Saturday, 2 April 2011

Chop Suey is American and Fortune Cookies are Japanese

You heard it right Jennifer 8. Lee a NY Times reporter explains about the recent history of Chinese food all over the world.
Bring a fortune cookie to China and nobody will know what it is, the same applies for Chop Suey and many other Chinese dishes:




Chinese immigrant in the
Netherlands selling peanuts
Photo thanks to: Hizz weblog


Indonesian giant prawn crackers
adaptation by Chinese restaurants
in the Netherlands.
Photo: thanks to Kokohili
To contribute to this topic:Chinese food became very popular in the Netherlands earlier than any other European nation. How this came to be?

In Holland Chinese people were employed en masse as cheap labourers on Dutch steamships which started as an attempt to break a sailors-strike back in 1911. In the 1930's the economic crises and modern ships made them redundant.
Many of the empovered Chinese people who remained in the Netherlands started selling peanuts and peanut cookies called teng-teng. "Let them sell peanuts" was an idea of the Dutch prime-minister then, at least so I was told.
After 1945 when the Netherlands started losing it's colony Indonesia, people returning home missed the Indonesian food. This formed a perfect niche market for the Chinese to jump into by opening Chinese-Indonesian restaurants.
This resulted in a unique adaptation of Indonesian and Chinese cuisine suitable for Dutch taste.
Chinese restaurants became famous for offering a large quantity for a low price, being offered as take away as well, this turned out to be a killer formula in Holland.

Back in the 60's and70's, my birth town, Leeuwarden counted a few Dutch restaurants versus a dozen Chinese restaurants, no other cuisines on offer.
Husbands with big pans strapped on the back of their bicycles having it filled up at a local Chinese take-away blended in perfectly with the windmills and tulips. But how eco-friendly this phenomenon might sound to be, I doubt if it still exists. Increased welfare, foreign holidays, immigration, caused other foreign restaurants to emerge. At the same time second and third generations Chinese-Dutch often with high education levels started to refuse continuing family business.
Finally the number of Chinese restaurants declined and many of the surviving ones either moved out of the city or started to change menu in the 80's, upgrading quality and introducing more authentic dishes as well.
Up to present day, specially in the countryside where there are few alternatives, still many Dutch families will enjoy an 'old school' Dutch-Chinese take away meal on fixed days of the week.
Also dormitories, elderly homes and even prisons serve Dutch-Chinese food on a regular basis.

Thanks to the Chinese popularisation of the Indo-Malay satay with peanut sauce and krupuk (prawn crackers) it became a regular dish in many Dutch restaurants as well, adapting taste once again.
Now satay or in Dutch 'sate' can also be enjoyed in Dutch bars in countries like Thailand.
So within 50 year satay has almost circled back to it's origin, but of course this latest variant hardly resembles the original. It's up to everyone's taste to judge which is the best.

Sources: 'Pinda-Chinees'Wiki (both in Dutch).

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