Once disdained, Chinese-American food makes it in New York

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    Once disdained, Chinese-American food makes it in New York

    NEW YORK – Chinese cuisine in America has come a long way from its early incarnation. For a long time, Chinese-American food tended to be thought of as cheap, greasy fast food to be eaten directly from the boxes it came in. But these days, Chinese restaurants are featured in fashion magazines and the cuisine is curated in museums, marking a big change in the way it is perceived.

    Fortune cookies, egg foo yong and General Tso’s chicken are bastardized versions of Chinese food that regularly feature on menus in the U.S. Popular impressions of Chinese food as low-quality fare were partly caused by chefs forced into the business. Immigration law in the late 19th century restricted employment for Chinese-American immigrants – most of them men – leaving many with little choice but to work in laundromats and restaurants.

    Even though the laws were eventually abolished, migrants still tended to start out in the food business as a result of relatively low barriers to entry and close ethnic community ties.

    Now, two museum exhibitions in New York – a video installation called “Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy” at the Museum of Chinese in America and the more interactive “Chow” at the Museum of Food and Drink – highlight the place of American-Chinese food in U.S. culture, while celebrating a new generation of culinary talents whose kitchens now draw long lines.


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