinds of meat. Did you know that there isn’t what we refer to as ‘broccoli’ in China? Goodbye, Beef and broccoli. Did you know that GT’s Chicken was the first ‘Asian Fusion’ to hit America, back in the 60’s?

Further, all of these asian restaurants will give you the blandest Pad-Thai you’ve ever had in your entire life. None of the currys are spicy (the Germans are definitely not fans of the fire like my dad is) and if you want duck sauce, they look at you weird (true story).

It was after all of this that I decided I NEED to visit each of these places. I need to know who I should be disappointed in: America, Germany or the respective cultures whose food I grew to love in America. Is the US fucking it up, or is Germany? I need to go to China to see the closest thing to what I grew up thinking Chinese food was. I need to go to Thailand and have their noodles with Chicken. And I need to go to India for Indian food, since that’s just about nonexistent here. I can’t find anything unless Harsha’s making it. I need to learn to cook REAL Indian food.

I didn’t expect Chinese food to be different in Germany. I didn’t expect Turkish food to taste as much like Greek food as it does. I didn’t expect every corner to serve mild curry and call it spicy. These are not what you expect of a foreign country, as I said earlier.

I knew coming in that it might be hard to make some forms of American food and that I’d have to seek out specific things or ingredients (Tapioca flour? WTF?!). I didn’t expect to have to do it with EVERY different style of Ethnic food.

To be continued.

Posted in: food, German Lessons