The peaceful spread of Chinese food

Outside lands contiguous with China, emigration has never been promoted by the Chinese state. The spread of Chinese cooking around the world has therefore been colonial but not imperial, carried by peaceful migrants in self-imposed “economic exile.” At least, this is true of most recent Chinese migration, though that of the last century was genuinely imperial in another sense, as European governments shunted the conscripted labor of coolies and laundrymen around their own empires. It has produced hybrids of its own, of which the most notorious is “chop suey”–a mixture, say, of bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, water chestnuts and other vegetables with slivers of meat or chicken: an invention of pioneer Chinese restaurateurs in nineteenth-century North America.

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto‘s Near A Thousand Tables: A History of Food, 147


1. 辣辣土豆絲; 2. 一盆辣辣雜菜; 3. 蒙古辣辣羊; 4. 薑葱蒸不辣鮮魚.
Prepared by j, with help from t. Sat. 19 September 2009.

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