Tuesday, February 19, 2013

5 Chinese take-out food myths debunked

Five Chinese Take-out food myths debunked

1)      You always get hungry an hour later

2)      That’s not Chicken in your Chicken Chow Mein

3)      It is difficult to learn to cook Chinese food

4)      Chinese food uses hard to find exotic ingredients

5)      Chinese food is expensive to make


I was born in a Chinese restaurant…well, actually I was born in a hospital, but a few days later, my parents took me home, to the Chinese restaurant that my family owned, lived in and worked.  Ever since I was a kid, I would watch my parents and grandparents work in the kitchen.  When I was a pre-teen I started to work in the kitchen myself….so suffice to say, I know my way around a Chinese kitchen.

As with any “foreign” food and culture, there are a lot of myths going around, and Chinese takeout fare is no exception (in fact I would say it’s probably the food that has the most myths about it), so I would like to address some of the myths floating around there and hopefully put some fears to rest.

1)      You always get hungry an hour later

Many people tell me this is their biggest issue with Chinese food, that they don’t feel satisfied because they feel hungry again an hour later.  There may be some truth to this, however it is not because it is “Chinese food” but because must have sides like fried rice or noodles are high in complex carbohydrates.  Complex carbohydrates, such as those found in rice, noodles, pasta and white bread are quickly digested and absorbed, giving you a full feeling quicker, however it will also leave you feeling hungry sooner than if you were eating mostly protein.  Eating a bowl of pasta would also give you the same effect.

2)      That’s not chicken in your chicken chow mein

How many times did we get prank calls back in the day with kids asking “have you seen my dog/cat?”  The answer is, honestly, on rare occasions, it might not be chicken, but it is not cat, dog, rat, panda or anything else like that.  It might be turkey.  Now that regulations are tighter, it likely isn’t the case, but back in the day, turkey meat was cheaper, had more white meat and was generally less fatty than Chicken, so some restaurants used turkey in their sweet and sour chicken (chicken balls) and soo guy.  Personally I wouldn’t do that, I prefer to be straight up with my clients and would instead advertise sweet and sour turkey and soo fo guy (guy= Chicken in Cantonese, fo guy= literally fire chicken, meaning turkey).


3)      It is difficult to learn how to make Chinese food

I suppose it would depend on what dishes you were talking about, since “Chinese food” covers a huge range of dishes, but most take out fare, is pretty simple to make, although it might be time consuming.  For example, an eggroll is not difficult to make, but takes a few hours to make from start to finish.  Many dishes have just a few steps, but require time consuming prep.  If you have the time and would like to learn a few dishes, stay tuned I will follow up with a few Chinese takeout recipes.

4)      Chinese food uses hard to find exotic ingredients

Once again, since Chinese food covers a huge range of dishes (each province and region of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have their own signature dishes and styles), but since we are talking about North American Chinese take-out food here, the answer is no.  It wouldn’t make sense to spend extra money importing exotic ingredients while trying to keep the product costs low.  That’s why you will be able to find all the ingredients at your local wholesaler or grocery store.  Larger cities would have more of a variety of dishes on their menu that uses more “exotic” ingredients, but these cities would also have Asian grocery stores that would readily have the ingredients.  As for central Newfoundland where I grew up, there were no Asian grocery stores, and so we got all our ingredients locally.  So, if you want to make Chinese food, like the kind in your local restaurant, the ingredients won’t be too hard to find.


5)      Chinese food is expensive to make

Chinese food is no more expensive to make than any other North American dish, since common ingredients are used (Singapore noodles, for example, uses rice noodles, pork, carrots, onions, green peppers and eggs) which people might already have around their house.  In the restaurant, the profit margin from ingredient to final product is pretty large, however the profit is reduced when you consider how much work goes into preparing the food.  So, if you have the time, Chinese food is simple and not too expensive to make.

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