Iron Chef China vs. Iron Chef USA

Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
Trip End Mar 28, 2010

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Flag of China  , Beijing,
Thursday, November 12, 2009

Of course, it was coming sooner or later: an entry on the topic of food. Although it would be easy to talk about my favorite dishes so far and what strange things I have tried, I decided that it would be more interesting to do a comparison between the American and Chinese cuisine.  I have had many questions about which cuisine my family usually has for dinner… however, to be honest, this is not an easy question to answer.  It's a mix.  I cannot really pinpoint it down to 47.3% of the time Chinese and 52.7% of the time American food.

I must say that the beauty of China is the fact that there are a variety of styles and countless combinations where almost no vegetable or part of animal is discriminated.  While in the US, the history of the food has been influenced by the background of the people living there.  There are foods inspired from many countries but unfortunately, tend to stick with the same ingredients, sauces, and dishes.

Ironically, people who are accustomed to Western or Chinese food, tend to be biased in that direction saying their cuisine is superior.  Luckily, growing up with both, I don’t have a strong preference for one or the other and so I will try to give a fair comparison of both. 

Chinese Cuisine vs. American Cuisine (in the context of restaurants)

1. Order of dishes
[ Chinese ] - Soups / cold appetizer then hot dishes
[American] - Soup or salad then cold/hot dishes

2. Drink preference
[ Chinese ] - Warm beverages (i.e. tea)*
[American] - Cold beverages (i.e. Coke, Sprite, etc.)

3. Portions
[ Chinese ] - Average
[American] - Large

4. Stereotyped as
[ Chinese ] - General Tso's chicken
[American] - Hot dogs

5. Notorious for
[ Chinese ] - Exotic foods
[American] - Fast food and buffets

6. Average spiciness of foods
[ Chinese ] - Hot
[American] - Mild

7. Strengths
[ Chinese ] - Seamless incorporation of meats/vegetables
[American] - Number of options, flexibility (i.e. w/ or w/o onions, etc.)

8. Weaknesses
[ Chinese ] - Lack of dairy in diet, abundance of MSG & cooking oil in foods
[American] - Lack of authenticity, abundance of fried & processed foods

9. What you will not see
[ Chinese ] - Fortune cookies
[American] - Only fast foods

10. What you will see
[ Chinese ] - Communal eating
[American] - Free condiments/refills

*I once saw a vending machine which dispensed warm bottled water as an option.  Supposedly a great thing in the winter time but was a total shock to me, nonetheless.

So if I had to say… which do I prefer?  Well, that is tough because I enjoy eating a good burger as much as a steamed pork bun.  At the moment, I am more impressed with Chinese cuisine.  It is new, exciting and exceptionally delicious.  The reason I must say Chinese cuisine too is because it wins on consistency (for more complex dishes beyond a Big Mac).  The picture in the menu is what you get, not plastic food arranged to look like the entree that you wanted. 

I believe there are two reasons for why Chinese cuisine is consistent.  Firstly, the customers expect it.  If something wasn’t prepared well or didn’t taste as good as it usually should, the customer is vocal about it.  These regulars are fans as well as critics, which keeps the quality high.  Secondly, there is more heart in it.  It’s not prepared by someone who decided to work in the kitchen just to find part-time work.  It’s by families and individuals who take pride in their cooking as an extension of who they are (somewhat like Italy).  The fact that there are fewer chains restaurants means, more room for originally and personal touch rather than “here is the recipe.”  Hopefully, cooks in the US do not take offense.  I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions to my statements but I say these things looking at the broader picture.  

But what’s the most surprising of all? I still need to try Peking Duck! - (Update: I did already... it was delicious.)
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Elise on

And I'm here eating more rösti and sausages...

jetsedder on

ahhh those are the best!

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