Food & dining

Going from traditional Chinese food to a hybrid cuisine

I was raised in Quincy in the late ’80s and ’90s on both Chinese-American food and more traditional Cantonese food. I had plenty of my mother’s cooking on weeknights, supplemented by dim sum on weekends, and the occasional holiday banquet in Chinatown. With friends, I would sometimes get Chinese takeout after school or take weekend trips to Kowloon in Saugus, enjoying the sugar-laden sauces and deep-fried foods I never ate at home.

My father worked at a Weymouth restaurant that served Chinese-American food, then opened his own bakery in Quincy, before settling at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston, where he prepared Asian-inflected dishes for fine dining. While this hybrid cooking was not his preference, he didn’t mind it every so often. A few months before he passed away in 2011, he called me to discuss a General Tso’s chicken recipe I had posted on my blog (Appetite
). “It looks great and I’m getting hungry just looking at it,” he said. “But here’s a tip: Toast the sesame seeds. It makes the dish much more aromatic.”

Chinese food in this country is a result of adapting cooking to local tastes. Like all cross-cultural dishes, General Tso’s chicken or beef with broccoli can be very good if prepared correctly. When I go around to talk about my book, “The Chinese Takeout Cookbook,” I am often asked to distinguish between food that is “authentic” and food that isn’t. The word “authentic’’ is itself a vague term. Food has always been reconfigured to the tastes, ingredients, and needs of a region. The changes in Chinese restaurants in Boston is a perfect reflection of this adaptability.


Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.
You're reading  1 of 5 free articles.
Get UNLIMITED access for only 99¢ per week Subscribe Now >
You're reading1 of 5 free articles.Keep scrolling to see more articles recomended for you Subscribe now
We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles.
Continue reading by subscribing to for just 99¢.
 Already a member? Log in Home
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of
Marketing image of