Why Do Jews Love Chinese Food? Ctd

A reader writes:

Briefly, some other factors on this question:

1. Years ago, Asian restaurants were often the only ones open during Christian holidays. Thus the stereotype about Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas. There were frequently no other choices.

2. Building on the take-out theme, some Jews keep kosher on their everyday-use dishware but will bring in food to eat on paper plates, and for years Chinese was the only viable way to do this other than fast food.

3. Asian food eschews dairy, so that even if not technically kosher, it's relatively easy to eat "kosher style" Chinese as long as you stay away from pork and shrimp. This also explains the many truly kosher Chinese-themed restaurants in Jewish areas.

Another expands on those themes:

When Josh Ozersky questions the relationship because, among other things, Jews are not known for "intermingling," he comes tantilizingly close to the true answer to why American Jews eat so much Chinese food. 

At the turn of the 20th century, the Jews immigrating en masse to the United States, and particularly New York, were eager to assimilate and thus many were venturing out into the non-kosher world for the first time.  Restaurants that catered to the immigrant population in the neighborhoods where Jews settled were run mostly by Italians and Chinese.  Eating at an Italian restaurant would necessarily involve (a) looking at crosses and icons on the wall and (b) mixing meat and cheese.  Both of these things would make any recent immigrant more than a little uncomfortable – particularly the later as the law forbidding the mixing of milk and meat persisted among the Jewish population long after they had given up on worrying if the meat or poultry was killed in accordance with Jewish law.  In a Chinese restaurant, however, there were no pictures of Jesus looking over the diners and one never had to worry that there would be a layer of cheese on top of the kung pao chicken.

Oh, and where else are Jews going to eat on Christmas and Easter?


I'd suggest anyone interested in a casual history of the relationship between American Jews and Chinese food pick up Jennifer 8 Lee's "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles." In more than one chapter she addresses this very issue.


Ozersky's article is silly. The definitive paper on this has been written (pdf).