Tag Archives: chinese food

Chinese Buffets-An American Staple

I hate it when my eating plans get screwed up because it never works out.

I’m not talking about the sort of screwed up eating plans where you plan on eating a bowl of soup by yourself in your one bedroom apartment with no air conditioning, but instead you wind up sitting in a fancy french cafe with the new love of your life because of some fancy new app on your i-phone, which, if the advertising is to be believed, has the capability of making that love connection even if it can’t connect phone calls outside of New York City.

No, I’m talking about when I have set an eating plan for the day and it doesn’t work out the way I wanted.

Normally on Mondays, I eat lunch out and then eat my packed meal in my car on the way to class. Not to bore you with minutiae, but it takes me about one hour and ten minutes to get to my class door-to- door, so I leave at 5:00 and get there in plenty of time for a 6:30 p.m. start time, which is good because I have perfected the art of embarassing students who come in late.

Lately I’ve been rotating my lunch between the food truck that serves the good lamb gyros on 5th and Chestnut outside the Lights of Liberty ticket center; these have been particularly good lately because he’s switched from sliced lamb meat to a big hunk that he cooks and chops up. The other item in my rotation is the bacon cheesesteak with cheez whiz that I discussed previously.

But today, I was tired of both, so I decided to reward myself with Chinese food.

Now, Philadelphia has a lot of Chinese food options; so many as to be overwhelming.

First, there is Chinatown, which has everything you could want in a city where the population is actually mostly African-American or Italian, but our friends from the Far East do try to be as authentic as they can. That’s why I mostly stay away. For every good deal you can get on General Tso’s chicken, there’s the chance you might order General Tso’s chicken feet, which I’m not into. I suppose I could send it back, but what if it’s like their national delicacy or something? I don’t want to offend someone who can talk about me behind my back without me knowing what’s going on.

Fast food Chinese is almost always a bust. I have a cast iron stomach, or I used to–I feel like I’ve been more susceptible lately, but Chinese fast food is almost always disapppointing whether they call it China Express or Panda Village or House of Hung Lo where they serve Creme of Sum Yung Gy, it all sucks. I’ve never had a good experience with fast food Chinese.

And then there’s the truck. Now everyone knows I am a huge fan of food trucks, but the Chinese trucks always disappoint. As far as I can tell, they just deep fry chicken and then put sauce on it. Yes, I know that’s essentially what Chinese is, but we can at least pretend it’s something more when they serve it on a plate with white table cloth.

So my plan was to hit the Super China Buffet on the way to class where I can get a delicious as-many-courses-as-I-care-to-consume for $10.95.

Deep fried meat in sauce...more varieties than colors in the rainbow.

China Buffets are a wonder of modern capitalism. The food is always good, and, this is key, you can avoid the vegetables.

This has always been my beef with Chinese food. Whatever is really good about it often comes mixed with snow peas or brocolli or some other such nonsense that can have the effect of ruining what was otherwise a previously delicious combination of deep fried meat and sauce. But with a China Buffet you can always go back for more if you’ve been overcome by vegetables.

Sometimes I’ve even taken food items that were half meat and half vegetables, left the vegetables on the plate and pushed them aside. When my waitress comes to take my plate, she asks if I’m done and I say “Yes I am.” Yes, I know I’ve left half the food on my plate, but I ate the part that suffered for me and thus kept the balance of the universe in tact, so it’s all good.

N-if I gave you my vegetables next time we are out for Chinese would that be considered sharing?

 As you might guess, the China buffet didn’t work out. I wound up getting out of work too late because of some stupid meeting about a meeting that won’t happen until next year. Moreover, the meeting actually accomplished no action items, which is far too typical of most work meetings, but this blog isn’t about work, which is good because if it was I’d probably use a lot of meaningless phrases like “action items” that almost got caught in my throat as I said it out loud because it’s the sort of corporate gobble-di-gook I said I’d never use, but there it is.

So I would up getting an Italian chicken sandwich from Steak Out to go and woofing it down before class. It’s not a bad sandwich, but its chicken cutlet with provolone and brocolli rabe. No, I don’t pick out the brocolli rabe, but can someone please tell me what’s Italian about brocolli rabe?

And that’s all that is.

Now who wants pie?

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Dysfunctional Family-style Dining

Via email today at 2:05 p.m., J writes:

I like the Atlantic, mostly because it can be smart and pretentious about just about anything including now ordering Chinese food:

http://www.theatlantic.com/food/archive/2010/07/the-dos-and-dont-of-ordering-chinese/60324/

The money quote for me is here:

Finally, enjoy your food communally. A Chinese meal is a social event meant to break down boundaries, not build them. There’s nothing sadder in a Chinese restaurant than seeing a table where eaters guard their individual portions of beef with broccoli or sweet and sour pork like inmates in the prison mess hall. There’s nothing happier than sitting at a big round table where every diner is eager to try everything. The tea is poured; the waiters cover the table with an array of fragrant, multi-hued dishes; and the chopsticks dart here and there. The lazy Susan revolves as the diners discuss the relative merits of the dishes. A sweet air of contentment settles over all.

Dress it up anyway you like, dude, I’m still not giving you any of my General Tso’s chicken. I notice that his lyrical description of what could be did not include anyone fighting over pea pods or steamed broccoli.

I’ve spoken on this before, but it still rings true. If you want something, order it. If you have food envy, that’s not my problem.

Just lay off my food, OK?
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I write:

Also, something tells me that the “communalism” that he is searching for when dining Chinese, does NOT extend to P.F. Chang’s, which, conveniently serves all of their dishes “family style.”
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J responds:

Family style. That’s so dysfunctional. I can eat a whole “family style” dish on my own and in my family everyone knows to stay away from everyone else’s food.

J is the salty looking boy to Nanna's right.

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I reply:

!

I enjoy the use of “dysfunctional” with reference to “family style”…very much so.

In my family, my brother used to go around picking food off of people’s plates. He would sidle up next to you and eat what was still there. Luckily, I was a picky eater (probably because of my blasted food allergies) so he could go to town, family style, all over my dinner. In my family, it is well known that I am an extraordinarily slow eater. I’d still be eating when the dishes began getting washed.

I know you’re going to go bananas about this and tell me it’s a sacrilege or something, but I don’t care:

I am finally, FINALLY eating the falafel pita I have been craving for TWO WEEKS. Since before my bike race, and even more intensely thereafters.

If you’re not down with falafel then you’re missing out. It’s the closest dining experience you can get to a burger when you’re a vegetarian without consuming simulated meat. It’s glorious.
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J questions:

Where did you get a falafel pita?
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I answer:

Maoz Vegetarian, on 12th and Walnut.

By the way, this article is so pretensh I can barely stand it.

“Only barbarians spear their meat with forks; learn how to use chopsticks.”
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J supplies:

Cool.

Speaking of eccentric restaurants, I discovered a Turkish place on my walk today
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Me quoting The Atlantic article:

“In enjoying a meal, you express not only your tastes but your bonds to the other diners and your connection to the larger, human culture. That’s something to think about the next time your order at any restaurant.”

The whole point of Cake In The Conference Room.
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J agrees:

Yep. If we can’t make the Salt and Sweet Snack Expo, perhaps we can get placement on Atlantic.com.

I sort of want to go to Comic Con anyway.

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Me:

1)      We will.
2)      Is there a way to blend food and comics? I think we should find a way. And graphic artist.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
J:

Anyone in this office who can draw?
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Me:

It also just occurred to me “communal” is a lot like “communism” and this article is about the cuisine of China and The Atlantic is liberal.

Just sayin.
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(This next part was spoken-or rather shouted over the tops of cubes-between J, E, and myself.)

J: This just occurred to you?! I thought it was obvious. So obvious, in fact, that I didn’t even bother to point it out. Wow, you really fell asleep at the switch on this one.
Me: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You’re just making a big deal out of this because I called you out for saying “fox reservation” instead of “faux reservation” this morning!
J: Maybe! Maybe!
(I explain to E how J came by my cube and mispronounced “faux.”)
E: Ooooh! When you said “faux” I thought you mean he had a reservation for “pho”…like the Vietnamese food. I found that pretty unlikely, that he would want pho, but he has been trying to expand his palette.
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(The following correspondence is an edit to the original post, which did not include the email conversation below):

I email: New post is up.
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J writes:

You’re a genius.
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Me:

I’m only as good as the material I am given to work with.

I almost named the post “Faux Sho’” but that would have…

1)      Been reference something much further at the end of the post and not indicative of the post as a whole, and

2)      Have sort of violated that thing I have about putting an apostrophe to take the place of letters at the end of a word.

So, I didn’t.
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J replies:

No, your genius is in getting my faux pas about faux into the post, which I think has been your intention all day.
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Me:

IT HAS!

I’m sly like a faux.
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J:

Or you just need more to do.
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Pho sho.