So I’m still stuck in America. It’s been a month so culture shock is a thing of the past (people are back to being assholes and driving like maniacs.)
Basically I’m homesick for China. Very homesick, and to make myself feel better I’ve been looking for Chinese things in America. But, just like American things in China, they aren’t quite right.
So here are some “Chinese” things I’ve noticed in America that just aren’t really Chinese.
I think you knew this one was coming. Chinese food in America is about as authentic as a “bloomin’ onion” is to Australian cuisine. (Which is to say, not at all.) In China, the food is fresh, sometimes a little oily, but bursting with flavors. Not so much so in America. It’s fried, sweet, and covered in thick sauces. Personally, I’m finding it quite gross. I’ve only been to a few of the fast food style chinese restaurants and maybe I should go to a nice one for comparison, but I’m not impressed.
Bubble Tea/Milk Tea
I’ve written a few times about the sweet, delicious drink that is milk tea. Part tea, part milky/sugary thing, it can really quench your thirst on a hot summers day, or warm your belly on a cold winters night. It’s one of my favorite things in China. In America it’s called bubble tea. but again, it’s not totally the same.
First off the “bubble” name comes from tapioca pearls they add. In China, if you want it added, you ask for “pearl milk tea.” So it’s not like there is one kind of bubble tea, and the rest is milk tea. It’s just milk tea, and you can add the pearls if you want or not. But in America, it seems like the purpose of “bubble tea” is the pearls. Also, the flavors in America try to be all Asian inspired, like lychee and what-not, which is obviously not done in china. If I wanted lychee “bubble” tea in china, I’d ask for lychee fruit juice and ask them to add pearls. In my opinion, if something is called ‘tea’ it should have some form of tea in it, not just fruit juice.
Chinese Buffets/Chinese Take-away Containers
As I’m sure you can imagine that an all-you-can-eat buffets is much more an American thing, though I have been to some in China. The funny thing is that yes, while they do have Chinese food (naturally) they also usually have a lot of western food. Like, a buffet is more of a western way to eat food then a Chinese way.
And the take out boxes? Nope, not such thing. In China when you get food to-go it comes in normal round containers, with a plastic lid on top. No white box with chinese scrawled on the sides.
Szechwan chicken, szechwan sauce. No such place, it’s called Sichuan in real life. Chinese people know that foreigners used to call Beijing Peking, or Guangzhou Canton. But Szechwan? Totally American.
Real Chinese Things!!
I have stumbled upon a few real chinese things in America which has made me happy. For instance I saw a chinese guy using weixin/wechat on the train the other day, using hanzi to type. I wanted to start talking to him just to speak chinese again, but I held back.
In the chaotic jumble of flashing advertisements that is Times Square I noticed a Chinese ad right at the very tippy, top of the most prominent spot (where they drop the ball from). It circulated through several different Chinese ads for different places and some xinhua news, so I guess the government controls it? Anyway, it made me happy.
I officially have 22 days left until I head back to the middle kingdom, but in less than a week my pal Jason is gonna arrive to spend the last 2 weeks with me. Needless to say I’m excited.
I miss bubble tea, the Taiwanese invention, in Taiwan. Bubble tea has not only branched out to other countries like China, Japan – now the Taiwanese drink is showing up in England, Germany and the U.S. It’s not the same, though. Ah well. I’m at least going back to Taiwan.
Without a doubt, its best in taiwan. 🙂
Getting shrimps without the shells is really more of an American thing. Americans, perhaps more than any other people, seem to prefer their foods heavily processed and are squeamish about foods in their natural forms. In other English-speaking countries such as Australia and New Zealand it’s not at all unusual to cook and serve shrimps in their shells.
I think most Chinese people peel the shells first before they eat the shrimps, though.
And another supposedly Chinese thing that is not Chinese is the fortune cookie.
This post is why I love your blog 🙂
Great post. Just found it through Google when I was looking for ideas for a video I’m about to make. I think you mentioned most of the things I’d come up with as well. Furthermore, I would like to add the lucky cat in Chinese restaurants. I googled it and it seems like it’s Japanese. So much for Chinese culture abroad :p
my favourite things that are not from China but considered Chinese are… fortune cookies and ginger beef!
I miss fortune cookies, and beef with broccoli! Can’t find anything here like that, haha.