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Apr 13, 2012 04:18 AM

american chinese food cravings?

what is with the Chinese food cravings? Every month or so I get this intense craving for Chinese food despite the fact that 9/10 times when I eat it my stomach revolts often violently. Even with all of the wonderful Asian-inspired meals I have been making lately (bulgogi, thai basil chicken) I still get that feeling that I could go for some yummy Americanized Chinese food. A friend and I have concluded that it is a three-bite food...all you need is 3 bites of that greasy sweet and sour chicken to satisfy whatever the craving is but then you're still hungry and left with a bunch of food that you end up eating. Does anyone else get these cravings and do you just fight them and know that it usually is not as good as you expect and often doesn't sit well in the GI tract?

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  1. I don't expect that much from American-Chinese cuisine and I don't mean that in a negative way. I know exactly what I'll be getting and once in a while, I want those deep fried chicken chunks doused in gloppy General Tso's sauce (or whatever dish I may be craving) with a side of pork fried rice and a standard egg roll (with a packet of duck sauce, please). For me it is a comfort food type thing. I grew up eating Friday night take-out every week and it was either Chinese or pizza. It's like dissing mom's meatloaf...even if it isn't the best meatloaf ever, it is still mom's meatloaf, the one that tastes like childhood.

    The craving hits a few times a year and when it does, I indulge. I tend not to overeat heavy foods like that for fear of my stomach revolting, so a standard combination meal of meat and rice, my husband and I split it with no harm done.

    1. Chinese restaurants have big menus, and I know from decades of experience I might love a handful of those dishes, but it takes repeat visits to find them. Once I find favorites, heck yes I crave them.

      I understand cravings for food that isn't great. I've always liked and craved fast food mexican and it isn't very satifying after I eat it and walk out of the restaurant, but it doesn't matter...I'll still be craving it intensely a month later.

      1. Is won-ton soup considered to be Chinese-American??

        20 Replies
        1. re: arktos

          It depends on how you make them. Won ton soup can be found in many "authentic" Cantonese restaurants.

          1. re: raytamsgv

            餛飩 - Wonton in Cantonese or Húntún Mandarin means dumpling soup.

          2. re: arktos

            Real wonton soup is Cantonese. Those use chicken broth that has dried fish boiled into the stock, and I believe some places also use shrimp shells for added flavor. The wontons use the thin egg flour skins and inside you'll find pork along with large shrimp pieces. This is not what you'll find in Chinese American places that uses watered down canned chicken broth with a piece of think dumpling skin and a tiny sliver of pork inside the skin.

            1. re: dpan

              This is not what you'll find in Chinese American places that uses watered down canned chicken broth ~

              I would bet the family jewels there is not one Chinese American place in history that has ever purchased a can of chicken broth for use in the kitchen.

              1. re: fourunder

                I think you're wrong about that, but can you explain your reasoning?

                1. re: RealMenJulienne

                  Chinese butcher their own chickens...they separate the meat between dark and white meat for appropriate dishes.. The carcasses and bones are saved for stock. Even wing tips are trimmed and kept for stock making. The big vat in the middle of a a wok line is where the stock is made and kept. It's the base for soups, gravies and all sauces.

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Well sure, in a home kitchen or a better restaurant that definitely happens. But in a typical Chinese American grease pit? I would bet on them using cheap canned stock or bullion.

                    1. re: RealMenJulienne

                      Not a chance. There are no more parsimonious people on the planet than the Chinese. They can buy the cheapest chicken available and use literally every scrap to make money from. It's all about the bottom line. Buying anything canned is an anathema to them. I've been in many Chinese restaurant kitchens and I never saw anything resembling canned stock. I've seen line cooks smashing chicken bones with the back of a clever to get the most flavor out of the stock.

                      1. re: Puffin3

                        Can't speak to canned stock, but you will very frequently see cans of chicken boullion / chicken MSG, whether the place is high-end or low-end, Americanized or not, restaurant or home-kitchen. That's not to say that some places may not also make chicken stock.

                        1. re: will47

                          Canned stock is quite common. Good for sauces, braises, etc., esp. for things like broccoli beef, egg drop soup.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Homemade stock may be common in Chinese restaurants, but I can vouch for canned being common in cheaper carryouts. I've seen them truck the stuff in before the morning lunch rush, along with the bok choy, styrofoam trays, and broccoli.

              2. re: dpan

                We never used canned chicken stock in our restaurant.

                As fourunder pointed out, we boned and sliced our own chickens. Dark meat is appropriate for certain dishes and need to be sliced a certain way. The same is true for white meat. There's no way you can every get those things pre-sliced, and even if you could, it would be far too expensive.

                At our restaurant, my uncle used to bone and slice scores of chickens each week. That's just part of the cook's job between the lunch and dinner rush. Of course, there would be a ton of chicken carcasses. He'd simply throw them into a huge pot, put in water, and boil/simmer until we had stock. Extra carcasses would be frozen and used for new stock when needed.

                Ounce for ounce, canned broth is much more expensive than chicken stock made from scratch. Any restaurant that wants to stay in business, regardless of cuisine, will try to use every scrap of food possible. It's not like what they show on TV. Unused scraps = lost money.

                1. re: raytamsgv

                  Ounce for ounce, canned broth is much more expensive than chicken stock made from scratch

                  But you are not factoring in the cost of labor and time, gas (or electricity) and space (the fact that a pot will take up on slot on the stove and/or in the fridge once it is made).

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    True, but the labor isn't that significant because it is mainly involved in getting the meat ready for cooking. The chicken bones are just a byproduct. You would still need to store stock somewhere even if it's store-bought. And you would also usually heat it up before using it. We kept our stock hot throughout the day--faster than breaking out pouring out canned stock and heating it.

                    1. re: raytamsgv

                      Right - and something has to be done with all those bones! I never found space to be an issue on the stove top or fridge.

                      1. re: scoopG

                        Surprisingly, we hardly ever bought whole chickens.

                        Just big boxes of frozen thighs and breasts.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Because of you.....I lost the family jewels...

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Ipse: perhaps your family wasn't as thrifty as mine. :-)

                            1. re: raytamsgv

                              Every case of canned stock was lost profit.....

                              1. re: raytamsgv

                                No, we just didn't have any whole chicken dishes on the menu.

                2. Every now and then I get a craving for Tomato Beef Chow Mein, which my ABC friends in California told me was a dish created there

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Tripeler

                    Tomatoes are indigenous to the Western Hemisphere, so they are not truly native to Chinese cuisines. However, after a two hundred years or so, it can be argued that tomatoes have become an integral part of Chinese cuisine. This can also be said of Italian, French, and any other cuisines that are not native to the Western Hemisphere.

                    1. re: raytamsgv

                      Peru and Mesoamerica are both possible places of origin for the tomato and were introduced into China in the 16th century.

                      1. re: scoopG

                        Well, the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys are crawling with beef and tomatoes, so it seems logical that Tomato Beef Chow Mein was created there.

                  2. Heck Yeah! I consider it junk food....TASTY junk food! Maybe once or twice a year. I always regret it later in the evening tummy doesn't handle that crap like when I was a kid. I must admit...after a couple deep fried all kind of tastes the same :) Mmmmm......