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Foodscapes of Chinese America

The Transformation of Chinese Culinary Culture in the U.S. since 1965

Xiaohui Liu

This book explores the transformation of Chinese food in the U.S. after 1965 from a cultural perspective. The author asks how Chinese food reflects the racial relation between the Chinese community and the mainstream white society and investigates the symbolic meanings as well as the cultural functions of Chinese food in America. She argues that food is not only a symbol that mirrors social relations, but also an agent which causes social and cultural change. A particular geographic focus of this book is California.
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Chapter 3. The Transformation of Chinese American Foodscapes


3.1 Culinary Diversification – The Chinese Restaurant Revolution

New types of Chinese food actually made their presence felt in America earlier than the late 1960s. They appeared during the Second World War. The entry of new immigrants contributed greatly to the introduction of new cuisines and novel culinary ideas. American immigration laws towards the Chinese changed significantly during and after the war. For a start, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943, and an annual quota of 105 was established for persons of Chinese ancestry. Following that, after 1944, an increasing number of non-quota Chinese immigrants flowed into American territory, including the Chinese brides of Chinese American G.I.s and the alien wives and children of American citizens. In addition, political refugees, including former nationalist government officials and their families, as well as a number of students and professionals, came under various immigration acts.79 Among these new immigrants, many were well educated and had better cultural awareness. They began to bring new tastes and culinary ideas to the U.S. It was cookbooks that first introduced new types of Chinese cuisine to the American public. A landmark work was Buwei Yang Chao’s How to Cook and Eat in Chinese, which was first published in 1945. In this book, Buwei Yang Chao, a Chinese physician and the wife of the famous linguist Yuen Ren Chao, not only introduced a variety of Chinese regional ← 55 | 56 → cuisines, but also invented a number of important English terms for Chinese cooking methods...

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