Things you think are Chinese in foreign restaurants but really aren’t

Because China is such a big country, people in the West with no relations to Asia, tend to assume that everything Asian must come from China. This is not always true but I’m not judging, I thought the same before and also, many of the overseas Chinese on purpose do mix up Asian cultures in their restaurants to reach more customers. In this post, I’ll try to create an overview of the common-known mix-ups.

The first thing I noticed when I came back to my hometown was that the Chinese characters were used as decoration on the walls of the small new Asian restaurant in our new shopping mall. I was excited to go there with a Chinese friend to eat but it turned out weird because the Asian-looking guy in the shop didn’t speak Chinese even if the restaurant’s name and look were all Chinesy. Furthermore, the mix of sushi and Chinese fried rice seemed odd to us who’ve been to China. Why? Because sushi is Japanese and not a part of a typical Chinese meal. Anyway, I know this is because right now the big stir-fried scrimps from the Chinese fast-food restaurants aren’t as popular as sushi so the Chinese restaurants have added sushi to their buffet together with the popular Chinese dishes.

Another funny thing is the waving cat in many Chinese restaurants abroad as well. The cat is a symbol of good luck and fortune but even if it’s in the Chinese restaurants, it’s not traditionally a Chinese thing, it’s actually originally from Japan. But it seems like the cat has given restaurants good fortune because I started to notice the cat back in China as well. It also seems fair that China is borrowing a Japanese thing now that half of the Japanese characters are Chinese, right?

The fortune cookies are popular amongst Americans when they order their Chinese take-away. This is an American thing, invented and used in America. The Chinese refugees were creative when they arrived in America and wanted their restaurants to be a success so somebody came up with the idea of fortune cookies and now it’s a thing, just not in China.

When eating in Chinese restaurants abroad, it is common to see fried spring rolls. The name in English is translated from Chinese because the Chinese in some parts of China eat spring rolls for Chinese new year which is also called Spring Festival in Chinese. But apart from this information, I’ve found online, my friends or myself have never stumbled upon spring rolls in China yet. I’ve been around most places in this massive big country but have never seen them anywhere. If you have, please let me know where I can find them?

The spring rolls are much more common in Vietnam where you can find them almost everywhere and eat them all fresh with different tastes and flavors. So if you’re up for spring rolls, you should probably consider a short trip to Vietnam instead.

Also, I haven’t been to all Chinese restaurants in the world but I’ve noticed one thing here in Denmark. No Chinese restaurants are serving dumplings in their buffets. This seems really odd to me because it’s almost like a national dish in China, no matter where you go.

What do you think about these discoveries? Did you know already or do you know about more things people think are from China but actually aren’t? Let me know in the comments below.

xx lingling

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    1. Nice, I haven’t seen it anywhere but then again I haven’t been all around China just yet. Maybe I’ll look for it next time I’m in HK or Guangdong 🙂

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