How to Chinese Food

I don't know how, or exactly why, but I've noticed that chinese food has been getting very complicated. Part of that, I'm sure, is just having children who are constantly redefining what it is they like and don't like. There is a crazy new fight between my son and I about who is the person responsible for picking the cabbage slices out of the chow mein. I will win that particular fight, but not without a metric ton of screaming and crying and name calling and a possible restraining order.

Menus have gotten a little out of hand as well.

There are lunch deals and dinner deals, two items from Column A but only one item from Column B. There is a little picture of a pepper if the item is hot, a picture of broccoli if it's vegetarian, and a picture monk setting himself on fire if the item is gluten free.

There is also brown rice to choose from.

I have an opinion on that.

If you want to eat brown rice then please go hate yourself somewhere where there aren't so many sharp things to poke you in the face with.

There are also varying degrees of restaurants to choose from. There are the fast food places with zippy lines and styrofoam bowls. There are the upper scale fusion places where the wait staff makes your sauce right there at the table, and then there are the mom and pop shops from my childhood memories. I failed to mention the mongolian barbecue places because, although I have had some tasty meals at those places, I've never been a fan of paying to load my own plate. If I'm gonna go out, I'm gonna go out.

The fast foot places are great for lunch and for a quick grab when your running late. Easy menu, crunchy egg rolls, and hot mustard in packets.

The upscale places have been kinda terrible lately (everyone's cutting costs) and the food has that freshly microwaved gloppy texture to it. If you want the fresh stuff  and the best service, my advice is to hit those places right before 5:00pm on a Friday. The evening crew is just getting in and getting situated the food is fresh off the burner and the beer you ordered arrives before desert.

That's advice for all restauranting, not just the hoity toity chinese food places.

That leaves the Mom and Pop places.

Or as I like to call them "Hit or MISS!"

My mom's got a good rule to weed out the misses. Check the chicken. If it's pressed (like the stuff in a chicken nugget) then stay away.

Joann always goes by the quality of the chow mein. Leave it to an italian to judge a chinese food place by it's noodles.

I usually go by the quantity of filler (celery and cabbage) and the crispness of the broccoli in the beef and broccoli dish.

Finding a good chinese food place can be as complicated as picking out wine or finding a good mechanic.

Rule One for how to Chinese Food:
Ask a friend. Avoid Yelp! and any online rating social network. Those communities are made up of douche bags and compulsive liars and marketing directors. Friends will usually not let you down, unless you were unclear on what you were looking for or it has been more than a year since they went to a particular place. Changes in management/recipes happen all the time. If your friend's information is out of date, it's a coin toss.

Coin Toss. Flip a coin for the nearest shops and work your way out in concentric circles. Never forget, never surrender.

Other things to look for is a good distribution of lazy susans, a lot of old people (they know what's up), and place mats with the chinese zodiac signs. Without those placemats how are you ever going to know if your dragon is compatible with you wife's rat (they are), and find that geeky kid that was born in January and likes to make a big deal of the fact that his year is off?

Once you have found the place. Make it your place. Put it as a contact in your phone and mark your territory with unacceptable amounts of urine.

Pro Tip: Because Chinese Food is like the ultimate "I don't feel like cooking food." Make sure that you find an acceptable place between your office and your home. If you work from home, then you just need to find a place between your wife's office and your home.

Rule Two:
Learn to chopistick. You yutz. There are many YouTube videos for this and yes, it does in fact make you look like a provincial if you use a fork.

Rule Three:
Know your dish. Like I said, Joann's is chow mein, mine is beef and brocolli, every place has a version of those two things and knowing exactly what you want makes rule four that much easier to abide by.

Rule Four:
When ordering in a group, pick the leader. The leader is resposible for gathering the orders and communicating them to the waitstaff. Each person gets to choose one dish, plus an order of fried rice, an order of chow mein and one egg roll per person unless you're eating with Joann and then make sure that there is at least two egg rolls for her. Know your dish, but feel free to get adventurous if something catches your eye or someone else in your party has already chosen beef and broccoli. If you do not pick a leader, or if you don't know what you want, chaos will ensue and god won't help you.

Rule Five:
The clear stuff is vinegar, the brown stuff is soy sauce. Use both sparingly, and tap, don't shake.

Rules Six through Eighteen: The Left Overs.

There will be left overs. Oh yes, there will be left overs. Beautiful, bountiful, left overs.

Left overs always go to the poorest nation.

College students first, parents with infant children, parents with college students, single people and finally grand parents.

If you are selected as the poorest nation, you have one obligation and one obligation only. To eat all the leftovers. You have two days, so tuck in. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snacks for 48 hours. Failure to meet this obligation sends you to the back of the line.

Pro Tip: Keep the left-overs on the top shelf in front of everything else. The second they get pushed back behind something, they will be forgotten until Thanksgiving.

If, like me, your family is unable to eat the same food in consecutive fortnights, then you got to take it on solo. Sorry dude, thems the breaks.

Reheating left-overs: Single bowl microwave method (Only sanctioned method)
Noodles first, gooey stuff in the middle, rice on top. 1:45 on high, stir, repeat. Let sit in microwave for a few minutes so the bowl can heat up food. I don't know how the bowl gets so hot when the food stays cold, but then I don't understand wine coolers either. 

On a plate, food stuff seperated, = crazy.

In the paper box with the metal handle removed. = Insanity.

Cold, right out of the fridge = Zen Master.

Pro Tip: If Joann hasn't eaten all the egg rolls, then reheat them in a toaster oven. She taught me that and I don't think she has ever been more right about anything.

You are allowed to add any sauce you want (Tabasco, Sriraccha, and spicy mustard are my faves, but if ranch dressing is your thing, well . . . go on girl, those arteries aren't gonna clog themselves.)

If you live with other people, there is no sin greater than eating all the good stuff and leaving a paper box filled with cabbage and bok choy. (Looking right at you Taylor)

Punishments for such a sin can and will include a removal of car privileges and I swear to god if you do it again I will replace your toothpaste with denture cream.

Once the 48 hours is up, throw it all away regardless of your fortitudinal failures. It won't ever get eaten at that point and will only grow hair.

Better luck next time.

Other Rules of note: It is only acceptable to tweet your fortune cookie results if you are a virgin, same applies to making jokes about how hungry you'll be in thirty minutes.

Also, never, don't ever, purchase a chinese cookbook. It will cost you three hundred dollars worth of ingrediants you will never use again for anything and you really don't want to know what that spongy slimey stuff in the Hot and Sour Soup is. You really, really don't.

(It's Tofu, and doesn't sound scary, but wait until you see how it's packaged.)

As with all other things, good night and don't order the brown rice.

You've been warned.

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