I was first introduced to Happy Family during my college days. I was in graduate school, back in the Midwest, and not quite cooking up a storm like I am doing now. So, hitting local Chinese buffets and take-outs was a good place to be for someone like me who misses their Chinese food. It was also then that I got acquainted to all the popular American-Chinese food selections. I was mostly intrigued by the American version of Sweet and Sour Chicken, BBQ Ribs, Crab Rangoon, Egg Drop Soup, to name a few, and among these, Happy Family was one of them. Although spending a whopping US$13 (I was a poor international student then) for a large order of Happy Family with white rice on the side seemed hefty for a college student, my friends and I would usually save up to order a few items and share among ourselves, sometimes enough to last us for 3 days! Being so far from home, Chinese food—albeit the Americanized version—was always our comfort food.
I missed home dearly, particularly mom’s cooking. At the end of the day, mom always made sure we had a balanced meal. A typical family dine-in experience is usually served with dishes consisting of meat, vegetables and seafood of some sort. And that is exactly what the dish Happy Family is! It is a popular Chinese stir-fry dish with colorful vegetables (broccoli, water chestnuts, baby corn, bamboo shoots, mushroom, carrots, etc.), meats (beef, pork/BBQ Pork and chicken) and seafood (shrimp, lobster/crab meat and scallops) cooked in a simple brown sauce.
I don’t think I have ever encountered any dish quite like Happy Family. It’s a great one-pot meal filled with goodness and taste! In my book, Happy Family is one of those delicious guilt-free happy meals that symbolizes a well-balanced Chinese dish and an American-Chinese creation that I actually enjoy.
What is your favorite American-Chinese dish?