Panda Express is weighing an expansion to China—but it could be tough sell for the Chinese food chain, given that American-style Chinese food here is “very alien” in China, writer Jennifer 8. Lee tells NPR. Indeed, American-Chinese food is a cuisine all its own, she notes. Take General Tso’s chicken: “I actually went to the home town of General Tso,” says writer Lee. “I showed them pictures of General Tso's chicken,” and “they were like, 'Huh, we've never seen this!'”
American-Chinese food veered off from traditional Chinese fare around 1900, when chop suey “took off like wildfire” in the US, says the curator of the "Sweet & Sour" exhibit at the National Museum of American History. Chop suey is seen as a US dish, but it’s similar to real Chinese food. The name roughly means “extra bits,” like leftovers, he says, and “who doesn't have leftovers?” A tip for those seeking authentic Chinese taste: Stop by a restaurant serving jellyfish. “No fully American-Chinese restaurant would serve jellyfish,” Lee notes.