From humble chop suey to the Chinese version of Eataly

Fans of Chinese food in America owe a debt of gratitude to San Francisco’s Chinatown. It’s the oldest Chinatown in North America, dating back to 1848, and currently the densest Chinese community outside of mainland China, packing in some 15,000 residents within a tight two dozen square blocks. With its narrow streets and distinctive architecture, the neighborhood has served as the backdrop for numerous films, including The Maltese Falcon, Big Trouble in Little China and Godzilla, and it was the birthplace for some of the most famous Chinese-Americans, like The Joy Luck Club author Amy Tan and the great kung fu movie star Bruce Lee, who was born at San Francisco Chinese Hospital. But perhaps the area’s greatest contribution to American culture appears on the plate.

Pick a dish from the menu of your favorite Chinese restaurant in the U.S. and chances are you can trace its origins, or at least its North American debut, back to this veritable culinary incubator. “Chinatown was the epicenter for Chinese community going back to Gold Rush days, so much of what became Chinese-American food came from there,” says San Francisco restaurateur George Chen. “Chop suey, egg foo yung, moo goo gai pan, shrimp in lobster sauce were all invented in Chinatown.” – Food Republic (06.11.15)