When it comes to our favorite Chinese foods, the path from China to our plates isn’t as straightforward as you’d think. Several books that have come out in recent years — such as Chop Suey, Chop Suey USA, and Chow Chop Suey (no joke!) — tell the story of a uniquely American cuisine that was born out of a complex relationship between Chinese immigrants and their host country. (There is currently an excellent exhibit on this very topic at the Museum of Food and Drink in New York City.)
Turns out, going into the restaurant business was one way that Chinese transplants established themselves in a country that, through racial discrimination and harsh immigration policies, made it extremely difficult to do so.