The Yanks Have Discovered Chicken Balls, and They’re Mad About It

The Yanks have never had a spice bag, and it shows. If you’ve been on the scroll recently, you will also have undoubtedly seen some bewildered Yanks giving out about the Brits getting “a Chinese”. It’s genuinely bonkers.

So how did we get here?

Well, Chinese takeaway unboxing has been growing in popularity with UK and Irish creators such as LordKeely,  GERRY CHERRY 🍒 and C H L O E, gaining tonnes of views for videos that run through their Chinese food orders. The hashtag “Chinese takeaway” has accrued 278.5 million views and counting.

We love ‘unboxing’ as an internet thing. It’s the equivalent of going through your shopping bags with your mammy after a day in the sales. It gives the same warm nostalgic feeling. Unboxing videos are one of the most popular genres on YouTube. People en mass at all strata of society tune in to watch their favourite creators cry with satisfaction holding Prime Energy Drinks’ latest drop.

As well as making you very hungry, there’s something extremely comforting in watching people unbox and plate up their takeaways. Waiting in anticipation to see if they have a similar order to you. Have they gone for the spice bag? Oh did they get a side of honey, I didn’t know that was a thing!

@lordkeely Back again with another friday night FEAST #chinesetakeaway #foodorder #chineseorder #irishchinesefood #chinesefood ♬ original sound – LordKeely

The Shift

Up until recently, it’s simply been everyone’s cravings for Chinese food that’s made videos so popular. However, the Yanks just couldn’t let us share our beloved Chinese orders in peace. This American TikToker created a now-viral video expressing her confusion over the ingredients of a quintessential Anglicised Chinese takeaway.

In her video, TikTok-er Soogia questioned why her FYP was filled with ‘British’ people referring to their food as “a Chinese” as opposed to “Chinese food”. “Is it just me, or is your FYP also almost exclusively British people eating Chinese food too?” she said.

“This is no hate to them whatsoever. I know it’s not intended to be racist, but it feels like it is a little bit. It’s like that prompt that’s like ‘tell me something that isn’t racist but feels like it is’ it feels like that. It feels so strange that they all call it ‘a Chinese’.” In the video, Soogia went on to explain in America, they say: “‘Chinese food’ like we do all other foods like ‘I’m going to go for Greek food, or Mexican food or Italian food’.”

As if the linguistic confusion wasn’t enough, she went on to disparage the actual foods included in a typical Irish and British Chinese order, saying she had never heard of chicken balls and didn’t understand the obsession with curry sauce. As if American Chinese food is any better with their ‘crab rangoon’.

Soogia ended her video by saying: “If they love it, fine, I just know there’s such a beautiful world of Chinese food out there.” It’s been viewed over 2.6 million times at the time of publication, and it has only just hit the Twittersphere.

@gerrylavz_ i feel i have a PHD in this subject 🥡✨ #britishchinese #irishchinesefood #chinesedrama #chinesetakeaway #foodreview #takeawayfood ♬ original sound – GERRY CHERRY 🍒

The Linguistics of It All

The hotter topic to emerge from the internet’s latest viral video is whether saying “a Chinese” is racist. Ordering “a Chinese” has become a staple part of Irish culture – hangover cures, the Friday night in, the post-festival cure, the midweek treat. One of our team, Sian, even had one on her Communion. The schneaky Chinese is an entrenched part of our culture and has been legitimately for decades.

Many TikToks have defended “I’m having a Chinese” as slang. Technically the phrase is an abbreviation of “a Chinese takeaway”, which is a count noun, as in it refers to one thing. This explains why the “a” is used. In the US, they refer to it as ‘takeout’ largely, which is a mass noun, as it references multiple things.

It’s not just American culture that influences speech patterns. Other cultures can and do exist, much like Ireland, and have deep-rooted relationships with other cultures as immigration evolves. Ireland’s relationship with Chinese food started as far back as the 1950s.

@chloekoyce Sunday = Takeaway day #takeawayfood #chinesetakeaway #irish #skitok #foodtiktok ♬ Sensual Seduction – Snoop Dogg

The Actual Food

The actual food is also throwing Americans. It’s like Yanks literally can’t wrap their heads around chicken balls, prawn crackers, and, once again, the curry sauce devotion. Others don’t get the off-brand Tupperware the takeaway arrives in, thinking their paper boxes are somehow more authentic.

Calling our iteration of Chinese food ‘disgusting’ or ‘inauthentic’ just isn’t accurate. There is a noted book on the topic called Takeaway: Stories from a Childhood Behind the Counter by Angela Hui. While this is predominantly about Britain, it talks about the same phenomenon. Food is like language: It adapts slowly over time to fit conditions, as any culture spreads around the globe.

@taropearltea Thoughts on Chinese takeaways outside China. #chinesefood #takeaway #chinesetakeaway #chinese #food #uk #british #ireland #irish ♬ original sound – tarotea

Our Chinese

Our Chinese food is not OG Chinese. We know this. It has evolved since the first Chinese takeaway landed in Dublin in 1956. It’s made to be sold to us, altered and influenced by our culture – the culture it’s part of. Irish Chinese takeaways have been the grounds for genuine innovation and adaptability in our food culture. Chinese food was the first ethnic cuisine to be not only accepted but enthusiastically embraced by the spice-intolerant Irish people.

American Chinese food is the same, just as ‘inauthentic’ and ‘disgusting’ to many Chinese cultures. In China, General Tso is known more for his battle prowess than his chicken. Orange chicken is another variation of General Tso’s chicken — and was invented by Panda Express, no less. So coming for our independent Chinese culinary creations when yours are mass-produced by a multinational soulless conglomerate is a bit rich. But hey, that’s the Yanks for ya.

Since Soogia’s video was released, the comment section was flooded with people defending our style of Chinese takeaway. Whether it’s the Brits coming like Lauren Griffiths – one of the most prominent Chinese haulers on my TikTok FYP – with explainers. Or Irish people on Twitter refusing ‘to be lectured on Irish/British Chinese food by a country that puts sugar in its coleslaw”. We have all been radicalised in defence of our beloved Chinese.

We may not agree on a lot of things, but we know a good Chinese when we see it. And honestly, we don’t think we’ve seen the British and Irish as people united on anything since, well, never.

Now, does anyone fancy a Chinese later?

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