Sunday, January 17, 2010

Defining Amerinese

This probably will not come as a shock to you, but, the Chinese food that we enjoy at local “Chinese” restaurants in the States is not exactly authentic. Not everything comes fried and drenched in sweet and sour sauce and we have yet to find a local restaurant that serves egg rolls. As far as I know, General Tsao never existed and, if he did, I am pretty sure that he didn’t trademark any chicken recipes. No one we’ve met over here has ever heard of a fortune cookie, let alone expects one at the end of each meal. I’m sorry if I have broken anyone’s hearts, but it is my job to give you the truth.

Just as Americans have our versions of cuisines from around the world, so Taiwan offers quite a sampling of their interpretations of international foods. Since we consider ourselves somewhat experts in the area, we would like to critique Taiwan’s version of American food, the hybrid Amerinese cuisine. These fusion delights range from slightly quirky to downright bizarre and never fail to entertain our sense of humor, but not always our taste buds.

Every Thursday at our school, our chef prepares a buffet of Amerinese specialties. Bearing the slight misnomer of “American food day”, Thursdays are always a highly anticipated day for the students, but met with skepticism from the teachers. When we see that fried chicken has been prepared, we sigh with relief that pretty much no one can mess up fried chicken. Hot dogs or pizza, on the other hand, have us running for the doors. Though they are made of dubious material in the States, I actually rather enjoy a good hot dog now and then. But, the Taiwanese version is a bit… different. Instead of being juicy and savory, this tubular mystery meat is rather dry and has a sweet tang to it that I find quite disagreeable. Top that with a sweet and sour version of ketchup and you can count me out.

Pizza, even at Pizza Hut or Domino’s, is always an interesting experience. We learned very quickly to order strictly from Pizza Hut as we found that there was something amiss with the cheese at Domino’s. While the big restaurants do offer traditional toppings like pepperoni, their menus are also filled with items like shrimp, scallops, and squid. Don’t get me wrong, I like seafood, but when it is perched atop sketchy mozzarella and tomato sauce, I am not a fan. The most infamous toppings that we’ve seen were served during one of our “American” days at school. The only thing that we can figure is that the chef was inspired by Hawaiian toppings when he decided that it would be a good idea to cut up the strange hot dogs and peaches for our enjoyment. Yummy.

Another one of our highlights (or should I say lowlights?) is potato salad. I’m not sure what experiences our chef has had with potato salad, but whatever they were, I’m surprised he survived them. You know how there are certain dishes that you can throw in whatever you have in the fridge and it still turns out okay? Maybe chili or a stew of some sort? Our chef seems to think that potato salad is a logical place for the week’s leftovers. We’ve had everything from the aforementioned peaches to maraschino cherries and even rainbow sprinkles. Yes, sprinkles. Trust me; I am not creative enough to make this up.

I don’t blame Taiwan for putting their own spin on some of our classic dishes. After all, we do it to their food as well and the Chinese have been cooking millennia before we ever came along. But, I still think I will enjoy dumplings over here and wait until this summer’s Stateside jaunt before putting my full faith into a hot dog.


ME said...

So funny!! Are you guys staying abroad for a third year?

Alice Robbins said...

I am with you on the Americanise stuff! Did you know that all Americans LOVE corn on their pizza along with katchup instead of pizza sauce? And that KFC is spicy. A hamburger (except at McDonald's) is make of chopped ham squished together with something I don't want to know. The TWIX candy has caramel that is so sweet, it hurts my teeth sometimes!
Love you!