American cuisine

‘Atlanta’s Savory Stories’: Chinese American Cuisine – WABE

We’ve long known that Atlanta’s food scene goes way beyond barbecue and fried chicken. Our city has a food offer as diverse as its population. Today we are launching “Atlanta’s Savory Stories”, a new series about our region’s rich culinary history, some restaurants and recipes to try from the comfort of your own home. Today, WABE introduces its newest food contributors, food historian Akila McConnell and chef Asata Reid.

Our first episode focuses on our Chinese-American food community for Asian-American Pacific Islander Month. McConnell explained the most common misconception about Atlanta’s Chinese cuisine – that it’s relatively new here. “We hear a lot about America’s historic Chinese communities in places like New York and San Francisco, but not in Atlanta,” she said. “But the reason there was an influx of Chinese immigration across the country in the 1800s also impacted Atlanta, and that reason was, of course, the railroad.”

When the railroads became the commercial link that gave rise to Atlanta’s first wave of growth as a city, Chinese immigrants joined them. In 1865, Chinese workers made up 90% of the people employed in building the first transcontinental railroad. As their families grew, the community established what was then called “Atlanta Chinatown” in 1903, with pioneering Chinese restaurants like Joe Jung’s Chop Suey restaurant and the Oriental Café.

“His restaurants were the first to introduce Chinese cuisine to Atlanta, and honestly, it’s not that different from what you might find on a menu today. His… specialty dish, let’s say, was chop suey “Said McConnell. “Historians don’t know exactly where this dish came from. like a stir-fry.”

A century later, Chinese and Chinese-American cuisines are staples of the Atlanta palette. The distinction between the two areas of cuisine is essential because the Chinese-American food culture has created dishes that are unique to the United States. For example, Reid noted General Tso’s Chicken Dish, a recipe that was never found in China long after it was created and popularized in America.

Chef Reid recalled a formative experience, a traditional Chinese wedding she was taken to as a child. “We were invited to dinner, which was this amazing 10 course feast that I will never forget… Breathtaking food, artfully presented and elegantly served, and the flavors – everything was so distinct yet harmonious.” She added, “And I never forgot the betrayal I felt afterwards, because if it was Chinese food, then what did I eat? My whole life was a lie.

Here are some of Reid and McConnell’s favorite Chinese restaurants in Metro Atlanta:

Hai, Decatur: “If we get dumplings, then we get them from Hai… Their dumplings are just spectacular.” -Reid

Dim Sum Heaven, Buford Hwy: “It has all your dim sum favorites right on one menu. So no rolling carts – you just order what you want. -Reid

Oriental Pearl, Chamblee: “I’m old-fashioned. Oriental Pearl is my choice… Anything they bring will be delicious. – McConnell

Harmony Vegetarian, Buford Highway: “I swear some of the food they serve there, you wouldn’t know you weren’t eating meat. -Reid

Authentic Chinese cuisine Wei, Marietta: “The most wonderful mapo tofu and soup dumplings.” – McConnell

Ming’s barbecue, Gwinnett: “At home, we don’t mind driving 40 minutes to get barbecue duck at Ming’s.” – McConnell

Reid’s recommendations for creating dumplings at home:

  1. Keep the dough moist so that the dough does not dry out.
  2. Don’t overfill them, fill each dumpling only two-thirds of the way
  3. Keep filling cool until ready to cook
  4. Keep the crispy dumplings crispy by not moving them when fried in the pan with oil.
  5. Steam them for three to five minutes afterwards and let the water evaporate
  6. When preparing the mixture, do not add water to the vegetables. Salt them in a colander and squeeze out the excess water, or add cornstarch to the vegetables and it soaks up the extra water
  7. Cook some filling and add fresh ginger to the mixture inside
  8. Find the right wrapper (square wrapper for wonton) and get rid of the air bubbles when you wrap them.
  9. Natalie King’s Chinese Southern Belle makes Reid’s favorite ‘My Sweet Hottie’ sauce for dipping ravioli