Tasty Tuesday – It’s American?
When residing outside your country of origin, it’s pretty interesting to see which bits of your home culture are pulled out and used to identify you by the people in other nations. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it can make you laugh, sometimes it can make you angry. Whatever it is, it’s what they will use to create an identity for you and will help them know how to relate with you.
I find myself chuckling quite often when I read or hear poor English translations going on around me, especially when the language is being modeled after American English. But, the best… oh, the best is when I find things that are labeled as “American,” and then I find myself completely and utterly confused. Why confused? Because there is actually no such thing back in the States! And, just as soon as I come to the conclusion “oh, it’s just this particular restaurant/store/street vendor’s marketing strategy… they’re just trying to seem cool and exotic in order to sell more of _____ and _____,” that’s when I discover the same thing is being sold throughout the entire country. My, my, my.
So, what’s an example of this sort of thing?
American Fried Rice. Yes, I said “American fried rice.” There is no such thing. Americans generally do not eat much rice, nor is it fried when they do. Sure, we like a lot of Chinese food (which has also been a bit Americanized), but it’s Chinese food – not typical American fare. And, the combination of ingredients used to make this particular dish, are not something out of American cuisine at all. Individual elements, yes – but, putting them all together? Not so much. So, what is it? Look below.
American fried rice is essentially rice stir-fried with ketchup and raisins, sometimes adding some mixed veggies (carrot, corn, and peas are the standard). But, don’t worry, there’s always raisins. Also, in the American tradition, your rice will be served with a fried chicken drumstick, a few slices of pan-seared ham, a fried egg, deep fried hot dog “blossoms,” and a small and strange looking pile of sliced tomato, cucumber, and white onion. All of this is served with a cup of ketchup for your enjoyment. (Other common variations include adding a handful of deep fried croutons or using bacon when ham is not available. Check out this Google image search for more plates of American fried rice.)
This is American? Apparently, many Thais my age and younger do believe this is an American dish… but, thankfully, the older generations know it is not so. According to my research, this concoction was created by a collection of cooks during the Vietnam war, when certain areas of Thailand became a temporary home for loads of US soldiers. They were trying to come up with something that would appeal to the Americans, as well as use local ingredients and cooking styles. Perhaps you could say it was an early form of “fusion” cuisine…? Today, this meal is sold all throughout the country (and has migrated to Malaysia, though the pork products are substituted with chicken due to Halal requirements), and is quite popular as a children’s meal. You are not likely to see it on the menu at a Thai restaurant in the States, but if you do, don’t be alarmed. It’s not really American, and you need not be confused. (And, trust me, America has done the same thing to other foods that you think come from other places, too…)
So, now it’s settled. American fried rice is not actually American. I don’t need to wonder every time I see a menu anymore, and I no longer have to feel silly when a young Thai friend can’t understand why I don’t recognize a meal that supposedly comes from my own home country. 🙂
(In case you were wondering, no it doesn’t taste bad. It’s just a lot of fried meat and the raisins take some getting used to.)