Archive for ‘take out’

August 22nd, 2011

Chinese take out 1


Ready for a Geography pop quiz? Which country is closer to China, Japan or America?  Nice work! Japan is much closer to China than America.  So logically, you’d expect Chinese food to be as popular in Japan as Mexican food is in America, right?  Not quite.  Believe it or not, America has more Chinese restaurants than Japan does.  As a matter of fact, the number of Chinese restaurant in America exceeds the number of McDonald.  Need proof?  Look to my husband’s joke: He says that if you want to name a Chinese restaurant, just combine any of following words in any order: China, panda, bamboo, wok, happy, dragon, garden, golden, and cave.  See if it works in your town.  I’m sure it does.  To further prove my point, I’m willing to bet there are at least 3 different Chinese take out menus in your menu drawer, right now.  Go check, I’ll wait.

While yes, we do have Chinese food in Japan, it lacks THE most fun element its American cousin provides.  The take out experience.  How can Chinese food be enjoyed without those white containers and stale fortune cookies?  I can read your mind right now.  You’re thinking, why don’t I start a Panda Express franchise in Tokyo?  Well, nice idea, but don’t invest your life savings.  Why?  The overly-sweet sauces drenched upon overly fried food which we love, would definitely turn off the Japanese palate.

In Japan, Chinese restaurants are not for quick take out meals, but rather, are for dining.  Patrons usually enjoy a dozen dishes per table, with lower sugar but higher prices than in the U.S.

When I was a kid growing up in Tokyo, the closest we came to Chinese take out was our ramen delivery.  While ramen is as popular as burgers with American hipsters, delivery ramen hasn’t quite made the scene on these shores.  In Japan, having the convenience of door-to-door ramen has always been the go-to solution for busy mothers with hungry kids.  While they do deliver, Japanese ramen places don’t do “to go orders”.  Come to think of it, many restaurants in Japan don’t offer the “to go” option.  Besides the obvious fact that ramen needs to be consumed right away before the noodles absorb the soup and lose al dente, I think there’s a bigger reason.  For the most part, we eat on real plates, not paper or plastic containers.   When we call a restaurant for delivery, the delivery includes ramen, but it’s brought on real bowls, in plates etc.  After we eat, we wash everything and leave the dishes outside for the delivery person who makes a second trip, later in the evening, to pick them all up.  Could you imagine picking up your to-go order served in fine china?  Half of the dishes would spill and the rest would break.
I got used to the idea of take out Chinese food while I was in college, here in the States.  I was so excited to get affordable Chinese food that came in ample portions! I was even more excited to not have to wash dishes!   Even though most of dishes have the same, oily, heavy and sweet taste, I was hooked.  When I got married, my frequency for ordering take out Chinese food dropped significantly.  Although my husband loves every Chinese restaurant reference on Seinfeld, he rarely craves Chinese food like I do.  I shudder knowing that he’d actually prefer a bowl of cereal with a banana.  Of course, when he does want Chinese, he wants the most Americanized Chinese dish there is: Orange Chicken.  Believe it or not, I actually never had orange chicken before we met, because all I ever want is lo mein and fried rice, whose color should be white, not browned by seasoning.  I still prefer Chinese for my carb indulgence, and to be fair, orange chicken is not that bad when it’s hot, which is a good thing…considering I can’t tell the difference between it,  general tso’s chicken, and sesame chicken, I’ve tripled my menu options.

More on my Chinese obsession tomorrow.