Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The American Chinese Restaurant

When I first moved to Singapore, the question I most often got from my parents was "What do they eat there?"

To which I'd respond, "They eat Asian-style food, Mom."

And my dad would say "Oh! You mean like Red Fortune's food."

Red Fortune is the Chinese-style restaurant back in my hometown. My family has been eating there since I was in the 3rd grade. We've been there so many times that we know the owners (actually the owners' adult children) by name (Maria and Dom) and give them hugs whenever we enter the door. They know everything about us and we know all about them.

Basically, they're awesome and we love them.

But I had to break it gently to Mom and Dad that Red Fortune isn't anything like the food we are eating in the actual Orient.

I believe my words were, "They don't have crab rangoon here, Dad."

To that I heard "WHAT?! You're kidding me?! But that's Asian food!"

Nope. It's not. And it makes me sad to say it because crab rangoon is my ultimate favorite thing at Red Fortune.

Singapore has never heard of crab rangoon.

A sad, sad day.

So to introduce Singapore to the American version of Chinese-style food, I brought my camera to Red Fortune while we were home.

Drum roll please.

Ladies and gentlemen of Singapore......

I give you.....

The delicious Crab Rangoon

It's an ultra crispy wonton filled with a mixture of cream cheese, crab and some other secret ingredients.

Basically, it's a happy party in your mouth. I dip mine in sweet n' sour sauce and spicy mustard (also two sauces that they do not serve as dipping sauces in Asia).

I ate three crab rangoons. I'm an American piggy who can't say no to cream cheese anything. It's a really good thing that cream cheese isn't popular in Singapore. Otherwise I'd be the size of the Merlion statue.

For the actual meal part of our dining experience (the crab rangoon is strictly an appetizer, duh), Aaron ordered the Szechuan chicken with a side of fried rice and an egg roll.

It's very different than anything I've consumed on this side of the pond. While the Chinese dishes in Singapore do usually come with some kind of sauce, they are not near as thick or sweet. Also, the vegetables are not usually the ones pictured above. They use a lot of greens, tofu, and bean sprouts...but mostly just greens.

The Chinese restaurants in the US have "Americanized" their menus to ensure that people will actually eat their food. They've added much more sugar and salt, switched out the limp, cooked greens for vegetables more common in the American diet, removed all bones and heads from the food, and added things like the decadent crab rangoon. (I'm also fairly sure that the egg roll is an American creation as well.)

For my lunch, I ordered the Cashew Chicken with a side of fried rice and a crab rangoon (because I obviously need to attend a 12 step Crab Rangoon program).
I've seen Cashew Chicken on a menu in a Chinese restaurant here in Singapore, but I did not get a chance to try it yet. Therefore, I have no idea if it's similar or not. My guess is that it's probably not. The one from Red Fortune is delicious and I kind of like the idea of not tainting it in my mind with an authentic "imposter".

And to finish our meal, we got the token American-Chinese fortune cookie.

The fortune in Aaron's said that he would travel to far away places.

Those cookies are smart little suckers.


Brad Farless said...

I couldn't help but smile while I read this. I remember the shock I felt when I saw how different Chinese food is from what I was used to.

ursie said...

LOL your dad's silly.. Since when was cream cheese Asian!? Have to admit though, it does sound yummy..

In my opinion, egg rolls are a modified Asian snack, since we do have things like spring rolls & the local fave popiah.

Brad Farless said...

Ursie, I LOVE your profile pic!

But ya, in the US we grow up with a different sort of 'Chinese' food. We never really question it because we don't know any better.

Popiah huh? That reminds me of a thing called lumpiah. Looks sort of like an egg roll too. Can't remember if I ate that here in SG or in the Philippines though.

Anonymous said...

Yup, crab rangoon is not a Chinese or Asia dish at all. I reckon it was created by the earlier Chinese settlers.

Egg roll is a very much homemade Hokkien dish...it can be seafood, veggie, meat, etc. I'm sure no restaurants in SG serve this dish. I made quite often here in USA, all our friends love my version than those in restaurants or supermarkets.

As a Chinese and have been in food business for more than 20 years, I complained about the Chinese food over here. The taste profile is totally off. And you are right, they are usually...either salty or sweet.

- Jen

Sandra said...

Was also smiling reading this. The rice dishes look like some soupy thing and the crab rangoon with the cream cheese! Ha! Ha! I have to show this to my kids. Good one Megan. It's definitely what you grow up with and are used to...

Brad Farless said...

Sandra, I can understand how you feel. There are some supposed American dishes here that I've come across that just don't quite get it right.

Hey, William, do you think Jesus has a special level of hell reserved for spammers? Or do you have an insight into how Jesus would feel about Americanized Chinese food?

Megan said...

Ha ha ha ha. Brad you're funny. The sad thing is, I've deleted the same spam message from that guy twice from my blog and the guy keeps coming back. I'm pretty sure Jesus would frown on those who make a nuisance of themselves.

Brad Farless said...

That's kind of weird. You'd think he'd take the hint. Also, you'd think he'd realize that annoying people isn't going to be an effective way of spreading the good message.

Anyhow, that's one of the reasons I started using Disqus. I can leave the comments open and it uses Akismet spam filtering. I've only had 3 spam messages in a year.

ursie said...

Megan, IDK if you're into fortune cookies or looking for any (I know you're not Chinese or anything, but I do know that CNY is next month), & guess what! I've never been able to find any in S'pore (not that I've been looking), but today I found Guardian selling bags of miniature fortune cookies for around 5SGD++. Thought you might find that handy in case you wanted to bring some to the office to share or something; honestly don't know if they're as tasteless as the ones I had in Sydney though, so good luck if you decide to buy them.

Megan said...

Hey Ursie,

That's such a good idea! Thanks for the info. :)

William Dunigan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Megan said...

William, I'm sure Jesus wouldn't look too kindly on Spammers. So please stop posting on my blog. If you don't stop, I'm going to come to your blog and post long stories about what I ate for breakfast. So unless you have something relevant to contribute to our discussion, go away. Thank you for understanding.

Beau Lotus said...

I have to admit that as much as I love cream cheese and am hot about fusion food, your crab rangoon and the other thick sticky-looking Chinese dishes look gross to me.

Though I did rather like the General Tsao stuff when I was living in Rochester, NY.

guilty said...

Ahaha I smiled while I was reading your post! It's nice to read something that is told in a balanced way and not overly biased to one culture or the other... :)