向左宗鸡致敬

07/24/2015

最近看了一部纪录片,片名叫做The Search for General Tso。这部记录片主要是在追溯一道叫做“左宗棠鸡”(简称“左宗鸡”)的美式中餐的来源。

左宗鸡,是一道在美国最受欢迎的“中国菜”。说它是中国菜,是因为基本上每一家中餐厅里面都会有这一道菜,而且基本上这道菜只会在中餐厅里面出现;给中国菜三个字加上双引号,是因为这道菜在中国几乎没人听过和吃过,只在外国的中餐厅里出现。美国人很喜欢这道菜,觉得这是最好吃的中国菜,见到中国人会称赞说你们的左宗鸡很好吃,中国人则会表示从来没听说过这道菜。

什么是左宗鸡呢?就是鸡腿肉用油先炸过,然后在锅里把微辣的酸甜酱煮开勾芡,加入鸡腿肉翻炒上色入味,装盘的时候再加上一些蔬菜装饰。我本人心中对这道菜的另外一个注解基本上就是把咕咾肉中的猪肉换成鸡腿肉。

这道菜给大家带来最大的疑问就是,它跟左宗棠到底有什么关系。我自己也一直觉得这个问题很有意思,也听过不同版本的答案。终于,这部纪录片给了大家一个完整的答案。

首先,这道菜的发明者叫做彭长贵,是一个中国人。他是一个湖南人,当年在国民党里面给高级的官员做菜,是一个很有名的湘菜大师。49年以后,他跟随国民党迁往台湾。他在台湾开了一家湘菜饭店,颇受国民党高官亲睐,在60年代左右,他发明了左宗鸡这道菜。在为这道菜起名的时候,他想起了左宗棠。左宗棠也是湖南人,是清朝的大将军,是彭长贵敬重的人。于是他把这道菜命名为左宗棠鸡。所以左宗鸡其实是一道正宗的中国菜,一道在台湾诞生的湘菜。当然了,当年正宗的左宗鸡味道跟如今的美式左宗鸡味道差很远,美式的比较甜,而正版的则侧重于咸酸辣几种味道。

最开始,这道菜只在台湾流行,一直到70年代,才由一位姓王的厨师带到美国。这位姓王的厨师本在纽约一家很受欢迎的中餐馆Shun Lee做主厨,后来为了丰富餐厅里的彩色,到台湾去采风。他尝过彭长贵的左宗鸡以后,觉得这是一道很适合加以改良后传到美国的菜色。于是回到纽约以后,这位王大厨开始在他的餐厅里推出改良过后更加突出甜味的左宗鸡,结果大受欢迎,风靡全美。彭长贵本人在台湾听说了这件事情以后,心有不甘,于是也跑到纽约去开了一间餐馆,卖正宗的左宗鸡。可惜这个先机已经被别人占了,彭长贵的正宗左宗鸡终究还是敌不过盗版的,败下阵来,几年以后就关闭了他的饭馆回到台湾。

这部纪录片给我留下印象最深的部分,并不是介绍左宗鸡的由来的这一部分,而是中间一大段介绍大部分早期来到美国的华人是如何通过开中餐厅而努力在美国扎根的艰辛历程。纪录片其中讲了一个关于“腰果鸡”的故事。腰果鸡这道菜也是类似左宗鸡一样深受美国人喜欢的美式中餐。当年,有一位来自香港姓梁的厨师在佛罗里达的一家餐馆掌厨。有一天,一位来自密苏里州的医生来到了梁厨师的餐厅吃饭,结果立刻爱上了梁厨师的手艺。他问梁厨师愿不愿意跟他一起去密苏里州开中餐馆,梁厨师被这位医生的诚意打动,离开了佛罗里达来到密苏里州的春田镇。没想到这个春天镇里面住的美国人比较保守排外,对于从来没在这个镇里出现过的中国菜产生了相当大的抵触情绪。到后来这种抵触情绪甚至上升到了针对梁厨师新开的这家中餐馆,最夸张的时候,餐厅开张之前还被当地美国人扔过炸弹。就是在这么艰难的环境下,梁厨师坚持下来了,他把擅长的中餐根据当地人的口味改良,最后赢得了当地人的接受。他最引以为傲的一道菜就是腰果鸡。腰果鸡这道菜简单来说就是炸鸡块上面浇上酱汁和撒上腰果粒。实际的烹调肯定没我说的这么简单,反正这道菜风靡了全美国,受欢迎的程度甚至不输左宗鸡。这道菜有多受欢迎呢?麦当劳都震惊了,于是派人去梁厨师的餐厅,想要买下这道腰果鸡的菜谱。结果梁厨师不愿意卖,麦当劳就模仿着这道菜的味道,推出了我们如今都知道的麦乐鸡块(Chicken Nuggets)。

几个星期之前,我和我老婆到附近一家从来没光顾的中餐厅去吃饭。本来一心期盼能在这间中餐厅里面吃到比较正宗的中国菜,结果打开菜谱,发现满满的都是”假中餐“,就是那些迎合美国人口为改良过的彩色。正在我和老婆犹豫着要不要离开换另外一家餐厅吃饭的时候,说一口福建腔普通话的服务员来招呼我们,我们问她,这个餐厅有没有一些比较正宗的中国菜,她想了一下,说:“你们要不要尝一下左宗鸡?”我和老婆听完这句话以后,一边苦笑一边离开了这件餐厅。

那时的我心里面十分鄙视以左宗鸡这种迎合美国人口味的假中餐,然而前两天看完这部关于左宗鸡的纪录片以后,我对它们完全改观了。我们能够接受麦当劳肯德基必胜客在中国迎合中国人的口味推出的中式西餐,却为什么不能接受中国人在美国迎合当地人口味而改良过的美式中餐呢。左宗鸡代表着一种适应精神,每一个飘洋过海背井离乡的人都必须要有的精神。在美国的中国人占美国总人口的大概百分之一,我们在美国从事着各种职业,现在想一想,也许中国人最得心应手,在美国混的最好的行业,就是餐饮业。美国的每一个城镇,无论大小,都能找到中餐馆。如果有一个美国小镇里面只住着一家中国人,那这家中国人肯定是开餐馆的,而这家中餐厅里肯定会有左宗鸡这一道菜,并且是最受顾客欢迎的一道菜。适者生存,彭长贵坚持着自己原创的味道,结果输给了愿意为顾客调整的王厨师的左宗鸡。单从结果而论,煮着左宗鸡的中国厨师,在因地制宜这一方面做得比其他所有在异国打拼的中国人都要好。

向难吃的左宗鸡致敬。

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