Sunday, September 6, 2015

Chinese Food Everywhere

After pizza, Chinese food is the most consumed cuisine in the United States.  Think about that.  How did that happen?  I have been in some minimally populated regions of this country, but never far from a Chinese restaurant.  The Search for General Tso explores the answers.  The documentary is part ethnic and immigration history, part culinary exploration, part modern political analysis.  Under the guise of finding out who the ubiquitous General Tso was, we are guided from Qing Dynasty China to Mao, from Hunan province to Springfield, Missouri, Flagstaff, Arizona, and New York City.  We explore a link to McDonald’s and a link with American Jews.  I can see this being used to explore so many issues in history, sociology and culinary arts.  Assimilation and acculturation are at the root of this story of a uniquely blended, multicultural dish. 

It had been quite some time since I'd eaten in a Chinese restaurant, so this doc demanded I change that.  I headed to Palo Alto's Su Hong.  Late afternoon and the places was virtually silent but looked like it could be quite the place when full - and it was huge.  I order some Shanghai spring rolls with the General's chicken.  The rolls were excellent - flaky, crisp, light and ever so slightly greasy.  The chicken was cut into dine and nickel size chunks and bore no resemblance to a McNugget.  Very lightly breaded and soaked in layer of sweet and spicy sauce, there wasn't nearly enough to drizzle over rice.  That actually worked well for me.  The spiciness was mild at first taste, but the heat built as I chewed.  By the end I was well warmed up.  I can see why this is such a popular dish here in the States.   
Order some Chinese take-out, be sure to include General Tso’s chicken (or Springfield-style chicken and cashews for my Missouri readers), and sit down for a wonderful culinary journey.   
By the way, Tso was a real person of some importance.  But he probably ate no chicken, and if he did, it almost certainly wasn't sweet.  I'm off to get more now.
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