Many of the popular Chinese takeout dishes Americans grew up eating aren’t really Chinese at all.
Dishes like General Tso’s chicken, egg drop soup, and lo mein were developed over time by Chinese immigrants who adapted their recipes with U.S. ingredients to appeal to American palates. That’s why when you mention “orange chicken” on the streets of Shanghai, you’ll probably get blank stares.
But American expatriates living in China often miss the Chinatown cuisine they are familiar with.
That’s exactly why Fung Lam and David Rossi, owners of a restaurant in Shanghai called Fortune Cookie, are making “Chinese food” the way Americans make it.
When Lam and Rossi moved to Shanghai from the U.S., they originally hoped to open a health food restaurant, reports NPR’s The Salt. Instead, they discovered that the real gap in the culinary spectrum of Shanghai was American-style Chinese food.
Lam believes “American-Chinese food is another regional cuisine for China,” which is why he puts Heinz ketchup in the restaurant’s sweet and sour sauce and Skippy peanut butter in the fried noodles and fried rice.
The pair originally had trouble getting their restaurant, Fortune Cookie, up and running. The Salt reports that they bought their namesake dessert (unheard of in Shanghai) from the Jiangsu province, where it was imported from the Netherlands.
The owners discovered that writing fortune after fortune is harder than it looks—after 40, they were out of ideas. Now, the takeout joint has a box where customers can write their own fortunes and submit them.
The restaurant even attracts Chinese customers, although they find the food a bit overpowering. “Westernized Chinese food lacks the subtly of the original cuisine,” customer George Zhao told The Salt.
But for Americans, nothing is more comforting than a takeout box of noodles after a long day. For them, Fortune Cookie is a stroke of luck.
Visit Fortune Cookie at 83 Chang Shu Lu, 4th Floor, Shanghai.
[via The Salt]