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Chinese Delicacies: Finding Family And The American Dream In The Restaurant Business

Courtesy of Hsaio-Ching Chou
The Chou family at their restaurant Chinese Delicacies in Columbia, Missouri circa 1984.

For many immigrant families, food is a way to both stay connected to their culture, and a way to survive. For the Chou family, opening a restaurant seemed like the only way to make ends meet in small town Columbia, Missouri.

When they opened Chinese Delicacies in 1980, Hsiao-Ching Chou was only 8 years old. The restaurant defined her childhood, even inspiring her career later as a food writer in Seattle.

For the family, it defined their American experience. They developed a menu that appealed to American tastes and later bowed to customer demand and installed a buffet. 

"They wanted cheap food," said Hsaio-Ching. "And that still is the case across the country. I think many people wanted cheap Chinese food. And if you do have a dish that is more authentic, it will ultimately cost more."

Hsiao Ching and her mother Ellen Chou came into the studio to reflect on their days in the restaurant business and how it influenced their family's American dream. Hsaio Ching is currently writing a cookbook titled "Chinese Soulfood."

Sound Effect producer Allie Ferguson has been making radio for nearly 5 years. She got her start at KUOW and has since traveled the country working for national news shows including WNYC's The Takeaway and NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. Allie won a 2016 Gracie Award, which celebrates women in media, for her work at KUOW. She enjoys telling surprising stories about passionate people.