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Selling The American Public On Eating in Chinese Restaurants

Posted by John Jung on Friday, April 20, 2018, In : Chinese restaurants 

Today, with the popularity and ubiquity of Chinese restaurants of many types, it is hard to realize that America initially was not attracted to eating in Chinese restaurants.  The dishes were markedly different from Western foods and Chinatowns were often dangerous places in run down parts of town so it was mainly Chinese who patronized Chinese restaurants. Besides, there were rumors that Chinese ate dogs as well as strange things.

             

In 1878 Benjamin Taylor was unimpressed with his ...

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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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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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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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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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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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Chinese Restaurants: Boxed In By Low Prices?

Posted by John Jung on Friday, June 29, 2012, In : Chinese restaurants 
    Chinese restaurants grew in popularity over the past century for many reasons ranging from their novelty, exotic appeal, good taste, and presumed positive impact on health.  Not to be overlooked is the lower price of meals at most Chinese restaurants, which gave them a competitive edge made possible by low overhead.  Located often in low-rent areas and staffed by no-wage family members who worked together over long days to enable the survival of their restaurants, they used low prices to ...
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Chop Suey and Issue of Authenticity Again

Posted by John Jung on Monday, June 4, 2012, In : Chinese food 
     
    Historian Charles. W. Hayford published a wonderful article that discussed the place of chop suey in the history of Chinese restaurant fare.   Although widely disparaged as not being authentic, Haywood points out it is "authentic" as American-Chinese food.

   On the overemphasis on authenticity, he notes that he has on occasion had dreary (but authentic) Peking duck in China while enjoying 
excellent (but inauthentic) sweet and sour pork in the U. S. He shared an amusing incident on a ...

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Chop Suey in Samoa!

Posted by John Jung on Wednesday, April 4, 2012, In : Chinese food 
            Helen Wong, of Auckland, New Zealand, has been one of my faithful correspondents for several years. Since she is a dedicated poster of information from all over the world about the Overseas Chinese, about a year ago I asked her whether chop suey was as popular down under as it used to be in North America. She observed:
           Up to the 1960s most people ate at home... In the early 70s, some Chinese men arrived here, and started Hong Kong Style takeaways. There were some restaur...

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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 Owners of Pennant Hotel in Saskatchewan

Posted by John Jung on Wednesday, March 23, 2011,
     Chinese not only ran restaurants on the Canadian prairies but also managed small hotels, that they saved from going out of business during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
 "The Pennant Hotel was not, strictly speaking, a family business. Rather, it was run by several men – relatives or friends – who worked as partners. This was necessary because, from 1885 until well into the 20th century, restrictive immigration laws prevented Chinese from bringing their wives and children to Cana...

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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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Chinese restaurants in Israel

Posted by John Jung on Tuesday, February 15, 2011, In : Chinese restaurants 
Does the Jewish love of Chinese food in America extend to say, Israel?
 
Apparently not, according to this writer, Elizabeth Greenberg, for website China Insight. She also quotes a Chinese  in Cheuk Kwan's documentary on Chinese restaurants around the world who went to Israel from Vietnam but without any knowledge of how to cook Chinese food and had to learn from Israeli friends,  "I told them I didn't know how to cook," Wong said. "They said they will teach me. I asked them, 'You're teaching m...

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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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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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The high cost of Anglo humor re: a Chinese restaurant name

Posted by John Jung on Thursday, January 6, 2011, In : Chinese restaurants 
Red flowers such as peonies are popular among Chinese so it is not surprising that some Chinese used it for their restaurant name, which when transliterated becomes "Hung (red) Far (flower) Low" (building) or HUNG FAR LOW.  The Anglo perception, however, is that the name has sexual connotations related to the male sexual anatomy.  When the neon sign that proclaimed this restaurant name in Portland for almost a century was removed a few years ago, Portlanders felt a deep sense of loss and camp...
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Sweet & Sour Talk at Cerritos Public Library, Oct. 2010

Posted by John Jung on Saturday, November 6, 2010, In : Book talks 
Within walking (well, almost) of my house, the Cerritos Library is not only convenient but also a dream come true of an attractive and functional library. It was my second presentation to a lively and supportive audience.

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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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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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