Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
The Chinese takeaway is inarguably one of Britain’s go to’s – and for good reason.
But would you believe it, like they do with all of our most sacred meals, the Americans have caught wind of some of the dishes Brits like to order, and they’re ripping them to shreds.
Yep, thanks to TikTok and Twitter, our friends across the pond have come across videos of us Brits unboxing our beloved Chinese takeaway orders, and it seems that the likes of chicken balls, chips and curry sauce aren’t so revered across the pond.
Just found out what the british call chinese food, at a loss for words pic.twitter.com/zxNDqudbFy
— dandy (@daxdives) May 1, 2023
Reacting to one video, an American wrote: “With all due respect, British Chinese food is ABSOLUTELY WILD????”
“I think the British are playing a joke on us ‘cause at this point…,” said another.
As a third wrote: “I’ve never been more disgusted in my life. What the fuck is this??? CHIPS? CHICKEN BALLS? HUH?”
“Every single aspect of this video is infuriating,” a fourth chimed in.
Say how you really feel, why don’t ya?
Now, before we go any further, it’s worth mentioning that of course, we’re well aware that Chinese food from our local takeaway branches are rarely ‘authentic,’ and have been adapted to Western palates.
However, you can guess our stance on this over at Twisted. Food evolves in different cultures and environments, and we’re firm believers that as long as its origins are recognised and acknowledged, that’s no bad thing.
Plus, these meals have often been adapted by the Chinese diaspora in this country, and so certainly shouldn’t be sniffed at.
Let us eat chicken balls in peace, goddamnit!
no offense to any British people I follow but Chinese takeaway/British Chinese food has to be the saddest thing I’ve ever seen…. WHY IS IT ALL OVER MY FYP pic.twitter.com/Tn9np596Z0
— reese 🍁 (@danhenglove) May 3, 2023
For all those slating the food, there were others who were keen to silence the critics, too.
“You know that the American take on Chinese food is also your own thing and not identical to food you would get in China, right? Also my American husband who moved to the uk loves this, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”
“Chinese takeaways took over fish and chips places and they kept some items on the menu (chips and curry) and also simplified the dishes for the Western taste,” penned someone else, referencing Angela Hui’s brilliant book, Takeaway which researches this in depth.
On that note, you can see her thoughts on the whole drama below:
I’m sorry but this whole americans discovering that british chinese food is gross and inauthentic on tiktok is so funny. There’s a lot of adaptability, innovation and perseverance in chinese takeaways that often don't get talked about and I wrote a whole damn book on it
— Angela Hui 許紫恩 (@angela_hui) May 3, 2023
Twitter user, Marc Burrows also shared an interesting response detailing the sociology behind British Chinese food which further breaks down why slating it is small minded at best.
“People freaking out about this, but there’s a lot of sociology involved. The first British Chinese take-outs were opened post-war and exploded in the 60s and 70s. They had to adapt their menus not only to local produce and easily-available ingredients but also to the *extremely* basic tastes of British customers in the mid-20th century.
“People wanted their ‘foreign’ food to feel exotic but crucially not the actually *be* that exotic. Curries were runny yellow sauces made with curry powder that had peas and raisins in them. Chilli was a mildly spicy bolognaise with kidney beans in it. The Chinese take outs and restaurants adapted for those tastes.
“Nowadays we have far more sophisticated palates and we’re far more accepting and interested in cuisines from around the world, so those menus have been expanded to be much more authentic … BUT the ‘old favourites’ are still there because they’ve become embedded.”
THREAD🧵: People freaking out about this, but there's a lot of sociology involved. The first British Chinese take-outs were opened post-war and exploded in the 60s and 70s. They had to adapt their menus not only to local produce and easily-available ingredients but https://t.co/rThHSfOykQ
— Marc "November" Burrows (@20thcenturymarc) May 3, 2023
On a more basic level, tons of Brits flocked to the comments to say that, essentially, those slating their Chinese takeaway staples were missing out.
“This is a literal ‘don’t knock it until you’ve tried it’ moment,” said one.
“Crispy chilli beef with chips and curry sauce is an elite dinner I won’t hear otherwise,” someone else penned.
“We’ve seen what you called Italian food. Let’s mot get judgemental,” teased someone else.
You can sniff at our curry sauce covered noods all you want, Americans, we’re the ones really laughing here.