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Old 03-27-2017, 04:35 AM   #1
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Question about comparing ethnic foods here in the US to their country of origin

By no means am I a world traveler , so I get my worldly culinary experiences by dining out, cookbooks, food shows/ demos, internet ...etc..

I've heard and been told that Chinese food in China is very different than what is considered Chinese food here ( at the basic corner Chinese take out place). Clearly, I'm sure there are more authentic restaurants that are true to their cuisine, or maybe having that ' special' authentic menu for patrons that miss a true taste of home.

I was thinking, and I realized that I've never really heard people say the same thing about other ethnic cuisines ( Mexican,Greek, Indian...). So my question is, for all you worldly travelers and diners out there, what ethnic cuisines have you found to taste similar here in the US when compared to when its prepared abroad in its country of origen, and what others seem to have been more ' Amerianized' to suit our taste buds over hear? Clearly its going to vary restaurant to restaurant, in both the origin country, and here, but Im looking for ' in general' experiences, not that one exception.

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Old 03-27-2017, 05:08 AM   #2
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My American friend and I made dinner for each others. She made a Swedish dinner and dessert , that she had in her home town and also cooked several times. I made an American dinner, the way I have had.

We concluded this, American food is way sweeter and bigger. So the Swedish dinner which was meatballs , way bigger then here, contained dill ( which it doesnt) and served with a gravy which to me was sweet and the dessert was very sugary almond cake.
I made BBQ burgers with a bun and fries and American apple pie, her complain was it wasnt sweet enough and it was smaller then she was used to. I found the pie too Sweet. Also our pickles taste weird according to her.

I know here in Sweden Asian food seldom is as it should be, which sad because it can be so amazingly good. Curries, well Indian and British curries are different and what most people think of in curries are British.

When it comes to Greek food, a Greek friend said when he was working in USA, the Greek food was sweeter then he is used to and also the feta and yogurt doesnt taste like Greek feta and yogurt does in Greece, also the wine taste differently.

Food are made to suit the people, in Sweden heat and sugar is lowered. I have recipe of a hot chili containing only 1/8 of teaspoon of cayenne. Even our Kellogs Frosties has less sugar then Americans.
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Old 03-27-2017, 06:02 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by larry_stewart View Post
By no means am I a world traveler , so I get my worldly culinary experiences by dining out, cookbooks, food shows/ demos, internet ...etc..

I've heard and been told that Chinese food in China is very different than what is considered Chinese food here ( at the basic corner Chinese take out place). Clearly, I'm sure there are more authentic restaurants that are true to their cuisine, or maybe having that ' special' authentic menu for patrons that miss a true taste of home.

I was thinking, and I realized that I've never really heard people say the same thing about other ethnic cuisines ( Mexican,Greek, Indian...). So my question is, for all you worldly travelers and diners out there, what ethnic cuisines have you found to taste similar here in the US when compared to when its prepared abroad in its country of origen, and what others seem to have been more ' Amerianized' to suit our taste buds over hear? Clearly its going to vary restaurant to restaurant, in both the origin country, and here, but Im looking for ' in general' experiences, not that one exception.
A buddy of mine went to China to bid on a contract with their military for some portable recompression chambers. He said that at the dinner hosted by the clients most of the fare was still moving. Chinese food here has been adapted to the American palate.
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Old 03-27-2017, 07:35 AM   #4
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It's been my observation that most of the immigrants from a particular country tend to come from a certain part of the country, so what we associate with that country's food is often just from one region.

We hosted three German exchange students, each from a different region, and none of them was familiar with what we know as German potato salad. Turns out it's a Bavarian thing and not done in other parts of the country.

This is true for China and India as well: both countries have very large territories, and each region has a cuisine distinct from the others. We tend to know the foods from just one area where most of the immigrants came from.

Other countries, like Greece, are smaller and more unified historically, so they tend to have less variation among the types of food in different regions.

And then, certain ingredients are more available here in the United States than they were elsewhere in the 19th and 20th centuries, so immigrants adapted what they knew to the ingredients that were available. Migrants have done that for as long as people have been exploring the world. When I went to Turkey, the tour guide told us that Eastern European cabbage rolls are based on a dish created by the chefs of the Turkish Sultan's kitchen - dolmades, or stuffed grape leaves. When the Ottoman Empire took over most of the Mediterranean and much of southern Europe, Middle Eastern dishes that the soldiers knew were adapted with local ingredients.
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Old 03-27-2017, 07:49 AM   #5
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I think you'll find that "ethnic" food is tailored to American tastes. To start with, meat has always been plentiful and cheap in the U.S., but no so in other parts of the world. Americans expect meat with every meal (well, maybe not you, Larry ). In addition to an airplane to travel distances, you will also need a DeLorean to do some time travel. Food availability in the U.S. has changed greatly in my lifetime, and I would expect the same in many other parts of the world. Back in 1928, Herbert Hoover campaigned on the slogan "A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage". Chicken used to be a luxury meal. When I was growing up in the 50's and 60's, Chinese food was chop suey and chow mein. Vegetables were canned, and fish really stunk up the house when Mom cooked it (which was not very often).

If you are interested in the evolution of food in America, you would enjoy reading "Ten Restaurants That Changed America" by Paul Freedman. It's not just about restaurants, but also the evolution of what we eat. One of the interesting notes is that when a restaurateur returned to Italy (I think it was in the early-mid 20th century), the Italian resident was stunned to learn that Americans normally eat meat every day, where in Italy it was for special occasions or only sparingly. When we think of Italian food, it is almost always a meat dish.
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Old 03-27-2017, 08:32 AM   #6
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Good points made above.

Probably the most popular "ethnic" food is Italian. It has become clear that Italian food in the USA is different from what Italians eat in Italy in some ways. Italy is a country of many food regions and what's done in one region is done differently in another region.

For example, spaghetti and meatballs! The iconic "Italian" dish isn't served that way in Italy. Pasta courses are separate from meat courses. Practical realities here in America caused the combining of the two into a single dish.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:13 AM   #7
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Italy is a country of many food regions and what's done in one region is done differently in another region.
A number of sources list 20 discernible regions, including this source:

Italian Food: A Gastronomical Tour of Italy | Made-In-Italy.com
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Old 03-27-2017, 10:59 AM   #8
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Albeit I have stopped going to Russian restaurants long time ago, almost 20 years, but 20 years ago russian restaurant food here were just as bad as they were back then in russian restaurants in russia.
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Old 03-27-2017, 11:14 AM   #9
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I understand the different regions of countries ( and their differences in foods). I also understand the need to 'Americanize' or which ever country 'anize' the dish to please the taste buds of the locals. But which dishes have not undergone this 'culinary evolution' , and has remain true to its origin? And are there certain ethnic cuisines that remain more true to their origin than others ?
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Old 03-27-2017, 11:25 AM   #10
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I think Thai food is pretty close to its origin. It's pretty easy to get authentic ingredients for it these days.
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Old 03-27-2017, 12:03 PM   #11
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We have J-Town (Little Tokyo), Thai-Town, Chinatown, East LA (Mexican), Little Ethiopia, Phillipino Town, Little Armenia, & etc here so it's a safe bet that you will find authentic cuisines if you know what you want and where to find them.
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Old 03-27-2017, 04:55 PM   #12
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I've become friends with the waiters at my favorite Thai restaurant--native Thais who moved to US as adults--and they told me that Thai food in Thailand is not as hot as that served in L.A. restaurants, that it's hotted if you order "spicy" because Americans expect it to be hot.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:14 PM   #13
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So the people in Thailand eat lukewarm food, Greg? I know the Thai restaurant we go to always serves steaming hot food...(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

The Thai restaurant we frequent is run by a first-generation U.S. citizen whose parents were born in Thailand. Less than half of the dishes he serves are spicy, and most of them begin with "Tom Yum". He will happily spice it up more if you so desire. Me no so desire.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:22 PM   #14
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We have a couple of nice little Thai places here. One is run by folks from Hong Kong, the other by an American with a MIL from Thailand. Both have good food.

I can spend much time wandering the Asian market and the Mexican grocery stores.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:31 PM   #15
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I can't speak to all ethnic foods, but I am of Italian heritage, and have been to Italy, and eaten the food.

It is both the same, and different. Italian immigrants, like my great grandparents, had to adapt their foods to what was available here, and affordable here.

Pizza is a great example. The pizza I had in Napoli was outstanding, but it didn't make me a pizza snob. I like a good NY style pizza, too, even though it is not the same thing. Most of the Italian food in restaurants here is actually "Immigrant Italian" food. And, I like most of it.

Down here in Texas, we have a whole cuisine called "Tex-Mex." It is a hybrid. It's a good hybrid, too.

I have also heard that Chinese food in the USA has been very 'Americanized." But, there are still elements in the Americanized Chinese food that go back to China.

The USA truly is a "melting pot."

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Old 03-27-2017, 09:42 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by larry_stewart View Post
I understand the different regions of countries ( and their differences in foods). I also understand the need to 'Americanize' or which ever country 'anize' the dish to please the taste buds of the locals. But which dishes have not undergone this 'culinary evolution' , and has remain true to its origin? And are there certain ethnic cuisines that remain more true to their origin than others ?
You can still get, and easily make, an authentic Neapolitan pizza, like pizza Margherita. It is incredibly simple. I have eaten it in Napoli, and there is a place in my town that makes it exactly the same way, in a wood-fired oven, and it is very true to what I ate in Napoli.I've made a few myself.

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Old 03-27-2017, 09:57 PM   #17
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I think Ukrainian food in real Ukrainian restaurants are pretty authentic. But even that depends on region. Because food is different in different regions of Ukraine.
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Old 03-27-2017, 10:05 PM   #18
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My favorite Thai restaurant is owned and run by Thai nationals who emigrated to the US as adults. They grew up in Thailand, I presume they know their cuisine. I have become good enough friends with their main waiter that we are on first name basis and I trust he knows the truth. He's about 30 and been in US maybe 10 years. Excellent English too.

Another interesting thing about modern Thai cuisine is that in modern Thailand they use western knife, fork, spoon, not chopsticks. Never the less I prefer to eat Asian food with chopsticks and they always have a supply.

It appears that if you travel to Thailand and expect chopsticks you'll probably have to request them there too.
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Old 03-27-2017, 10:38 PM   #19
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I was thinking, and I realized that I've never really heard people say the same thing about other ethnic cuisines ( Mexican,Greek, Indian...).
I've eaten at a number of authentic Mexican, Indian, and Vietnamese restaurants here in the US. I'm not sure about Greek.

They aren't that difficult to find.

I've also eaten at so called "authentic American" restaurants when travelling abroad. Some have been the real deal. Others... not so much.
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Old 03-31-2017, 06:29 AM   #20
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Often when Chinese and other "foreign" foods were first cooked in America & Britain the usual ingredients were often not available so the cooks had to improvise. When Westerners started frequenting the restaurants, they thought they were getting the real McCoy and so the thing developed. Same with the origins of Indian food in UK. And the story about the origins of "chop suey" always makes me laugh.

Mind you, there isn't any real "Chinese" and "Indian" food. Both countries cover a huge landmass and have a wide variety in the cooking of the regions.
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