My parents used to own a Chinese restaurant in Pasadena from the 60′s to the 80′s.

Back then, I grew up in Pasadena with only a handful of other Asian families. Since the majority of Pasadenans don’t know anything about Chinese food, Egg Foo Young, Chop Suey, Fried Rice, BBQ ribs, Fried Shrimp, Chicken Noodle Soup – these were the popular items on the menu at my parent’s restaurant.

I remember there was one “authentic” dish on our menu – Cantonese style pork ribs. Whenever a non-Asian customer ordered this item, we must explain to them that this dish is cut up ribs steamed with black bean sauce. Is this what you want? Inevitably they say NO! They wanted the BBQ ribs – American style pork ribs. We sold the Cantonese style pork ribs maybe 3 times a year, usually to Japanese customers because there were more Japanese than Chinese living in Pasadena.

I would still consider the Americanized versions as “Chinese” food, but it’s been toned down for the American palete. Authentic Chinese tend to be heavy on the garlic and ginger, and use “strange” spices such as black bean sauce mentioned above. Some have really pungent smells. Americanized Chinese food do not use ingredients such as salted preserved vegetables, bitter melon, fungus, whole fish including the head, chicken feet, and other “exotic” foods.

As the Asian population grew, so did the demand for “real” Chinese food. Non-Asians now are more acquainted with Chinese food, and grow to like it. Chinese food offered at Chinese restaurants sure have changed as the clientele have become more familiar with Chinese food. Americans now laugh when they see Moo Goo Gai Pan on the menu. They want Peking Duck and Hot & Sour Soup.

My parents retired and sold the restaurant before the advent of real Chinese food restaurants such as Sam Woo.

While Americanized Chinese dishes are not “authentic” Chinese food, they were really good! I especially miss Egg Foo Young. You can’t find that anymore.

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