Yes, I realize that it’s barely still Wednesday on East Coast Time and it’s Thursday morning in Singapore, but let’s do this anyway.
Oh, we adorable, misguided Americans and our take on Chinese food. Allow me to show you what I thought “Chinese Food” meant before I moved to Singapore.
This is basically the full menu available at Panda Express. Panda Express is a fast food chain you’ll find in food courts or free standing as a fast food restaurant throughout the US. There are only a few in Boston–one at the airport, one at the Prudential Center (where these were taken) and one nearby in Medford (a suburb in which I used to live). Another day I’ll do a more “restaurant” version of American Chinese food, but this will give you a baseline.
This is what you see when you walk up. You take a tray and order. They scoop your food and give it to you on a plate or in a box. Not pictured–the giant rice cooker where the white rice is made/served from. Also missing is a picture of fried rice.
Honey Walnut Shrimp (top) Shangai Angus Steak (bottom)
Orange Chicken. My absolute favorite dish at Panda Express.
Kung Pao Chicken (top) Broccoli Beef (bottom)
chicken potstickers (top) sweetfire chicken breast (bottom)
Those are all the major dishes. Then you walk past a display of “other” stuff you can buy, such as….
Fortune cookie Based on the recipe for a Japanese sweet cracker, these are a staple of American Chinese Food. If I didn’t get a fortune cookie, it wouldn’t count as eating Chinese food. They are delicious as hell.
You then pay and go eat your dinner.
Major differences to my still uneducated eyes. You don’t see a lot of seafood or internal organs in the fast food American interpretation of Chinese Food. The meat to vegetables ration is very different; we Americans want to see a substantial amount of meat on our plates. Some of the recipes are totally made up, others are “interpretations” of actual Chinese recipes.
However, what you see before you is why Ravi and I are fairly unenthusiastic about Chinese food in Singapore. We just have a very specific set of expectations, and not seeing them on the menu makes us sad and a little homesick.
Feel free to be appropriately horrified.