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What makes Chinese food so popular as take-out?

ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 12:02 PM

No matter how you define "Chinese food" -- but in this case we're probably talking about Americanized Chinese food -- it seems like along with perhaps pizza, Chinese food is the king of take-out.

Why is that?

Just searching Chowhound one can find numerous threads about Chinese take-out, but rarely one about (for example) Indian, Japanese, Mexican, etc.

Examples of Chinese take-out threads:


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  1. s
    stilldontknow RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 01:25 PM

    Must be a US thing. Here in UK Indian food would be just as popular for home delivered/take away. Although probably like Indian food it's easy to keep warm till you get home and reheatable without the dish suffering too much.

    1 Reply
    1. re: stilldontknow
      MagicMarkR RE: stilldontknow Dec 11, 2012 03:42 PM

      yes, I agree that it tends to be a U.S. thing. Also one must think about what is being taken out: very few people order for take-out a whole steamed fish, or peking duck. "Chinese" take-out generally means stir fry.

      It is quick to make; it is inexpensive; it tends to be "family" style as opposed to single serving (which often would involve putting together a whole plate of side veggies, etc. individually for each person); there is often a lot of variety, or at least a lot of mixing and matching of meats and veggies (setting aside authenticity, of course). Indian also has those characteristics (generally), but Indian restaurants have been less common in the U.S. historically.

    2. Bacardi1 RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 01:55 PM

      Well, I think for starters is the fact that there are far more small inexpensive Chinese restaurants - some that pretty much only do takeout - than there are Indian, Japanese, or Mexican (outside of "Taco Bell") restaurants. Let's face it - there are very few strip shopping centers in America that don't boast a Chinese takeout place.

      Outside of buffet joints, most of the Indian restaurants I've been to around here are more upscale sit-down than your normal Chinese takeout place. Many do offer "takeout", but their prices are such that somehow takeout just feels wrong - it seems nicer & more bang for one's buck to dine at the restaurant.

      As far as Japanese, I've never warmed up to the idea of takeout Japanese. Takeout sushi simply isn't the same as when presented properly on site, & a good tempura (or any fried item) is frankly devoid of its traditional crispness after suffering even the shortest transport. So outside of noodles &/or soup or a benton-box type situation, what's left that would be nice as takeout?

      Mexican? Once again - stuff suffers being enclosed in a container - even soft flour & corn tortillas take little time to turn into mush steaming away in their own heat in a container.

      Chinese cuisine - even authentic specialty Chinese - simply (to my preferences anyway) lends itself better to still being very good after traveling.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Bacardi1
        HillJ RE: Bacardi1 Dec 8, 2012 02:01 PM

        Agree with every single word. And, Chinese food is the only take out that tastes good cold. I'm not a fan of cold pizza but cold fried rice or lo mein, anytime.

        1. re: HillJ
          EWSflash RE: HillJ Dec 11, 2012 06:39 PM

          +1, only I respectfully disagree with you on the cold pizza thing

          1. re: HillJ
            monavano RE: HillJ Oct 2, 2013 08:26 AM

            Hmm, I initially disagreed with the cold Chinese food, but lo mein probably would be good!

        2. fldhkybnva RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 02:23 PM

          Where I live it's either pizza or chinese food if you want delivery. It's convenient and delicious. Also, while I know that you can make your own takeout-style Chinese food at home it is a host of dishes which for me is just always better from a greasy takeout place vs other foods dishes that I might order from Mexican or Japanese restaurant which I have my own at home recipe favorites. For example, I used to go out for Mexican, but now have a perfect taco salad, enchilada and quesadilla recipe that I love so it's not really worth it for me. But the nostalgia and the inability to load up food with just enough salt, MSG, fat, sugar and/or whatever else my local Chinese place throws in keeps me coming back for more.

          1. twyst RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 02:26 PM


            1. c
              chowguyXXX RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 02:32 PM

              Many people like it.
              Takeout boxes that are small and easily chopstickable

              Why does McDonald's make money?

              2 Replies
              1. re: chowguyXXX
                fldhkybnva RE: chowguyXXX Dec 8, 2012 02:37 PM

                What chowguyXXX said

                1. re: chowguyXXX
                  miss_belle RE: chowguyXXX Dec 8, 2012 07:04 PM

                  All of the above- plus it tastes mighty good too!

                2. foodieX2 RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 02:44 PM

                  those cute cardboard containers!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: foodieX2
                    HillJ RE: foodieX2 Dec 8, 2012 02:45 PM

                    they are genius and anything served in a cute cardboard container (think food truck) sells like hotcakes.

                    1. re: HillJ
                      monavano RE: HillJ Oct 2, 2013 08:27 AM

                      Amen! I get them for holiday cookies and give them out in that. Actually, lots of gifts, not just food.

                    2. re: foodieX2
                      thedryer RE: foodieX2 Oct 2, 2013 02:58 PM

                      This just made me laugh! Ever notice when tv shows have the actors eat Chinese food they are always eating out of the Chinese container? I never did that once in my life!

                      1. re: thedryer
                        monavano RE: thedryer Oct 2, 2013 03:43 PM

                        I do too!
                        Just the rice comes in the cute box when I get my order.

                    3. k
                      kengk RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 02:52 PM

                      I want take out Chinese food in the little cardboard boxes something fierce.
                      Around here they have the styrofoam clam shells.

                      We have a decent Mexican place in our little town and I'm always amazed by how many people come in and get take out orders. Why don't you just sit down and eat here since you are here? It's not going to get any better on the drive home.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: kengk
                        cresyd RE: kengk Dec 10, 2012 01:07 AM

                        Where I live now there is not an abundance of Chinese food, and what is here is not the cheapest option and they don't do delivery. However - it's still one of my favorite take away items because (for the most part) the food holds up quite well in traveling from the restaurant to my place, easy to reheat when needed, and generically, the most popular fried item - the egg roll - almost benefits from not being eaten immediately out of the frier (due to the amount of hot steam that changes it from hot and cripsy to just too hot).

                        As I mentioned before, where I am now, the Chinese options aren't as inexpensive as in other parts of the world - but I also have the nostalgia of Chinese take away that I've clearly carried with me.

                        1. re: kengk
                          Wawsanham RE: kengk Dec 11, 2012 07:21 AM

                          Probably so they can eat in the "comfort of their home": In their underwear, lying around, watching TV, etc...

                          1. re: kengk
                            Sooeygun RE: kengk Dec 12, 2012 06:18 AM

                            No little cardboard boxes here either (Toronto). At least not from any place I have ever ordered from. I always wondered if it was a TV thing, but I guess it's not.

                            1. re: Sooeygun
                              monkeyrotica RE: Sooeygun Dec 12, 2012 06:25 AM

                              The "little cardboard box" is called an oyster pail and are an uniquely American invention.



                              1. re: Sooeygun
                                Teep RE: Sooeygun Dec 12, 2012 08:20 AM

                                Actually the "Thaï Express" fast food outlets in Toronto malls use these boxes. (Yes that's an umlaut-i - they are fake Thai in both name and food!)

                                1. re: Sooeygun
                                  tastesgoodwhatisit RE: Sooeygun Dec 13, 2012 07:29 PM

                                  I was wondering about that. I lived in Toronto for six years, and attended UofT, which meant I ate a lot of Chinese food, and I never saw cardboard takeout boxes. Same for other places I've lived.

                                  In Taiwan, takeout often uses flat, waxed cardboard containers of the kind that are used for lunchboxes (like bento), or waxed round containers for soup, or sometimes just a plastic bag.

                              2. t
                                tastesgoodwhatisit RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 06:47 PM

                                Interesting question. I've been living in Taiwan for some years now, and I don't think I could go back to takeout, after getting used to the food arriving at the table still smoking hot from the wok. I'd classify most take-out Chinese in the same category as getting KFC or pizza - it satisfies certain craving, and it's fast and cheap if you are hungry after a long week at work and don't want to cook, but it's not really that good.

                                Come to think of it, KFC, pizza hut and McDonalds all deliver, but most of the local restaurants don't....

                                14 Replies
                                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                  FrankJBN RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Dec 11, 2012 07:27 AM

                                  "KFC, pizza hut and McDonalds all deliver"

                                  Maybe in Taiwan, but very rare in America. Does anyone know of a McDonalds that delivers? For that matter KFC?

                                  1. re: FrankJBN
                                    Justpaula RE: FrankJBN Dec 11, 2012 08:47 AM

                                    When I lived in Douglaston, Queens, NY, we had a combo KFC/Taco Bell that delivered. However, they usually sucked at it - long hold time on the phone, messed up orders, looooooong wait for delivery to arrive. It was as if it was annoying for the staff.

                                  2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                    RetiredChef RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Dec 11, 2012 12:07 PM

                                    "It's fast and cheap. . . but it's not really that good"

                                    BRILLANT post - GOOD Chinese food does not make good take-out. Most dishes are meant to be eaten straight from the wok, as they sit and steam in to-go containers the vegetables and other items get over-cooked. What most Americans get in their little to-go containers is bastardized faux Chinese food covered in gooey sweet sauces that resembles little of the true cuisine.

                                    1. re: RetiredChef
                                      Perilagu Khan RE: RetiredChef Dec 11, 2012 12:15 PM

                                      It may not be authentic Chinese, but that doesn't mean it's not good. Personally, I love the stuff. And apparently so do many others.

                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                        RetiredChef RE: Perilagu Khan Dec 11, 2012 12:57 PM

                                        I can't argue with the fact that many people love the stuff, just like many love Olive Garden and McDonalds too, I just don't understand it.

                                      2. re: RetiredChef
                                        fldhkybnva RE: RetiredChef Dec 11, 2012 12:16 PM

                                        I argue that while it may not be authentic/traditional Chinese food it is authentic American Chinese food and is good in it's own right, but to each his/her own.

                                        1. re: fldhkybnva
                                          monkeyrotica RE: fldhkybnva Dec 11, 2012 02:45 PM

                                          Seriously, there's good Chinese American food and there's bad Chinese American food, just like there's good locally sourced organic food and overpriced flavorless slop for gullible morons with more money than brains. "Authentic Chinese food" doesn't exist in a vacuum, it's constantly evolving whereever it goes. Like Indian food or any ethnic food for that matter. Chinese food in Mexico or Paris or South Africa takes on the ingredients and techniques unique to those areas. Why complain about how "inauthentic" the chop suey is in Oaxaca?

                                          1. re: monkeyrotica
                                            ipsedixit RE: monkeyrotica Dec 11, 2012 03:12 PM

                                            Shit, if I was in Oaxaca and I had to eat chop suey -- no matter how authentic or inauthentic -- I'd complain like a person getting an enema with a used toilet plunger.

                                            1. re: monkeyrotica
                                              fldhkybnva RE: monkeyrotica Dec 11, 2012 03:19 PM

                                              I agree but to me American Chinese food should not be included and thus compared to Authentic Chinese food. In my book, there is good and bad American Chinese food. While I might be a big fan of General Tso's and love it as a dish, there are places where it's down right awful and others where it's fantastic. What gets me most is when people try to argue that the American style dishes are somewhat inferior because they are inauthentic when I feel that they are not even in the same category to be compared.

                                              1. re: fldhkybnva
                                                tastesgoodwhatisit RE: fldhkybnva Dec 11, 2012 05:32 PM

                                                Personally, I classify "American Chinese" as a region of Chinese cooking, alongside Cantonese, Hunan, etc, and evaluate it on its own merits.

                                                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                  fldhkybnva RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Dec 11, 2012 05:51 PM

                                                  I like it.

                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva
                                                    Perilagu Khan RE: fldhkybnva Dec 12, 2012 08:57 AM

                                                    So do I.

                                                  2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                    RetiredChef RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Dec 11, 2012 06:32 PM

                                                    That's a fine idea and if we do that then I would almost say that American Chinese was almost designed for its ability to hold for hours on a steam table and be transported in little boxes without losing much of its American Chinese food flair.

                                            2. re: RetiredChef
                                              prima RE: RetiredChef Dec 11, 2012 06:00 PM

                                              I think good Chinese food makes good take-out. I'm always happy to take home leftover dim sum (in take-out containers) from some of the best Chinese restaurants in Toronto, and sometimes I'll get dim sum take-out instead of waiting for a table. The dim sum dishes I tend to take home reheat quite nicely.

                                          2. a
                                            ahuva RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 07:39 PM

                                            for me, chinese is the ultimate in snack food that doubles as dinner.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: ahuva
                                              Justpaula RE: ahuva Dec 10, 2012 05:54 PM

                                              Ha! What a great answer! I actually agree with most everything that has been said on this thread, but I am a terrible snacker - even though I cook full, well-rounded meals most nights, I am still a grazer at heart (awful habit, which I have controlled over the last year and lost 45 pounds). We ordered in Chinese take-out just last night and I fixed plates for hubs and child, but just picked a little here and there (then, maybe a touch more here this morning), and it served as a meal. Who doesn't love snacks??????

                                            2. K K RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 09:29 PM

                                              It's also one of the more popular calorific foods also conveniently available in bulk / by weight to feed high tech or financial sector corporate slaves when they have to burn the midnight oil for deadlines. Or for those who prefer to do that for a potluck party or function and don't want to cook.... it's basically edible, affordable, and efficient...versus say, ordering a whole roast young suckling pig at $200, which while can feed a party, doesn't have all the basic food groups..

                                              1. Cheese Boy RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 10:02 PM

                                                Affordabilty, MOST variety, and free delivery. Chinese remains KING for these 3 reasons.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Cheese Boy
                                                  alliegator RE: Cheese Boy Dec 13, 2012 08:34 AM

                                                  Nail on the head with variety! I love that the little menu opens up to like 8 pages of choices. Something on there will always be sure to grab your attention.

                                                  1. re: alliegator
                                                    Cheese Boy RE: alliegator Dec 13, 2012 10:00 PM

                                                    One of our missions in life should be to try *everything* on those 8-page menus. Then perhaps we should climb Everest.

                                                    1. re: Cheese Boy
                                                      alliegator RE: Cheese Boy Dec 14, 2012 07:25 AM

                                                      Ok, we can hit Everest after recovery from the heart transplants that'll be needed by then :P

                                                2. n
                                                  nikkib99 RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 10:35 PM

                                                  I LOVE Chinese food. I'm African and we love our rice with stew and Chinese is close enough. Plus it's spicy and I love spicy food. Also, I like food and nothing says variety like a Chinese dinner order.

                                                  Did I mention I used to dream of marrying a Chinese guy for his cooking skills?

                                                  Chinese food is awesome! I love Indian food, but Chinese is better. Pizza is cool, but Chinese rocks! I can eat Chinese every day, but I can't eat spanish food every day.

                                                  And about that MSG.... who cares!? A billion people can't be wrong!

                                                  1. s
                                                    sedimental RE: ipsedixit Dec 8, 2012 11:36 PM

                                                    Doesn't suffer from the ride home, good warm or cold, something for everyone (variety) plenty of it, easy to reheat, it always feels like a good value and it is food most people don't make everyday for themselves.

                                                    1. TheHuntress RE: ipsedixit Dec 9, 2012 02:52 AM

                                                      I love Chinese take-away and in Australia is a very popular take-away cuisine. We do have more Japanese places opening, a fair few Indian joints, but very little Mexican. We have a great noodle house very close to where we live that does great Chinese, very well priced and the staff are so kind (I once nursed the manager of the restaurant and now they always stop to say 'Hi' when I'm in). I suppose in terms of convenience, delicousness and cost it ticks all the boxes.

                                                      1. MGZ RE: ipsedixit Dec 9, 2012 04:20 AM

                                                        I think this is one of those things where the answer is as simple as the fact that pizza and Chinese food have been around the longest. Also, I would submit that burgers are a much more popular take-out item in the US than anything else - McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, etc.

                                                        1. drongo RE: ipsedixit Dec 10, 2012 05:49 AM

                                                          I agree with those who have pointed out price and availability. Also, I think that many Americans (even those who are keen home cooks, myself included) don't do very well preparing this kind of food at home.

                                                          1. monkeyrotica RE: ipsedixit Dec 10, 2012 11:42 AM

                                                            I think like any small business, Chinese carryouts are so successful because the owners work extremely hard for long hours. The ones I frequent, the owners remember my orders and try and build a rapport. There's a level of customer service there that I haven't found at other eateries. Also, the food is freaking awesome.

                                                            1. f
                                                              FrankJBN RE: ipsedixit Dec 11, 2012 07:30 AM

                                                              At least two responses mention that Chinese is good cold, specifically mentioning cold rice. yuck.

                                                              Cold rice is hard grain, no longer sticky and well, cold. Cold Chinese food is not for me. I also don't find it reheats well., maybe lo mein.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: FrankJBN
                                                                monkeyrotica RE: FrankJBN Dec 11, 2012 07:35 AM

                                                                Definitely a matter of taste. I work with a guy who adores cold fried chicken and cold pizza, both of which I find revolting.

                                                                1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                                  Perilagu Khan RE: monkeyrotica Dec 11, 2012 08:13 AM

                                                                  Those are two of the great loves of my life.

                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                    monkeyrotica RE: Perilagu Khan Dec 11, 2012 09:14 AM

                                                                    To be fair, I have been known to make a pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, onion, green pepper, hamburger, and bacon sandwich out of two squares of cold Ledo's Deluxe pizza. So maybe there's hope for me yet.

                                                              2. Bob W RE: ipsedixit Dec 11, 2012 07:40 AM

                                                                As others have noted, most Chinese food reheats very well. One notable exception is plain white rice. After a few hours in the fridge, it's as hard as a rock.

                                                                Indian food certainly reheats just as well, but again, as others have noted, in most parts of the country it's much harder to find.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Bob W
                                                                  sedimental RE: Bob W Dec 11, 2012 07:57 AM

                                                                  Yes, but it makes for a perfect, easy breakfast stir fried rice, bits of meat, leftover veggies and an egg -the next day :)

                                                                  1. re: sedimental
                                                                    Bob W RE: sedimental Dec 11, 2012 11:54 AM

                                                                    Hey, great idea! My kids do like fried rice. That just might work.

                                                                  2. re: Bob W
                                                                    Teep RE: Bob W Dec 11, 2012 01:06 PM

                                                                    Try adding some water to the white rice before you reheat it.

                                                                    1. re: Teep
                                                                      thedryer RE: Teep Oct 2, 2013 03:02 PM

                                                                      I put a packet of soy sauce on my fried rice before reheating it. YUM!

                                                                      1. re: thedryer
                                                                        monavano RE: thedryer Oct 2, 2013 03:44 PM

                                                                        I love this too.

                                                                  3. njmarshall55 RE: ipsedixit Dec 11, 2012 08:17 AM

                                                                    Without reading all of the previous posts, I can think of only a few reasons, not the least of which is the plethora of Chinese restaurants throughout most of the country, and it's not something one would normally make at home. Now, all I really want to find is a good DRIVE-THROUGH Chinese take out!

                                                                    1. GraydonCarter RE: ipsedixit Dec 11, 2012 11:16 AM

                                                                      Speed. The Wok is hot, the veggies are prepped, the sauces are bottled. It takes 5 minutes to cook. Whenever I order, whatever I order, the response is always, "Okay, ten minute."

                                                                      Same with a burger joint. The griddle is hot, the patty is defrosted, the buns are fresh, it takes one minute to grill it. You drive thru and they make it fresh. Burgers are too cheap to make home delivery cost effective.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                        fldhkybnva RE: GraydonCarter Dec 11, 2012 11:49 AM

                                                                        I agree it is generally faster than you think they could possibly cook/put the food in containers and get to your house. However, my new favorite place actually always says 35-45 minutes and it usually takes that long which is hilarious as we are so used to the 10 minute delivery and get angry when it takes longer though I do think it reflects in the quality of the food. While the usual 10 minute delivery always appears hot and ready to eat, the food from this place is piping hot and you can tell that it was just prepared which is nice and makes it a smidgen more tasty. But yea, a big part for me is the fact that I order, can do a few quick things around the house and by the time I get started there is hot food at my door.

                                                                        1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                          cleobeach RE: GraydonCarter Dec 12, 2012 06:34 AM

                                                                          Whenever I order, whatever I order, the response is always, "Okay, ten minute."


                                                                          My husband and I joke that even if we ordered 100 different meals, it would still only take "10 minute"

                                                                          Our local place doesn't deliver but it is just a few blocks away. The containers are always so hot when they reach the house that I often can't handle them with my bare hands.

                                                                          For us, it is a style of food that I have no interest in making myself. It is a cheap, fast meal that we all enjoy. We all get something different and pick at each others meals. The veggies and shrimp from our local place are particularly good.

                                                                        2. dave_c RE: ipsedixit Dec 11, 2012 12:01 PM

                                                                          Chinese food so popular...
                                                                          Location, Location, Location - like Starbucks, there's a Chinese restaurant on every corner. lol.

                                                                          Delivery to your door.

                                                                          Variety - beef, pork, veggies, noodles, soups. Also, flavors too.

                                                                          Seems healthy with different veggies
                                                                          Yet... lots of deep fried options.

                                                                          1. p
                                                                            plasticanimal RE: ipsedixit Dec 11, 2012 03:52 PM

                                                                            I think it has a lot to do with tradition. People gravitate to things they know.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: plasticanimal
                                                                              FrankJBN RE: plasticanimal Dec 12, 2012 01:58 PM

                                                                              "tradition. People gravitate to things they know"

                                                                              Never ate Chinese food until I moved out of my parents. Tradition has nothing to do with it.

                                                                              1. re: FrankJBN
                                                                                Perilagu Khan RE: FrankJBN Dec 12, 2012 06:27 PM

                                                                                For you it doesn't.

                                                                                1. re: FrankJBN
                                                                                  plasticanimal RE: FrankJBN Dec 12, 2012 06:39 PM

                                                                                  Chinese food was a popular delivery option before you tried it. You were able to try it because it was an established tradition.

                                                                                2. re: plasticanimal
                                                                                  cozylummox RE: plasticanimal Oct 3, 2013 07:59 AM

                                                                                  Yes. IN a house of 7 growing up (5 kids) my parents couldn't afford many meals out of the house, but we did have a tradition of ordering takeout every Friday: either pizza, or chinese.

                                                                                3. b
                                                                                  BuildingMyBento RE: ipsedixit Dec 11, 2012 04:05 PM

                                                                                  It seems to me that no matter what neighborhood you end up in (in the US), be it borderline slum or...not, a Chinese takeout place appears. Prices may reflect the neighborhood, providing more people with another dining option, whereas the large menus are just a bonus.

                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: BuildingMyBento
                                                                                    monkeyrotica RE: BuildingMyBento Dec 12, 2012 04:25 AM

                                                                                    Depending on where those Chinese takeout places are located, some will have a menu particular to those neighborhood customers. Urban carryouts tend to have a secondary "American Food" menu that includes steak subs, burgers, fried chicken, and sometimes fried fish. I've noticed that in some suburban neighborhoods with a Muslim population, there are several halal Chinese carryouts that don't offer pork dishes.

                                                                                    1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                                                      fldhkybnva RE: monkeyrotica Dec 12, 2012 06:47 AM

                                                                                      I have to admit that my local place makes the best crinkle fries on the planet IMO. My order always includes a large side of crinkle fries and they always come piping hot and still crispy and I have to restrain myself from eating them all before I get to the actual food. Yes, it's great for a variety of options especially with a large group so if someone is not too keen on the regular Chinese stuff they can grab whatever else they might like.

                                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva
                                                                                        monkeyrotica RE: fldhkybnva Dec 12, 2012 07:36 AM

                                                                                        There are SO many upscale places that brag about their hand-cut fries, yet they don't bother to fry them twice properly, so you end up with a soggy, greasy, oil-soaked mess. Yet right around the corner, the Chinese carryout dumps a 20lb sack of frozen crinkle cut fries in hot fryers and they're almost impossible to screw up. Perfect every time. Locals tend to drown theirs in "saltpeppaketchup" but I usually opt for just plain so as not to distract for crispiness. Also, many Chinese carryouts in DC are run by Koreans, so their steak & cheese subs use real ribeye instead of processed Steak Ums. A few even do bulgogi cheesesteaks where the sweeter bulgogi sauce offers a nice counterpoint to the rich cheese and salty meat. So you get a Korean interpretation of an American meal served in a Chinese takeout. That's the sort of fusion cuisine I'm always on the lookout for.

                                                                                        1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                                                          BuildingMyBento RE: monkeyrotica Dec 12, 2012 09:00 AM

                                                                                          A bulgogi cheesesteak? That and the "Greek" pizzerias in DC are two good reasons why I'm glad I don't live in the area anymore.
                                                                                          As a counter-point, I didn't mind wandering around Falls Church/Baileys Crossroads for grub. Also, the rare Indonesian restaurant was somewhere by Braddock Rd.- I never used a car to get to these places, so THAT was a bit of a trek.

                                                                                          1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                                                            BuildingMyBento RE: monkeyrotica Dec 12, 2012 09:10 AM

                                                                                            I don't think it's faux Chinese food-it's just a subsection of Chinese food, like "Manchurian cuisine" in India.

                                                                                            Personally, I despise American Chinese food. Sugary goop, inebriating soups flush with oil slicks and the bastard child of roux attached to various pieces of once-living asphalt-- YUM. At the same time, I would dunk egg rolls into the packets of mustard quite often.

                                                                                            擂辣椒茄子 (mashed eggplant and peppers) is what I'm looking for. Actual Hunan cooking. Sure I could make it, as could you, but how else would we debate its gestalt if the only place to try it was one of our abodes?

                                                                                            1. re: BuildingMyBento
                                                                                              monkeyrotica RE: BuildingMyBento Dec 12, 2012 09:58 AM

                                                                                              I gotta wonder what American chop suey is like in Bangalore. Is it the sort of bland stuff we get here or do they doctor it up with 5-spice and cardamom pods?


                                                                                            2. re: monkeyrotica
                                                                                              Cheese Boy RE: monkeyrotica Dec 12, 2012 11:12 AM

                                                                                              The Koreans countered with cheesy and salty very recently here --> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOyo7J...

                                                                                            3. re: fldhkybnva
                                                                                              thedryer RE: fldhkybnva Oct 2, 2013 03:04 PM

                                                                                              The French fries (crinkle too!) at our Chinese restaurant near our house are better than any pizza place or sub shop in town, seriously!

                                                                                          2. re: BuildingMyBento
                                                                                            deet13 RE: BuildingMyBento Dec 13, 2012 07:48 PM

                                                                                            Here in Tampa we have The Arco Iris, which is a Cuban/Chinese restaurant.

                                                                                            I can get 1/2 a Cuban, a side of roasted pork fried rice, and a couple of cups of Cuban coffee to go.

                                                                                          3. chicgail RE: ipsedixit Dec 11, 2012 04:38 PM

                                                                                            Pure comfort food. If I am alone or just hanging out or digging in because I have work to do, it just hits the spot. And then there are the leftovers the next day.

                                                                                            1. s
                                                                                              StrandedYankee RE: ipsedixit Dec 11, 2012 08:24 PM

                                                                                              In my humble? A lot of Chinese restaurant items pack and travel well. Not all (like crispy duck or anything meant to have a truly crispy batter or coating), but the truth is that a good Americanized Chinese restaurant ("good" in this cast meaning a place using good quality ingredients well prepared) can send you home with yummy soup, and soup travels well. Something like chicken or shrimp with broccoli in black bean sauce if you get it home fast and serve it quickly will normally be none the worse for wear. Old school egg rolls had that thick skin that could stay crispy/crunchy for 20 or 30 minutes on the way home. I've never understood doing sweet & sour stuff or General Tso's to travel as you lose all the crispiness and just end up with mush by the time you're eating.

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: StrandedYankee
                                                                                                fldhkybnva RE: StrandedYankee Dec 12, 2012 06:48 AM

                                                                                                My place delivers within 30 minutes and the Tso's and Sweet and Sour chicken always arrive crispy and oddly enough stay crispy for days when we grab leftovers.

                                                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva
                                                                                                  StrandedYankee RE: fldhkybnva Dec 12, 2012 11:37 AM

                                                                                                  Really? I wonder how they are doing that...Usually by definition putting something crispy in a hot fluid is the best way to get it to be no longer crispy. I like General Tso's if it's not oversweet or gloppy, but I never get it for takeout.

                                                                                                  1. re: StrandedYankee
                                                                                                    fldhkybnva RE: StrandedYankee Dec 12, 2012 11:43 AM

                                                                                                    Well the sweet and sour chicken is always delivered in an open oyster pail with the sauce on the side. As for the General Tso's, we love our new favorite place because it is not oversweet or gloopy and thus does not come swimming sauce but the flavor is actually on the chicken pieces themselves with literally only a few tbsp of sauce in the bottom of the container. Since they are not drowning, they stay nice and crispy.

                                                                                              2. m
                                                                                                MonMauler RE: ipsedixit Dec 12, 2012 07:36 AM

                                                                                                I actually grabbed American-Chinese take-out last night at one of the more well-regarded local joints, largely because I was inspired by this thread and a few of the others listed in the OP.

                                                                                                I ordered Egg Flower Soup, a Vegetable Egg Roll, Kung Bow Chicken, and Vegetable Lo Mein. It came with a side of White Rice.

                                                                                                Excepting the Egg Roll, which wasn't quite as crispy as I prefer, all of the food was fantastic. And it was a ton of food. My friend and I gorged a little last night and still have enough of the Kung Bow, Vegetable Lo Mein and White Rice to keep us well sated for at least another lunch and dinner. It cost $25, in all. We ate it in our pajamas, on the couch, while watching TV.

                                                                                                So, good quality comfort food in large portions at a reasonable price that is often still tasty hot or cold, would be the main factors in the popularity of Chinese food for take-out. Furthermore, I think the wide-majority of American cooks simply do not regularly have the ingredients, knowledge or wherewithal to regularly reproduce many of these meals is a determinant.

                                                                                                1. GraydonCarter RE: ipsedixit Dec 12, 2012 07:16 PM

                                                                                                  This "post hoc ergo propter hoc" logic is driving me crazy.

                                                                                                  Many of the responses are along the lines of, the reason Chinese food is so popular is because there are Chinese take-out places on every corner, in every town. The reason Chinese food is so popular is because it is so ubiquitous.

                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                    ipsedixit RE: GraydonCarter Dec 12, 2012 07:23 PM

                                                                                                    My thoughts exactly.

                                                                                                    All of the responses basically reaffirm my suspicion that no one really knows why Chinese is popular as a take-out item.

                                                                                                    Maybe there is no reason. Maybe it's just happenstance.

                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                      RetiredChef RE: ipsedixit Dec 12, 2012 07:29 PM

                                                                                                      Probably the two most intelligent comments here. (I hope I don't get attacked again - sigh)

                                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                        MGZ RE: ipsedixit Dec 13, 2012 06:48 AM

                                                                                                        I don't think it's any sort of logical fallacy. As I noted several days ago, it's much more a matter of the simple length of time that pizza and Chinese food have been available, at a solid value point, to the American consumer. During that time each has developed into a part of our collective culture.

                                                                                                        I mean, I can get some really awesome tacos here in New Jersey - both "authentic" and "high school cafeteria" versions - for takeout, good and cheap. I wouldn't be surprised if in ten, twenty, or whatever number of years, such options will have become so much a part of our society that they overtake Chinese or pizza. Time has, and will continue to, shape the American zeitgeist, diet, and cultural norms . . . forever. Personally, I'm cool with the America of the "old, white guys" going away - we'll all eat WAY better.* The future, genetically and culinary, is ecru. I love it!

                                                                                                        And, by the way, I wouldn't be surprised if burgers (since they have always been) will still be the most popular take out option 'til long after we're all gone.

                                                                                                        * It's not like the underclasses of our society haven't had a giant impact upon good eats. Anyone else like barbecue?

                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                          Perilagu Khan RE: ipsedixit Dec 13, 2012 08:10 AM

                                                                                                          All of the responses? They are not all tautologous.

                                                                                                        2. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                          BuildingMyBento RE: GraydonCarter Dec 12, 2012 07:28 PM

                                                                                                          I guess if it wasn't popular, they'd still be on every street corner then, right???

                                                                                                          If you're looking for why they came to be popular enough to be ubiquitous, I'm glad I have no reason to know why-I despise the stuff. Why not ask why Korean tacos and bone marrow became popular too? Why is this thread popular? Ten people are just repeating the same thing...

                                                                                                        3. cpa314 RE: ipsedixit Dec 14, 2012 05:00 AM

                                                                                                          Like mentioned earlier, there is quite alot of Chinese take-out restaurant pretty much anywhere you go in the US as well as other countries. In Vancouver, I used to frequently from this Chinese take-out place that did both American-Chinese style food as well as some more authentic stuff. It was reasonably priced, convenient, and tasted pretty good too. Personally, I dont think stir-frys taste that great reheated but some of the claypot stuff tastes nice even reheated. Now that I think of it, we also have quite a few Japanese take-out places that I would often order sushi from when I didn't want to have Chinese. In terms of reheatability though, I find that alot of Indian food microwaves pretty well.

                                                                                                          1. j
                                                                                                            jeffersonfaudan RE: ipsedixit Oct 2, 2013 04:31 AM

                                                                                                            the very reason that chinese food taste good or mostly asian food in that matter is because of the diversity of taste in one meal fused together... compared to western meals... a pork should taste as pork, a fish as fish, and a chicken as chicken and it has to be sort of "emphasized" that it taste just like whatever meat is used... most western food also stick to one single taste...

                                                                                                            if you'll notice, with most western restaurants, when the meal is served specially in fine dining restaurant, a beef steak is grilled separately, the sauce is cooked separately then the rest of the materials are used as garnish or maybe a mashed potato at the side and some side dish corn bits and peas... so when you're eating it, it seems like it's bland, and in order for you to get a certain flavor, you have to slice a piece of the beef and add a little sauce and add the side dish to make a blast of flavor.. the only asian dish that i can think of that are sort of not fused is sashimi and sushi which will taste "natural" without the wasabe added and the soy sauce or gojuchan (korea), however when dipped along with the wasabe, that's when it makes a totally different flavor from the fused wasabe, soy sauce, gojuchan(if there is any) with the fresh shrimp, fish, rice, avocado, mango, crab sticks or whatever else is in the serving - still fused flavor but in a different preparation

                                                                                                            in most asian countries, from indonesia, thailand, korea, philippines, malaysia etc... most delicacy has fused flavors and achieving that often takes quite some time to cook... most people say asians use a lot of MSG, but the thing is, MSG is mainly used to make the cooking speed a bit faster and the flavor blend faster... traditionally, if we cook our delicacies the way it should be "properly| cooked it will take a lot of time and preparation and low heat cooking for the meat and simmering and all that... what slow cooking does is it makes the meat more tender, softer and it releases the flavor thus fusing with whatever sauce or seasoning is added .. cooking asian meals traditionally takes about an hour or so from cooking to preparation while some may take half a day just to get everything done...from the slicing and cooking...

                                                                                                            if you'll also notice, a lot of our seasoning are fermented or dried or aged... from the vinegar, shrimp paste, fish paste, kimchi, wasabe, oyster sauce, schezuan, curry paste, satay sauce, salted eggs, century eggs, etc etc... dried whatever leaves or stalks to everything else... and most of the time, we rely on the natural taste of our raw materials (vegetable, meat etc)...

                                                                                                            for comparison's sake, if you have eaten a fresh mushroom soup compared to a canned mushroom, it will totally taste different and will give you a different outcome in flavor... with that being said, that's one of the many reasons why asian food taste "different" in a good way.

                                                                                                            as for chinese food being popular for take out, probably because some people think that when they purchase it, they know the flavor that they're expecting from it... a chopsuey will always taste the same though there may be some adjustments in flavor (maybe some add more salt or spice it up)which often are minor but not far from the original taste... less the effort of thinking compared to other meals where a certain dish is served in the north and will taste different compared to the southern part but still have the same name...

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: prima
                                                                                                              Puffin3 RE: prima Oct 2, 2013 08:21 AM

                                                                                                              A few thoughts:
                                                                                                              'Chinese take out' was the first mainstream take out food so a LOT of people got used to it and liked it and felt confident in ordering it and that generation passed on the addiction to the next.
                                                                                                              Pizza and Kentucky Fried came next then Mexican then Indian. At least in this neck of the woods.
                                                                                                              "Chinese' can always be stuffed in the microwave too, whereas some other take-out doesn't reheat easily.
                                                                                                              The MSG doesn't hurt either. LOL
                                                                                                              Tried making Chinese food again two nights ago for the hundreds of times. 'Blew it' as usual. Sigh. Veg watery and undercooked. Rice 'gooey'. Beef tough. Too much soy sauce. Too salty too bland. No flavor. Sweet and sour sauce had a 'strange' flavor according to my SO.
                                                                                                              Anyone want some free bamboo steamers?

                                                                                                            2. monavano RE: ipsedixit Oct 2, 2013 08:24 AM

                                                                                                              But seriously, it's so good! Our go-to take out restaurant uses fresh ingredients, the sauces aren't gloppy, lot of veggies, crispy rolls and really good hot and sour soup (which I eat rarely now because it gives me really weird heartburn, bummer).
                                                                                                              Plus, the portions are plentiful and we get leftovers for days.
                                                                                                              And it's relatively cheap!

                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: monavano
                                                                                                                Puffin3 RE: monavano Oct 2, 2013 12:03 PM

                                                                                                                Yeah 'MSG'.
                                                                                                                Monosodium glutamate.
                                                                                                                You seriously don't know what MSG is but you eat chinese food as your "go-to-take out"?
                                                                                                                Something wrong with this picture.
                                                                                                                Goggle it.

                                                                                                                1. re: Puffin3
                                                                                                                  linguafood RE: Puffin3 Oct 2, 2013 12:11 PM

                                                                                                                  I believe mona was joking. Most people here know about MSG and its prevalence in Chinese food.

                                                                                                                  Trust me.

                                                                                                                  1. re: linguafood
                                                                                                                    monavano RE: linguafood Oct 2, 2013 01:10 PM

                                                                                                                    Thanks for getting the "But seriously" part!

                                                                                                                    1. re: monavano
                                                                                                                      linguafood RE: monavano Oct 2, 2013 01:20 PM

                                                                                                                      I can be a smart (fortune) cookie sometimes '-D

                                                                                                                  2. re: Puffin3
                                                                                                                    monavano RE: Puffin3 Oct 2, 2013 01:09 PM

                                                                                                                    It was snark. I know that doesn't translate well sometimes, so perhaps that's why you responded so rudely. That, and someone peed in your Cheerios this morning. I don't know why you're so surly.
                                                                                                                    Read more carefully before you respond, please. I did NOT say Chinese was my "go-to" for take out. I referred to our go-to take out restaurant (for Chinese food).
                                                                                                                    And finally, please read the "But seriously" part again.
                                                                                                                    Thanks much.

                                                                                                                2. Gastronomos RE: ipsedixit Oct 3, 2013 10:08 AM


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