Authenticity: the Evolution of Chinese Food in America by Akshitha Adhiyaman

Akshitha Adhiyaman

Italian/Chinese 375W

Ristiano and Li 

June 29, 2018

Authenticity: the Evolution of Chinese Food in America 

Venturing down Mulberry Street, I hit an intersection with bright orange lights hanging from short buildings and signs filled with characters I could not read. Just a few seconds ago, I was trotting along the streets of young, vibrant SoHo and then somehow entered this new world. I had never been to Chinatown before, even though I have always lived so close to New York City. It was intriguing to see such a stark difference in culture from the rest of the city, and I was ready to explore it. There were museums, temples, bakeries, grocery stores, tiny ice cream shops, and so much more. The restaurants were quite tantalizing, so my family and I decided to settle on one of the cozy eateries on the corner of the street. The menu was similar to pretty much every other Chinese restaurant we had been to before, so we ordered our usual appetizers, soups, and entrees. I was curious to know how this food adapted to match the palates of so many people across America. Why did only Cantonese food become popular? Where did all the sizable differences of traditional Chinese dishes come from? The presence of native foods has always been of great significance in Chinese immigrant families as it allows them to keep a piece of their own homes, yet it has evolved into a novel style of Chinese cuisine in America that is so prevalent in this day.

The first wave of Chinese immigration to the United States of America was in 1815. Since then, more than 2.3 million Chinese immigrants, consisting of skilled workers, laborers, etc, have settled in America (Zong 2017). The Chinese played a monumental role in the development of the railroad system in the West and helped build the economy after the Civil War by picking up the jobs that slaves were doing before.  Settling in a new land, these Chinese laborers used food as a way to remember their homeland: “Chinese food was important not only because of its familiar tastes but also because of the memories it carried” (Chen 2017). In their culture, food plays an essential role in providing strong family values and bringing people together. To balance the pressure that comes with settling into new land, a new life, they wished for some sort of familiarity. The few Chinese restaurants that were present were open primarily for these immigrants, and they provided inexpensive, yet hearty meals like bean sprouts and rice. 

Even though these immigrants supported the growth of America as a whole, many other laborers despised them as they were additional competition in the job market: “Many of the non-Chinese workers in the United States came to resent the Chinese laborers, who might squeeze them out of their jobs” (US Department of State). They were willing to work longer hours for much less compensation. Other than fighting for job opportunities, the non-Chinese laborers used any differences between them as a mechanism to label them negatively. This increased animosity led to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which prevented these immigrants from becoming naturalized citizens as well as restricting immigration. This discrimination increased the tension and pushed many Chinese workers out of their jobs. They moved out to the East Coast and were struggling to prosper like they previously were. Desperate to make a living, they turned to running laundries and restaurants, two types of businesses still primarily owned by Chinese people; “Cooking and cleaning were both women’s work. They were not threatening to white laborers” (Lee 2008). This was just the beginning of the overwhelming expansion of Chinese cuisine and culture that has become such a staple business now in America. 

These Chinese restaurants were thriving, especially after Richard Nixon’s famous visit to Beijing, China. This, in addition to immigration reform, caused their restaurant businesses to grow exponentially (Rude 2016). Among all the dishes, chop suey spread across the United States like an epidemic. Everyone was raving over this perfect mixture of meats and vegetables and the intricate balance of flavors. Most people thought it was China’s national dish, and thought it was something unique and exotic. Yet, this was not actually a Chinese dish at all. The Chinese chefs knew they could not serve authentic dishes like sea cucumbers or chicken feet to the American population. Chop suey, in fact means “of odds and ends” and was just scraps of ingredients tossed together (Jurafsky 2014). It was speculated that chop suey came about when the Ambassador of China, Li Hung-Chang, refused to eat the food that was provided to him in his hotels. His personal chefs concocted whatever they could with the ingredients that were available, creating chop suey. After this, people started waiting in lines to taste this supposed traditional dish and his visit was the spark to this “chop suey fad” (Library of Congress). Yet, Jennifer Lee’s research determines that there was no exact point at which this dish was created, but there were so many small events and parts that built up to lead to this craze for chop suey (Lee 2008). This dish is just one example of how the Chinese cuisine has evolved and become popular in America. 

At Chinese restaurants today, the big buzzword is General Tso’s chicken. It is the most well-known Chinese dish today and is usually the most popular item or number one chef special on thousands of Chinese menus. The deep orange, tangy sauce is mouthwatering and the small chunks of chicken are perfectly crispy. If you show this to any Chinese native or ask for it at a restaurant in China, they will probably look at you quite perplexed. Lee continued her journey to find out about who General Tso was and how the dish even came about. She travelled deep into the village, getting discouraged as no one was familiar with the dish. She finally found the General’s hometown and encountered the chef who first made this staple meal, Chef Peng. Excited to have finally found her answer and the origins, Lee took a bite of the his recipe of General Tso’s chicken and was confused and in fact, quite disappointed: “Where was the sweetness? The tanginess? Instead, it had a strong salty flavor” (Lee 2008). The food that she and millions of others had come to love and cherish was not even close to the taste and texture of the original. It was even quite saddening to read about Peng’s reaction to the popularized version of his special recipe. He stated as he walked away, “Chinese cuisine took on an American influence in order to make a business out of it” (Lee 2008). In order to make Chinese food acceptable and liked in America, chefs made these dishes “sweeter, boneless, and more heavily deep-fried”: three defining characteristics of General Tso’s chicken (Rude 2016). All these traditional dishes were transforming the true identity of Chinese cuisine, to the point where the Americans that were consuming this food became accustomed to it and believed it to be authentic. 

Many of these Chinese dishes also changed due to the nature of living in a new environment that not only had a different culture, but also different resources available. They have adapted more and more to fit American tastes in order to keep their businesses running. Vegetables that are typically used in authentic recipes are bamboo shoots or Chinese cabbage, whereas popular dishes in Chinese-American cuisine are topped with broccoli and carrots as they are more readily available (Chan). Many of the dishes were typically savory (just like Chef Peng’s version of General Tso’s chicken), and yet due to American liking for milder, sweeter items and greater accessibility to refined sugar, the recipes were slowly changing. The American population also took to a strong liking of crab rangoon, a wonton dish that was filled with crab and cream cheese, typically eaten as an appetizer. This is also shocking as dairy is not typically consumed in Chinese cuisine in the first place (Jurafsky 2014). There has never been an emphasis on producing dairy and a large portion of the population is lactose intolerant as well. The greater availability of these new vegetables and dairy products in America have led them to be commonly integrated into their food. 

When Chinese cuisine first started developing, much of the population was poor and had no proper ways of preserving their foods. Due to this, Chinese cuisine is filled with dishes of almost every single body part of chickens, fish, pigs and seafood (Lee 2008). Today, these may be considered revolting to Americans as they are much pickier about what textures and what animal body parts they can consume, to make consuming animals feel more humane. This is why Chinese American food turned towards using chicken breast; they diced them up into small chunks without any skin or bones. There were also many more constraints in their cooking style back then. Lee states, “Food had to be dried or pickled…stir-frying was a popular technique because it used little oil and consumed energy efficiently” (Lee 2008). Chinese food developing in America did not face any of these problems as there were appliances like freezers and salt was more heavily used to preserve meats. The Chinese also were not familiar with using ovens which made them lack in the department of baking and desserts. In a traditional Chinese dinner, there is no concept of dessert. If anything, there may be a plate of fruit instead. The fortune cookie, which actually originated in Japan, “filled the dessert gap in that cuisine for American eaters” and continued further to become a monumental symbol for Chinese food and culture itself (Jurafsky 2014). This change in resources and appliances have indeed played a tremendous role in how Chinese cuisine evolved in America. 

The stark contrast between traditional Chinese cuisine and Chinese-American dishes can clearly be seen by looking into the homes of immigrant families in America. The dishes that they serve on the dinner table are much more authentic than you can find in any restaurant across the country. Susannah Chen reflects back on her mother’s recipe for making ping an mien, a type of Chinese chicken noodle soup. It was a recipe that was special in her home “for birthdays, and when someone was leaving to go far, far away” (Chen 2014). She realized the significance once her boyfriend was moving away to continue his studies, and she spent time trying to find the most authentic ingredients in order to make something meaningful. Though she did not make it perfectly, it was a special moment, making such an authentic recipe symbolic to her and her family. This dish is rarely found in Chinese-American restaurants, rather there are soups like chicken corn soup or plain vegetable soup. These authentic recipes, thankfully, are being passed down the generations, but it would be extremely difficult to bring these types of dishes to the public eye as Americans already believe that they are consuming authentic Chinese food since it has been around for so long. 

Another example of the evolution of Chinese food in America is seen through Jennifer Chan’s experience with both her family and the restaurant they own. Her father is both the owner and head chef of the restaurant; Chan revealed many of the differences in his cooking between home and at work, over the years.  Chan explains, “The food that we serve in the restaurant and what my parents cook at home is very different. We use different vegetables and steam our fish whole” (Chan). The food that the restaurant served was more for the public taste, compared to the genuine and comforting flavors that they would make for themselves. Only certain customers know to ask for particular authentic Cantonese or Sichuan dishes, but the majority stick to the most well known dishes. Furthermore, she stated that in Chinese culture, food is served in large bowls or plates at the center of the table to share. Everyone was to pass the dish around and place as much as they wanted on their plate. Yet, at her restaurant, she claims that everything is served in “individual portions” as that is how the Americans typically consume their food, even when sharing a meal as a large group (Chan). The Chinese food culture is even adapting to match the traditions and ways of the Americans. 

Even as Chinese American food is evolving, the authentic Chinese dishes across the Pacific Ocean are also modifying quickly. Eddie Huang, a popular writer and chef, also discusses about trying to connect back to his homeland and past by using food. He explores China and goes on a adventure to discover how the food that he serves in his restaurant in America stands up to the authentic food of the Chinese streets. When he cooked beef noodle soup and served it to a couple of friends and family, his brother said, “Definitely different than Mom’s, but I like it” (Huang 2016). He received similar feedback on many of his other recipes as well. Huang had his own flair and people loved it, but it was still quite unlike the original recipe. Huang then goes out to try dan-dan noodles at little restaurant and compares them to the ones that he loved to devour: “I never liked Sichuan dan-dan mian because everyone got it confused with Taiwanese dan-dan mian that my dad grew up eating…A classic and irresistible dish” (Huang 2016). When visiting this restaurant, he discovered that the dish was barely popular anymore due to its simple ingredients and overly intimidating spice, while in the US, it was still one of the most desired Sichuan dishes to this day. Chinese cuisine is also rapidly changing. In this case, the Americans are appreciating a traditional dish, but it has lost its magic in its native land.

The Chinese American cuisine has established itself throughout the United States, but this does not mean that there are no other options available. Rude writes, “It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the United States got its first taste of ‘authentic’ Chinese cuisine” (Rude 2016). There were immigrants coming from more locations across China that brought Hunan, Sichuan, Taipei, and Shanghai cuisines to the table (Rude 2016). Though it did not explode and become as in demand like the Americanized Cantonese cuisine, these dishes are still available in various restaurants. Vincent Li discusses how his restaurant in Washington DC caters to both local Americans as well as Chinese people looking for a true meal. He states that cooking Chinese American food is much easier because there are fewer cooking styles and “one just needs to stir-fry the vegetables and meats” (CCTV America). There are even two different menus specific to the patron. The Chinese customers and those American foodies ready to explore new depths of this cuisine, can get a unique menu listing all of the legitimate Chinese dishes that they can prepare. These beautiful dishes are just hiding behind this overpowering, yet inaccurate portrayal of Chinese cuisine.

In conclusion, Chinese-American food has been consistently changing and adapting to fit the likings of the American people and to match the resources available. The rich history of Chinese immigration was the impetus to the widespread liking of Chinese-American cuisine, as well as through various events like the visit of Ambassador Li Hung-Chang or Richard Nixon’s travels to Beijing. The Chinese continued to experiment with new ingredients available in the United States and used cooking styles that were much different to what they were exposed to at home. The divergence between the Chinese cuisine and Chinese-American cuisine is shown directly between what is even cooked in Chinese immigrant homes than in restaurants. The evolution is still continuing and both disciplines of cooking are refining and reshaping. The fact is that these authentic dishes are available across the Unites States, but it is up to individual people to go out and seek the real definition of Chinese cuisine whether it is by asking a local restaurant for something novel or preparing one’s own traditional Chinese concoction. 


Works Cited 

CCTVAmerica1. YouTube, YouTube, 23 Sept. 2015,

Jennifer, Chan. “Wah Sing.” 22 June 2018.

Chen, Susannah. “Ping An Mien, a Chinese Family Noodle Story.” Chowhound, Chowhound, 7 July 2014, story/.

Chen, Yong. “The Rise of Chinese Food in the United States.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, 2017, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.013.273.

“Chinese Immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Acts.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State,

“Chop Suey Was Invented, Fact or Fiction?” America’s Story from America’s Library, The Library of Congress,

Huang, Eddie. Double Cup Love: on the Trail of Family, Food, and Broken Hearts in China. Spiegel & Grau, 2016.

Jurafsky, Daniel. The Language of Food: a Linguist Reads the Menu. W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.

Lee, Jennifer 8. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food. Twelve, 2008.

Rude, Emelyn. “Chinese Food in America: A Very Brief History.” Time, Time, 8 Feb. 2016,

Zong, Jie, and Jeanne Batalova. “Chinese Immigrants in the United States.”, Migration Policy Institute, 29 Sept. 2017, immigrants-united-states.

Putting a Twist on It by Akshitha Adhiyaman

Green are the fresh coriander leaves,

Picked from our home-grown garden, sent straight into the kitchen. 

We rip open a box of penne pasta from the pantry,

And place them into a pot of boiling hot water with a sprinkle of salt. 

Black pepper, turmeric, ginger, garlic, and garam masala sizzle together in the pan,

Our mouths water at the aroma of traditional Indian spices.

The deep orange liquid stands out bright against the dull pots, 

the vegetables chopped in thin slices marinate in the bubbling sauce. 

Licking the ladle, my eyes widened in wonder, 

I urged my brothers to taste, shoving the spoon in their face with excitement. 

I wanted to run around to every house, 

So that everyone I knew could experience the dance of my taste buds. 

I knew my family would finish the meal in minutes if I went anywhere, 

So instead I gathered the plates and utensils to set up on the floor. 

In the midst of all the boxes from moving, 

The warmth of the food calmed our nerves down. 

We were miles away from our old home, 

But my family knew that all we needed was each other to get through the next couple of weeks. 

None of that mattered right now though, 

As we slurped up our Indian styled pasta in the company of one another. 



I chose to imitate the poem “Cold Noodle Soup with Sophora Leaves” by Du Fu. This poem truly resonated with me because it perfectly worded a plethora of emotions that I myself feel when eating one of my favorite meals. I loved the line, “I eat more, worrying that it will soon be gone.” It reminded me of meals with my brothers, when we always fought over the last lamb chops or the final bite of mangai pachadi. Though the final theme of Da Fu’s poem was a bit different than my own, I really liked the fact that the author used both objective (like particular ingredients and places) and subjective ideas (like emotions) to bring the whole recipe and noodle to life. I enjoyed reading the prose writing as well and I thought that it would be fun for me to try that type of writing style as well. 

Du Fu emphasized many of the themes that the class discussed involving Chinese food. The one that I noticed the most within this poem is this idea of balance. The structure of each sentence was perfectly balanced with a small detail, following with an explanation of what people are doing with that small detail. Each sentence has it’s balance and it tells the reader a lot about the Chinese focus on this aspect. Whether it is fan-cai, yin-yang, or just the balance of favors and aromas in each dish, the Chinese cultures makes sure to perfect this in order to create something harmonious and complementary. The importance of community and sharing is also clearly depicted in this poem as the author writes about wanting to share this special dish with other people, even if they are far away. From the first day of class, the class discussed how food to the Chinese was so valued because meals were a time of communion and spending quality time with one another. Each dish was always so representative of that. Finally, I have continued to learn about various types of noodles and how each one is associated with memories or events. In this case, the author is talking about eating this refreshing cold noodle soup on a special occasion. We have also seen this through the dan dan noodles, longevity noodles, etc. I attempted to imitate all three of these ideas in my own writing when discussing a type of pasta that was special to my family. 

Every time I write one of these blogs, I learn more and more about my own Indian culture. I never really embraced my culture until coming to college, but this class has continued to push my learning within my own home. When thinking of ideas of what to write for this poem, I asked my mother if there were any variations of noodles or pasta that are commonly eaten in India. She couldn’t think of anything native to India, but brought up many Chinese dishes that are quite popular. None of those dishes intrigued me or resonated with me. I then remembered a moment in my childhood: moving to my current home. I decided to run with the idea once I thought of it and that’s how I wrote the poem. This moment was when my family and I shared Indian styled pasta on the floor of our new home, since we didn’t have any furniture or barely anything within the house. Thinking about it now makes me feel so nostalgic.  Anyways, I realized that the Indian culture focuses much on creativity and family, and this is shown in my poem. At a time where my family didn’t have much, my dad cooked up some pasta, but instead used Indian spices and flavors to remind us of home. He was creative and made us a makeshift meal that warmed our hearts and filled our stomachs. Additionally, moving to a brand new place was difficult for all of us. Both my parents were going into new jobs, I was going to be attending a new schools, and my brothers were just a year old at this point. We all needed each other’s support in order to get through such a transition period and that is exactly what this dish represented. It was something new that was made to feel like home, which was exactly what we needed to do. 

It is clear that there are many common themes in both Chinese, Italian, and Indian cultures when it comes to food. The most obvious one I believe is this sense of community and wanting to share meals with one another. Meals are always an important time for loved ones to catch up with each other and just enjoy their time and company. I think that this cultural DNA can be found in almost every culture across the world. For hundreds of thousands of years, banquets and meals have been important times for leaders, friends, and family to get together and just share their opinions and ideas. Also, through all of the literature, we can truly see how versatile the noodle truly is. We have watched and read about many different types of people making many different types of noodles and it is honestly quite overwhelming. For the Chinese, there is a unique noodle dish for every celebration or occasion and for the Italians, there are so many interesting influences on how to make pasta from neighboring countries. The thing is that noodles can be made in the traditional Chinese or Italian way, but it can also be created into something new just like in my poem. There is much more to noodles than just a piece of dough; each dish carries its memories and stories along with it to be passed down along the generations. 

The Transitive Property at its Finest by Akshitha Adhiyaman

Food encourages communion. Communion is the basis of culture and society. 

Therefore, food must be able to provide insight on various people and their stories. 

Over the past few weeks, I have learned much about how food facilitates and affects our interactions with one another, as well as reflected upon my own culture and experiences. Within such a short time, I delved into literature, media, and projects that brought people and their narratives to life. Moving forward into this week, I am continuing to explore the Chinese and Italian cultures regarding their connections regarding the evolution of noodles. 

The origin of noodles has been studied and contemplated for years. Some say that Marco Polo brought it to Italy from China, yet noodles were already present there since the early 12th century. Others state that the Arabs in Sicily truly changed the way pasta was even made and consumed. There seem to be so many little nuances and such rich history behind this one staple dish, but I believe that that is what makes it so unique, salient, and versatile.

Each type of noodle dish represents a certain moment or milestone in one person’s life in the Chinese culture. These noodles represent the celebration of life, including all the ups and downs one faces. Throughout all of the readings for this week, every time a new type of noodle was mentioned, it was soon followed by a story or a personal connection to it. 

For example, the long-life noodles were one of the first things we discussed as a class. It is a dish prepared on milestone birthdays and in the video, “A Bite of China,” we are able to understand the meaning of these types of noodles during a special occasion. Madam Wei woke up early on her husband’s 70th birthday in order to prepare these longevity noodles. The shape of the food, “long and slim,” acts as a symbol for “longevity” as the Chinese pronunciation of all of those words are quite similar. During the birthday banquet, everyone’s participation is vital is providing the meal for the one celebrating their birthday. Each person picks out their longest noodle and puts it in a bowl. This bowl with all the longest noodles is then given to the one celebrating his birthday. 

Another type of noodle filled with rich history and connection is the Dan Dan noodle. This name came from the fact that they would carry the pots (which carried all of the sauce and meat) on a bamboo pole and they were quick and easy to make at any time. In the memoir, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, Fuchsia Dunlop beautifully strings together both her own relationship with these Sichuan noodles as a college student and the local street culture where it was initially sold. For her, these noodles were “a cure for hangover or heartache.” She went to savor Xie Laoban’s Dan Dan noodles almost everyday and talked about how this vendor evolved from the typical “Chengdu street snack.” She continued to write about how older generations would get emotional as they missed all of the street food Chengdu was filled with before these private vendors were banished due to the Cultural Revolution (Dunlop). These special Sichuan noodles flood people with memories and their own culture.


These are only two of the many, many types of noodles that the Chinese eat and celebrate everyday. Yi Yin’s story of helping his mother recover from illness using seafood noodles and the story of a Yunan boy eating his noodles after his chef crossed the obstacle filled bridge also represent the beautiful meaning behind noodles. All of these stories represent a milestone or a particular moment in one’s life. The role of the noodle is extremely important as facilitates the path of life and marks certain memories in a person’s life. Each noodle carries the anecdote of individuals in a society that all come together because of the universality of food. Together, they can trace back the history of something broad like the start of the noodles from the Han Dynasty or a small community like the Chengdu. 

As we have continued to discuss, the Italians also have a very strong link to noodles and pasta that show us a lot about their culture. Similar, to the Chinese, the noodle plays a role in bringing people together and celebrating life with family and friends. The Mediterranean food pyramid is actually quite different than a typical American food pyramid you would see in any magazine or doctor’s office. The base or foundation of the food pyramid includes physical activity and enjoying meals with one another. This continues to show how food plays an important role in bringing people together. 

The Italians also are known to take it a step further and incorporate family traditions into their cooking. In the “Two Greedy Italians” episode, we see how all the daughters are expected to learn how to make pasta from their mothers and grandmothers. It is time for them to learn about their own culture and lineage, while providing the rest of their family with a hearty meal. Additionally, in the basement of their mansion, they had stored years and years of balsamic vinaigrette which emphasized the importance of their family recipes, business, as well as their story.

Due to Italy’s peninsular shape, the Mediterranean diet has also had influences from various places like Germany, France, Spain, the Middle East etc. Raisins, cinnamon, eggplant and artichoke are just a few things that the Arabs introduced to the Italians. The Porta Palazzo shows this microcosm of Italian culture and how it truly has characteristics from all around the world. In The Truth About Pasta, the role of pasta is perfectly described: “As they are like a canvas, they are versatile and easily adaptable to national/regional seasonal ingredients” (International Pasta Organization 2016). The different geographies of Italy push people to use unique ingredients to prepare their meals. By studying and understanding the different types of pasta and how they are prepared, one can really come to learn much about a particular regions history, culture, and environment. 

The production of pasta has also constantly evolved over the years as well. The first Etrusco-Roman noodle was oven baked and made from the same durum wheat that is used now. The first pasta factory was reportedly located in the Arab part of Sicily, where this pasta was shipped off to many places. The Italians also realized that dried pasta was able to stay fresh even after long voyages over the seas. With technology rapidly easing up the process of making pasta efficiently and in varying shapes (lie fettuccine, farfalle, corzetti, etc) , pasta truly became an important dish in Italy. Massimo Montanari discusses how the pasta shapes reflect the Italian culture in his book Let the Meatballs Rest: “Pasta seems made to order as a metaphor for the unity and variety of Italian alimentary styles” (Montanari). He continues to discuss how pasta is all made of the same substance, but the form of the pasta makes a huge difference in how a pasta dish actually tastes. All these different shapes, flavors, and cooking styles all stem from unique traditions and identities that define the Italian culture. 

The Chinese and Italian cultures have many aspects of their culture rooted in the evolution of noodles and pasta. Now, traditional pasta can be found in boxes in grocery stores and instant ramen noodles are a common college student meal. Pasta can truly be found anywhere, and this is what makes it a staple dish not only in China and Italy, but across the world; it’s versatility is unmatched. Honestly, defining the noodle is quite a difficult task. I don’t think any definition could truly encompass all of the nuances and history behind it. But if I were to define it, I would say that the noodle is a multifaceted dish typically made of dough that can be served with various shapes, ingredients, and flavors depending on an individual’s culture, experience, and culture. As we see, the noodle can be seen through various lenses and it is important to take a step back and truly appreciate the infusion of all the stories, cultures, and emotions associated with this staple dish.

Inspired by the King of the Kitchen

I firmly believe that my dad is the king of the kitchen. My strong bond with my father came from our shared love for food and his passion for cooking whatever I asked for each and every night. He adored the fact that I had a good appetite, or in our class we would say I had a “buona bocca.” He would always try to cook up something new in order to teach me about not only our own Indian culture, but various cultures across the world. If you ask me what my favorite food is, I’ll probably just say, “Anything my dad cooks.” Anyways, I feel that it is only appropriate to start off my writing journey in this class with his impact on my fascination of diverse foods. Three dishes that have become vital to my growth as an individual and to my family are dosas with unique chutneys, mutton biriyani, and mangai pachadi. Each one of these dishes play a specific role in how my family celebrates and shares our culture with one another. 

Dosa and chutney is a staple dish in India. It is a comfort food across the nation and something that can be eaten at any time of the day. Honestly, I am not the biggest fan of this dish, but it plays an extremely important factor in how I display my pride about my country, and I continue to cherish every bite. When I was seven years old, my father decided to singlehandedly run a dosa stand at a street food fair in New York City, NY. I remember standing outside the stand in a white apron, raising my finger up, yelling, “One dollar dosas! Enjoy some one dollar dosas!” It was the first time that I displayed my pride for my culture and heritage. That has been something that I struggled with my whole life, until I came to college and fully embraced my identity as Emory’s Indian Cultural Exchange President. 

Image result for dosa and chutney

Mutton biriyani is a dish that combines many different flavors and aromas from various places across India and Pakistan. It is collectively my family’s favorite dish to make and eat. I know that every time I come home from college, I’ll walk into the kitchen filled with the yummy smells of the mustard, saffron, and marinated meat. My love for biriyani also taught me to explore the different ways a dish can be made. Since biriyani has so many influences, different people make it with their own twist. My family loves to explore the unique flavors because it shares each individual’s story. I continue to eat and savor this dish, because I never know exactly what to expect depending who made the dish and that definitely keeps me excited. 

Image result for mutton biryani

Finally, mangai pachadi is a sweet, Tamilian meal that my father is known for being the best at making. All our family friends come to our home just to eat this amazing platter. It is actually quite a rare dish, but that makes it even more special to me. My father always packs me bottles of this mango delicacy every semester for college. I eat so much of it, especially during times when I need to be comforted. This is a true representation of my Tamil background, but more importantly it reminds me of my supportive family back home. 

Image result for mangai pachadi

I have not yet had the opportunity to explored the ethnic communities in Atlanta, but I am extremely involved with the Indian students across campus through both ICE and my Bollywood a cappella group, Suri. We all bond together through trips to Patel Plaza in Decatur for chaat or heading over to Zyka for some warm naans and butter chicken. It is our way of staying connected to our culture, but also each other. Food plays the important role of bringing people together and this is only the beginning to my journey. All these family run Indian restaurants and stores deliver a small piece of home and familiarity to students like me. They were like my aunties and uncles, always trying to feed me and it was comforting having food similar to home. I even brought this part of me to campus to cater ICE events and to share a part of my culture and tradition to Emory University. I hope that through this class I will be able to explore more about Chinese and Italian culture, and I am so excited to discover more about myself and others through food.