Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America. YONG CHEN question that unavoidably arises from the ubiquity of Chinese food in the United States. Chen (History/Univ. of California, Irvine; Chinese San Francisco, A Trans-Pacific Community, ) shows how enterprising. Two new books, one by Yong Chen and the other by Q. Edward Wang, trace the evolution of Chinese foodways over time and place.

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Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America

The earliest Chinese restaurants located in the Chinatowns of America were not intended to serve the appetites of non-Chinese customers. This book is a melange of history, cultural and culinary studies and sociology and enlightens the average reader about the central role the Chinese restaurant played in Chinese American life.

Return to Book Page. Contact Contact Us Help. Steve Mossberg rated it liked it Dec 30, This article is also available for rental through DeepDyve. Chop Suey, USA is the first comprehensive analysis of the forces that made Chinese food ubiquitous in the American gastronomic landscape and turned the country into an empire of consumption. The topic is interesting in itself and sometimes the author is compelling.

Still, unlike many books in this category, Chen’s personal interest in his research area and his lack of concern for white intellectual conventions makes for a much better presentation than similar works in this mold.

But Chen masterfully illustrates the connection between America’s expanding “consumer empire,” the consequent demand for luxuries such as cheap food cooked outside the home, and the unique ability of Chinese immigrants to provide excellent, inexpensive meals and service. Throughout the book, Chen explains how factors other than taste of Chinese food played important roles in the success of Chinese restaurants.

It’s comprehensive, it’s well written, it’s got some great little stories, as well as personal insights on the part of the author and those whom he interviewed. But in some dazzling instances, food scholarship and public writing are wrought from the same hand.


These cafes not only served their need for familiar foods but also facilitated cultural ties and social contact among Chinese.

CHOP SUEY, USA by Yong Chen | Kirkus Reviews

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: The bottom line is that this is a well-researched book with several interesting ideas on a subject that has been long overlooked.

Sign In or Create an Account. Y ong C hen. From the mid 19th century, Chinese immigrants, and their foods, were viewed with scorn and ridicule for many decades.

In style, essentially a research paper expanded to book length-although significantly more readable than many research papers-this exploration of Chinese food in America traces the historical, political, social, and economic forces that made Chinese restaurants so ubiquitous in the United States today.

He wrote from his heart, which makes a humane and happy book. Nov 12, John Jung rated it it was amazing. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus.

Those who engineered the epic tale of Chinese food were a politically disfranchised, numerically small, and economically exploited group, embodying a classic American story of immigrant entrepreneurship and perseverance. Jan 03, Paula rated it it was amazing.

Professor Chen grew up in China and came to America in the s as a graduate student, planning to return to China when he had earned his doctorate in American history. So it was definitely not quite what I expected but it was slightly different than other books that address this particular topic and I enjoyed it. The taproots of the culinary turn have dug deep into the rich aquifers of Asian American studies. It wasn’t supposed to be the focus of the book, but I found this thesis a lot more interesting – and true – than most of the actual history that Chen digs up.

Ostracized by white society, Chinese men lived in enclaves, forerunners of Chinatowns in large cities, and restaurants emerged to serve these communities and others on the margins of society. The Story of Chinese Food in AmericaChen traces the introduction of Chinese food in America, its rocky ascent into popularity, and its overall significance to Chinese American history.


Americans fell in love with Chinese food not because of its gastronomic excellence. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. I got this book from netGalley. There’s also one brief diversion late in the book in which Chen attempts to talk about fast food that should not have been included at all, which seems more to like the product of trying to fit into academia’s clueless social agenda with poor, unscientific sources ranging from Eric Schlosser to PETA.

Chen researched these topics well, which makes a credible book. I found the book to be entertaining and educational. While I was vaguely aware that Americanized Chinese food has no real counterpart Some of the other reviews are spot on. Related articles in Google Scholar.

A great topic, but reads like an undergraduate research project that contains a lot of good data collection but needs more work on its thesis.

Books by Yong Chen. The first half of the book documents the tough time Chinese immigrants and even the first few generations had.

Hand in hand, critical works on food from all practitioners seek to explain the historical, cultural, and synesthetic dimensions of how, what, and why we eat. This is a wonderful and interesting study concerning the history of Chinese-American food.

The vast majority of this information was completely new to me, so it was definitely worth a read. Overall I liked it. Mar 06, Ai Miller rated it it was ok Shelves: There was a problem adding your email chp. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America by Yong Chen

Paradoxically, white middle-class families sought Chinese domestic workers for their work ethic, reliability and loyalty. Don’t already have an Oxford Academic account? Didn’t like academic style. Jen rated it tong was ok Mar 07,