The Fascinating Story Behind Chinese-Run Cajun Cuisine in Mall Food Courts

When you think of Cajun cuisine, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not a Chinese-run food court stall. Yet, in many American malls, this is exactly where you’ll find dishes like bourbon chicken being served up. This unexpected fusion of cultures has a fascinating story behind it, one that speaks to the adaptability and entrepreneurial spirit of Chinese immigrants in the United States.

The Origins of Chinese-Run Cajun Cuisine

The trend of Chinese-run Cajun food stalls in American malls can be traced back to the 1980s. At this time, many Chinese immigrants were moving to the U.S. in search of better opportunities. However, they often faced language barriers and discrimination, making it difficult to find employment. As a result, many turned to the food industry, where they could use their cooking skills to make a living.

The Birth of Bourbon Chicken

One of the most popular dishes served at these stalls is bourbon chicken. Despite its name, this dish is not a traditional Cajun recipe, nor does it typically contain any bourbon. Instead, it was created by Chinese immigrants to appeal to American tastes. The sweet and savory sauce, combined with the tender chicken, proved to be a hit with mall-goers, and the dish quickly spread to food courts across the country.

Why Cajun?

So why did these Chinese immigrants choose to sell Cajun cuisine? The answer lies in the adaptability and entrepreneurial spirit of these immigrants. Recognizing the popularity of Cajun food in the U.S., they saw an opportunity to capitalize on this trend. By offering a unique twist on familiar flavors, they were able to attract a wide customer base and carve out a niche for themselves in the competitive food court market.

The Impact of Chinese-Run Cajun Cuisine

Today, Chinese-run Cajun food stalls are a staple in many American malls. They have not only provided a livelihood for countless Chinese immigrants, but also introduced millions of Americans to a unique fusion of flavors. In doing so, they have contributed to the rich tapestry of American cuisine and demonstrated the power of cultural exchange.


The story of Chinese-run Cajun cuisine in mall food courts is a testament to the adaptability and entrepreneurial spirit of Chinese immigrants. Faced with challenges, they found a way to turn their cooking skills into a successful business, while also adding a unique twist to American cuisine. So next time you’re at the mall, why not stop by one of these stalls and try a piece of this fascinating culinary history for yourself?