Call me ignorant if you choose, but I’ll be the first to admit that I miss with all of my heart American Chinese food. I would give anything for a simple order of shrimp fried rice or Singapore noodles with tofu or General Tso’s shrimp or even shrimp with broccoli. Oh how my mouth waters at the thought of egg foo yung and crab ragoon and chicken lo mein. Call me crazy for assuming that living in China would put me in close proximity to a limitless supply of those dishes I now long for. Imagine the shock and horror when I discovered that the Chinese food I loved is, in fact, not authentic Chinese food at all. For shame!
Don’t get me wrong, there are some dishes that are close to the ones I grew to love in America, but here in Foshan where Cantonese food reigns supreme, it is quite difficult to find Chinese dishes that make me crave the local cuisine. The lo mein or chao mein is probably the closest, but even that is prepared differently. Ginger and garlic are the go to spices for most local chefs. This leaves their food mildly seasoned and just lacking flavor. But hell, I’m no food critic; I just like to eat.
I’ve asked several of my Chinese colleagues about these dishes which I cannot and they often just give me a blank stare. They don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. However, I haven’t determined if it’s because most Chinese tend to eat the local food they grew up on or if it’s because American Chinese food really is solely an American thing.
There have been a few dishes which have tickled my taste buds like the sautéed squid rings, the grilled, garlicky oysters and the steamed scallops with rice sticks. Despite bemoaning the food, one of the things I absolutely love about living in Foshan has been the access to fresh and varied seafood. Nonetheless, ultimately, I am still in search of good, really, really good authentic Chinese food. In the meantime, I’ll take complete pleasure in the search.