The history of Chinese food in America has had a long and interesting journey. Asian food was first brought to America by the Chinese immigrants that came to California to work on the railroads in the West. They settled in California and up and down the West Coast. When the Roaring Twenties rolled around, the larger populace of America took note of Chinese food because it was considered exotic and new.
After World War II, exotic foods were even more in vogue as the soldiers came back from foreign lands with a taste for the different cuisines they had sampled and America embraced it with a vigor. Chinese takeout became popular in the 1970s and has remained so ever since!
But the Chinese food that America ate then, would hardly have been recognized by the Asian cultures that they came from. What Americans were eating was “American Chinese food”. Foods like chow mein, fried rice and the ever popular chop suey were adapted by the Chinese to suit American palates. Fortune cookies too are not found originial in any Asian country. They are an American invention!
Mrs. Cecilia Chiang can be credited with introducing America to authentic Asian cuisine. The year was 1960 and Mrs. Chiang, a native of China, was visiting her sister in San Francisco at the time. She was shocked by the complete lack of authentic Asian food in America. She decided to open a restaurant called The Mandarin, now noted as one of the top ten influential restaurants on American cuisine.
At first, the restaurant was not successful, but as more celebrities, chefs and reporters came to try the food, it became widely popular. Mrs. Chiang introduced America to the Asian foods that we enjoy today such as Eight Treasures rice pudding, pot stickers, hot and sour soup, Peking duck and rice noodles.