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Racism And The Growth of Chinese Restaurants in Early 1900s?

Posted by John Jung on Sunday, July 16, 2017, In : Chinese restaurants 
 In 1882, the U.S. passed the Chinese Exclusion Act and other laws that barred Chinese laborers from immigrating or becoming U.S. citizen. 

MIT legal historian 
Heather Lee discovered an important exception to these laws: Some
Chinese business owners in the U.S. could get special merchant visas that allowed them to travel to China, and bring back employees. Only a few types of businesses qualified for this status. In 1915, a federal court added restaurants to that list, leading to a Chinese rest...

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What's In A Name?

Posted by John Jung on Thursday, April 14, 2016, In : Chinese restaurants 
How do Chinese choose names for restaurants?  Although they change over time most of them seem to consist of a limited combination of a few terms.  Thus, Golden, Silver, Jade, Imperial, Panda, China, Hong Kong might be combined with terms like Palace, Dragon, House, City, Wok.

One empirical study by Frank Shyong and David Chan based on close to 7,000 restaurant names gathered from several decades confirmed this impression as they found a high repetitiveness of Chinese restaurant names.

Why?  Th...

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Origin of the Chinese Restaurant Container for Leftovers?

Posted by John Jung on Saturday, February 13, 2016, In : Chinese restaurants 
Although it is rapidly being replaced by boring plain styrofoam or other plasticky rectangular boxes, for many years Chinese restaurants provided a distinctive trapezoidal-shaped paper 'pail' for patrons to take leftover food home.
 

What were the origins of this iconic object that characterized Chinese restaurants, second only to the fortune cookie?  I stumbled upon the following explanation.  In 1894 Frederick Weeks Wilcox patented containers he created by folding a single sheet of paper to ...

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The Sun Is Setting on Mom and Pop Chinese restaurants

Posted by John Jung on Thursday, September 17, 2015, In : Chinese restaurants 


Mom and pop family-run Chinese restaurants across Canada, as elsewhere, are fast vanishing from the landscape and often replaced by larger and trendier partnered or chain eateries. My friend Connie Tsang, a Chinese Canadian photographer grew up in the Sunshine Restaurant of her immigrant parents in rural Ontario. She became galvanized to record the stories and images of these once ubiquitous eateries when her parents closed their restaurant a few years ago. She gave me permission to include i...
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Imperial Dynasty, China Alley, Hanford, CA.

Posted by John Jung on Friday, September 4, 2015, In : Chinese restaurants 

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Chinese Food For The Uninitiated Masses

Posted by John Jung on Wednesday, November 19, 2014, In : Chinese food 
In the early 20th century when there was a growing popularity of chop suey and chow mein among Americans, two enterprising University of Michigan students,Wally Smith and Ilhan New, neither of whom were Chinese, hit upon the idea of creating and mass marketing a line of prepackaged Chinese foods.  Thus,  La Choy, a coined name to generate the feeling that the foods were ‘oriental’ was born in 1922.   Wally Smith, owner of a  grocery store in Detroit  wanted to sell fresh bean sprou...

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Chinese in Italy

Posted by John Jung on Tuesday, October 7, 2014, In : Chinese food 
Chinese immigration to Italy has increased dramatically over the past decade or two.  As in other places, culture clashes sometimes occur and Chinese and Italians experience similar problems.  Award winning journalist Suzanne Ma, a Chinese Canadian, who has a novel "Meet Me in Venice" coming out in February 2015, presents a charming and insightful talk about the negative feelings toward the influx of Chinese, and their food, in Italy.

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The Hard Life of Chinese Restaurant Workers

Posted by John Jung on Tuesday, October 7, 2014, In : restaurant workers 
It has never been an easy job working in a Chinese restaurant.  Whether you were a cook, waiter, busboy, the hours were long, the pay was low, and the working conditions poor.  The earlier source of this labor was primarily from Guangdong and the cuisine was Cantonese but after President Nixon's ping pong diplomacy in the early 1970s broke through the Bamboo Curtain, a shift toward another impoverished province, Fujian, as the primary source of labor rapidly expanded. And, they introduced a ...
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Chop Suey Sandwich, Anyone?

Posted by John Jung on Wednesday, September 3, 2014, In : Chinese food 
Chop suey was once the rage for diners across the land but has long fallen out of favor.  A sandwich 'variant,'  however, that was found in parts of New England still seems to be a regional favorite, along with its cousin, the chow mein sandwich.


 
According to Wikipedia,
"
Originating in Fall River, Massachusetts, in the 1930s or 1940s, the chow mein sandwich, which typically consists of a hamburger-style bun with a brown gravy-based chow mein mixture placed between and served hot, is popular o...

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Eating His Way Through Chinatowns of America

Posted by John Jung on Friday, October 25, 2013, In : Chinese restaurants 
Chinese food today, comes in almost as many varieties as the Heinz 57 food products, and isn't the same as it used to be. It is indeed an enviable pastime to try them all, but somebody had to do it, and David Chan, a third generation Chinese American living in Los Angeles has the stomach (claims to have eaten in over 6200 Chinese restaurants so far), and the brains, for finding and reporting on great places for all types of Chinese cuisine.  He has several appetizing culinary posts on this fa...
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Who Ate What in Early Chinatown Cafes?

Posted by John Jung on Sunday, October 20, 2013, In : Chinese restaurants 
The early Chinese cafes were quite different from what Chinese restaurants have become today. They served working class Chinese immigrants who, due to exclusionary laws, lived in bachelor societies. They did not cater to the tourist trade, although they did attract and serve non-Chinese as well. A brief glimpse into one New York Chinese eating hole in 1892 shows that the patronage were varied.



The dining area was a large room dimly lit by oil lamps mounted along the walls. Chinese waiters, wit...

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Cleveland Chinese Restaurants of the First Half of the 20th Century

Posted by John Jung on Wednesday, February 6, 2013, In : Chinese restaurants 


Cleveland, Ohio never had a large Chinese immigrant population.  The 1920 U. S. Census records show there were about 240 Chinese there, the highest number in the early 20th century.  That total includes children, so the number of adults was even smaller.  Yet, there were many Chinese restaurants, as shown in the montage above, that operated there from around the 1920s to 1960s for the most part. The 12 restaurants shown above from picture postcards were rather large and nicely decorated.  Man...
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What Chinese Restaurant Families Ate But Left Off Their Menus

Posted by John Jung on Wednesday, August 8, 2012, In : Chinese food 
Chinese families in the restaurant business had their favorite dishes that they didn't dare put on the menu if most of their patrons were not Chinese.  Think of it as Chinese 'soul food,' delicious but unassuming dishes that were popular back in the Guangdong villages from where most of the early Chinese immigrants came from.

Ralph Young grew up working in his family restaurant in California and recalls:

My dad liked to cook pig stomachs.  He would take out the thick portions first; tho...


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Hung Far Low Restaurant in Grand Rapids, MI

Posted by John Jung on Monday, July 30, 2012, In : Chinese restaurants 
A radio reading about an opening of a new Chinese restaurant , Hung Far Low,  in 1902 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This city has done a commendable project in celebrating its history with this and similar recordings by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission.

(Note: The link will not automatically play the audiofile. The easiest method is to click one of the STREAMING options such as MP3 via M3U  in the column on the far left of the screen under LISTEN TO AUDIO)

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Chinese Food Authenticity As Flexible, Not Fixed

Posted by John Jung on Wednesday, July 18, 2012, In : Chinese food 
      Aficionados of Chinese, or for that matter, any cuisine obsess over the authenticity of a dish, as if this aspect was a guarantee of its gustatory delight.  Authenticity is revered as an inherent and immutable property of a dish. Yet.just as any language is not pure or fixed, but forever changing, such is true for food. 
      The studies of Chinese food in America by historian Haiming Liu provide an excellent illustration of what he calls 'flexible authenticity.' He notes that in the 19...

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1908 Satire of Chinese Food...in New Zealand

Posted by John Jung on Wednesday, July 18, 2012,
          Chinese left their Guangdong villages for many parts of the world in the late 19th century, but no matter where they went, they were ridiculed as people in their host countries made fun of their speech, clothing, customs, and of course, food.  In the article below, mistitled "Chop Suey," perhaps because the name of that dish was stereotypical of Chinese food, the Chinese cook gets the last word in response to the white customer's joke. 

 


  (From New Zealand National Library)


 


 

...
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Memories of Chinese Canadian Restaurant Food 1940s-50s

Posted by John Jung on Monday, July 2, 2012, In : Chinese restaurants 

       Chinese Canadian historian Larry Wong reminisced about favorite Chinatown restaurant dishes he had while growing up in Vancouver in his blog, "Ask Larry."

Cho San

As can be expected, in the 40s and 50s, no matter where you go in Chinatown, the cuisine was Cantonese. And the meals were cheap. My older brother used to tell me lunch was twenty-five cents when he was growing up. Lunch was a bowl of rice, soup and some meat and vegetable.

In a 1950s issue of the Chinatown News, there was an ad...


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Study of Chinese Impact on Small Town Canadian Culture Via Chinese Cafe Menus

Posted by John Jung on Saturday, March 31, 2012, In : Chinese restaurants 
  

A recent book published by Lily Cho, a Chinese Canadian professor of English, Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small Town Canada, examines the impact of Chinese Canadian cafes across the small prairie towns on their communities by analyzing the content of their menus! The fact that her father opened such a cafe in the Yukon despite never having previously worked as a cook led her to analyze the role that these community gathering places played in their communities. Despite decades of ...
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Chinese Food And Korea

Posted by John Jung on Thursday, February 9, 2012, In : Chinese food 

       Young-Kyun Yang, a Korean anthropologist, has studied the place of Chinese food in Korea.  In one paper published in the Korea Journal, he noted that "Chinese restaurants opened in Korea from the late 19th century to provide mostly male Chinese-Koreans with very simple food. Chinese foods were cooked, sold, and consumed exclusively by Chinese-Koreans until the 1940's. In the 1950's and 1960's, although the Chinese dominated the business, the food became a representative food for dini...


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Whatever happened to stainless steel serving dishes in Chinese restaurants?

Posted by John Jung on Tuesday, July 12, 2011,
 Serving dishes like the one I am holding were commonly found in Chinese restaurants of a generation ago. What they lacked in "oriental" or "Chinese-y" decoration, these minimalist but clean designs by F. S. Louie Co. of Berkeley made up for by keeping your food hot over the entire meal.

At a book talk I gave in San Francisco this June to the Culinary Historians of Northern California at the small but charming Omnivore Bookstore, I was completely surprised by appearance of my friends, J...

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Is the Food in Chinese American Cookbooks "Authentic"?

Posted by John Jung on Tuesday, June 21, 2011, In : Culture and cuisine 
       The issue of 'authenticity' inevitably surfaces when ethnic foods of any type, Chinese or other, are evaluated. I have often wondered to what extent "foodie snobbism" is at work.  Food dishes, like language, evolve over time and differ over space. Can there be a single recipe that is the authentic version for a dish? Who 'decides,' and using what yardstick, whether a dish is 'authentic'? And, is authenticity the end all which trumps even 'great taste'?
      I recently stumbled upon an ...
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Chinese Family Restaurants "Down Under"

Posted by John Jung on Tuesday, May 10, 2011,
The story of the Chinese family restaurants outside of North America is remarkably similar in other parts of the world where the Chinese diaspora of the mid to late 19th century spread. 
Barbara Nichol has written about the history of Chinese restaurants in Melbourne, Australia from 1830-1950. "The restaurant industry was central to the way many in the Chinese community supported themselves and their families back in China over the early decades. Return visits home and the opportunity to de...
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Chinese Ran Hotels on the Canadian Prairies

Posted by John Jung on Monday, March 7, 2011,
Thanks to a blog created by an acquaintance, Joan Champ, a Canadian museum exhibit producer and historian in Saskatchewan I just learned about the role of Chinese immigrants operating small hotels during the Great Depression in addition to running small cafes.  For example, in Edam,SK., a Chinese who bore the name "Charlie Chan" ran a café, ice cream parlor and hotel. 
 After WWII, business declined for Chan's hotel as was true for other hotels, and Chinese moved on to focus on their small ...
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Life at a Chinese take-out order counter

Posted by John Jung on Tuesday, February 8, 2011, In : Chinese restaurants 
The long day of hard work in a Charleston, West Virginia Chinese take-out business. Owner Carina Kwok  knows the names of many repeat customers when they walk through the door of Main Kwong Restaurant or when they order over the phone. Caller ID helps, of course, but she also  remembers their favorites and customary substitutions... 
   

She typically arrives at Main Kwong at about 9 a.m., and organizes deliveries, supervises food preparation and early deliveries.... The chaotic pace starts alm...


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Joy Young Restaurant, Birmingham

Posted by John Jung on Thursday, January 6, 2011, In : Chinese restaurants 
There were few Chinese in the Deep South during most of the last century so it is not surprising that there were few Chinese restaurants there, and those that did exist did not serve the same Chinese dishes found in New York or San Francisco Chinese restaurants.  Perhaps the Joy Young Restaurant, in Birmingham, Ala. was the best known and largest Chinese restaurant in the South until it closed sometime in the 1970s.  Its fried chicken (this was the South) was one of its most popular items alo...
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A 5 Star Chinese Restaurant in rural Hanford, Ca.

Posted by John Jung on Thursday, January 6, 2011, In : Chinese restaurants 
    One of the most unusual success stories among Chinese restaurants is that of the Imperial Dynasty restaurant opened by Richard Wing after WW II in a most unlikely place, Hanford, Ca., which is about half way between Los Angeles and Sacramento and not even located on the main north-south highway.  It was not your typical chop suey joint; in fact, some would say it wasn't really a Chinese restaurant so much as it was a forerunner of 'Chinoise" cuisine, Chinese food with a French accent.
    ...
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Chinese restaurant stereotypes

Posted by John Jung on Thursday, November 11, 2010,
When most people think about Chinese family restaurants, they think of:
  •    quick preparation,
  •    poor and sometimes indifferent, if not rude, "service"
  •   makeshift or mismatched interior decor,
  •   shabby and often funky exterior appearance,
  •   located in slummy neighborhoods
Although their comments do not come from a "random" sample, postings on websites such as YELP clearly confirm these views of Chinese restaurant patrons. So why have they been so popular for so many decades?  Despite these problem...
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San Diego Chinese Historical Museum Talk, Aug. 2010

Posted by John Jung on Saturday, November 6, 2010, In : Book talks 

I have been fortunate to have received the support of large audiences at this lovely charming venue for presentations on three different occasions for my books.  Located in the historic Gaslamp district, its staff provides a rich and varied program.


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Association of Chinese Cooking Teachers Potluck, Alameda, Ca.

Posted by John Jung on Saturday, November 6, 2010, In : Book talks 

What a wonderful and unique venue for speaking about "Sweet and Sour" in July! After socializing with a vibrant group of Chinese foodies, munching on the cornucopia of delicious and attractively presented dishes prepared by members, and watching some amazing cooking and watermelon 'carving' demonstrations, I got to talk about my book, with the aid of a contributor to the book, the noted artist, Flo Oy Wong, who grew up in her family's restaurant in nearby Oakland Chinatown. We also ha...
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Friends of Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant Fundraiser, Vancouver, May 27, 2010

Posted by John Jung on Friday, June 4, 2010, In : Book talks 
Although the evening event focused on Chinese laundries because the three speakers, Elwin Xie, Judy Fong Bates, and yours truly, all shared experiences of growing up in our family laundries, I also was able to talk about the origins and characteristics of family-run Chinese restaurants, the focus of "Sweet and Sour."  

Here is a  detailed description of the event and photos of the traditional village dishes served    ,

 
   
 What better setting in which to make a presentation about this iconic C...

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A Personal Discovery

Posted by John Jung on Friday, June 4, 2010, In : family 
During the research process for Sweet and Sour, I suddenly realized that I had relatives on my mother's side living in Saskatchewan that I had never met.  As I was learning that virtually every small town across Canada, especially in the prairies, had a small Chinese-run cafe, I wondered if my cousins had also had a Chinese restaurant.  After some effort, a bit of luck, and half a dozen phone calls, I was able to locate a second cousin by phone who confirmed that one cousin had in fact run a ...
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Chinese restaurants spring up everywhere in the 1920s

Posted by John Jung on Friday, March 12, 2010, In : Chinese restaurants 
As the hostility and violence toward Chinese on the west coast escalated during the later part of the 19th century, more Chinese moved toward the middle of the country toward safety.  For a while, many of them opened laundry businesses but by the 1920s, they found it more attractive to start family-run restaurants.  Although they were run by Chinese, most of these restaurants beyond Chinese communities served mostly American dishes and only a few Chinese-like dishes such as chop suey, egg foo...
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What Led to this Book

Posted by John Jung on Friday, March 12, 2010, In : Chinese restaurants 
     For someone who never ate in a Chinese restaurant until he was 15, mainly because he grew up in the 1940s in a place where not a single Chinese restaurant existed for over a 100 miles, it is odd that I would find myself writing about this ubiquitous and widely popular 'institution' for eating all across the world.
    Had it not been for the fact that a retired Chinese restaurateur in attendance at a talk I was giving about Mississippi Delta Chinese grocery store families approached me af...

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About Me


John Jung After retiring from a 40-year career as a psychology professor, I published 4 books about Chinese immigrants that detail the history of their laundries, grocery stores, and family restaurants in the U. S. and Canada.
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