Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Finding General Tso

Justin Jin
Lost In Translation 

Finding General Tso 

General Tso was not a famous chef, but he was a famous military leader in Chinese history. When I first saw Chinese restaurant’s menu in Chicago, I was full of curiosity about the food. “I don't know this dish. Is this Chinese food?” It gave me all these question marks in my mind because the dish did not look like Chinese food at all except that was stir-fried. In fact, many Chinese people can barely recognize these so-called Chinese dishes, but they are the best Chinese cuisine in some Americans’ eyes. For example, General Tso’s Chicken, Broccoli Beef, Sweet & Sour Chicken, and Fortune Cookies are Chinese food, but the taste, style, and culture have become westernized in the United States. I miss the food in my hometown, and now that I am living in Chicago, I will probably never have the same taste as I had in China. 

The Chinese food in the U.S. is sweeter, saltier, and greaser, compared to the real Chinese food, which is spicier, dryer, and tastier. Panda Express, one of the most famous fast food Chinese restaurants in the U.S., has given American people the false impression of Chinese food. When I just came to the United States, I landed in O’Hare airport, Chicago. I experienced the food from Panda Express. The food tasted differently, and I thought how could such a small fast food Chinese restaurant be very popular around the country. I thought the Chinese food would still be the same. I have lost the real authentic taste of Chinese food; I never thought I would miss Chinese food so much. As I am writing this essay, I start missing the food in China. I miss the cold noodles, I miss the hot pots, I miss the skewers, and I just miss every single dish that they have in my hometown.

I miss the nightlife in China, and I also miss hanging out with friends at the night market. There are many delicious foods at the night market. My friend and I used to eat so much and thought we would never eat again, but the next day, we would do the same thing again. In Chicago, not only the restaurants close very early at night, but also there is no street food anywhere in Chicago. In China, the night market opens until 4 in the morning, all I could do was eat, play, and eat again. Every night, we would eat all different types of food, and we would never get enough. I’ve been in Chicago for a year and half, but I have never eaten any food that is similar as at the night market. All I could have is make convenient noodle for myself. Now, I have lost the habits I used to have, lost the habits of eating so much at the night market and lost all the fun we used to have every night until the next morning.

In addition, Chinese people always like to share the food with each other; so, people could have different varieties of food and different selections. However, in the United States, especially in the restaurants, people normally order their own dish as their own personal entrée. When I have lunch with my friends, I can only stare at a table with full of delicious food, but I only can eat my own dish. In addition, in Chicago, every time I have lunch or dinner with friends, we need to split the check. Unlike in China, every time I went to the restaurants with friends, we took turns paying. Splitting check is not a common routine for Chinese people.

With the loss in translation of culture differences, I have lost the taste of real Chinese food, lost the taste of happiness at the night market, and lost the taste of sharing the food with friends.  General Tso is a real person in history, but General Tso’s Chicken is not real Chinese food. Today, many American people have been to China for business, travel and study, so they will hopefully bring back more authentic food to the U.S. I believe in the future, the real Chinese culture will come to the United States.


  1. I have learned something new thanks to your essay, Justin. Sometimes, a lot of restaurants do a fusion with our traditional plates. Those combinations taste totally different than our flavors at home. I would love to visit China one day and try the real Chinese food. Great writing!

  2. It is interesting to me that people use culture as a way to profit. And the most unbearable thing is that they don't even understand that culture.

  3. I also miss the nightlife in China. Since I moved to Chicago, my nightlife has become very simple. The one hand, I have much more persona time. On the other hand, sometimes I feel lonely in here.


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