HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Why can't I get bread in an Asian restaurant?

OK...so at least in NY/NJ they usually bring a bowl of crispy fried noodles to dip in hot mustard or duck sauce when you sit down, but here in the great midwest that doesn't happen..if you ask for noodles, they bring you those La Joy fried cardboard noodles!!!!! and then they charge you $2.00...and in the Midwest, they DO NOT have choose 1 from column A, and 2 from Column B, for $21.95...so Draconian

Not that bread really goes with Asian food, or could it??? With my leftovers, i often make an Egg Foo Young Sandwich on a Kaiser Roll, or Bialy..my own creation!!! Try it sometime...it put's a McMuffin to shame

Can someone out there, explain this anomaly...why no bread??? is it all the noodle dishes??
What about Italian restaurants- they are all about the pasta, and dipping bread in the delicious sauces....I wouldn't mind some bread to dip in General Tso's Garlic Sauce...

Please advise....and consent

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. (I'm inferring that by Asian, you mean Chinese)

    That's too bad that bread isn't a common menu item where you are....it is not uncommon in many cities (perhaps ones with a large Chinese population) to have certain kinds of bread on the menu (flatbreads, fried breads, etc.).

    1. Not sure what types of Asian restaurants you are referring to - but

      Bread in many Asian cuisines are specialty bakery items and in general are not commonly found in restaurants.
      More common, but still not in many generic Asian restaurants are filled, bread like pastries.
      Fillings can range from savory meat/vegetable fillings to semi sweet bean and or vegetable pastes.
      Western style breads are beginning to gain some popularity, but again are almost completely in the bakery realm.

      1. Baked bread is not a traditional Chinese food, especially the Cantonese variety that dominated Chinese-American cooking for a long time. There are some steamed breads which use a yeast dough, and some thin breads such ones served with duck and mu shu pork. So if a restaurant provides these, it's because they are catering to American expectations.

        I have read about the east coast fried noodles, but never seen them in the midwest or west coast. Perhaps the closest thing to a standard appetizer is fried egg roll - that and a small cup of soup. Don't forget the free pot of tea.

        3 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          The pot of tea is not free in the SF/Bay area. Nor is the rice.

          1. re: Janet

            That's not uniformly true of all Chinese places in SF.

            Cheung Hing, for example, offers free tea.

            It is true, however, most Chinese places (and not just in SF) have started charging a minimum fee for tea service and bowls of rice.

          2. re: paulj

            As I recall, bread is featured in several traditional sichuan dishes at China Village in Albany.

          3. A commonly available "dippable" menu item is scallion/green onion pancake...check for that on the menu.

            1. If you're talking about Chinese food, some regions do have breads. However they don't tend to have big sliced loaves like Europe and the U.S. Northern Chinese is based more on wheat (as opposed to Southern/Cantonese, which is more rice based) and Northern Chinese places may have steamed, baked, or fried buns. If for no other reason than baking bread requires a large oven which must be heated and kept quite hot for as long as the bread is baked. Cooking in a pan such as a wok or boiling soup pot takes much less fuel and is more economical, which is why the prevalence of noodles, stir fries, and stewed dishes.

              1. I'm going to assume you mean "Chinese" by "Asian", as well. My grouchy answer to your question is: Chinese cuisine is Chinese cuisine, not Italian. My less grouchy answer is: Ask for mantou next time. Or sao bing.

                1. my friend's chinese grandmother always used to complain about bread in western restaurants. said the restaurant was trying to cheat her by filling her up with bread then serving a smaller main course (and of course, if she wanted to be filled up, they should serve rice with the meal, not bread).

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    I wonder if the accompanying rice stands in for the bread "filler" that appears at most other restaurants. If they put a pot of rice on your table after you ordered (but before getting your food), would that be the same as "free bread"? I think I'd rather have my rice with my meal. We usually just order dumplings to snack on.

                    This reminds me of the time I heard a guy get irate (and call for the manager) because he was told they didn't have butter for his rice. As in, none of their dishes called for butter, so they didn't have it in the kitchen. He felt it was un-American and demanded butter.

                    1. re: leanneabe

                      I love it when people define "American" by "Western European" standards. East Asians generally eat their rice plain. Of course, you do have dishes such as fried rice, o-gok bap, etc where things are added to it. But the majority of rice they eat with their meals is palin -- no butter, no salt. And that's my preference as well. I remember when I went to college, my roommate (non-Asian) was telling me how she prefers her rice with butter and salt but cooks it plain because she's plain lazy. I understood that there were things like arroz con pollo, biryiani, risotto, etc., but never realized that people would eat their rice seasoned with butter and rice as a side dish. I tried it, and it was just not my thing.

                      I wonder how the manager dealt with the complainer.

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        My Japanese host mother was surprised and (I think) mildly revolted by the American insistence of butter on rice.

                        1. re: Louise

                          I think DH (who's also Asian-American) is a bit revolted with the butter in rice bit as well. Actually, in last month's Cookbook of the Month on the Home Cooking Board, there was a Vietnamese recipe for fried rice with ketchup and butter. I was fine with ketchup because I grew up eating omurice (however, I'm sure there would be tons of people getting grossed out by the idea of rice and ketchup). But I had a bit of an issue with the butter as I thought the butter flavor was a bit too strong. Overall, it tasted fine. But I would have cut down on the butter a bit.

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            I like rice with butter and tobasco...yum!

                          2. re: Louise

                            Just imagine her reaction at how my dad eats rice at breakfast... with hot milk, cinnamon and sugar. Isn't that how all hot cereal should be eaten?

                            (he likes plain rice just fine at dinner, although he does tend to put shoyu on it)

                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              mmm... rice with hot milk, cinnamon, and sugar sounds really good to me, basically quick and lazy rice pudding! I've always hated oatmeal, and have tried to find a suitable hot cereal substitute, thanks for the idea!

                          3. re: Miss Needle

                            Reminds of the thread in which a Korean girl worried that her boyfriend was insulting her parents by putting soy sauce on his rice. I think that thread lasted quite some time.

                            1. re: paulj

                              I don't remember that thread, but it reminds me of that scene in the Joy Luck Club.

                            2. re: Miss Needle

                              I wish I knew what the manager did with the customer, but he definitely didn't chastise the server (like the customer wanted). Short of running outside to hunt down butter, though, what could he do? The guy probably got a part of his meal comped. I know we got a "birthday" dessert from our server - maybe because we were so nice in comparison?

                              It is different that some look at rice as the plain starch (like bread or pasta) and other look at it as a side dish that needs something added to make it less bland. Personally, I'm not a fan of butter or soy sauce, but I do enjoy fried rice with oyster sauce.

                            3. re: leanneabe

                              "This reminds me of the time I heard a guy get irate (and call for the manager) because he was told they didn't have butter for his rice. As in, none of their dishes called for butter, so they didn't have it in the kitchen. He felt it was un-American and demanded butter."

                              Leanneabe, I loved this story. I do recall a time as a kid when I went through a phase when I would eat all my rice with butter. As a first-generation Korean-Canadian, I desperately wanted to fit in with my non-immigrant friends, and eating butter with my rice seemed like an appropriately "Canadian" thing to do. I'm sure my mum and dad found it gross.

                              I'm back to plain rice now!

                          4. Your question is akin to asking why they don't serve kimchi at an Italian restaurant. I have a feeling you're not talking about bread as in menu items but the "free" bread that you are served at many "American" restaurants.

                            If you really want bread with your Chinese food, I suggest you do take-out or delivery and eat it at home. There are "bready" items on some Chinese menus like mantou or scallion pancakes. But at a restaurant where they serve La Choy fried cardboard noodles, I doubt they would carry those items.

                            btw, not all restaurants in NY serve crispy fried noodles to dip with duck sauce. That's more common in very Americanized Chinese restaurants. The last time I went to a Chinese restaurant, they gave me peanuts and pickled vegetables in the beginning.

                            19 Replies
                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              I have always been confused by the super-crispy packaged chow mein. I see it in the grocery store sometimes, but I have never ever come across it in a Chinese restaurant in that form (I live in the Toronto area). I always wondered where that came from.

                              Round here, if you're going to get anything gratis, it'll be broth, or sometimes desserty things (like tofu fa or red bean soup). But tea is usually free.

                              1. re: mogo

                                There are a few places around here that serve "Hong Kong Style" chow mein. The noodles aren't from a package, but they are quite crispy because they're deep-fried instead of pan-fried. Don't know how authentic it is (and frankly don't care much for it), but maybe the packaged stuff is an attempt to duplicate this style of dish.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  Hong Kong style chow mein (jin min) isn't deep-fried, or at least it shouldn't be. The noodle cake should be crispy and golden brown on both sides from shallow frying and stay soft and pillowy in the middle.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    Thanks for that info, Melanie. I haven't had the stuff in years, and I don't know if it was done right then. I just remember not being crazy about the crispy noodles. Maybe it's time to try it again, but at a non-Americanized Cantonese restaurant.

                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      And with those noodles, once you put the topping on it, they soften up and aren't crispy.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Yes, they do soften, but a careful cook will arrange the topping so that some spots on the noodle cake are uncovered and stay crispy. Brown = flavor, so besides the texture, the taste of the noodle base itself is transformed by cooking them this way. Also, the browned parts of the noodle absorb the gravy like a sponge, so you get many different contrasts in texture and flavor with each bite.

                                      2. re: alanbarnes

                                        Too many places take a short cut and just drop the noodles in the deep fryer, often in a big batch at the beginning of the day to speed up short orders. The scent of the freshly browned noodles, when cooked to order, is one of the big attractions besides the texture. Looked but couldn't find any chow mein photos of mine that show the noodle cake well under the topping. But here's a picture of a giant sesame bread at a Chinese restaurant in Cupertino.
                                        It's very odd to me that so many people in this thread believe that bread is scarce in Chinese cooking.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          >>It's very odd to me that so many people in this thread believe that bread is scarce in Chinese cooking.

                                          We know it's a myth...but we also live in cities with large Chinese populations. Whenever I travel through small towns in Canada and in the US, I just don't see bread.

                                          1. re: fmed

                                            True. I used to go to a Chinese restaurant in Prince Edward Island a lot because my ex wanted "bad Chinese food." If this is the type of restaurant the OP was talking about, they're not going to carry bread. And even though I live in NYC where there's a sizable Chinese population, there are lots of restaurants that don't have bread as well.

                                            1. re: fmed

                                              It depends on where the population is from. Northern Chinese food tends to have more wheat products. But, I haven't been to an authentic (more or less) Chinese place that carries the kind of bread the OP wants, like sandwich bread or baguettes. I have gotten that kind of bread in a chinese restaurant before. I did a double take, bread w/ margarine pats. In northern Chinese restaurants, there are bread products but you won't get a basket of it before your meal.

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                Not "authentic," but if you do go to some of those nouveau Hong Kong style restaurants, they'll probably serve bread -- but they'll also serve a side of overcooked spaghetti with your duck feet as well.

                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                  I wonder if PF Chang serves bread. I haven't seen a nouveau Hong Kong style restaurant. I don't think there are any near me. I've been to a Chinese buffet that had pizza and french fries. But, no bread.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    Wow! Chinese food, pizza and fries. Kind of sounds like the multi-cultural restaurant in Seinfeld. Hmmm... if I was at that buffet, I'd probably dump some gloppy roast pork stir-fry over some fries and top it with some of the pizza cheese for a really warped version of poutine!

                                                    I've never been to PF Chang. But I know somebody in LA who says it's his favorite Chinese restaurant (he's not Chinese). Looking at the menu, I don't see bread on the menu. But it does have a six-layer chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. So I wouldn't be too surprised if I ever received a dinner roll with my meal.

                                                    The OP does have a point about a roast pork egg foo young going well with a kaiser roll or something like that. I can picture it tasting pretty good -- well, at least much better than my poutine.

                                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                                      Don't bother. jfood was forced by the time of day to grab 2 dishes and dumplings in his hotel room 2 weeks ago. He threw the whole thing out and went to bed.

                                                      bread would have been welcomed.

                                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                                        "a really warped version of poutine"

                                                        that sounds kinda good.

                                                      2. re: chowser

                                                        Have been to PF Chang a few times, and never had bread... Have also been to Chinese buffets that have pizza and french fries but they were set up to be "for kids."

                                                      3. re: Miss Needle

                                                        Assuming that you are referring to cha chaan teng style HK cafes, which are scattered around US chinatowns, I can assure you that they are quite an authentic and treasured part of Hong Kong eating culture. They're not noveau, unless you're judging them by Chinese dynastic time spans.

                                                        More about cha chaan teng -

                                                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    I've never made them at home but here's a good pictorial on it. The last photo is with the topping.


                                                    As bread goes, I travel far in my area to get Taiwanese "hamburger":


                                                  3. re: alanbarnes

                                                    Honolulu has something called cake noodle, where the chow mein style noodle really is pan fried till it's crispy,and it stays pretty crisp even with the sauces. People say it is something unique to Honolulu, but I have my doubts.

                                          2. You mean bread like a french baguette, or a dinner roll?

                                            You want THAT kind of bread then go to a sandwich shop.

                                            Seriously, do you also go to an Italian restaurant and yearn for chips and salsa?

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                I agree, it is just not a traditional asian staple, simple as that.

                                              2. Try South Asian food. You can have a lovely curry and some roti or poori.

                                                1. They CHARGE you for noodles? That's as bad as the places here that charge for chips and salsa and bread.

                                                  paulispumonti, there was an old comedy show where the main character (the year was 1955!) asked for bread in a Chinese restaurant -- he was told they had no bread there. It was funnier when he said it.

                                                  I guess it just 'doesn't go'.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                    Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden in THE HONEYMOONERS.

                                                    He made them get some bread.

                                                    1. re: dolores

                                                      Keep in mind, in this case its not something the restaurant ever provided as a part of the meal without charge. The OP _ordered_ (that is, "asked for") something and was charged for it. Fairly standard in restaurants.

                                                    2. Fifteen years ago when I arrived here in Colombia I went out to one of the Chinese restaurants. They served slliced white bread. That was the last time for "Chinese" for me here.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                        That reminds me of the time I went to sushi in a small town in the south of France, they brought out dinner rolls....just weird.

                                                      2. Draconian? Because you cant find a restaurant that offers column A/column B choices? Oh My God! How does the midwest have the NERVE to consider itself civilized?! Thank heaven for coast to coast flights!

                                                        Come on now...if a restaurant told you that you MUST choose one from column A and one from column B and you may not leave until you make the correct choices, and even then they might not choose to serve you if they dont happen to like the way your hair is parted, and they refuse to tell you why you arent being served...maybe that's APPROACHING Draconian!

                                                        But I dont think I've seen a column A/column B option on a Chinese restaurant menu since around 1980, on either coast or anywhere in between. I cant remember the last time I saw La Joy chow mein noodles except in a grocery store. And if you really want to soak up the sauce that comes with the potstickers, either eat at home or stick a croissant in your pocket before you leave the house.

                                                        (Giving credit where it's due, the idea of a leftover egg fu yung on a Kaiser or a French roll does sound really good! Thanks for the idea!)

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Fydeaux

                                                          I have to agree with the egg fu yung sandwich idea....especially the way my local place makes the egg fu yung. Perfectly sized. I have no idea how I never thought of this. I'm looking forward to trying it.

                                                          1. re: ccbweb

                                                            In St Louis, that is an actual menu item. For some reason, they call it a St Paul sandwich - served on white bread with mayo, lettuce and tomato.

                                                            1. re: k_d

                                                              Due to the wonder of Netflix, I discovered the wonderful "Sandwiches that you will Like". Egg foo yung sandwiches are covered. Persevere through the first half which seems devoted to beef sandwich variations.

                                                        2. Bread goes with Asian food. Even European bread. Find yourself a good banh mi shop, and prepare to have your taste buds blown away.

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            Off topic, but if you ever have an extra serving of buta no kakuni (slow cooked, super soft japanese pork), it makes an excellent sandwich filler. A little mayo, some strong mustard and a toasted soft roll. ... mmmmm

                                                            1. re: lost squirrel

                                                              That sounds wonderful. Like pulled pork, correct?

                                                              The egg foo young sandwich sounds very good too.

                                                              I wonder what will happen if I ask for bread next time I'm in a Chinese restaurant?

                                                              Kudos to phantomdoc for remembering the episode.

                                                              1. re: dolores

                                                                It's about as soft as pulled pork, but fattier. Think of it as a huge slab of bacon, braised for hours.


                                                                1. re: lost squirrel

                                                                  That is called "Momofuku pork buns" in Manhattan. (ok, not with mayo but with hoisin sauce and cucumber in mantou, but the pork belly still serves as a sandwich filler)

                                                                  And it is SO GOOD!

                                                            2. re: alanbarnes

                                                              banh mi will be in my version of valhalla. it is, indeed, wonderful.

                                                              i thought about this post some more after my original reply. it doesn't sound like OP is visiting hong kong style restaurants, but many places -- esp. bakeries -- carry a wide variety of european-style, or at least european-influenced, buns and breads (which i've seen in many korean bakeries, as well):

                                                              pork sung buns (either stuffed inside or baked on as a crust)
                                                              buns filled with mini hot dogsf
                                                              buns with corn, ham and / or cheese baked in
                                                              buns filled with cream

                                                              and actually one of my favorite sandwiches when i was younger was omelette (chinese style made with chives and toasted sesame oil) stuffed in mantou -- not unlike OP's egg foo young sandwich.

                                                              so, paulispumonti, i apologize for being grouchy, earlier. i focused on the weird (and probably unintentional) sense of euro-centrism into your post. i wouldn't go around demanding a bread basket at chinese restaurants, but your basic point is sound. some chinese and other asian dishes could use a good sopping up or sandwiching. the good news is that if you go to the right places, you can order mantou or other bread to go with your meal.

                                                            3. Funny thing - we were in Mauritius earlier this month, and had a delicious meal at a Chinese restaurant...I couldn't get over the fact that the bread basket (with different kinds of baguettes, no less) was the default at all tables....it made for an very heated conversation about post-colonialism and culinary hybridization.

                                                              The next day, on a different menu, we were offered chicken schnitzel, described as "chicken parmigiana, chicken fillet with creole sauce". We stuck with the fish.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: jeni1002

                                                                that makes sense in Mauritius b/c it was a French colony.

                                                                I thought the food in northern Mauritius was some of the most delicious I've ever had - the Indian/French combination was amazing.

                                                              2. I'm totally going to ask for some complimentary steamed white rice next time I'm at an Italian restaurant. Hah!

                                                                They don't have it because, they don't have it.

                                                                If you are worried about delicious sauces going uneaten, I'd use a bowl, not a plate, that might help.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. Bread as a start to meals is just not part of Asian cultures. It seems to be more of an American/European thing (although in Europe, you can be charged for the bread they automatically bring out to you or have to ask for it). This question is similar to asking "why is there no soy sauce at an Italian restaurant?"

                                                                  It's just not part of the culture.

                                                                  1. As people have pointed out, the northern Chinese region has wheat based products like steamed bread but they don't have bialys or kaiser rolls. But, if you are looking for something along those lines, my ex-college room mate from New Bedford, MA told me the only chinese food she'd ever had was a chop suey sandwich. I still haven't figured out what it is but it might be up your alley. Something served on a roll. As with others, I've never seen crispy fried noodles served to dip in hot sauce or duck sauce.

                                                                    "Please advise....and consent"

                                                                    Consent to...what? Consent to american chinese italian fusion food? You could also try rice with the general tso's sauce which is customary in american chinese restaurants.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                      >>general tso's sauce which is customary in american chinese restaurants.

                                                                      So? I like General Tsao's chicken, just as I like veal parmigiana in Italian-American restaurants.

                                                                      So? If a culture decides to appeal to the population of the country where it resides, I don't see a problem with that.

                                                                      1. re: dolores

                                                                        Would you expect to get plain white rice at Olive Garden when you got your veal parmigiana? That's what I mean.

                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                          Oh, I know. But to get upset because the OP would have 'liked' bread? My POV is that no one should insist that someone else eat the way they dictate. If I like General Tsao chicken, big whoop. Same on the veal parmigiana that I don't get at Olive Garden. Did you really think I ate there?

                                                                          That said, no I don't expect bread at a Chinese restaurant. I don't even eat the rice.

                                                                          But I do like sugar on my macaroni and if it ain't too uppity a place, I do ask for sugar. And as I said, since I don't listen to my mother, I don't want anyone else telling me what to eat, how fast to eat it, or what not to eat.

                                                                          That's all I meant.

                                                                          1. re: dolores

                                                                            I don't know that anyone got upset about someone wanting bread in a Chinese restaurant as much as puzzled or surprised. I didn't understand what the OP meant about "consent."

                                                                      2. re: chowser

                                                                        Chop Suey sandwiches are a local treat at Salem Willows Park in Salem MA. It is celery, onions, bean sprouts and a tiny bit of chicken in a thickened clear sauce, served on a hamburger bun wrapped in paper with a plastic fork. Boston area "chinese" restaurants all used to put a basket of bread or rolls and sometimes butter on the table with the tea and duck sauce at the beginning of a meal. Now you have to ask for it.

                                                                      3. I think most Chinese restaurants don't give bread. However, the Chinese place I grew up on--a somewhat upscale restaurant--used to lay out these huge, pillowing white rolls that were delicious.

                                                                        1. i would like to know why i can't get soy sauce at a french restaurant.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: misa

                                                                            I bet you can. I have a friend who loves soy sauce with steaks and other stuff. She often asks if they have any in the kitchen and usually she is brought out a small ramekin or sauce boat thingy of soy sauce.

                                                                          2. Isn't it La Choy not La Joy? Nothing Joyful about their food.

                                                                              1. re: rubymydear

                                                                                That IS funny. I'll have to try it.

                                                                                I wonder why the guy didn't just bring his own peanut butter, as I do my sugar to put on my macaroni.

                                                                                Another good idea, thank you. I'll start bringing bread to Chinese restaurants so I can have an egg fu young sandwich. Sounds delish.

                                                                                1. re: dolores

                                                                                  What a wonderful idea...bringing condiments to a restaurant! =|

                                                                                  1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                    I think so too. If it is the type of place where the chef would burst from the kitchen, cleaver in hand, demanding to know who wanted sugar on HIS/HER macaroni, then I won't ask for it. That's why I always have it available.

                                                                                    1. re: dolores

                                                                                      Sorry D, I was being silly; I wouldn't bring condiments to a restaurant. But my mom does. Go figure.

                                                                                      I won't knock the mac & sugar since I've not yet tried it...but to each his own! =)

                                                                                      1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                        >>but to each his own! =)

                                                                                        Thanks, OCAnn, for that.

                                                                              2. as i was scrolling through this whole thread, i couldn't figure out for the life of me what egg foo yung or general tsao chicken/sauce was...

                                                                                in addition to the bread issue, i realise that you don't want chinese food, you want a food court.

                                                                                17 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                                                    Thanks to all of you who have responded to my post and may have been blind-sided by my facestiousness, if there is such a word!!!

                                                                                    Do I expect bread in an Asian restaurant ( I should have specified Chinese in the original post) ?

                                                                                    Absolutely not...because, in my many years I have never once received a basket of bread in a Chinese restaurant, nor do I expect to receive bread....But it is great to hear from many that such an occurance does occur in some restaurants.....

                                                                                    Do I expect Chips and Salsa in an Italian restaurant, or Soy Sauce in a French? come on people, I'm a Chowhound just like you!!!!...But bread is universal in almost every culture, and my question was really
                                                                                    Why it is not a standard in Chinese restaurants ( and I could include Thai-Japanese), and I thank many of you for explaining that there are asian restaurants that serve bread....All I ask for is a bowl of crispy wide-fried noodles to be brought to the table upon arrival in lieu of bread...and yes, chowhounder somewhere above, it's La Choy, not La Joy, for there is no joy in those little fried morsels....Does La Choy still make those combo cans...they were like taped together, and very 60's???

                                                                                    And for those of you out there who have experienced the wonderment of an Egg Foo Yung sandwich, all the power to ya, and for those of you who haven't, I suggest the following:

                                                                                    Order some bar-b-q pork or vegetarian egg foo young ( stay away from chicken, beef ,or shrimp, at least for sandwiches...) Eat one patty at the restaurant or for take-out!!!!!
                                                                                    and save the rest!!!!

                                                                                    The Egg Foo is always better the next day!!!!! However the sauce may turn to Jello- and you may be repulsed!!!! Nevertheless, place patties in the microwave with a dollop of gelatinized gravy, and cook 2 minutes on each side....Place Egg Foo patty on a poppy-seeded kaiser roll, or un-toasted bialy ..it does not bode well with bagels, croissants, or Wonder Bread....This will be the best sandwich you have ever had, and i want to hear your comments!!!!

                                                                                    Now, if you have dairy allergies, or your cholesterol is approaching 6 figures, do the same thing with Chow Mein or Chop Suey......This was perfected by the venerable Nathan's of Coney Island way back....way back

                                                                                    Thank you all

                                                                                    1. re: paulispumonti

                                                                                      I know that bread isn't served in korean restaurants because it isn't standard "dinner" fare there. Koreans don't eat bread with their meals and there is no such thing as an appetizer/starter with a traditional korean meal (bread is considered a starter or an appetizer, right?). Everything is just eaten at once, rice, soup, main, panchan, etc.

                                                                                      Also bread is usually eaten as a snack or a small meal.

                                                                                      Boy do I love those sweet korean breads that are stuffed with shredded cabbage and carrot. If any of you haven't tried korean bread, you should definitely try it. It's mostly french/western influenced but holy crap do they do it right.

                                                                                      I remember as a kid my sister and I just to go to the corner store near my grandmother's house and we would buy a whole cream roll cake for 1,000 won. We sliced it with that plastic serrated knife that comes with all cream roll cakes and ate the whole thing in one sitting every time.

                                                                                      1. re: paulispumonti

                                                                                        Bread is not really universal in almost every culture. Even if you limit it to Chinese cuisines, you're talking about 20% of the word's population. Even beyond that, Chinese cuisine never truly developed the idea of something to munch on before the main meal aside from peanuts or fermented vegetables. The main meal is it. There was never a need to have bread or crunchy noodles..

                                                                                        It's about perspective. Lots of Chinese folks I know wonder why Western food has no rice, and why they need a knife at the table.

                                                                                        1. re: paulispumonti

                                                                                          Your assumption about the universality of bread as a foundation food is, simply, very wrong.

                                                                                          1. re: paulispumonti

                                                                                            I've been eating in chinese restaurants in California and Hawaii my entire life, and I have NEVER seen crispy fried noodles served in any of them. Clearly it is an attempt by chinese restaurants someplace to try to pacify white people who think that food should appear on the table the minute they sit down. (nor have I ever heard of General Tsao Chicken)

                                                                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                              IMHO the wonton wrappers and duck sauce are a response to the "Mexican" restaurants that drop chips and salsa on the table when you arrive. I've seen it in "Chinese" places a couple of times, but never in anyplace I'd want to go back to.

                                                                                              But you've never seen the General's chicken? (Apparently he got a promotion from Colonel.) I've never looked for it in Hawai'i, but it's got to be there. It's definitely on the menu of every Americanized Chinese restaurant in California. Maybe you just hang out at places that are too classy.

                                                                                              To the OP: staple foods differ by culture. In Italy, you sop up the sauce with crusty bread. In Ethiopia, you sop up the sauce with injera. If you're going to a Cantonese or Cantonese-influenced restaurant (that is, most Chinese restaurants in America) sop up the sauce with rice. Simple enough?

                                                                                                1. re: hannaone

                                                                                                  I almost choked on my lunch when I saw that sandwich - well at least you can't complain it ain't fresh!

                                                                                                  1. re: hannaone

                                                                                                    A chick - full - o' sandwich! Hilarious.

                                                                                                2. re: paulispumonti

                                                                                                  BBQ pork egg foo young? Yum.

                                                                                                  What is it about egg foo young in a Chinese restaurant that I can't make at home? Any idea? There is just 'something' to the taste of it that I can't duplicate.

                                                                                                  Thank you for an interesting post, paulispumonti.

                                                                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                                                                    I call myself a pretty good cook, but I have never been able to replicate anything that I have eaten in a Chinese restaurant - I've bought Asian cookbooks, obscure ingredients, and it all still tastes like Ameri-Chinese that you would get at an Applebee's

                                                                                                    I'm just happy that most Chinese restaurants are still a relatively inexpensive option, and you get huge portions!!! ideal for those leftover sandwiches!!!

                                                                                                    1. re: dolores

                                                                                                      I think it is, quite literally, the wok and the sheer heat that can be generated in restaurant kitchens. The ingredients are so simple and the technique isn't complex...but you're right: in my experience, I can't recreate egg foo young at home that is at all the same as what I can get from my favorite spot. First, I can't generate the heat that a restaurant wok can....my home stove simply isn't capable. Second, their woks are far far far better seasoned and better used than mine. It results, I think, in a texture I just can't match at home.

                                                                                                      Personally, I tend to go for a more Vietnamese dish: shrimp with soft egg. For egg foo young, its take out.

                                                                                                      1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                        Yes, it's all about the wok and heat. DH is trying to lure me into the suburbs by saying that we can get a much larger kitchen with a built-in commercial wok burner!

                                                                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                          Oh dear! Wok hai is truly a temptation! But if you succumb, make sure you have a really good fan/fume hood or whatever they call that thing that sucks away smoke. We always set off the smoke alarm when we cook too vigorously, and it is a pain... (oh yeah, one other tip - never have white floors, especially in the kitchen and bathroom - drives me nuts...)

                                                                                                          1. re: moh

                                                                                                            The advice on the good hood is sage and the advice on the white floors is brilliant. I couldn't agree more. Sheesh.

                                                                                                            1. re: moh

                                                                                                              Oh yes, a really good hood would be essential. We just have a regular stove and am always setting off the smoke alarm. That paltry vent thing we have on our microwave (which is above the stove) does nothing. We've unplugged the alarm so often that it won't attach properly to the ceiling anymore.

                                                                                                              The white floors advice is also a good one. Thank goodness we have grey slate floors as it hides a lot of the mess. But I'm amazed how much dirt is on those floors when I clean them (and we don't wear shoes in our apartment)! I just spent a lot of time cleaning up my kitchen cabinets last night. It was caked with grease stains -- apparently grease can travel all the way up to the ceiling as well!

                                                                                                3. Um...because Chinese people don't really bake breads.

                                                                                                  We do have steam breads but the idea of a Chinese establishment giving out free anything before hand astonishes me.

                                                                                                  Sometimes they have free peanuts or something small like that...

                                                                                                  1. If all else fails when stuck in the great Midwest, just ask for your fortune-cookie up-front.

                                                                                                    1. here in the midwest, if somebody wants to eat yeasty crusty bread with their "asian food," s/he goes to the "asian food" restaurant with the big gigantic "pho" sign and the vietnamese name on the signboard. then order "banh mi." you won't get far trying to order a rustic italian loaf with soft butter in great dragon house of chow mein, though-- i worked in a restaurant that served this type of american cuisine (egg foo young, general tso)-- guess what-- **no oven** in the kitchen. killer steamed buns though. . .

                                                                                                      speaking of ghetto-fusion, i once enjoyed mcdonald's fries dipped in hot mustard-- the hfcs stuff that comes with the nuggets. maybe that will help with the loss of your east coast fried wonton skins-- or just spring for the rangoon/cream cheese wonton menu item at (here in the midwest) the great dragon house of chow mein, and ask for both kinds of packets.

                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                        sounds like you live in a really cool part of the midwest, soupK! wish my l'il town growing up'd had vietnamese. it's about half a million ppl, today, but i still have yet to find pho or bahn mi to speak of (tho our hot browns wipe the floor with alton brown's version).

                                                                                                        1. re: cimui

                                                                                                          the midwest is such a huge region, no matter how you slice it. to talk in the vaguest terms about "asian food" in "the midwest"-- doesn't have a lot of traction unless you can get specific about where you are and what you're eating. i live in minneapolis, so of course there is a ton of great vietnamese food, everyone eats it, it's part of the culture. maybe it would be more exotic to people in the rural areas, i'll have to ask. i think there is also a large vietnamese population in illinois, and chicago & surrounding area has some great vietnamese restaurants-- also the midwest. maybe not so much in ohio or nebraska. . . but i don't know for sure, and other midwestern areas with other ethnic populations might have good filipino, malaysian, indian, regional chinese, or korean food, but not vietnamese.

                                                                                                          mmm hot browns. delicious! i thought they were a kentucky thing (then you get into whether kentucky is a southern, midwestern, or east central state-- & who knows what the op means by "midwest")

                                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                            the only way to slice it (good pun, by the way) when it comes to kentucky: central ky is midwestern, northern ky is northern and southern ky is southern.

                                                                                                            you're right about the huge expanse that is the midwest, of course, and the extent of its diversity in certain parts. i was just lamenting that vietnamese food (and good chinese / filipino / malaysia / indian / korean) didn't quite make it to lexington, ky, my part of the midwest, when i was growing up. nor has really good pho made its way to my part of manhattan, so you really are a lucky woman!

                                                                                                            1. re: cimui

                                                                                                              now, if only we could get decent thai and regional indian restaurants (that survive) here! ;-)

                                                                                                              guess you can't have everything, all at once. gotta have an incentive to travel to other regions. that is interesting about KY being a mini-tour of u.s. regions. i've never visited KY extensively, but it seems like it would have interesting food & culture just based on the state's location and the road & river traffic.

                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                Ah, we HAVE decent Thai food though, Indian not so much. My much mentioned fav Bangkok Thai Deli is authentic, cheapish, and really, really good. Helps to live emically and fake a little knowledge of Thai if you can too. Kind of like eating in a Bangkok food court. It's close to your neck of the urban jungle, at 315 Univ Ave in St Paul.



                                                                                                                1. re: HuaGung

                                                                                                                  xcept i just moved!!! ;)

                                                                                                                  thanks HG-- i've meant to check out bangkok thai deli & haven't had the opportunity--your recent reviews of the place are mouthwatering. i do hope the dearth of good thai and indian restaurants in msp is now changing with some recent additions to our dining scene. huh--you know, i know *exactly* when i can squeeze in my first visit to BTD this weekend. . . thanks again for the reminder, i'll report back on the local board!

                                                                                                      2. You could always go to the Chinese restaurant in my hometown (and where Grandmom still lives). In order to appeal to the very small town crowd the owner has Chinese, Mexican, and American/Southern Menus. So you can quite easily have egg foo young on a biscuit. Or a General Tso quesadilla?

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                          Sounds good. Wish they did that here.

                                                                                                          1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                            I just gotta ask...Grants, New Mexico?

                                                                                                          2. ...this question kinda baffled me.
                                                                                                            I assume you're talking about Chinese restaurants as all the food you cited were foods traditionally found at American Chinese restaurants?

                                                                                                            Bread simply isn't a big part of the diets of the Chinese whose culture and cuisine influences the Chinese restaurants that are more common in the U.S.

                                                                                                            Yes, types of bread (usually flatbreads from what I've seen) are eaten in other parts of China, but those kinds of cuisines are not well known or very popular overseas.

                                                                                                            But by far in the Eastern and Southern parts of China which yields familiar fare like wonton noodle soup and kung pao chicken, rice and noodles are the ticket, not bread.

                                                                                                            Its not an anomaly at all. <b>Some cultures simply do not eat bread.</b>

                                                                                                            As a matter of fact, many times when I've dined in Beijing, Cheng du, etc. Rice was not even given. It had to be asked for. Several times. Other starches like potatoes were far more common. So its possible that starch isn't as prevalent in Chinese cooking as we American folks have become accustomed to in our own diets.

                                                                                                            1. Just a remainder of what we all know regarding breads throughout Asia.

                                                                                                              Bread (really good flour and yeast types) is eaten with meals in Central Asia.

                                                                                                              Flat unleavened breads (naan, roti, paratha, others) are eaten throughout south Asia.

                                                                                                              Filipinos have pan de sal for breakfast; and plain white bread is commonplace in the diet - along with rice.

                                                                                                              Vietnam has both bread (largely for banh mi) and lots of rice.

                                                                                                              Rice is primary in most of SE and east Asia.

                                                                                                              1. Years back, here in the Boston area, rolls were routinely served here iin Chinese restaurants. You can still find a few places that do it.

                                                                                                                I'm a transplant to this area, but I read an article a while back that said when Chinese restaurants were just coming into vogue in the Boston area, some enterprising baker went around convincing the Chinese restaurateurs that they needed to serve bread if they were ever going to break into this market. He sold to some of the first places that openend, and the locals came to expect it, so when later places opened, they had to deal with the expectation that there was going to be bread because that's what they had at "the other Chinese place". As the article had it, the baker managed to do quite well for himself, supplying rolls to this market for years. I have friends who went to college here in the 80s and some of them encountered that practice even then.

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                                                  The Kong in Harvard Square still delivers sliced baguettes with takeout orders. It's bizarre, and it certainly doesn't make their food more appealing to me.

                                                                                                                  1. re: pamiam

                                                                                                                    I remember the Kong putting bread on the tables, too - that was 25 years ago, though. The only thing that made their food appealing was a couple of Scorpion Bowls and the knowledge that at midnight The Tasty was the only other place you could get grease and starch to soak up all that alcohol. Ah, good times.

                                                                                                                2. This is so funny I never thought about that before

                                                                                                                  1. I guess the other question (and forgive me if it's already been asked) is why do a lot of places in Boston include bread with the takeout?

                                                                                                                    1. Probably for the same reason you can't get egg rolls at MacDonald's?

                                                                                                                      1. Looks like Panda Express is responding to your request. I heard a commercial on the radio yesterday that they're now offering wraps =)

                                                                                                                        1. i assume and hope that you now understand that rice is THE bread component of asian food culture.