In general Westernized Chinese cuisine is regarded as being less nutritious and often more fattening than authentic Chinese cuisine. While authentic Chinese cuisine can be expensive and some of the ingredients can be hard to find, many modern Chinese restaurants have avoided using authentic Chinese ingredients in favor of cheaper ingredients and artificial flavoring. While authentic Chinese dishes can be very expensive, many American Chinese restaurants have avoided Authentic Chinese foods in favor of more common Westernized ingredients like garlic and white sugar. When authentic Chinese dishes are made in an authentic Chinese kitchen, they will taste much better, however, if a Chinese chef makes them in a modern Chinese restaurant, they may still taste bland and overly processed.
As more Americans become interested in authentic Chinese cuisine, Chinese restaurants are more popular than ever. In fact, the Chinese American community has embraced Chinese cuisine so thoroughly that many Americans find it difficult to distinguish between authentic Chinese cuisine and Chinese food made with modern equipment and techniques. Unfortunately, while authentic Chinese cuisine is starting to come back into American cooking, American Chinese restaurants are starting to make many of the same mistakes that Chinese restaurants make. The result is a new version of Chinese food that tastes very different from authentic Chinese cuisine but that may not actually be authentic Chinese cuisine.
The problem is that many American Chinese restaurants use the same types of ingredients and cooking methods that are used in Chinese regional cuisines. Regional cuisines like Szechwan, Hunan, and Cantonese are filled with unique spices, ingredients, and cooking methods that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. While authentic Chinese cuisine relies on these types of regional influences, American Chinese restaurants often rely on flavors that are found in foods from other regions of China and the Americas. American Chinese cuisine, in turn, is often filled with ingredients and cooking methods that are either nonexistent or too commonplace. While authentic Chinese cuisine relies on a diverse cross of flavors from various regions of China and the western hemisphere, American Chinese cuisine tends to fall back on familiar dishes that are influenced by China, but not necessarily completely native to China. This results in a cuisine that may be healthy, attractive, and interesting, but that does not offer the diversity of regional Chinese cuisines.
It is probably easiest to compare authentic Chinese cuisine to European cuisine. Both cuisines draw from a wide array of ingredients, cooking techniques, and ingredients that are available almost anywhere in the world. However, whereas European cuisine tends to focus on a relatively small number of ingredients and cooking methods, Chinese cooking tends to focus on a much larger number of ingredients and cooking methods. Thus, authentic Chinese food can often taste quite different from traditional Chinese cooking, while at the same time, Chinese cooking can often use a number of the same ingredients. The result is that authentic Chinese cuisine can actually taste significantly different from Chinese food made with Chinese regional cuisines, while at the same time, the regional flavorings can also remain intact.
One final difference between authentic Chinese cuisine and the modern version of Chinese cuisine is the method of preparation. While the original raw food methods were very time consuming, especially when compared to modern preparation techniques, most modern Chinese foods actually use precooked or cooked foods to prepare them. For instance, while a piece of fish may be fried, stir fry it instead of grilling it, or even cook it whole. Instead of using large frying pans or woks to cook the food in, the main method of cooking used today is the traditional stovetop method.