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Panda Express Introduces ‘Best Sellers Only’ Menu in Effort to Support Store Associates

Photo: Panda Express

Businesses aren’t pulling any stops in their efforts to adjust to a post-coronavirus world. While most are observing stay-at-home orders, service workers and others on the front line are doing what they can to keep economies from falling into a state of total chaos. This includes restaurants, grocery stores, post offices and public transportation. Despite the clear risk involved, if there’s a positive take away from all of this, it’s that the corona pandemic is bringing humanity together. 

For well known eatery Panda Express, that togetherness comes in the form of a truncated menu which consists only of their bestsellers. The goal is to lower the risk of spreading the virus to employees and customers by limiting the number of options offered.

Food preparation plays a large role in Panda Express’ decision and with a rise in take-out orders, a simpler menu will help employees working long hours. The temporary menu change will look something like this:

  • Original Orange Chicken® 
  • Broccoli Beef 
  • Grilled Teriyaki Chicken 
  • Kung Pao Chicken 
  • Mushroom Chicken 
  • Honey Walnut Shrimp 
  • Sweetfire Chicken Breast 
  • Firecracker Shrimp  
  • New Black Pepper Angus Steak 

These changes went into effect on Monday, April 6th at all nationwide locations and remain in effect until further notice. To further increase the safety of Panda Express employees and customers, contactless service will be rolled out at all locations. Each Panda Express will have designated areas for walk-up ordering and separate designated areas for pick-up.

As we collectively push through this trying time, it’s not only important to maintain a healthy outlook, but also a healthy appetite. You can order Panda Express’ famous orange chicken here.

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This YouTuber’s Boba Shop Is Pioneering American-Born Chinese Cuisine

Chinese and Taiwanese food is slowly starting to have a renaissance movement in the United States. This is clear from the prevalence of renowned dim sum chains like Din Tai Fung, the emergence of hot pot, and the proliferation of boba shops across the country.

Despite all of this, the most popular Chinese dishes in the USA are still Chinese-American, rather than Chinese. General Tso’s Chicken and orange chicken dominate the palates, all because Chinese food in the US was engineered around Western palates first, making the food sweeter and less authentic to what you can get in China and Taiwan.

In Los Angeles, restaurants are starting to open up that push back against that concept. Instead of engineering Chinese food to work for American tastes, they’re twisting up beloved American dishes to work with the traditional flavors of China and Taiwan. While you might expect to find this through the lens of fine dining, one of the pioneers of this movement is a small boba shop and cafe in the heart of LA’s San Gabriel Valley.

The spot is called Bopomofo Cafe, a modern take on boba and American-born Chinese food. Bopomofo, which is named after the first four letters of the Taiwanese Mandarin alphabet, is co-owned by Philip Wang, one of the main creative forces behind Asian-American YouTube and digital media powerhouse Wong Fu Productions. Wang, together with his co-owner Eric Wang and chef Andrew Park, have put together a revolutionary menu that fuses Chinese, Taiwanese, and American together, but not catering to the “American runs on sweet” mantra.

“We always thought that there’s new American food,” Wang told Foodbeast, “but there’s no new real Asian-American food, and that’s kind of how we saw our menu.”

As a result, you get dishes that explode with equal, stunning amounts of creativity and flavor. The gold standard at Bopomofo is the Ma Po Tofu Tater Tots, which swaps out the Sichuan classic in a modern rendition of chili cheese tots. Since mapo tofu is typically served over rice, the crunch and fattiness of the tots is an unexpected yet welcome contrast that elevates both dishes this one is inspired by.

Other such innovative items on Bopomofo’s menu include a Walnut Shrimp Burger, nachos made from Chinese scallion pancakes and topped with braised pork belly, a fried chicken sandwich modeled on Taiwanese flavors and cooking techniques, and a “MOFO Club” inspired by Wang’s travels to Taiwan.

Bopomofo keeps that creativity going in their drink selection as well. Whether it’s a beet-colored Taro Milk or a dreamsicle-like take on Orange Bang! (called Orange Wang), you get nostalgia yet novelty in every sip and bite of the cuisine served up here.

With that creativity, Wang and his team are pushing the envelope of what it can mean to combine American, Chinese, and Taiwanese flavors. By staying true to core Chinese and Taiwanese flavors, but still using ingredients familiar to Americans, the food here becomes a potential pathway to explore authentic Chinese and Taiwanese tastes through an American lens.

To learn more about Bopomofo, watch the above episode of Foodbeast’s News Bites that features the cafe.

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This Spice Company Sells the Rarest Sichuan Chili Peppers Directly From China

I love spicy foods. When I cook, friends often tell me to tone it down. Instead, I just make it spicier and amusingly await their reaction. There is something addictive about the combination of pleasure and the sharp tingle of spice on your tongue. Even the recent heatwave we had in Los Angeles didn’t stop me from eating spicy foods. In my appreciation for spice, I’m happy to report that LA-based sauce brand Fly By Jing is offering fans of Sichuan cuisine a chance to get their hands on actual peppers from the motherland.

For those unfamiliar with these special peppers, they originate from the Sichuan province in southwestern China. Not particularly spicy on their own, they create an all at once numbing and tingling feeling on the tongue when consumed. Then when combined with chili peppers it creates the “numb-spicy” sensation that we’ve come to associate with Sichuan cuisine.

In celebration of Sichuan culinary culture, Fly By Jing wants to bring the authentic Eastern experience to your doorstep. August was the annual pepper harvest and each year they almost sell out immediately. Thankfully, Fly By Jing snagged a few for you pepper-philes. The first pepper is called the Harvest Tribute Pepper, which is an ancient Chinese spice that has been cultivated in the Sichuan province for thousands of years. It’s known for that electric sensation I previously mentioned. The second pepper is called the Harvest Erjingtiao Chili. It is the most popular variety of chili in Sichuan and has a mild kick accompanied by an intense aroma. Both are now available online.

For those who lean more towards the “ready-made” side of options, Fly By Jing offers two different sauces. Each are all natural, MSG-free, gluten free and vegan friendly. The Sichuan Chili Crisp is their flagship sauce, made with erjingtao chiles, harvest peppers, and cold-pressed rapeseed oil. It’s not overly spicy and has an intense flavor that’s apparently so good it can even be paired with ice cream. Their next sauce is the Zhong Dumpling Sauce, slow-brewed with fragrant chili-oil, aromatic “fu zhi” soy sauce, brown sugar, mushrooms, garlic, and other spices. This sauce has a variety of uses as well, particularly for noodles, grilled fish and of course, dumplings. So If you’re looking to spice up your life with some traditional Sichuan flavors, Fly By Jing got the sauce.

Culture Fast Food Opinion

‘Problematic’ Lucky Lee’s Concept Fails To Realize One Key Aspect Of Chinese Food

The recent controversy from white-owned Lucky Lee’s, which claims to be a “clean” American Chinese restaurant, has spread like wildfire across the internet. Owner and nutritionist Arielle Haspel described American Chinese food as leaving you feeling “bloated and icky,” and trashing the cuisine as “oily,” “salty,” and full of MSG, which she claimed people have reactions to despite a lack of evidence.

Folks have called her messaging and marketing everything from “cultural appropriation” to “exploitative,” and many have taken offense to the entire backstory of this NYC restaurant. Even the food hasn’t been the most enjoyable, with popular New York-based foodie Instagram user @foodbabyny saying that “casual racism aside, the food just isn’t that good.”


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The other day we received some negative comments on an Instagram post. Some of your reactions made it clear to us that there are cultural sensitivities related to our Lucky Lee’s concept. We promise you to always listen and reflect accordingly. A number of comments have stated that by saying our Chinese food is made with ‘clean’ cooking techniques and it makes you feel great that we are commenting negatively on all Chinese food. When we talk about our food, we are not talking about other restaurants, we are only talking about Lucky Lee’s. Chinese cuisine is incredibly diverse and comes in many different flavors (usually delicious in our opinion) and health benefits. Every restaurant has the right to tout the positives of its food. We plan to continue communicating that our food is made with high quality ingredients and techniques that are intended to make you feel great. Chef/owner, Arielle’s husband’s name is Lee and his life-long love of Chinese food was inspiration for the restaurant. The name Lucky Lee’s reflects the story of how the recipes were conceived. We also received negative comments related to being owners of a Chinese restaurant but not being Chinese. Owners Arielle and Lee are both Jewish-American New Yorkers, born and raised. Similar to many other Jewish New Yorkers’ diets, bagels, pastrami sandwiches and yes, American Chinese food, were big and very happy parts of their childhoods. New York is the ultimate melting pot and Lucky Lee’s is another example of two cultures coming together. To us, this is a good thing. We love American Chinese food and at Lucky Lee’s it is our intention to celebrate it everyday and serve great food. #luckyleesnyc

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While all of the above claims are valid, the heart of the problem at Lucky Lee’s stems from American Chinese cuisine itself. One way to describe the establishment would be redundant, because to claim something like westernized Chinese food to be “clean” is simply impossible. That’s because American palates have historically forced chefs from other cultures to adapt to a more greasy, sugary taste preferences, and that included Chinese food.

In the United States, the evolution of processed foods over time has led us to crave three taste sensations: salty, sugary, and unctuous. At its core, Chinese food is a far cry from any of these. Several regions of China, from Sichuan to Guangdong, prefer fragrant, spicy, savory, and refreshing meals. From the soothing aromas of ginger-infused congee to the numbing, hot flavors of mapo tofu, the tastes of China rely more on aromatics and natural ingredients than they do oil, salt, and sugar.

However, what the Chinese described as aromatic, Americans found to be “strange.” As they began to immigrate into the country, the flavors of their cooking were used to depict the culture as “undesirable” and “repulsive.” Terms like these turned off locals from trying the food, and while Chinese restaurants flourished early on in local enclaves, that changed as immigrants began to spread across the United States.

With the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 came a suppression of Chinese cuisine’s ability to spread. To attract non-Chinese customers, their cooking had to change based on both ingredient availability and palate preference. This comes as no surprise, as it has occurred multiple times with every cuisine throughout history. Instead of getting something equally healthy and clean, like Peruvian Chifa cuisine, Chinese-American went the way of the greasy spoon diner.

Around the early 1900s was when Chinese-American cuisine began to explode in popularity. It’s also the time period when products like Coca-Cola, Jell-O, and other refrigerated and processed foods hit the market. With the economy booming, meat was also widely popular. All of this led to Chinese restaurants needing to capitalize on Americans’ craving for sugary foods and meat while advertising themselves as a place that capitalized on flavor. The marketing strategy worked, but it also drastically changed the food being served in these restaurants.

It was this fusion of obtuse Western palates and Chinese cuisine that led to dishes like General Tso’s Chicken. A staple of Chinese American food, it was invented in New York around 1973. While it was beloved in the Big Apple, mainland Chinese diners found it too sweet when the inventor tried to open a restaurant there. His shop closed in just months, proof that American tastes changed the cuisine to a point that its originators found it to be unappetizing.

Meanwhile, foods like General Tso’s Chicken exploded in popularity across the US. Fried rice, orange chicken, honey walnut shrimp, and many others became the staples of American Chinese cooking. As mainstream diets started to prefer health, though, the cuisine’s reputation began to change, becoming known for its fat, salt, and heaviness that had been forced upon it through Americanization.

Many who had a racial bias against the Chinatown “slum” neighborhoods, as they would call it, also proliferated the myth of MSG and the “fried rice syndrome.” MSG was actually once hailed for its flavor-boosting properties in the United States, even being sold as a product called Ac’cent. However, a mixture of anti-Communist feelings towards China, a New York Times editorial that connected eating dog and snake meat in Hong Kong to MSG, and letters in medical journals claiming that MSG from Chinese food were causing various symptoms changed all of that. That Aristotlean confluence of events didn’t just stir up hate for MSG — it inherently connected the compound to Chinese and Asian cuisines and built up racism against these communities as well.

It was this exact reputation that made it hard for traditional Chinese cooking to gain national attention. Today, that is finally beginning to change, as segments of Chinese cuisine such as Sichuan food, night market street food and dim sum are becoming more accepted across the U.S. Yes, some use pork belly and other fatty ingredients, but for the most part, all of this cooking is healthy and fresh.

The United States has always been a melting pot of cultures, and while each has gotten its share of whitewashing, the country is finally letting the authenticity of other cultures shine.Thus, ideally the real “clean” American Chinese is not attempting to make allergen-free or low sugar versions of orange chicken and lo mein geared towards wellness. It’s the hot pot, hand-pulled noodles, steamed fish, and other healthy foods folks are finally able to bring over from the mainland and get us to try in their restaurants. That cuisine has long been suppressed by culinary racism and the western palate, but now has the chance to show itself off. As folks who love orange chicken and chop suey learn more about the health benefits and delicious flavors true Chinese cooking has to offer, they’ll hopefully also be open enough to pay the respect and dues this cuisine has long deserved.

Featured Image courtesy of @foodbabyny on Instagram.

Alcohol Restaurants

‘Hammer Chicken’ Is The Signature Dish Of This Showboating Las Vegas Cantonese Restaurant

Founded by entrepreneur Sir David Tang, China Tang is known for bringing traditional Cantonese food into a fine dining atmosphere. The original London restaurant still retains that white tablecloth charm as it serves up signature dishes like Peking duck and whole steamed fishes. Its new Las Vegas location, however, is presenting Tang’s native cuisine in a whole new, millennial-focused light.

Vegas travelers who head to the MGM Grand will find a China Tang quite different from the more buttoned-up model in the UK. Instead, the food, decor, and presentation has been catered more to the younger crowds that flock the Strip in search of raging, casinos, and delicious eats.

china tang

China Tang Vegas’s signature dish, the Hammer Chicken, exemplifies this new approach. This gold mine of social media content is roasted inside of lotus leaves and a clay shell before being wheeled table-side, flambéed, and smashed open.

It’s not just about getting you to snap pics and record video, though, as the taste is just as buzzworthy. Foodbeast’s own Elie Ayrouth, who got to try the Hammer Chicken, said that “it was better with every bite.”

The succulent chicken melds with the umami of mushrooms and pork belly that were stuffed inside, and a rich, savory sauce deepens the flavor of the dish. “It looks simple once out of its wrap and chopped for plating, but the chicken was juicy and the mushrooms just seemed perfect,” Ayrouth added.

Photo courtesy of China Tang/MGM Grand

The cocktails are no stranger to flavor and visual contrast either. You’ll be talking about the Yu’s Garden, a steaming iced tea (yes, you’re reading that right), for weeks to come. Ayrouth was definitely taken by surprise with the tea, saying that that it was cold but served out of a steaming tea pot “totally fucked with my head.”

Another eye-catching beverage is the Tiki Five Spice Drink. Served with a flaming shot inside of a hollowed-out lime, it’s equal parts eye candy and flavor bomb.

Even the decor has been lightly altered to shift to China Tang’s new target audience. The Foodbeast crew happened to be filming while the restaurant was making this transition, and the PR team took painstaking care to ensure that no white tablecloths were caught in any of the footage.

Here’s what that new remodel looks like, according to Ayrouth:

“The place feels grand. The tables are exaggerated, the bar is sturdy and it feels like a homestyle Chinese experience. I like that they’re not doing too much to attract a “younger audience,” it’s all in the subtleties.”

It ensures that everything stays consistent with the new model of upscale, but accessible and inviting to the younger crowds.

With the flames in the food and drink, the inviting atmosphere, and the amazing flavors, China Tang is subtly attractive as a dining spot that doesn’t need hours of dedication or planning. The regional authenticity, the unnecessary yet fun presentations of the food and drink, and the millennial-targeted decor all give China Tang’s high-end reputation a modern makeover.

Is that enough to make it appealing to their new target audience? Ayrouth says yes, because it can be slotted into the busy schedule of a Vegas party crowd and still be memorable enough to go back.

“This is definitely an itinerary spot to me, built out for an evening of friends I know would be down to see shit lit on fire at a table, flavorful chicken and cocktails that will make your head spin,” he says. “I think I’d go small bites and bar sitting on a return visit. Cocktails, the hammer chicken and a few rounds of dim sum — this is definitely a splurge-worthy spot with the friends before hitting the club.”

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Watch Kids Try Authentic Chinese Food For The First Time

Trying food from different cultures can sometimes be a little nerve-racking, so you can imagine what it’s like when kids try to dig into something new or foreign to them.

WatchCut Video tapped into the curiosity of children, and had a group of them try authentic Chinese food.

This wasn’t the Panda Express type of food that a lot of us Americans are used to, as the food was a little more culturally-driven with dim sum and Chinese BBQ.

The kids tried dumplings, barbecue pork, and a few other goodies as they sometimes gave their approval, and sometimes let out a bit of protest.

OK, they freaked out quite a bit, but they at least gave most of the dishes a shot. There’s a lot of adults who wouldn’t be down to stick something in their mouths without knowing what it is, so props to these brave kids.



Chinese Restaurant Trusts Customers to ‘Pay What They Want’ For Food, Plan Completely Backfires


With much faith in the “inherent goodness of human beings,” three entrepreneurs thought it would be a great idea to launch a promotional campaign with a “pay what you want” scheme for their new restaurant. The policy would allow customers to order as much food as they want and then let them just pay whatever they wanted for the meal.

If that doesn’t sound like a good idea at all, then maybe because it simply isn’t.

This restaurant in the Guizhou capital of Guiyang did attract a huge crowd on opening day, however, it failed to make any earnings at all, according to The Paper (via Shanghaiist).

In fact, after seven days of the promo, the karst cave-themed diner managed to lose as much as 100,000 yuan ($14,845).

Owner Liu Xiaojun and her partners apparently did not anticipate how brazen customers can get when given the opportunity. They reportedly presumed that most of the diners would be “rational and fair.”

During the promo, a significant number of customers reportedly paid only 10% of the total cost of their meal. Some even had the gall to pay just 1 yuan ($0.15).


“If our food or service was the problem, then that would be one thing,” said Liu. “But according to customer feedback, our dishes are both filling and tasty. It’s just that the payments don’t match up with the evaluations.”

The failed promotion had a huge impact on Liu’s business partners who ended up arguing just a week from the restaurant’s opening on October 2. One of the partners even decided to just return to his hometown in frustration.

After a week of the huge loss, the restaurant then experienced even more betrayal when none of its original customers who took advantage of the“pay what you want” scheme even came back the day the promo ended.

“It makes sense that people like to eat food and not pay much. I just don’t understand why they haven’t come back since the promotion ended,” Liu said.

Originally posted by Ryan General on Nextshark

Culture Hit-Or-Miss Video

‘Velveting’ May Be The Secret To Cooking Great Chinese Food At Home

If you’ve ever tried to recapture the magic of Chinese food at home, but fell just a tad short from the perfect dish, there might just be a reason for that.

According to GrubStreet, there’s actually a technique most people don’t know about that’s supposed to bring out the best possible flavor in Chinese cooking. No, it’s not MSG.

Called velveting, the technique is said to make the meat in Chinese food soft and tender.

To try this, you’ll need some egg white, cornstarch, and rice wine. Just marinate your meat in the mixture and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes. Then, blanche the meat in boiling water or hot oil for about thirty seconds. Finally, remove from the heat and start cooking your proteins in the way you would before that extra step.

It makes us wonder what other ancient cooking secrets of the world are out there. Our carne asada tacos have been missing that extra ‘umph’ of flavor. And don’t get us started on our sub-par tonkotsu broth.

I’m gonna have to try this velveting technique out over the weekend. For science. Chinese take out really adds up, y’know.