Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Food: Chinese-American and Mexican-American

Here we are again! I'm back with even more food. This time, I'm going to include Chinese-American and Mexican-American food! I'm going to try and keep it as authentic as possible. You wouldn't find this food at a Panda Express or a Taco Bell. ;) Having eaten very authentic Chinese and Mexican food, I can say with certainty that authentic food is a million times better!

Americanized Chinese food isn't too bad, though. I admit it!


Who does the cooking? It's all on the lady of the house. Daughters may help, but they need to keep up the pace. Very demanding!

Chinese-American families do not drink anything with their meals, so alcohol wouldn't be an option along with food. Alcohol has become part of the Chinese tradition, so it is more apparent in weddings and festivals as opposed to social drinking. Now, however, China has made a move toward Western social activities, so social drinking is becoming a problem. Alcohol advertisements in China have gone up 50% in the past 50 years! This isn't so much a problem for traditionalists, but it's still there.

Chinese daughters learn how to cook by example. Should the mom not be able to cook at any point, the daughter must take over her role. There's not so much a passing down of recipes.

Speaking of roles, there is a sequence by which Chinese-Americans eat. First, everyone at the table receives a bowl of rice, and then the cook places down vegetables and meats in the middle of the table (on plates, naturally). The eldest person at the table begins the meal by picking from each plate and placing some of the food on top of his/her rice. From there, it goes to the second eldest, the third eldest, so on and so forth. Each person must pick from EVERY plate, even if they don't like one of the dishes. One cannot appear greedy and eat an unequal amount of one dish versus another, even if one has a favorite. Also, when picking up the food, one cannot appear to pick a piece in particular, as if measuring them up. Very polite!

Because they pick their food from the middle of the table, Chinese-American tables are more likely to be round or square. In the event of a large get-together, it's better to have several small tables than a very long one.

Lastly, as you may know, Chinese-Americans use chopsticks as they eat. They also use a flat-bottomed soupspoon.

Isn't it pretty? They're very easy to use, too. If they want, Chinese-Americans might put some of their favorite sauce into the spoon, then dunk it into the soup to grab the noodles. Flavor mix!

A popular sauce is the peanut sauce. An acquired taste, definitely. ;)


It's congee, a warm and soup-like dish that is comparable to porridge. Some call it a watery rice gruel. I know, I know; it doesn't sound that appealing. But just think of it as rice pudding! Just add some green onions.

I'm sure we've all heard of egg foo yung. It's pan-fried eggs with a personalized filling - be it shrimp, pork, or vegetables. The brown sauce beside it is the typical egg foo yung sauce. This dish is unique in that the sauce must be cooked separately. I've never tried it, but it seems tasty. :)

These are crullers. Now, they're not the donuts we might be accustomed to. They're not supposed to be super-sweet. They're fried versions of what you might be used to, stretched out to be super-long. They're served with a bowl of congee, usually.


These recipes are similar enough that I'm going to combine both lunch and dinner. It's pretty uncommon to have entirely separate lunch dishes, after all.

These are steamed buns (Char Siu Bao), and they can be filled with all sorts of foods. The most popular choice is pork. Just think of these like enclosed bread bowls. :)

This is jiaozi. They're pretty much dumplings, and they go amazingly well with either soup or noodles. If you haven't had authentic jiaozi before, you're missing out. So amazing!

Pearl balls - you see the rice on the outside? There's pork and spices hidden on the inside! The rice is soaked in water for 6-8 hours, drained, and then spread out on a sheet. After the meat is made, get 1 tbsp of the meat and roll it onto a ball. Then roll it onto the sticky rice, and viola! Just think of it as sushi without the seaweed. ;)

Shu Mai - these are a modification of the traditional dumpling, using wonton wrappers. It's a mixture of shrimp, scallops, cilantro, ginger, cabbage, and a variety of spices. Too much flavor for my sensitive taste buds, but it's usually a hit.

Pho Tai Bo - this is a beef soup. No surprises in here: just beef, onions, ginger, water, salt, and happiness. :)

There's a restaurant called SAIGON CAFE near Trickum Road. It serves this dish, as well as Chicken and Meatball Pho. It's associated with Vietnamese and Chinese cooking.

Whew, it took so long to find a good picture! I decided to showcase Szechuan noodles. They're very thin, rectangular noodles, often accompanied by green onions, cauliflower, garlic, soy sauce, and hot bean sauce. Some people marinade with a mixture of white wine and light soy sauce on top.

I was going to do Shanghai noodles, but they're REALLY thick. They look like intestines in pictures. :O


This is Nian Gao, a traditional New Year's cake. It's made with glutinous rice flour, red azuki beans, eggs, and other traditional cake-making ingredients. I've never had one, but it looks yummyyyy.

These are sesame cookies. Don't they look like happy little hamburgers? Hehe, just kidding. These are almond cookies with sesame seeds covering them. It requires traditional cookie-baking ingredients - just less than usual of each. Therefore, each cookie is just 77 calories. Delicious!

Does this look like regular vanilla ice-cream to you? It's actually ginger ice-cream! If you want the recipe, just ask me, but's an acquired taste. That's all I can say! ;)

Side Dishes

There's not really a concept of side dishes. You have your rice, and the aforementioned entrees just go on top of it. Maybe soup, then! In which case, see the pho soup. =)


There are no drinks served with the meal. However, Chinese-Americans drink tea all throughout the day. This is usually an herbal green tea, complete with leaves and the a stem. If the stem floats to the top and is straight, that's good luck!

Other drinks include bubble tea, berry tea, and the ever-famous Mai Tai.

What'd you guys think? Tasty stuff, in my opinion. ;)


You knew this was coming. Mexican food, yeah! The real kind, too. You might see some familiar dishes here and there, though. Also, these recipes are based on Northwestern Mexico.


iHuevos con chorizo! Eggs with Mexican sausage. Chorizo is a spicy kind of sausage, and it can usually only be found in Mexican meat markets or Mexico itself. Sure, you can find it at Target, but it just tastes like cinnamon. Not the same! Its only downfall is that it stains easily. Make sure to serve it on a plate that is easily washed! No napkin nonsense. ;)

This is pan dulce - sweet bread. The ones in the picture are called "esponjas" for sponges. They're basically a semi-circular piece of bread with sugar on top. The sugar comes off when you bite/cut it, so watch out! Very tasty with milk.

Honestly, Mexican-Americans could eat a different kind of burrito for every meal. For breakfast, it can be a bean and cheese burrito or a burrito de weenie. Yup, weenie. They're suuuuper-tasty. Notice how this doesn't include an "egg burrito." Nope, those are American!

This is a shake called horchata. It's a mixture of milk, water, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Some folks just drink this up in lieu of solid food for breakfast. I think QuickTrip sells an alright kind of horchata for really cheap!


Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Mexican-American homes! It's supposed to be medium
breakfast, biiiig lunch, and small dinner. You know, to help the metabolism.

Beef fajitas are a big hit, though they're not exactly as pictured. If they're going into a burrito, then yes, they're cut in strips. If not, they're left full-size; that's around 6-8 inches long and 3 inches wide. Very chewy!

Bean tostadas! Yummy yummy. Usually, it's a corn tostada with refried pinto beans as a base. Common toppings thereafter include cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red salsa, and/or avocado. My favorite is beans and queso Chihuahua (Chihuahua-regional cheese). If you see that kind of cheese in the store, buy it! It's so tasty.

Enchiladas de salsa roja! Enchiladas with red sauce, pretty much. These are stuffed either with cheese or with ground beef. I don't understand why restaurants around here put chopped green onions on top. We don't do that...? Variety is the spice of life, I suppose. ;)

Gorditas are yummy - so, so yummy. They can be filled with anything from eggs & chorizo to beef & potatoes. LOTS of stuff, really. They're easy to make from scratch; well, the flour gorditas, anyway.

Chile rellenos - they're green chilies filled with cheese and egg whites. If you ever want to cook this, consider yourself warned: they will make your house smell like expired milk.

This is menudo. It's nice, warm, and perfect winter food. It's made of white hominy, chile poblano, and a calf's foot! You don't eat that, by the way. ;)

Tamales! These are very traditional. It takes corn masa, pork roast, and corn shucks to wrap it in. The meat goes in red sauce, cookes for a while, and you have to line every corn shuck with the masa mixture. Then you can spoon the meat into it and cook again for 6-8 hours. It takes a long time, but it's so worth it. :)


Dinner is the smallest meal of the day. It's usually the size of your typical snack, eaten between 8-10PM.

Choco Krispis cereal! Gosh, they change the spelling all the time. This is comparable to Chocolate-y Pebbles or whatever it's called. This is old-school stuff, though. Very tasty!

Obviously, it would be a smaller serving! Quesadillas are a popular dinner dish - cheese only, too.

This is a bolillo/pan blanco. It's basically a thick white bread roll. Mexican-Americans may cut it in half, spread butter over it, and heat it over a skillet. Bread and butter! Mmm. Without the butter or the cutting, this is used as a side dish for many hot soups (including menudo).


Hey, look, a variety! It's flan, sopapillas, (fried chips with cinnamon and honey) buñuelos, (Mexican cinnamon and sugar donuts) empanadas, (also like donuts and filled with pineapple. MAJOR yum!) and a Tres Leches cake. As its name suggests, it's made with three different kinds of milk. It's definitely an acquired taste. ;)

Side Dishes

This is fideo, a Mexican pasta. It's pretty thin, and it's usually flavored with lemon. I've had it with tomato, garlic, onion, salt, and green salsa base, too, and it's great.

Guacamole! Served with chips and dip, as you may already know. It's also poured onto dishes at a person's leisure. Consider it the Mexican version of ketchup, I guess!

This is pico de gallo. You may have seen it in restaurants before, but it may not have been authentic. If you tried it, and it didn't make you sob like a 5-year-old girl, then it wasn't really Mexican. ;)

I couldn't have an entry including Mexican food and not have refried beans! Here we are. These can be put inside tortillas, on tostadas, and they can also be used as a side dish with breakfast. Eggs and beans are a common mix.

Of course, tortillas! They can be either corn or flour. When not a part of the main dish, tortillas can be used to spoon food or to cool down a heated mouth. Mexican food can get pretty spicy! Comparatively, though, Chinese-American food can be much spicier.

It's Mexican-style rice, a reddish-orange type. It's flavored with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and sometimes cumin.


Common drinks include: beer, wine, fruit juices, assorted carbonated drinks, and milk.

Alright, then! Who does the cooking in a Mexican-American family? The women in the family cook in the kitchen, and the men cook outside. That being said, there tends to be much more cooking done in the kitchen as opposed to outside. It's not that common for Mexican-Americans to eat out, unless the food is bought at a taco stand.

Children definitely have to help out in the kitchen. If they don't, it's considered disrespect. If my mom was cooking, I had to help. As soon as I was tall enough to see over the stove, I had no excuse. My sister fought it, but she was required to help plenty of times. My older brother, however, only helped my dad - and even then, it was rare. Because of this disparity, daughters learn how to cook from their mothers, while sons just learn how to grill.

As for drinking, it depends on the families values, naturally. In my immediate family, drinking is absolutely prohibited. That's because my extended family has lots of alcoholics. That being said, it's normal among Mexican-Americans to drink. I remember being surprised to see my 12-year-old cousin being passed a beer at dinner. Given that alcohol is considered a-okay, there's less incidence of alcoholism. That's not to say it doesn't exist, though! Difficult economic conditions is highly correlated with alcoholism, and sadly that is the lifestyle for a number of Mexican-Americans.

You might be surprised to know that Mexican-Americans use forks, spoons, and tortillas as utensils (very tricky, I assure you). Knives are used, but they're not as common.

And now I'm done with the food entries! I hope you've found them to be interesting and informative. :)



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  2. It all looks so yummy ^^

    I went to a Colombian restaurant in Miami. We had empanadas there, but they were filled with meat as a meal/appetizer instead of a dessert.