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Jan 5, 2008 06:53 PM

What Chinese Take-out Menu Items Do You Never Order?

I've gotten stuck into a rut lately with chinese take-out. Generally it's the same thing:
1) Qt House Lo Mein
2) Qt House Fried Rice
3) Shrimp Roll
4) Egg Roll
5) Pan Fried Dumplings (6)

Then there are the usual suspects like General Tsao, Sweet and Sour, Beef and Broccoli . . .

But then there are so many things on a typical Chinese take-out menu that I've never had. What are some ridiculously good yet under ordered, unpopular items on a typical Chinese take-out menu?


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  1. Most people never order:
    a) Dried Sauteed Stringbeans, instead opting for sauteed broccoli or snow peas. They are basically stir fried with a bit of garlic and topped with some minced roast pork.. No goppy sauce. They are really delicious prepared this way but no one seems to order them
    b) Sesame Noodles....cold or hot. Very tasty dish, but something about the strange mixture of scallions, noodles and sesame paste seems to turn off most people
    c) Young Chow Fried Rice- So much better than House Special . It's prepared without soy sauce so it's made fresh. Without the overpowering, salty sauce, the flavors of the other ingredients can be tasted...
    d) Chow Fun. Different texture than Lo Mein.... More 'comforting' and heartier,
    You have to try some of these... :-} .

    11 Replies
    1. re: Tay

      funny - i *always* order the dried stringbeans (no/light oil) and they're just so refreshing and tasty... my place doesn't do pork on top.

      1. re: Emme

        Mee too, again at a place that doesn't add pork.

        1. re: piccola

          I think the minced roast pork may be a regional thing. It's not at all necessary. I love the way the beans 'crisp' up. I don't know why more people don't order them instead of broccoli or snow pea pods drowing in brown sauce...

          1. re: Tay

            Instead of pork, the place I like puts little shrimp on them.

      2. re: Tay

        I must be one weird gaiw lo, because I often order all these.

        I've never ordered sweet and sour anything except when they gave it to me by accident. Didn't see the appeal.

        I've never ordered desert at a Chinese place, but I think I'd like fried bananas (etc)

        1. re: Tay

          I have never seen string beans, but I like noodles of all kinds.

          I stay away from Moo Go Gai pan, Happy Family, General Tso's , sweet and sour whatever, and chow mein.

          I do have a weakness for Mu Shu, egg rolls and pot stickers, but I usually try to order 1 new item that I have never had.

          1. re: Kelli2006

            Try the sauteed dried string beans and the Young Chow (sometimes written, "yang chow" ) Fried Rice.Prepared in a quality restaurant, Delicious!
            Just be aware that a lot of places add red pepper flakes to the string beans, so if that's a concern, be sure to tell them how hot/mild you want them.

          2. re: Tay

            I love dried sauteed string beans. all the sichuan places in NY top it with minced pork. I also order chow fun more than lo mein. Love those noodles.

            I stopped geting sesame noodles because if you order from the wrong place, you get thick overcooked spaghetti drenched in peanut butter.

            Where available, I tend to lean towards the spicy sichuan food. Double cooked pork, sauteed noodles with minced pork, ants in a tree (which i've only seen on one menu but is a great noodle and minced chicken/pork dish), salt and pepper shrimp. I avoid General Tso, Sesame Chicken, Sweet and Sour dishes.

            I also occassionally order the roasted meats, like Roast Pork over Rice or Roast Duck and steamed pork buns.

            1. re: ESNY

              Count me as a fan of the sauteed string beans (on the menu the chinese term seems to be "four season bean"). There's something comforting of the strong flavours that are paired with the beans that I really enjoy.

              1. re: ESNY

                "if you order [sesame noodles] from the wrong place, you get thick overcooked spaghetti drenched in peanut butter"

                That is exactly what I got tonight and immediately threw into the garbage.

              2. re: Tay

                In my area, they put the dried stringbeans on the buffets. I don't recall going to one in years that didn't have them. I don't recall having minced pork with them. I love those!

              3. Most Chinese take-out menus have dishes with extremely vague names, like "Amazing Chicken," "Spicy Ma La Beef," or "Ma Po Tofu," without any explanation. I never seem to want to risk trying these dishes, and like Chinon00, I've tumbled into a delicious rut: egg roll, pork egg foo young, pork fried rice, fried dumplings, and/or hot and sour soup. I realize that egg foo young is no more Chinese than I am, but it's a dish I remember having on special occasions in my childhood, and I really can't resist it--on special occasions!

                9 Replies
                1. re: Tom Steele

                  I love MaPo Tofu...(it's ground pork and soft tofu in a black beanish sauce... real comfort food). I order or make it at home all the time.

                  The things I don't order are things I don't like. I don't order Fried Wontons or Sweet and Sour Anything (my friends call it "sugar meat"). Lemon Chicken... again, it's fried stuff with sweet sauce.

                  If you have the time, you can go online and search any of the names of things you don't know and find out what's in them. Although maybe not "Amazing Chicken" ; )

                  1. re: Jennalynn

                    Is MaPo Tofu difficult to make? My mom used to say it was her favorite but I've never found it on a menu (I very rarely eat at Chinese restaurants).

                    1. re: CraigH

                      Ma Po Tofu is very easy to make, there are also good box varieties in the Chinese markets. Also you can find it in many Japenese ramen restaurants. Ma po ramen is really good stuff as well.

                    2. re: Jennalynn

                      Thanks, Jennalynn, I'll definitely try MaPo Tofu next time the urge for Chinese grabs us (about once a week, lately!).

                        1. re: Tom Steele

                          Be aware that there is "real" MaPo (spicy! hot-and-numbing) and suburban American MaPo (not).

                          1. re: Aromatherapy

                            Whoa! OK, I had to order it today and mentioned that I was the friend of a special coustomer who is Chinese, remember us? "Oh yes, I remember you" and I get the MaPo Tofu. It was "real". Lips on fire, sweat beads at the hairline. I have to admit I forgot how spicy hot and numbing it it can be. But good, good, good.

                      1. re: Tom Steele

                        You need to find a restaurant that has a written description of the dishes offered.
                        Even the little neighborhood takeout places around the corner, are starting to do that.
                        If not, stop by a biggger, more 'upscale' place and get one of their takeout menu's, or as Jenna suggested, check on line for menu's that have descriptions..
                        Try something in a small/pt size so it won't be too much of an investment if you don't like it. One tip: Never, ever order Pork Fried Rice. It's made up in uge batches early in the day and it just gets "refreshed" when needed. Try the house special Young Chow fried Rice. If it's too bland, AKA: Not salty enough, you can always add your own soy sauce. With all the other dishes/sauces, you won't want and certainly don't need the extra sodium.

                        1. re: Tay

                          Thanks for the sage advice, Tay. We'll definitely try Young Chow Fried Rice (the name of our preferred neighborhood purveyor is Young Chow, on Fourth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets). And we won't order Pork Fried Rice any more. We'll also try the Sauteed Dried String Beans, especially if they "pork it up" at Young Chow. Thanks again!

                      2. My late favorite is Shrimp with cashews. Comes with the baby corn little mushrooms along with the shrimp and nuts. Sesame chicken is another thing we order allot.

                        1. I'm a big fan of just about anything in garlic sauce - chicken, shrimp, even just veggies.

                          One other dish I really like is cashew chicken, but I've noticed that different restaurants make it in a wide variety of ways - some use all white meat, some diced white and dark, some with mixed veggies, some with just celery and water chestnuts...anyone else noticed that?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Suzy Q

                            Definitely: my wife and I abjectly loved the Cashew Chicken (extra spicy) from the local Chinese restaurant the last place we lived. We'd tried Cashew Chicken all over the country since then in the hopes of finding something even luck so far. And none of the versions we've tried have been similar to one another to any great extent either.

                            Our current favorite "new" dish from our new local place is a Chicken and Eggplant with Basil, Garlic sauce over rice noodles. Like Tay mentioned about Chow Fun (which we also always order, every time no matter what) it's amazingly comforting with the wide rice noodles and has some great flavor and good heat.

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