America has a storied history of taking the cuisines of other cultures and incorporating elements of them into its own... usually after deep-frying them. Sometimes, though, we go a bit overboard with the incorporating and end up with something that, despite its name and supposed pedigree, would confuse the hell out of non-Americans.
Here are those foods. These are their stories.
GENERAL TSO'S CHICKEN
The tale of General Tso's chicken is a long and circuitous one, but the (most likely) fact of the matter is that it was invented by a Chinese dude who fled to Taiwan, developed his original recipe there, and then moved to America, where the version of the dish we know and love today finally coalesced in New York City to suit the sweet-tooth tastes of -- among other customers -- Henry Kissinger. Dude knows international diplomacy.
Rome had Caesars, right? So it's only logical to assume that one of them (probably Augustus, that guy was awesome) invented this salad. And just like in the last few seasons of Lost, you can throw logic out the window, because this salad -- served, in some form, at almost every Italian restaurant in America -- was invented by an Italian expat NAMED Caesar who was working around San Diego and Tijuana in the mid-1920s, using the dregs of his restaurant's menu. Sorry, Augustus. You still have so much more going for you.
Credit: Flickr/Timothy Tsui
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
Chicken tikka, which essentially means "pieces of chicken", is a dish that's been around in Indian cuisine since the discovery of 1) chickens, and 2) cutting foods into pieces. But it wasn't until a fateful day in Glasgow in the 1970s that the masala factor came into play, when a cheeky patron in a Bangladeshi restaurant complained that his order of chicken tikka was too dry, prompting the chef to throw on a sauce made of condensed tomato soup, spices, and yogurt that today comprises one of the national dishes of England.
Sure, the source material of the chimichanga -- the burrito, duh -- is most likely of Mexican extraction (the ones Stateside in, say, Chipotle, aren't too recognizable South of the Border). But the chimichanga, that deep-fried buster of many an Arizonian belly? It's a classic American story, through and through: legend has it that a burrito was dropped unceremoniously (read: accidentally) into a deep fryer by a chef in Tucson, AZ and -- whatever the Spanish word for voila is! -- the chimichanga was born.
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