Its always fun to find out how people first became interested in Chinese cuisine, which many experts consider to be the worlds finest. When did you first become turned on to Chinese food? Did you discover the variety of exotic ingredients and dishes that make up Chinese cuisine on a trip throughout Asia? Perhaps, after years of ordering take-out egg rolls and ginger beef, you wanted to learn more about authentic Chinese cooking. Or did you grow up eating Chinese food at home?
Here are a number of reminiscences from visitors to the Chinese cuisine forum. If youd like to share your own experience, feel free to write me and I will add include it here (with possible editing for length, grammar, and spelling).
"When I was growing up in South Florida, back in the 1960s, Chinese food was, for the most part, a total mystery. In West Palm Beach, there was one Chinese restaurant and I never knew a single person who had been there. The big thing at the time were the restaurants that labeled themselves "Polynesian" and always had exotic names like "Tiki Lau" or "Kon Tiki."
When you went to these places it was always a special occasion. Guys saved their money all during their senior year so they could take their dates to one of these places on prom night. They cost an arm and a leg, served multi-course meals served on woven mats that always seemed to contain chunks of pineapple, and they all had a floor show complete with gorgeous, semi-nude women draped in leis and doing the hula while guys jumped around with machetes and torches flying through the air.
It wasn't until I joined the Navy and left home that I got introduced to "real" Chinese food, (almost all of which was Cantonese). I loved it and went whenever I could. But it wasn't until the late 1970s or early 80s, when Szechuan was just becoming popular, that I simply fell in love. I loved the robust flavors and hot spices. That was when I decided to learn how to do this at home. Since then, along with Szechuan cuisine, I've embraced Vietnamese, Thai, and Mandarin as cuisines I cannot live without.
From "Big Daddy"
Boy, this is a good question! I wish I could pin it down. As a little kid, I would go to Boston's Chinatown with my family, but this was, back in the 1930s and 1940s, when Egg Fu Yong and Chop Suey was exotic. Also, about this time, my mother made me a pair of red mandarin collared pyjamas that I wore until they were threadbare.
When I was working in NYC in the early 1950s, I had a Chinese patient who invited a couple of us to his restaurant in Chinatown, but the language barrier, and a Chinese character menu, made the food a mystery. I tried to make the things that I ate in Trader Vic's, but there were few or no Chinese cookbooks around at the time, so my attempts were pretty bad. After a banquet on the upper west side (up some stairs in a tenement, all round tables, all Chinese patrons, and not a fork in the place) someone explained all the dishes and I was caught completely.
I found my first cookbook around 1956. Since then, my books have become my teachers. I am passionate about this cuisine --totally! I have an extensive library of Chinese cookbooks now, and I am still collecting -- and learning. I have also been teaching Chinese cooking for a number of years, and am in the middle of a series right now. The more I know, the more I realize how much I don't know!
So what made me a fan? I don't know. It just happened! From Jo-Ann
"Chinese food was one of the few restaurant foods our family ever bought, at the Pine Gardens. We couldn't afford to dine out often, but fried shrimp and chow mein a couple of times a year were a wonderful treat.
After college, I began taking cooking classes through the local community college. One class was with a lady originally from Japan, who taught both Chinese and Japanese cooking. I learned many wonderful recipes in the class and it served me well. I love tasty food (too much, which is why I have to keep walking!)" From Wendy, the About.com Guide to Walking.