Stir-Fry Around the Globe: Lomo Saltado and the Chifa Tradition

By Amy, Binglei, Chutong, Mamie, Mengnan

When McDonald’s first opened in mainland China in 1990, many Chinese people in Shenzhen probably saw French fries for the first time–but what if you told those same people that Chinese dishes elsewhere actually include French fries? Such a dish is called Lomo Saltado, and it remains extremely popular today in Peru. We researched Lomo Saltado in the greater context of the chifa (吃饭) cuisine tradition in Peru, whose fascinating history begins with 19th century Chinese diaspora. Our analysis draws from knowledge of Chinese food in the U.S. and historical significances that we’ve learned in class. Of course, our learning wouldn’t be complete without the kinesthetic component, so we cooked the dish ourselves and reflected on our personal experiences with it. The results are fun, comforting, and much more organic than a calculated implant of the Golden Arches (no offense, McD).

Asian immigration in Latin America

Asians have a really long history in the Latin American region, starting with Filipinos in the 16th century.  Filipinos arrived in Latin America in the 16th century “as sailors, crews, prisoners, slaves, adventurers and soldiers during the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines” (Wikipedia).

Later, the 19th and 20th centuries were the peaks of the Asian immigration in Latin America. The major emigrants from Asia were “Chinese and Japanese; others were Korean Filipinos, and Indians” (Wikipedia). Most of them came to the Latin America as contract labor (coolies) or economic migrants (Dehart 21).

Chinese Peruvians

History of Chinese immigration in Peru

From 1847 to 1874, right after the slave trade became illegal in Peru, the country imported about “95,000 Chinese coolies for its sugar plantation” (Dehart 1). Most of these coolies were from southern China: Guangdong, Fujian, and Macaw (Wikipedia).

Great Britain was the first to experiment with exportation of Asian laborers under contract to their overseas colonies. In 1806, British ended the slave trade, but still need laborers for plantations in their overseas colonies. They first exported the Chinese, then Indians, to their colonies in Africa. Later, a lot of other European countries followed British ways to solve their labor problems after the termination of slave trade–this became the “coolie trade”, referring specifically to Chinese and Indians bound “under contract to provide service for a period of time” (Lesser).  At the beginning, the contract was a legal document “between a free person and an employer”( Lesser). Coolies were supposed to be paid during the period of contract, usually a combination of wages and in kind, such as food, clothing, and medical attentions (Dehart 5).  After completing the contract term, coolies could regain their total freedom. However, there was a huge gap between theory and practice. In fact, coolies were treated poorly in Peru. They did unskilled works as slaves did and received harsh punishment if they did not obey the planters. The planters would use “stocks, metal bars, leg chains or jails” to punish coolies, even executing them (Dehart 6). Coolies rebelled as well–they worked against the planters collectively by running away or committing suicide (Dehart 6). During the War of the Pacific, their situation began to improve once they were no longer needed for work on sugar plantations (Comercio). Although coolies regained their freedom, they were regarded as neither immigrants nor colonists (Dehart 4).

Other Chinese immigrants came to the Peru after came after the founding of Republic of China in 1912 and “the establishment of communist rule in 1949”, most because of political reasons (Wikipedia).

Chinese Peruvians today

After regaining their freedom, Chinese immigrants in Peru began to move to large coastal cities like Lima and Ica. They established their own neighborhoods in the city center area; these sections became known as Chinatown (Comercio). In Chinatown, these Chinese immigrants began to integrate in Peruvian society by starting their own small businesses, opening grocery stores like bodegas and restaurants like chifas to sell their traditional food. Gradually, they gained reputation for hard work and respect for neighbors (Comercio).

Having reached a certain threshold socioeconomic status, Chinese immigrants sent their children to the “best schools” to receive the “best education” (Comercio). Although discrimination towards Chinese Peruvian still exists today, a lot of Chinese immigrants have integrated in Peruvian society well. As business elites, many of them married local people (Comercio). Chinese Peruvians are an inseparable group of Peruvian society today.

Chifa in Peru

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Thanks to the integrated Chinese-Peruvian population, Chinese food business prospers in Peru. TripAdvisor data show that there are more than 300 Chinese restaurants in Lima area alone. Among these 300 Chifa restaurants, we further explored three renowned dine-in places, and a food shop that offers delivery service.

Chifa Tita is first Chifa restaurant that caught our eyes. The Peruvian version of Yelp ranks it twelfth out of 1,219 diverse restaurants in Lima. As we browse through the reviews, most of the customers claim that “¡Las comidas aquí son las más auténticas!” (“The food here is the most authentic!”) Some claim this in comparison to the fact that they have traveled around and experienced Chinese food in other countries as well. Unfortunately, Chifa Titi’s menus are not provided online, so we were unable to judge the validity of the reviews. The restaurant’s introduction does mention its “Kam Lu Wanton” (fried wonton covered in sweet and sour vegetable mix), which is more of a hybrid of Peruvian-Chinese cuisine than a dish typically found in China. In this case, judgment of authenticity derives from past experience and comparisons.

The second restaurant was O-Mei, a Vietnamese-Szechuanese fusion place that ranks 83rd in the area. Here, it offers “carne saltada con verduras mixtas” (stir-fried beef with mixed vegetables, another version of “Lomo Saltado”). Familiar names like “Pollo del General Tso al Estillo Szechuan” (Szechuan style General Tso’s chicken) can also be found on the menu. Because O-Mei’s prices were unavailable, we had to move on to the third restaurant Ming Yin to evaluate the cost of a chifa meal. On its menu, a large-sized order of “Kam Lu Wanton” is 40 Peruvian Nuevo Sol (~12.93 USD). “Lomo Saltado” is also marked 40 Sol. The price for both these dishes is reasonable by U.S. standards, but perhaps not in a localized cost of living. Price of Travel advises a budget dinner for tourists in Lima to be anywhere from 3.23 USD-6.45 USD–a single dish like Kam Lu Wanton or Lomo Saltado in Ming Yin significantly exceeds the budget.

In comparison, prices offered by the delivery chain “Chifa Express” may seem closer to the budget range. Two of the most popular dishes, kam lu wanton and carne saltada con verduras mixtas, appear again on the menu. The former is priced at 22.90 Sol (~7.40 USD), and the latter at 19.90 Sol (6.43 USD). Dishes at Chifa Union in Lima, which is a restaurant recommended to tourists, are similarly cheap. Lomo Saltado on this menu is 18.50 Sol (less than 6 USD). Hence, we envision that the price range of chifa corresponds with that of Chinese American food. Similar to our local Han Dynasty, fancier places like Ming Yin offer upscale service and charge more; on the other hand, cheaper restaurants and delivery places such as Chifa Express trim extra costs for lowered budgets.

Recipe for Recreation

We tried to search Lomo Saltado recipes in late 19th century Peruvian cookbooks, so that we could recreate the dish with maximum authenticity. However, no such information was available online. Several lomo saltado recipes are available from different websites such as AllRecipes, Que Rica Vida, and whats4eats. We finally decided to recreate our dish based on the AllRecipes version, because its ingredients could be found in the recipes of the other two as well.

The required ingredients include the following: 1 (16 ounce) package frozen French fries, 1 pound beef tri tip, sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, 1 large onion, sliced into strips, 3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and sliced into strips, 1 yellow chili pepper (preferably Peruvian aji amarillo), 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley,  1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, 1 dash soy sauce to taste, and vegetable oil, salt, and pepper as needed.

Shopping for Our Dish

We got most of our ingredients from Trader Joe’s, including 1 onion, 2 tomatoes, one pack of parsley, 1 yellow pepper, and 1 bag of frozen french fries. However, we couldn’t find the Aji Amarillo (Peruvian yellow pepper). Amy checked two Mexican grocery stores in the Princeton area (La Mexicana and Lupita’s Groceries), in addition to Wegman’s, but all to no avail–so we decided to use the normal pepper we had now. We also had beef from Costco, and rice from Wegmans. A1 rice, the standard set in most of South America, was unavailable in all the grocery stores we checked.  We then decided to use the most similar one we could find, medium-grain Goya rice. In order to cook the dish, we also needed vegetable oil, salt, white vinegar, and soy sauce.  All in all, with the exception of Aji Amarillo and A1 rice, ingredients for making Lomo Saltado are highly accessible at most supermarkets.

Preparing Our Dish

Preparation for this dish was easy! Basically, we just cut onions, tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, and parsley into strips. Following the recipe, we sliced the beef about ⅛ to ¼ inch thick and salted it for a few minutes. We were then ready to cook, and did so easily! This dish tasted really good–somehow both similar to and also different from Chinese food.
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“Where are you from?” “Costco.”

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Cooking Our Dish

We poured a moderate amount of vegetable oil into the stir-fry pan, and once the oil was heated, we cooked the beef until the color changed from burgundy to brown. Then, we put all the vegetables in–order didn’t matter too much. Having continued to stir fry for about 5-8 more minutes, we then put two spoons of salt, and moderate soy sauce. It was almost ready! Before eating, we had one last thing to do: fry the french fries. Depending on the size of the dish and personal preference, the fries are then put together with rice, beef and vegetables.

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“Can you smell it?”

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”Colorful”

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“Not enough? Want more fries?”

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“Let’s make it flat, pat, pat.”

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“Are you hungry yet?”

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“5 minutes later…We finished it!”

Our Thoughts

Ethnic food is often attacked with questions of authenticity, from foodies to immigrants alike. (Who’d have known that there are similarities between the pedantic restaurant reviewer and the immigrant mom crestfallen at the sight of “foreigners” in her favorite restaurant?) Fortunately, Lomo Saltado does not seem to face such challenges. LATAM Airlines blogger Terra Hall even asserts that “chifa has become [so] ingrained in Peruvian food culture that some dishes with Cantonese or Szechuan roots are no longer even considered Chinese, but Peruvian. Epicureans can find dishes like Lomo Saltado right next to traditional Andean dishes like cuy (guinea pig), choclo (giant corn) and Peru’s unofficial national dish, ceviche (raw fish marinated in lima juice)”. Lomo saltado has unquestionable authenticity on both sides of “ethnic cuisine”, not only as a Peruvian favorite but also as a dish with distinctly Chinese origins. We love how integrated this food has become in Peruvian culture, without losing the key identity that makes it special.

In fact, chifa is so pervasive in mainstream food culture that it functions very similar to how Chinese food does in the U.S. This may be due to two aspects:

First, the dish in itself incorporates accessibility in many ways. Most of its ingredients are easy to find in any supermarket–and if not, they are easily replaceable with local ingredients. (We admittedly don’t know what aji amarillo tastes like, but it’s a pepper incorporated in almost every Peruvian dish and not exclusive to chifa.) Without oversimplifying the skill of the cooks in our group, the cooking process is also relatively simple. Items are thrown in the stir-fry pan, order unimportant; the ingredients cook fast; no fancy cooking tools other than a knife, spatula,  and stir-fry pan are needed (perhaps a good overhead ventilator would have been helpful).

Second, there’s no surprise that Chinese immigration to most of Latin America has important similarities with Chinese immigration to the U.S. Both diasporas involved marginalized groups of Chinese men, seeking unskilled work and hard labor in countries completely foreign to them. The distinct structure of power (or lack thereof) affects the presentation of their food in a fundamental way. Chinese restaurants formed not only as an alternative choice to hard labor, but also as the only choice in light of the fact that many laborers were worked to death. It’s thus no surprise that chifa dishes aren’t intended for exclusivity; in this way, the history of the foodmakers is incredibly significant to our perceptions of the food. Perhaps the beauty of chifa comes from a notion contrary to many modern, high-class trends: anyone can make it and anyone can eat it.

Works Cited

“Chinese Peruvian.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Comercio, El. “From Indentured Servants to Business Elite: The Story of Chinese Immigrants in Peru.” – Peru This Week. N.p., 03 June 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

DeHart, Evelyn (1989). “Coolies, Shopkeepers, Pioneers: The Chinese of Mexico and Peru (1849-1930).” Amerasia 15(2): 91-116.

Lesser, Jeffrey. “Countries and Their Cultures.” Asians in South America. N.p., 25 Feb. 2010. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

“Best Lima Restaurants.” : See 1,210 Restaurants in Lima, Peru with 56,583 Reviews. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

“Bienvenidos a Ming Yin.” Restaurante Ming Yin. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

“Chifa Titi.” – Chifatiti.com. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

 

Moo Goo Gai Fan: A Historical Adaptation into American Culture

By Caitlin Gallagher, Xue Jin, Tina Chang and Tram Nguyen

After a careful analysis of the 1938 novel Chinatown Family, the New York Public Library’s menu archives and the historical context of this critical time period during the Chinese Exclusion Act (1938-1943), we have collectively decided to recreate the dish Moo Goo Gai Pan. Moo Goo Gai Pan is a particularly interesting dish because it has been adapted and transformed throughout history. Moo Goo Gai Pan, which is of Cantonese heritage, has several different names, as well as recipes.  It is important to note that the authenticity of Americanized Chinese cuisine, not to mention the authentic heritage of most cuisine, is difficult to divine. In the end, the exact roots of many foods cannot be determined with certainty.

A Brief History of the Chinese immigrant experience

To start, a brief historical timeline is necessary in order to understand the migration of Moo Goo Gai Pan from China to the United States. The first influx of Chinese immigrants to the United States came during the Gold Rush (1840-1850). After settling in the United States, and primarily in California, the Chinese immigrants took to building railroads and developing the agricultural industry. Interestingly, these immigrants, by and large, did not come from all over China. Instead, they came from one small rural area: Toishan. Toishan was located outside of the former Canton. It is thought that the Toishanese immigrated to America due to problems in their home country (as is true with most immigrants), as well as the easy access to the Canton seaport.

Them motivation for many Chinese people to immigrate to the United States was its vast economic opportunities and political stability. These prospective immigrants, however, were barred from entry due to The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Chinese Exclusion Act was officially passed in 1882 by Congress under the Rutherford B. Hayes administration. It was based on the Angell Treaty. The Angell Treaty, negotiated by the diplomat James B. Angell, was an agreement with China to not just restrict Chinese immigration to the United States, but prohibit it altogether. This act was the first in history to prohibit immigration to the United States. The American people objections to Chinese immigration stemmed from economic and cultural reasons, as well as ethnic discrimination. The resentment was caused in part because Chinese immigrants, primarily males, were willing to work for much lower wages than their American counterparts. As with many immigrants, Chinese men sought to earn money to send back to their families in China. Many Americans also had a negative view of places were the Chinese lived or congregated, such as Chinatown. Many viewed those areas as unhealthy both physically and morally. These so called “Chinatowns” were rumored to have opium smoking, gambling and prostitutes. Due to the large number of men residing in California as a result of the Gold Rush, there was an open market for laundry and restaurant services. The Chinese targeted these undeveloped markets, which had been historically and culturally considered womanly. This willingness to take on “lady’s work” allowed for further ethnic discrimination.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was especially unfortunate because many Chinese were eager to immigrate to the United States. The political instability and scarce economic opportunities made China unattractive for the average Chinese laborer. The act resulted in most Chinese immigrants to be Toishanese.   This was because the Toishanese already had established ties within the United States, which allowed them to enter the country illegally. As the Toishanese were not geographically representative of all of China, many of the American Chinese dishes have Cantonese names, such as Moo Goo Gai Pan, Chop Suey, Chow Mein, Won Ton Soup and Egg Foo Yung. From the start, this group of Chinese people sought to cook their traditional dishes, but had a hard time finding the traditional ingredients in their adopted home. Chinese entrepreneurs also found that Americans took a liking to Chinese food. These entrepreneurs adapted and modified their homeland dishes to suit American tastes. These entrepreneurial efforts resulted in an interesting and unusual cultural fusion.

Finally, in 1943, the restrictions on Chinese immigration were loosened a bit. China was given an annual quota of 105 legal immigrants. With the small surge of new immigrants came a surge of new dishes. A new wave of Chinese food, especially in the 1960s, arrived and gained popularity. These dishes, which were adapted to American tastes and ingredients, included Kung Pao Chicken, Mu Shu Pork, General Tso’s Chicken and Hot and Sour Soup. Reversing several decades of exclusion and restrictive immigration policies, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 opened up the gates of the United States to the Asian population. After World War II, America became an international super power and was no longer content with an isolationist status. With increased economic activity and globalization, the United States removed many restrictive immigration laws. As a result, a whole new wave of Chinese immigrants, primarily Nationalists from Taiwan and Hong Kong, brought new dishes to the United States. Taiwanese chefs brought the spicy Hunan and Szechuan tastes, particularly to New York, which gained traction. Overall, the adaption of Chinese food, like Moo Goo Gai Pan, to American culture was caused by a combination of historical events and entrepreneurial inspired adaptations to suit American tastes.

The Chinese diaspora food experience in Lin Yutang’s Chinatown Family and some historical menus

Moo Goo Gai Pan and other chicken dishes have a prominent role in the novel, Chinatown Family. The novel tells the story of an immigrant, working-class Chinese family that settled in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. In the novel, Father Fong, a laundryman on the upper East side of New York City, successfully brought his younger daughter and son from China to reunite with him, his wife, and his older sons in Chinatown. They welcomed a new daughter in law, Flora, an Italian-American, and the whole family then lived together in Chinatown. While the Fong family had the economic opportunity to achieve the American dream, they faced the risk of losing their family bond—a very important value in Chinese traditions. To strengthen the bond between family members, the Fongs cooked and ate dinner as well as organized banquets on special occasions. Because the Fong family was probably of humble origin, they regularly chose chicken as the affordable option for the meat portion of their daily meal. For example, through the time cooking the “mysterious” roasted chicken called Sunfong Gai with Mother Fong, Flora learned more about Chinese food culture and established a good relationship with her mother-in-law (p.32). Flora, when becoming unwell due to her pregnancy, also appreciated the care from her Father Fong, as she felt a lot better after eating the chicken cooked with herbs that he bought: “All these herbs seemed to do her good, toning up her whole system. The best part of it was that the sliced roots were cooked with chicken, freshly killed at the live poultry yard in Chinatown” (p.104). When Flora gave birth to a baby boy, the family planned to celebrate the baby’s completion of his first month by organizing a banquet at Port Arthur Restaurant, and chicken was again a signature dish of the meal. The guests were first served a bowl of chicken broth with wine, which was “identical with the dishes Flora ate during the month after the baby’s birth, to help her breast feeding, and were now given to the guests to symbolize the occasion” (p.160). The dinner then proceeded with fairies chicken, Moo Goo Gai Pan (the dish our group has chosen to cook!), and many more traditional Chinese dishes.

Not only does chicken appear in the Fong family’s dinner, it also played an important role in establishing the reputation of the Fongs’ restaurant in Chinatown. To ensure a satisfactory dining experience for the customers, Mother Fong insisted that the restaurant never purchase frozen chicken: “she is building up a reputation for good food. The secret of good food is fresh meat, and half the secret of cooking is in buying” (p. 201). In Chinatown Family, chicken is certainly an important recurring motif, but what it represents goes beyond a mere dish for human’s dining experience. Some male characters in the novel associated chicken with the bodily features of a woman (“She’s a nice girl. She’s not a young chicken, but she has good hips”). Mother Fong even compared the appropriate time to slaughter a chicken with the appropriate time for a girl to get married (p. 240). Chicken, in this case, contains derogatory connotations that objectify the female body as an object for men’s sexual consumption. This suggests what now has become a well-worn theme concerning food and gender, which we have been exploring throughout the semester.

We decided to reproduce the dish Moo Goo Gai Pan because not only does it represent a chicken dish that has transformed history through the Chinese immigrants’ experiences, but it also appears in the novel as one of the dishes the Fongs had in Port Arthur Restaurant for celebration of Flora’s baby’s completion of his first month. Since our goal was to find a restaurant where the Fongs most likely would have eaten based on the menu archive from New York Public Library (menus.nypl.org), we first studied the history of Port Arthur Restaurant. It was established in 1897 by Chu Gam Fai and remained open until 1959. It located on the second and third floors of 7-9 Mott Street, with the lower level designed for small groups of customers and after-hour “slummers” — American tourists looking for exotic experiences in the evenings, and the upper level reserved for private parties and banquets. Its elaborate imitation of Chinese architectural style in both the exterior and interior designs, made it stand out from the streetscape, as did its novel Chinese and American-Chinese dishes. The restaurant became local Chinese’s prime destination for weddings and family ceremonial dinners. We also researched the restaurant’s menu, but only found one page of the menu from 1920s. We note on that page there is a soup dish named “Chicken Mushroom Soup,” which is similar to Moo Goo Gai Pan, the dish from which we were searching.

With the background settings in mind, we limited our search in the menu archive to New York City restaurants that included Moo Goo Gai Pan in their menus during the 1930s and 1940s (but before the novel was written in 1948). Seven restaurants matched our criteria — Shanghai Food Shop (1938), Shanghai Low (1938), Little China (1938), Ruby Foo’s (1938 and 1939), Café Zanzibar (1943), Monte Proser’s Copacabana (1943), and Tzu Hai Pin (1920-1960). After a careful examination of their menus, we noticed that Moo Goo Gai Pan not only appeared with different variations of its name (e.g. Moo Goo Guy Pan, Moe Goo Gai, or Moo Goo Chicken) and under different categories, but also was offered by different types of catering places (in Chinese restaurants, café, and nightclub), with a significant price range from $0.7 to $3.25. These variations correspond with the dish’s history as it was widely adapted and transformed in the United States.

Our final restaurant choice was Shanghai Low, with its Mo Goo Gai served at a price of $3.25. We noticed from the novel that the Fongs rarely went out to eat; when they did so it was always for significant events. Thus, it is reasonable to choose a relatively luxury place similar to Port Arthur Restaurant. Also in Chinatown’s Family, there is a paragraph describing the celebration in Port Arthur Restaurant:

But Mother Fong was also studying the cost of the dinner and how much the restaurant would make from a party like this. The restaurant would probably make from such a birthday as much as the washing and ironing of five families’ laundry for a week. (194-5)

This description matches our assumption. We also thought it was important to choose a menu with Chinese translation since it was highly possible that Mother Fong, a dominant character in the family, was not fluent in English. Lastly, Shanghai Low’s menu also included a brief recipe, which was beneficial when we tried to recreate the dish.

The Recreation of Moo Goo Gai Pan

Moo Goo Gai Pan is defined as a Cantonese dish of sliced chicken, stir-fried with button mushrooms and, often, assorted vegetables. Moo Goo Gai Pan is called “Mo Gu Ji Pian” in Mandarin and “Mohgu Gaipin” in Cantonese. Both of these names translate literally to mushroom and chicken. This dish has been adapted so that it now has become synonymous with stir-fry. It usually includes cubed or sliced chicken with white mushrooms and other vegetables such as, snow peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and Chinese cabbage. In addition, other proteins have been added, or substituted, into Moo Goo Gai Pan, such as shrimp and pork. Interestingly, the chicken, or the meat substitute for the chicken, commonly implements a moist stir-fry technique called, “velveting.” Velveting, which is a coating of egg whites and starch for the chicken, helps to thicken the mixture and the sauce.

Our experience with making Moo Goo Gai Pan was relatively simple.  As non-cooks, we did not have much difficulty as we experimented during the cooking process.  Probably the most difficult chore was choosing the menu! Since there are so many different versions, we did not know whether or not to cook the Moo Goo Gai Pan with snap peas or moo goo gai pan with bamboo.  We ended up choosing ingredients that were on the menu we thought would best fit this project and a restaurant that would be in Chinatown Family.  After searching and calling for 10 minutes for stores in the area that might sell edible bamboo, we ventured over to H-Mart.  Many Korean employees did not understand when we were looking for dry sherry, bamboo, and cornstarch.  But after about 30-40 minutes in H-Mart, we were able to identify and purchase every ingredient we sought.

As noted, the cooking process was not very difficult.  We were able to cut down the preparation time as we had four sets of hands all working together.  It was incredibly smoky as we cooked it and it aroma became enticing as we mixed the various ingredients.  We were definitely excited, hungry, and eager to dig in.  To our surprise, we actually enjoyed the dish and we all agreed that we would eat again.  Luckily for us, Haffner dining hall now serves this dish as part of their Chinese station and it is on rotation once a month! We guess we will wait and see this week if their Moo Goo Gai Pan was similar to ours.

Our video experience:

Our Prezi presentation:

Conclusion

After researching and experimenting with making our own Moo Goo Gai Pan, we have returned to the question to which we always seem to return — what makes something authentic?  After realizing the many different names and recipes that are considered, more or less, Moo Goo Gai Pan, and the complicated history that follows it, it dawned on us that there is no correct Moo Goo Gai Pan dish.  We do not even know if it truly Cantonese, even though online that claim is made!  It is easy to replace or substitute a vegetable or meat that you may not like for something you do like, as long as you maintain the stir-fry component. The dish must also be drizzled with either Chinese wine or dry sherry and soup stock.  With the diversity in this simple stir-fry, we have concluded and accepted that authenticity does not apply to Moo Goo Gai Pan.  Every recipe makes its own claim to “authenticity,” even though almost every factor of the various recipes are different — prep time, cook time, ingredients, etc.  The seemingly limitless range of Moo Goo Gai Pan variations is what has turned this dish into a Chinese-American classic; a classic that is readily expected on any Chinese menu.

Works Cited

Chan, David R. “a American Chinese Food Came To Be.” Huffington Post. N.p., 26 Sept. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.                                                                                                        Kho, Kian L. “Moo Goo Gai Pan by Definition.” Redcook. N.p., 26 May 2010. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.                                                                                                                                    Lin, Yutang. Chinatown Family: A Novel. New York, NY: J. Day, 1948. Print.                    NYPL Labs. “What’s on the Menu?” The New York Public Library. N.p., 2011. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.                                                                                                                                       Office of the Historian. “Chinese Immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Acts.” US Department of State, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.