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What's the deal with bread rolls in Chinese take out?

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I don't know if this happens in the rest of the country, but around where I live on Boston's south shore, it seems like a lot of Chinese take out places always include little mini rolls of bread with the food when you order Chinese take-out. What's the deal with that? It seems so un-Chinese. Admittedly, there's a dearth of good Chinese or even ethnic foods in general on the south shore, except for Italian and Portuguese which the area is known for. But I always thought that was so strange to find bread rolls included in the order, along with too many packets of soy sauce and mustard sauce and fried wontons, all of which I never eat or use. Is this a local phenom or does this occur in other parts of New England and the country?

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  1. Hmmm.....I haven't thought about it in years, but Chinese restaurants in the town where I grew up (halfway between Boston and Worcester) always included rolls with takeout (small and kind of dry). Until I moved away to college, I never realized how weird it was. I figured it was a 1970s kind of thing!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Kitty

      I think it's a Boston-area thing. I grew up in CT and never saw these until I moved up here. They still serve them in the Chinese-Polynesian place here in Beverly (that's on the north shore, for any out-of-towners reading this). I've never understood it either.

      1. re: C. Fox

        I grew up in Highland Park, IL. And the only Chinese take-out place in town (the 60's) served rolls too. My Dad always ordered extra rolls for BBQ Pork sandwiches the next day. Nummy.

        1. re: bryan

          It's definitely a new england thing. I grew up in North Dartmouth and there was a "Chinese" restaurant in New Bedford that served them. The extent of the chinese was cantonese -- chow mein, lobster sauce, etc. Very bland.

          Now I live in New Jersey and the Chinese is very different..........szechuan, hongkong, etc. Excellent.

    2. I grew up in Boston, and was (am) a Chinese food junkie. The downtown chinatown restaurants, and most of the suburban restaurants always served bread and butter with the meal eat in or out. In the 50's thru the 60's, it was always french bread cut into lengths that were about 6-7 inches long, and then sliced part way thru about every inch to make it easy to break off a piece. In those days the bread was always fresh and delicious, probably supplied by some central bakery and supplied to all the restaurants. I'm sure the small individual rolls came about as a labor saving thing in more recent times.
      I've travelled fairly extensivley since my youth, and always make a point of seeking out a chinese restaurant. I have never seen this "bread thing" happening anywhere in the world, except in and around Boston.