During the 1860s to 1890s, thousands of Chinese immigrants entered the United States.
Landing in San Francisco, they made their way throughout the western states in search of work, focusing on mining and railroad construction.
Approximately 12,000 Chinese workers traveled from Sacramento, CA to Promontory, UT in the late 1860s working for the Central Pacific Railroad.
The joining of the transcontinental rail lines became known as “The Golden Spike” where East meets West.
Over 1,000 workers died during construction, their bones shipped back to China, and no credit was given for their labor at the completion or grand celebration.
Not until May, 2019 at the 150th year celebration of the Golden Spike were the Chinese immigrants recognized for their hard work, dedication, and, for some, death.
As the immigrants traveled further south within Utah, many found themselves in Carbon County working at the coal mines and the railway system.
While the majority were driven out by anti-Chinese sentiment, many managed to stay on, establish businesses, and make a good life for themselves.
Oh my, I am beginning to see a similarity here of the pioneers who traveled from England to North America, their descendants traveling westward.
Whether due to cultural or religious differences, many a group was met with discrimination, driven away, and sometimes killed for simply being different than the established norm.
As with immigrants from many other countries, the Chinese brought their recipes with them.
From the simplest sustenance of stir-fried vegetables in oil plus red chile flakes over jasmine rice, to the more complex sweet and sour made with rice wine vinegar.
Unfortunately, the Chinese cooks were not able to find all the seasonings and spices, what we see as “unusual” foods, here in the USA.
They had to adapt to what was available, and with restaurants, to the tastes of the American residents. Americans love ketchup!...and deep frying.
Whether chicken, pork or shrimp, the tender morsels were thickly coated in a batter, deep fried and saturated with the ketchup-based, sweet and sour sauce.
It was tangy, tart, lip smacking, face-puckering delicious; the addition of sweet sugar keeps the eyeballs from popping out of their sockets.
Here is a hint for the next time a vacation takes place in New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, or any other city with an old, well established Chinatown: do not go to the typical tourist-geared restaurant where the food is made for American tastes.
Go into a restaurant that you see the Chinese residents going into. Tell them you want to experience authentic food that they would eat in their homeland.
Expect to have your mind, senses, and especially taste buds, blown sky high! You will be thanking me for this advice and craving that type of Chinese cuisine. Trust me; would I lie to you?
Sweet and Sour Pork
(No deep frying of the meat and the sauce is toned down with pineapple juice)
4 cups cubed pork (boneless loin pork chops); ½ cup flour; 1 Tbsp. garlic powder; 1 tsp. ground black pepper; 1 tsp. salt; 2 cups onion, julienned and cut into thirds; 1 cups each of red and green bell peppers, julienned and cut into thirds; 1 (15.25 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drain, but reserve liquid; 1 cup Homemade Sweet and Sour Sauce
Spray interior of 4-quart crock pot with non-stick cooking spray.
Mix together flour with spices and thoroughly coat pork cubes, place in bottom of crock pot. Begin layering onions, bell peppers and pineapple.
Whisk together reserved pineapple liquid with sweet and sour sauce; pour over all in crock pot.
Cover, set on low for 6 hours. A half hour before it is done, prepare white rice (4 cups fully cooked).
Makes 8 servings.
Homemade Sweet and Sour Sauce
¼ cup white wine vinegar; ½ cup ketchup; 1 Tbsp. soy sauce; 6 Tbsp. sugar; 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
Stir together all ingredients in medium saucepan; bring to boil. Remove from heat and serve.
Makes 1 cup.
Note: Want some heat? Add 2 tsp. of Sriracha to the mixture.