A Jersey Guy's Excellent Adventure in China

General Tso Wouldn’t Like His Namesake Chicken

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Don’t bother looking for chop suey, General Tso’s chicken or egg rolls on your typical Chinese menu. They’re all American versions of Chinese food that most people here have never heard of.

When I came to Zhengzhou last year, I looked in vain for some of my favorite “Chinese’’ dishes. I quickly learned that, like many “Italian’’ foods in the U.S., what we think of as Chinese cuisine is really a hybrid adapted to American tastes.

Maybe the best example is General Tso’s chicken. According to a new documentary, “The Search for General Tso,’’ the deep-fried sweet and spicy dish was popularized by chef T.T. Wang at his New York City restaurant, Shun Lee Palace, in the early 1970s.

The food was actually invented in the 1960s by a Taiwanese chef who named it after a famous 19th-century Chinese general. Incidentally, General Tso probably wouldn’t have liked his namesake dish because its sweet flavor is rare in his native Hunan Province.

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In Chinese culture, old people are supposed to be treated with great respect. In reality, that’s not always true.

Last year, China passed a law requiring the children of elderly parents to visit them frequently. That’s because, in a rapidly modernizing society, many young adults and middle-aged couples live far away from their parents and have hectic work schedules that prevent them from spending much time with mom and dad.

China also has very early retirement ages. Currently men must retire at 60 and women at 50 or 55, depending on the type of job they have. The law is designed to make room for younger people in the workforce, but it also forces millions of able-bodied, experienced workers to leave their jobs.

Then there’s age limits for drivers: You can’t get a license in China if you’re over 70. If that were the case in Florida and Arizona, you’d cut the traffic in half.

The philosophy seems to be that senior citizens should stay home, rest and spoil their grandchildren.

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Categorised in: China, Family, Food, Zhengzhou

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