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Crab Rangoon

Ah, crab Rangoon!  Staple of Chinese menus everywhere!  Well, maybe not everywhere.  Maybe just everywhere from Maine to Hawaii.  Crab Rangoon appears on the menu at pretty much any Chinese restaurant these days.  Well, in any American Chinese restaurant, anyway.  You’re not likely to find this ancient staple of Chinese cuisine in any part of China itself.  If the Chinese are missing out, they don’t seem to mind.

Crab Rangoon is a side dish, not an entrĂ©e.  In case you’re not familiar, it’s a pretty simple invention.  It’s a wonton wrapped around cream cheese, crab meat (or imitation crab meat), scallions, onions and garlic.  All this is folded into either three leaves or four, then deep fried in oil, looking like a crispy, tan flower.  There’s nothing more to it: it’s another wonderful, fried part of the American culinary landscape.

In case you think I need to apologize to the Chinese for assigning this delicacy to the United States, let me clear a few things up, and tell you what crab Rangoon is not.  It’s certainly not Chinese.  Cream cheese is not a traditional component of Chinese cuisine, which isn’t very big on dairy at all.  Rangoon isn’t Chinese, either—it’s the capital city of Burma.  (Rangoon’s modern name is Yangon, the capital of Burma.)  (Note: Burma is known by some people today as Myanmar, but I prefer to call it Burma, the name of the democratic government that was ousted by a 1989 military coup that installed a dictatorship, and declared the country had a new name.)  Crab Rangoon isn’t even ancient, traditional cuisine, either: it dates as far back as 1956.