The Rise of Make-At-Home Chinese Cuisine in the United States

According to a 2023 study by Pew Research Center, 12% percent of all restaurants in the United States serve Asian food. Nearly four in ten of those (39%) serve classic dishes from China’s various sub-cuisines, from Sichuan and Shandong to Cantonese and Huaiyang.

The study also found specifically Chinese restaurants in every state and 70% of all counties.

Asians are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States. By 2060, they’re expected to be the largest immigrant group in America — 46 million residents; 10% of the population.

For the past 10 years or so, Asian food has been the fastest-growing cuisine in America, and is also expected to continue to rise.

Shifting Food Habits: Out of the Restaurant, Into the Home

Chinese culture has profoundly influenced the average American’s diet. Despite its historical presence among Westerners’ dinner plans, Americans’ dining priorities have changed dramatically in recent years, leaving many of these restaurants behind.

The United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service (USDA ERS) notes that the COVID-19 pandemic changed Americans’ food consumption habits. Full-service restaurant spending plummeted 20%, with virus concerns and rising grocery prices likely catalysts.

Around 64% of Americans regularly cook at home to combat food costs. About 81% say they enjoy cooking more than before the pandemic, though a 2021 survey by GlobalData states that millennials and Gen Xers are more inclined to cook than their elders.

This generational discrepancy may be because younger generations are increasingly health-conscious. The International Food Information Council finds Gen Z and millennials are more likely than their older counterparts — Gen Xers and baby boomers — to subscribe to healthy diet plans.

As inflation worries continue to plague consumers, particularly younger generations, Americans look to healthy, low-cost ingredients and online recipe-sharing platforms that allow them to experiment and expand their palates while maintaining cost-cutting measures.

Home-Cooked American Chinese Food

To mitigate grocery bill concerns without sacrificing your family’s favorite American Chinese restaurant staples, lean on copycat recipes that emulate these classic dishes. Cost-conscious recipes replicate these meals using supplies most American households have on hand. Even the busiest families can make these entrees quickly and affordably, making them perfect for a convenient and novel midweek meal.

Bang Bang Chicken

Bang bang chicken originated on the streets of Hang Yang Ba in the Sichuan province of China. The name comes from the Chinese word for stick, “bàng,” which refers to the meat-tenderizing instrument.

Bang bang chicken originated in the early 20th century and is still hugely popular throughout China. However, most American fans of the meal envision the American Chinese version modified to Westerners’ palates.

In the altered recipe, bang bang chicken consists of lightly spiced fried chicken chunks typically served alongside an aioli-like dipping sauce comprised of mayonnaise and sweet chili.

The secret to bang bang chicken is the meat preparation. Traditionally, cooks use mallets to tenderize the meat, loosening the fibers and amplifying its succulent mouthfeel. Combine these tender pieces with a crunchy, savory batter flavored with smoked paprika, garlic, and black pepper for taste and texture harmony.

Beef Chow Mein

A staple throughout China, chow mein was first introduced to America in the 19th century by Chinese immigrants who traveled from the Guangdong provinces, bringing their Cantonese cooking to the country during the California Gold Rush era.

A worldwide favorite, beef chow mein is the quintessential stir fry. The noodle dish showcases fragrant ingredients and flavors, like tender flank steak, fresh vegetables, garlic, ginger, and oyster sauce. Noodle stir-fry dishes are often versatile, allowing cooks to easily customize their iteration by omitting or adding veggies, sauces, spices, and proteins.

Chinese Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

Chinese chicken and sweetcorn soup is a comforting dish that’s simple to prepare yet packed with rich flavors. Soy sauce and sesame oil are central elements, imparting umami flavors and nutty undertones that complement the chicken, sweetcorn, garlic, and ginger.

For extra heat, top your bowl with bean sprouts, a handful of fresh cilantro, and fresh red chilies. Some American Chinese restaurants may bulk up these soups by incorporating eggs, noodles, rice, or wonton strips.

The freshness and simplicity of the ingredients in this recipe make it perfect for a midweek lunch or dinner, especially during the winter months. Like bang bang chicken, the poultry’s prep makes or breaks the dish. Properly brined chicken results in incredibly tender meat, earning this dish a spot in your regular meal rotation.

Michelle Minnaar | Wealth of Geeks

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


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