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Traditional Chinese Food Is Very Different From Restaurant Chinese Food

14 'Chinese' Dishes That Aren't Actually Chinese

NOTE: This article first appeared in 2014. In 2019, Chinese New Year will be celebrated on Feb. 5. It will be the year of the Earth Pig. Sweet and sour pork is still delicious but not authentically Chinese.

Now that the Chinese New Year is almost here, families who celebrate the Lunar New Year are busy preparing traditional Chinese food to welcome their families and the year ahead. But the dishes won't look much like the options on the menus at most North American Chinese restaurants because, well, they've adapted the real stuff for western tastebuds.

As famed Chinese chef Ming Tsai, who is based in Massachusetts, once said in an interview with CNN, "Chinese-American cuisine is "dumbed-down" Chinese food. It's adapted for the wrong reasons, to be blander, thicker and sweeter for the American public." We can only imagine the same holds true for Chinese-Canadian food.

Of course, we're not saying these dishes aren't delicious (because anyone who's eaten General Tso Chicken knows that's a bald-faced lie), and we're also not saying Chinese people wouldn't eat them themselves. But the fact is, they aren't the real deal.

So in honour of the start of year of the wooden horse, we present to you the 14 things you've been eating at Chinese restaurants for years that aren't Chinese at all. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments.

Chicken Balls
These actually just don't exist in China.
Sweet And Sour Anything
That goes for the sauce on pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, veggies, what have you.
Chop Suey
This was apparently invented by a Chinese-American cook.
Putting Soy Sauce On Anything
Soy sauce might be essential to Chinese cooking, but adding it to already prepared Chinese food? That's like saying you don't think the cook seasoned it properly.
Deep-Fried Chicken Wings
That's all North America. Unsurprisingly.
Egg Foo Young
An omelet made with Chinese vegetables does sound delicious, but is a western creation.
Egg Drop Soup
Even this, the staple of every Chinese menu I've ever seen, you're thinking? Well, it does exist in China, but not in the same thick, gelatinous version — and with the addition of tofu, scallion and bean sprouts.
Anything With Broccoli
Yes, you, beef with broccoli. That's supposed to be bok choy or gai lan.
What The Veg?
Any dish that just comes with onions and green peppers is not for real.
Lemon Chicken
Lemon chicken, so sweet, so tasty, so not authentic.
Anything With Tomatoes
Another veggie that's not native to China, and put in as an add-on. A false add-on.
Duck, Or Red, Sauce
This goes hand-in-hand with sweet and sour sauces — and in case you were wondering, there is no duck in duck sauce.
Spring Rolls
Alright, these do exist in China. But they're for kids, not grown-ups. Basically the Chinese chicken finger.
Fortune Cookies
Like so much other North American-Chinese cuisine, everyone's favourite finish to a Chinese meal at a restaurant probably came from San Francisco. And a Japanese cook, to boot.
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