“Chinese American” Restaurants
Let’s first get one thing straight right off the bat. Anybody who thinks that when they walk into a Chinese restaurant and order their meal that they get anything resembling what Chinese people really eat, has been eating in Chinese restaurants either way too often or not often enough. Having said that, we’re going to concentrate on what we refer to as “Chinese American” restaurants, because in reality, that’s what they are.
The stereotypes of who eats Chinese food are beyond silly. Other people besides Jews eat Chinese food, or what we call Chinese food. The reason these stereotypes exist is because many years ago when the modern day Chinese American restaurant started to become popular, the majority just happened to open up in Jewish neighborhoods. So naturally more Jewish people at there than anyone else. Today, you will find all kinds of people eating at Chinese restaurants.
So, what kind of food DO you find at a Chinese American restaurant? Most Chinese American dishes fall into what they call categories of food. Their are your chow mien dishes which feature the classic chicken chow mien. But you can get a lot more than just chicken chow mien. You can also get shrimp chow mien, beef chow mien, roast pork chow mien and just about any other kind of beef, pork, chicken or fish that you can think of. Just a quick tip. If you’re going to get the chicken chow mien, get the white meat chicken chow mien. It costs about a buck more but they give you more chicken and the pieces are bigger.
Aside from your chow mien dishes you have your lo mien dishes. The only difference between these two are the kinds of noodles they use. Other than that, they are pretty much the same, at least at most restaurants in the states. The whole key to a Chinese dish is the vegetables that they put in it. Most of a Chinese dish is pretty much vegetables. There is relatively a lot less meat than there is vegetable. That’s why the dishes are relatively inexpensive and also why you’re hungry two hours later.
Then there are some specialty dishes. You can usually tell what these are because they have names like Moo Goo Gai Pan. You have absolutely NO idea what’s in this stuff by reading the name of it. Fortunately, there is usually a description of the menu item underneath the title so you can get some idea of what you’re eating.
Aside from the main dishes you get your standard side dishes like roast pork, egg roll, stuffed mushrooms, etc. Most people usually fill up on the fried Chinese noodles that they give you before you even get your dinner. This way it doesn’t seem so much like you hardly ate anything. And of course the meal is topped off with a fortune cookie and some tea. This is standard fair for a Chinese restaurant.
Some of these restaurants are good, some are okay and some are not so great. It’s hard to find a Chinese restaurant that’s really terrible. After all, how much can you ruin a vegetable?
Michael Russell, your independent guide to Restaurants.
Click here for reviews based on our Quest to find the best Chinese restaurants on Long Island and New York City.