Arab immigrants began coming to the U.S. in sizable numbers during the 1880s. Today, it is estimated that nearly 3.7 million Americans trace their roots to an Arab country. Arab Americans are found in every state, but more than two-thirds of them live in California, Michigan, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York are home to one-third of the population.
Arab Americans are as diverse as their countries of origin, with unique immigration experiences that have shaped their ethnic identity in the U.S. While the majority of Arab Americans are descended from the first wave of Christian Arab immigrants, Arab American Muslims represent the fastest growing segment of the Arab American community.
Contrary to popular assumptions, the majority of Arab Americans are native-born, and nearly 82% of Arabs in the U.S. are citizens. While the community traces its roots to every Arab country, the majority of Arab Americans have ancestral ties to Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq.
Arabic-speaking immigrants arrived in the United States in three major waves. The first wave between the late 1800s and World War I consisted mainly of immigrants from Greater Syria, an Arab province of the Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I. Following the breakup of the Empire, the province was partitioned into the separate political entities of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Transjordan. The vast majority of immigrants in this wave were members of Christian minorities. Although some writers claim that these immigrants left their native countries for religious or political reasons, the evidence suggests that they were drawn to the United States by economic opportunity. Like many economically motivated immigrants during this period, Arabs came to the US with the intention of earning money and returning home to live out the remainder of their lives in relative prosperity. The major exception to this pattern was a small group of Arab writers, poets, and artists who took up residence in major urban centers such as New York and Boston. The most famous of the group was Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), author of The Prophet and numerous other works.
Unlike the earlier influx, the second wave included many more Muslims. It also included refugees who had been displaced by the 1948 Palestine War that culminated in the establishment of Israel. This period also witnessed the arrival of many Arabic-speaking professionals and university students who often chose to remain in the United States after completion of their training. Immigrants of the second wave tended to settle where jobs were available. Those with few skills drifted to the established Arab communities in the industrial towns of the East coast and Midwest, while those with professional skills headed to the suburbs around the major industrial cities or to rural towns.
In the mid-1960s, the third wave of Arab immigration began which continues to the present. More than 75 percent of foreign-born Arab Americans identified in the 1990 census immigrated after 1964, while 44 percent immigrated between 1975 and 1980. This influx resulted in part from the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965 which abolished the quota system and its bias against non-European immigration. The third wave included many professionals, entrepreneurs, and unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. These immigrants often fled political instability and wars engulfing their home countries. They included Lebanese Shiites from southern Lebanon, Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and Iraqis of all political persuasions. But many professionals from these and other countries like Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, and unskilled workers from Yemen also emigrated in search of better economic opportunities. Had conditions been more hospitable in their home countries, it is doubtful that many of these immigrants would have left their native countries.
Arab Americans have a distinctive cuisine centered on lamb, rice, bread, and highly seasoned dishes. The Middle Eastern diet consists of many ingredients not found in the average American kitchen, such as chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, ground sesame seed oil, feta cheese, dates, and figs. Many Arab dishes, like stuffed zucchini or green peppers and stuffed grape or cabbage leaves, are labor-intensive but delicious and healthy.
Arab Americans are probably most known for their restaurants and cuisines found across the country. Many classic dishes coming from the Arab World have become popular dishes for Americans. The dish most famous, of course, is hummus. This simple puree of chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic is served as an appetizer or as a side to grilled meats and vegetables. Sometimes called “street meat” in the U.S., shawarma is another national hit thanks to Arab Americans. Wrapped with garlic and pickles in Arabic bread (pita bread), shawarma has become a great alternative sandwich. Tabbouli, falafel, grape leaves, and kebabs are part of the American cuisine today.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup fresh minced dill
1/4 cup fresh minced mint
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
50 large jarred grape leaves
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Fresh mint leaves, lemon slices, and olives (for garnish)
Place the pine nuts into a skillet and lightly toast them over medium heat until golden brown. Set aside.
Pour ¼ cup of olive oil into a medium pot and heat it. Add the minced onion and sauté until soft. Add the rice to the pot and stir to combine. Sauté for another minute. Pour in ¾ cup of vegetable broth and lower the heat; simmer the rice uncovered for about 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is half cooked. Remove the pot from heat.
Add the minced dill, mint, toasted pine nuts, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to the pot of rice. Stir until all the ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. As the water is heating, trim the grape leaves by cutting the stems off flush with the leaves. Trim any large, hard veins from the leaves. Place the leaves in the boiling water and let them soften for 3-5 minutes until they become pliable. Drain, then cover the leaves with cold water. Drain the leaves again and pat them dry.
Place a grape leaf shiny (smooth) side down, vein (bumpy) side up, on a flat surface like a cutting board. Place 2 tablespoons of rice filling at the base end of the leaf, near where the stem was. Fold the stem end up over the filling. Fold the edges of the leaf inward. Continue rolling the leaf till it forms a neat rolled package. Squeeze the roll gently to seal.
Repeat the process with the remaining leaves until all of the rice filling is used.
Place the stuffed leaves in the bottom of a deep saute pan. Pack the leaves snugly; as this will help keep the leaves intact as they cook. Make a single layer on the bottom of the pan. When the bottom of the pan is full, make a second layer on top.
Pour 1 cup of broth, ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil, and ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice over the stuffed grape leaves. Heat the pan over medium until it begins to simmer (don’t boil, or the leaves will start to fall apart). Cover the pot. Let the grape leaves cook for 30-40 minutes. The leaves are finished cooking when they are fork-tender.
3 cups (200 grams) cooked chickpeas, drained
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
3 to 4 ice cubes
1/3 cup (79 grams) tahini paste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Hot water (if needed)
Extra virgin olive oil
Add chickpeas and minced garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Puree until a smooth. While the processor is running, add the ice cubes, tahini, salt, and lemon juice. Blend for about 4 minutes. Check, and if the consistency is still too thick add a little hot water. Blend until the mixture is a silky smooth consistency. Spread in a serving bowl and add a generous drizzle of olive of and a sprinkling of sumac.
1 pound lean ground lamb or beef
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil, for brushing the grill
Flatbread or pita, for serving
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup grated cucumber squeezed dry
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh mint or dill (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
Pinch of kosher salt
To make the tzatziki sauce, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the kofta: Mix the beef, onion, garlic, parsley, coriander, cumin, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Divide the mixture into 6 roughly even balls. Mold each ball around the pointed end of a skewer, making an oval kebab that comes to a point just covering the tip of the skewer. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 15 minutes before threading them.
Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat or prepare an outdoor grill. Brush the pan or grill grates lightly with olive oil. Grill the kebabs, turning occasionally, until brown all over and cooked through about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with tzatziki sauce and flatbread.
Fattoush is a salad of crisp lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, toasted pita bread, and a sumac dressing. Since I was serving pita with the kofta, I did not include it in my salad.
Serves 4 people
2 large pitas
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
1 clove garlic minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice about 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 head romaine lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
1-pint cherry tomatoes halved
1 English cucumber halved and thinly sliced
1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced and separated into 1/2 circles
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves torn into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut pitas in half. Separate the top from the bottom and tear into bite-size pieces. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat. Spread on a baking sheet and season with kosher salt. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, tossing once, until crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a bowl to keep from over browning. Set aside.
To make the dressing. In a small bowl combine the first 6 dressing ingredients (garlic through black pepper); whisk until combined and honey has dissolved. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to combine.
Drizzle dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle pita over the top and serve.
Mexican Americans have lived in the United States for most of the country’s history. Ethnically, Mexican Americans are a diverse population, but the majority are Mestizo, which in colonial times meant to be a person of half European and half Native American ancestry. Nonetheless, the meaning of the word has changed through time and currently refers to the segment of the Mexican population who do not speak indigenous languages.
The United States is home to the second-largest Mexican community in the world, second only to Mexico itself, and comprising more than 24% of the entire Mexican population of the world. Mexican American families of indigenous heritage have been in the country for at least 15,000 years, and Mestizo Mexican American history spans more than 400 years, since the 1598 founding of Spanish New Mexico. Spanish residents of New Spain in the Southwest included New Mexican Hispanos and Pueblo Indians and Genizaros, Tejanos, Californios and Mission Indians. Approximately ten percent of the current Mexican-American population are descended from the early colonial settlers who became U.S. citizens in 1848 following the conditions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican–American War.
Generally, when Americans speak about Mexican food, they are usually referring to Tex-Mex (or Cal-Mex) cooking, an extremely popular cuisine that follows the long border between the United States and Mexico. The food of the southwestern US state of New Mexico and the dishes of many of the Native American peoples of the southwestern US have similar names to many Tex-Mex and some Mexican dishes but they use different flavorings and cooking techniques.
Dishes like chili, fajitas, salsa, tortilla chips, chimichangas, quesadillas, burritos, and nachos are actually homegrown American inventions. Even dishes that exist in Mexico like enchiladas, tacos, and tamales are cooked and served differently in the United States. True Mexican dishes are not as spicy as many US versions. American versions of Mexican entrees add prodigious quantities of cheese, either shredded or melted, to nearly every dish, a practice rare in Mexico. The same heavy hand applies to the American use of sauces of all kinds. North of the border portions are larger, plates are filled so that the food items tend to run one into the other. In Mexico, the soft corn tortilla performs the function that bread on the table performs in the United States; it is a side starch. In the United States, fried tortillas, become an ingredient in nearly every dish.
Like most immigrant groups, Mexican Americans have remained loyal to the food traditions of their homeland. Many shops in small ethnic markets carry Mexican specialty foods. When they cook, they follow recipes handed down to them by their parents and grandparents and their cooking styles have certain things in common. Meat, usually pork or beef, is central to the diet. It is often eaten with salsa on the side. Corn, beans, rice, and root vegetables are also staples, especially sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, and taro. Also popular is a pear-shaped squash called chayote. Here are some Mexican American recipes for you to make at home.
Carne asada means grilled beef in Spanish. The best cuts for making carne asada is Arrachera or skirt steak. It’s the taste that comes to mind when you think carne asada.
In Mexico, there are several marinating techniques that vary depending on the region of the country.
In the south and in the Gulf of Mexico area, where bitter oranges are grown, cooks will add some of its juice to the meat they are using to make Carne Asada; in other regions, they will add lime juice, and others will add a splash of beer.
Carne asada is traditionally made using a skirt or flank steak. The two cuts are very similar, but I prefer flank steak. When cutting the cooked meat, be sure to cut against the grain. It is quite easy to see the grain running through the meat in both of these cuts. It looks like long lines. Do not cut parallel to these lines, always cut perpendicular to them.
Adapted from Rick Bayless, Chicago Chef
2 limes juiced
4 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 jalapeno minced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 pounds flank steak
In a gallon size resealable bag, combine the lime juice, crushed garlic, orange juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, olive oil, jalapeno, and vinegar. Squeeze the bag to mix it up.
Put the entire flank steak into the resealable bag. Seal it up tight. Make sure all the meat is exposed to the marinade, squashing the bag around to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight is better.
Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan over high heat.
Remove the flank steak from the marinade, and discard the excess marinade. Cook on the grill for 7 to 10 minutes per side.
Once done, remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes. Slice against the grain, and serve.
For Carne Asada Tacos
Thinly sliced grilled flank steak
Sliced red onion
Cotija cheese, crumbled
Blood oranges, cut into eighths
Grilled or Roasted Corn On the Cob
4 ears corn
2 tablespoons butter (softened)
Parmesan cheese, grated
Chopped herbs (your choice)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F or use the grill when cooking the meat.
Remove husks and silks from the corn. Place the corn on sheets of foil.
Butter corn and sprinkle with herbs and Parmesan cheese. Enclose the corn in foil and press the edges to seal.
Place wrapped corn on a cookie sheet or on the grill and roast for 25-30 minutes.
Mexican Red Rice
Arroz Rojo Mexicano
Adapted from Rick Bayless, Chicago Chef
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ cups long-grain white rice
1 ¾ cups unsalted chicken broth or water
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 1 to 2 serranos or 1 large jalapeño), stemmed and cut a slit down the side of each one
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch cubes
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
Place the garlic into a blender or food processor, add the canned tomatoes and process to a smooth puree.
In a large saucepan, stir together the oil and rice. When the rice is thoroughly coated, stir in the tomato puree, broth (or water), carrots and 1 teaspoon salt. Nestle in the chiles. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Gently stir the rice, re-cover and let the rice cook about 20 minutes. or until tender Taste a grain of rice: It should be very close to done at the core. If not, sprinkle in a little water, re-cover and cook 5 minutes more.
When the rice is done, uncover it and sprinkle in the peas and the parsley or cilantro. Use a fork to gently fluff the rice, reaching all the way to the edges of the bottom, to release steam and slow the cooking. Re-cover, let stand 5 minutes.
Black Beans with Chiles
1 pound dried black beans
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
2 whole serrano chiles or 1 jalapeño chile
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Rinse beans. Place beans in a large bowl. Cover with water by several inches. Let soak overnight.
Place oil, onion, and carrot in a Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until the onion is tender. Drain beans and add to the Dutch Oven. Add whole chiles, cumin, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 1 hour. Uncover and simmer until beans are very tender, about 15 minutes more.
This past weekend I grilled a whole chicken and, of course, there were leftovers. The leftovers made a delicious filling for the peppers. Here is the link to the grilled chicken and my recipe for Ranch Salad Dressing.
2 large bell peppers
1/2 cup water
1 cup of shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup leftover rice or cauliflower rice
1/4 cup salsa
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 scallions, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1/2 teaspoon taco seasoning
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the tops off the peppers and reserve them. Remove the pepper seeds, wash and dry the peppers.
Combine the filling ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. You need about 1 cup of filling for each pepper.
Fill the hollowed out pepper cups and place them in a baking dish where they can stand upright. Put the tops on the peppers and pour the water in the baking dish around the bottom of the peppers.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the peppers are tender.
Corn and Black Bean Saute
2 cups corn kernels
1 seeded and minced jalapeno
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups canned or homemade black beans, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Saute the corn, jalapeno, and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until corn is just tender. Stir in the black beans and cilantro. Season and heat.
Sliced Cucumbers With Ranch Dressing
1 English cucumber
Ranch Dressing (your favorite or my recipe in the link at the top of this post.)
Cut the cucumber into thin slices. Place on a serving plate and drizzle with ranch dressing.
Modern-day Native American cuisine encompasses all the traditional foods of long ago, such as cornbread, turkey, cranberries, blueberries, hominy, and mush and many of these recipes have been adopted into the cuisine of the United States. The most important native American crops include corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, wild rice, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, avocados, papayas, potatoes, and chocolate. North American native cuisine can differ somewhat from Southwestern and Mexican cuisine due to its inclusion of ramps, wild ginger, miner’s’ lettuce, and juniper berries that add subtle flavors to the cuisine.
Staple foods of the Eastern Woodlands Native Americans were corn (also known as maize), beans, and squash. This combination is referred to as the “Three Sisters” because they were planted interdependently: The beans grew up the tall stalks of the maize, while the squash spread out at the base of the three plants and provided protection and support for the root systems. A number of other domesticated crops were also popular during some time periods in the Eastern Woodlands, including a variety of amaranth, sumpweed (marsh elder), little barley, maygrass, and sunflowers. Maple syrup is another example of an essential food staple of the Woodland Indigenous peoples whereby tree sap was collected from sugar maple trees at the beginning of springtime.
Southeastern Native American cuisine forms the cornerstone of Southern cuisine from its origins right up to present times. From Southeastern Native Americans came one of the main staples of the Southern diet: corn (maize), either ground into meal or limed with an alkaline salt to make hominy. Corn was used for cornbread, grits, and liquors such as whiskey, which were important trade items. Though a lesser staple, the potato was also adopted from the Native Americans and used in many ways similar to corn. Native Americans introduced Southerners to many other vegetables still familiar on southern tables, such as squash, pumpkin, many types of beans, tomatoes, many types of peppers, sassafras and many other wild berries.
Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains relied heavily on American bison (American buffalo) as a food source. The meat was cut in thin slices and dried, either over a slow fire or in the hot sun until it was hard and brittle. Since it could last for months, it was the main ingredient to be combined with other foods, or eaten on its own. Other foods included pemmican, a concentrated mixture of fat, protein, and fruits such as cranberries, Saskatoon berries, blueberries, cherries, chokeberries, chokecherries, and currants. Staple foods also included turnips, wild berries, potatoes, squash, dried meats (venison, buffalo, jackrabbit, pheasant, and prairie chicken), and wild rice. Great Plains Indians also consumed deer and antelope.
In the Northwest Native Americans used salmon and other types of fish, mushrooms, berries, and meats such as deer, duck, and rabbit. The generally mild climate meant they did not need to develop an economy based upon agriculture but instead could rely year-round on the abundant food supplies of their region. Acorns were ground into a flour that was the principal foodstuff for about 75 percent of the population, and dried meats were prepared during the season when drying was possible.
Puebloans lived in southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado and practiced subsistence agriculture by cultivating maize, beans, squash, and sunflower seeds. They utilized locally available wild resources such as pine nuts from the pinyon pine and hunted game including deer, hare, rabbits, and squirrel. They were also known for their basketry and pottery to hold agricultural surplus that needed to be carried and stored, as well as clay pot cooking. Grinding stones were used to grind maize into meal for cooking.
Recently, The James Beard Foundation (JBF) announced that Sean Sherman, a member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota would receive a Leadership Award for his work in helping Native Americans reclaim historic food and agricultural systems. The award acknowledges Sherman’s efforts to recognize the Native American diet and revitalize traditional indigenous food systems in North America.
A Native American Dinner
Grilled Wild Salmon
The foil packets may also be baked in a 375-degree F oven for 15 minutes.
3 whole juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
Top greens from 1 bunch scallions, cut into one-inch pieces
2 wild caught salmon fillets, skin on (about 12 oz total)
1/4 cup Pure Maple Syrup
Preheat an outdoor grill.
Cut two pieces of foil big enough to hold the fish with a couple of inches overlapping all around the fish. Divide the scallion tops in half and place them on each piece of foil. Place the salmon fillets on top, skin side down.
Sprinkle each with salt and pepper.
Finely crush the juniper berries and mustard seeds in a mortar.
Brush each fillet with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and sprinkle the top of each fillet with the crushed seeds.
Close the foil and seal the ends. Place foil packets on the grill and cover the grill. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes.
Use tongs or a metal spatula to remove foil packet from the grill and set it on a plate or cutting board. Allow it to cool enough to handle, then unwrap the foil.
Wild Rice Blend
The blend is a combination of Long Grain Brown Rice, Sweet Brown Rice, Wild Rice, Whole Grain Wehani® Rice, Whole Grain Black Japonica™ Rice.
1 cup (Lundberg) wild rice blend
1 3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
Combine rice, water, salt, and butter in a pot and bring to a boil.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce heat to low-simmer, and cook 45 minutes.
Remove the pot from heat (with the lid on!) and steam for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
One 1 lb butternut or acorn squash
2 tablespoons soft butter
Salt and black pepper to taste
5 sage leaves minced
1 long chive leaf, minced
Halve the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds and strings. Rub the insides with the butter; season with salt and pepper. Place on a roasting pan, skin side down. Bake in a preheated 350-degree F oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until fork tender. Remove the squash from the oven, scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor or blender and process until smooth; or mash the squash in a large bowl using the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with minced sage and chives.
Chinese immigrants to the US in the 19th century worked as laborers, particularly on transcontinental railroads such as the Central Pacific Railroad. They also worked as laborers in mining and suffered racial discrimination at every level of society. In 1924 US law barred further entries of Chinese and those already in the United States had been ineligible for citizenship since the previous year. Also by 1924, all Asian immigrants (except people from the Philippines (annexed by the United States in 1898) were excluded by law, denied citizenship and naturalization, and prevented from owning land. In many Western states, Asian immigrants were even prevented from marrying Caucasians.
In the 1940s when the United States and China became allies during World War II, the situation for Chinese Americans begin to improve, as restrictions on entry into the country, naturalization, and mixed marriage were lessened. In 1943, Chinese immigration to the United States was once again permitted—by way of the Magnuson Act—thereby repealing 61 years of official racial discrimination against the Chinese. However, large-scale Chinese immigration did not occur until 1965 when the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 lifted national origin quotas. After World War II, anti-Asian prejudice began to decrease, and Chinese immigration increased. Currently, the Chinese constitute the largest ethnic group of Asian Americans (about 22%) in the US. As of the 2010 census, there are more than 3.3 million Chinese in the United States, about 1% of the total population. The influx continues, where each year ethnic Chinese people from the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and to a lesser extent Southeast Asia move to the United States.
Foundations for American Chinese cuisine were brought by immigrants from the southern province of Guangdong, the origin of most Chinese immigration before the restriction of immigrants from China in 1924. These Chinese families developed new styles and used readily available ingredients, especially in California. The type of Chinese American cooking served in restaurants was different from the foods eaten in Chinese American homes. Of the various regional cuisines in China, Cantonese cuisine had been the most influential in the development of American Chinese recipes. Stir-frying, pan frying, and deep frying tended to be the most common Chinese cooking techniques used in American Chinese cuisine, which are all easily done using a wok (a Chinese frying pan with bowl-like features that can withstand very high cooking temperatures. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the United States got its first taste of “authentic” Chinese cuisine. The 1960s brought new arrivals from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Mainland, who in turn brought with them the foods they had enjoyed in areas like Hunan, Sichuan, Taipei, and Shanghai. Today, according to the Chinese American Restaurant Association, there are over 45,000 Chinese restaurants currently in operation across the United States.
Here are two of my favorite recipes.
Sichuan Peppercorn Shrimp
Adapted from Sang Yoon, Los Angeles Chef
1 ½ teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
1 pound large shrimp—shelled, deveined and butterflied
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 scallions: 1 finely chopped, 1 thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large or 2 small jalapeño peppers, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
2 whole dried Tien Tsin chile peppers
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Sesame oil, for drizzling
In a small skillet, toast the peppercorns over moderate heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds; let cool. Transfer the peppercorns to a mortar or spice grinder and grind to a powder. Put the shrimp in a bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon of the ground peppercorns and season with sea salt.
In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil. Add the shrimp and stir-fry over moderate heat until almost cooked through, 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of peanut oil in the skillet. Add the chopped scallions, garlic, jalapeños and chile and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the scallions and garlic are softened, 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of ground peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and lime juice and stir until the shrimp are just cooked through 1 minute. Remove Chinese chile. Transfer to a bowl; garnish with the sliced scallion, drizzle with the sesame oil and serve.
Adapted from David Chang, New York City Chef
4 cups cooked white rice or cauliflower rice
4 thick slices bacon, diced
½ cup onion, finely chopped
½ cup celery, finely diced
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 green onions, sliced
Bring the cooked rice to room temperature; set aside.
In a large deep skillet cook the bacon for 4-5 minutes.
Add the onions and celery, and sauté together for 4-5 minutes more, turning down the heat slightly if too much browning occurs.
Add the peas, and stir to combine. Then gently stir in the rice and sesame oil.
Let the rice mixture heat thoroughly over medium heat. Make a well in the middle, and add the eggs. Stir occasionally to make sure they’re cooking, then stir them into the rice. There should be little bits of cooked egg throughout the rice.
Paprika is critical to Hungarian cuisine and it adds a very special and unique flavor. Hungary’s climate and soil conditions produce nearly ideal conditions for growing the peppers that end up as paprika, and their paprika is preferred by chefs across the globe.
All paprika is made from hot chilies, and the piquancy level of the finished spice is dependent on how much of the interior pith (which contains almost all the capsaicin, the chemical compound responsible for spicy flavor) is left attached to the fruit of the pepper before drying and grinding. Hungarians love the entire paprika spectrum, from fully hot (all the pith left intact) to “sweet,” or mild (with all pith removed). Hot paprika is difficult to find in the United States, but the sweet variety is a part of nearly everyone’s spice rack.
Paprikash showcases paprika perhaps more than any other Hungarian dish. Pieces of meat (usually chicken but other types of meat can also be used) are braised in a brick-red sauce made simply from onions, tomatoes, and of course paprika, then finished with a bit of sour cream. Here is my version.
1 (1 pound) pasture raised pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Half a large sweet onion, cut into thin wedges
1 garlic clove, minced
1½ tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup bottled mild banana peppers, finely chopped
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons arrowroot or all-purpose flour
Trim fat and silverskin from the meat. Cut meat into thin medallions ( crosswise) and sprinkle lightly with salt; set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat and brown the slices on both sides, about 3 minutes. Remove the meat to a plate.
Heat the remaining oil and add the onions. Cook until tender. Stir in the garlic.
Sprinkle with the paprika, black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook and stir 1 minute more.
Add tomatoes, broth, and banana peppers. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low. Return the meat slices to the pan and cook, uncovered, about 10-15 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring frequently.
Reduce the heat to low. Stir together the sour cream and arrowroot in a small bowl; stir into the meat mixture. Cook and stir until very thick.
Serve the Paprikash over rice, cauliflower “rice” or wide noodles.
Roasted Acorn Squash
One 2 lb. acorn squash
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Seasoning mix: Combine ¼ teaspoon of each: chili pepper, brown sugar, lemon peel, orange peel, cilantro, and salt
1 garlic clove, minced
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Cut acorn squash into quarters and remove the seeds from the center of each quarter.
Slice each quarter in half and place in a baking dish. Pour the melted butter over the squash and turn the pieces over in the butter.
Sprinkle with the seasoning mix.
Roast the squash until tender, about 25 minutes.
Cajun or “les Acadians” was used to describe French colonists who lived in the Acadia region of Canada (present-day New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia). With the British Conquest of Acadia in the early 1700s, the Acadians were forcibly driven from their home and eventually settled in the swampy regions of Louisiana. Those distinct areas are the levees and bayous (Lafourche and Teche), prairies (Attakapas Indian land), swamplands (Atchafalaya Basin), and coastal marshes (New Orleans area and Houma).
The Acadians were an extremely resourceful people who combined the resources of the flatlands, bayous, and the wild game of South Louisiana with its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico to create a truly unique local cuisine. While many Acadiana residents today have Native American, German, French, or Italian roots, their way of life is strongly influenced by the Cajun culture. Along with its food, this rural area of Louisiana is famous for its Cajun French music and language.
Seasoning is one of the most important parts of Cajun cooking, and that comes from much more than a heavy helping of cayenne pepper. Most dishes begin with a medley of vegetables based on the French mirepoix. “The holy trinity of Cajun cuisine” utilizes onion, celery, and bell pepper to provide a flavor base for many dishes. Garlic, paprika, thyme, file (ground sassafras leaves) are also very common ingredients in Cajun kitchens.
The term “Creole” describes the population of people who were born to settlers in French colonial Louisiana, specifically in New Orleans. In the 18th century, Creoles consisted of the descendants of the French and Spanish upper class that ruled the city. Over the years the term Creole grew to include native-born slaves of African descent as well as free people of color. Typically, the term “French Creole” described someone of European ancestry born in the colony and the term “Louisiana Creole” described someone of mixed racial ancestry.
Like the people, Creole food is a blend of the various cultures of New Orleans including Italian, Spanish, African, German, Caribbean, Native American, and Portuguese, to name a few. The dishes consist of an array of spices from various areas, for example, remoulade sauce. Creole cuisine had more variety because of the easier access Creoles had to exotic ingredients and the wide mix of cultures that contributed to the cuisine. That’s why you find tomatoes in Creole jambalaya and not in Cajun jambalaya or why a lot of times you find a Creole roux made with butter and flour while the Cajun roux is made with oil and flour.
1 lb steak bites (cut into 2-inch cubes) (Sirloin, New York Strip or Ribeye)
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning, purchased or use the homemade recipe below
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
Place the Cajun seasoning and 1 tablespoon oil in a shallow bowl or a plastic ziplock bag. Add the steak bites and toss to evenly coat. Refrigerate for several hours.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.
Sear the steak bites for 2-3 minutes on each side until the edges are crispy and browned and remove to a serving bowl. Set aside.
Reduce heat to medium. Add butter to the skillet and heat until melted. Sauté the chopped garlic for 30 seconds, while scraping the bottom of the pan.
Take the pan off the heat. Place the steak bites back in and toss through the garlic butter to evenly coat. Pour onto a serving plate.
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon onion powder
Combine the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to combine. Store covered at room temperature.
Cajun Rice Saute
You may also substitute frozen and defrosted cauliflower rice for the regular rice in this recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 small bell pepper (baby bell), diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 1⁄2 cups cooked rice (¾ cup uncooked)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
Cook the rice in chicken broth. Set aside
In a skillet heat the oil and saute the onion, celery, and bell pepper until tender.
Add garlic, Cajun seasoning and thyme. Saute for 1 minute. Add the cooked rice and heat until hot stirring frequently until combined with the other ingredients. Spoon into a serving bowl and top with chopped parsley.
Southern Style Greens
Bacon fat is often used in this recipe but I use olive oil instead.
2 pounds greens (collards, mustard, chard), washed and drained
1 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Salt and pepper
Use a knife to cut on either side of the large rib running up each green leaf. Remove it and discard it. Stack about 4 to 5 leaves, roll them up and cut into 1/2-inch strips. Repeat with remaining leaves.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened.
Add broth, vinegar, sugar and hot sauce to pot. Stir to combine.
Add greens and use tongs to turn and mix them until they reduce in size some. Cover, turn heat to low and cook until tender (30-60 minutes depending on the type of greens used), stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.