American Chinese food tends to be cooked very quickly with a great deal of oil and salt. Many dishes are quickly and easily prepared, and require inexpensive ingredients. Stir-frying, pan-frying, and deep-frying tend to be the most common cooking techniques which are all easily done using a wok. The food also has a reputation for high levels of MSG to enhance the flavor. The symptoms of a so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome or "Chinese food syndrome" have been attributed to a glutamate sensitivity, but carefully controlled scientific studies have not demonstrated such negative effects of glutamate. Market forces and customer demand have encouraged many restaurants to offer "MSG Free" or "No MSG" menus.
Most American Chinese establishments cater to non-Chinese customers with menus written in English or containing pictures. If separate Chinese-language menus are available, they typically feature delicacies like liver, chicken feet or other exotic meat dishes that might deter Western customers. In New York's Chinatown, the restaurants were known for having a "phantom" menu with food preferred by Chinese and Chinese Americans, but believed to be disliked by non-Chinese Americans.
American Chinese cuisine often uses ingredients not native and very rarely used in China. One such example is the common use of western broccoli (xi lan, 西蘭) instead of Chinese broccoli (gai lan, 芥蘭) in American Chinese cuisine. Even more divergent are American stir-fry dishes inspired by Chinese food, that may contain brown rice instead of white, with grated cheese; milk products are almost always absent from traditional Chinese food.
See Also: Loewy, Table 8
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