America is a melting pot in every sense of the word. People from all corners of the globe find themselves in the land of the free, which gives the country a cultural tapestry unlike almost anywhere else on earth. This blend of different peoples and traditions affects absolutely everything, from clothes, to music, to food.
Over the years, America’s unique influence has helped to inspire some seriously awesome takes on individual cooking traditions. When eaten in America, these alternative versions of famous international foods make perfect sense. To a native of that particular culture, they can look totally bizarre. Here are a few foods that are completely different in America to how they are at home.
It might be a cornerstone of the modern American diet, but what many of us think of as “Chinese food” would be unrecognisable to anyone actually from China. Dishes such as General Tso’s Chicken, egg rolls and fortune cookies are unheard of in Asia, and the American tendency to deep fry and serve everything with a variety of bold, sweet sauces is only a small part of what true Chinese cooking is all about.
The epithet “French” seems to be a shortcut to persuading an American audience that what they’re eating is incredibly sophisticated. Though foods like “French fries” and “French toast” are a popular addition to menus up and down the country, they differ dramatically from their European counterparts. “French fries” actually originate in Belgium, whereas “French toast” was either invented in America or England, depending on who you believe.
It might not have made the same cultural impact as in the UK, but curry is still a popular part of the American foodieverse. The biggest differences between an American curry and a traditional Indian is in the ingredients. Whereas a typical Indian diet tends to rely on vegetables and spices, American iterations feature far more meat and potatoes. Though still delicious, they’re often a far cry from the real deal.
When it comes to Irish food in America, one dish stands above all others. “Corned beef and cabbage” has long been thought of the food to eat on St Patrick’s Day - perfectly paired with massive quantities of alcohol and green clothing. Unfortunately for purists, the food isn’t actually Irish at all. Most people believe that the dish is actually an interpretation of traditional Irish “colcannon” stew, made with potatoes, cabbage, leeks onions and wild garlic.
As anyone familiar with Martin Scorsese will know, Italy and America go back a long way. The deep roots of Italian American communities mean that, in many parts of the country, all food has an unmistakably European edge. This does not mean that the dishes are interchangeable. Pizza, for instance, is dramatically different depending on whether you’re eating it in Naples or in Brooklyn, and the American tradition of piling plates high with pasta would be rejected out of hand in Italy.
One of the most universally popular food trends, sushi has exploded across the world over the last few decades. Though traditions are fiercely protected at the upper end of the market, public demand has meant that many restaurants are taking some liberties with true sushi technique. For instance, it’s not uncommon for an American sushi restaurant to feature rolls that are deep fried, slathered in cream cheese or coated in mayonnaise. Such a thing would be unthinkable in Japan.
They might be neighbours, but the differences between Tex-Mex and true Mexican are stark. The American appetite for melted cheese and mountains of meat means that dishes like tacos and burritos have often become so far removed from their original form that they would be unrecognisable to a traditionalist. It might be tasty, but often it certainly ain’t Mexican.
Though these foods obviously differ dramatically depending on where you eat them, location doesn’t change the fact that they can all be delicious. Just because you decide to do something a little different doesn’t mean that your food can’t be tasty.