Around three years ago, I did an AMA on here. A lot has changed in the past few years. New questions or old questions, ask me anything. I have a few interesting thoughts and topics in mind; I hope someone asks about it! ^_^
About me: I am the son of Chinese immigrants who came to the US with nothing, but their clothes on their back. They worked their way up to owning a typical Chinese food takeout restaurant and I have worked in and out of the restaurant my whole life.
Again feel free to ask anything. I will answer the ones I can.
For some shameless self advertising, I have attached links to recently started Twitter and Instagram.
They are for personal use, but feel free to reach out on any platform to ask questions any time.
Edit 1 9:34 PM EST: I feel under the weather, nauseous and feverish. Feel free to keep asking questions, I will answer them when I’m back.
What is the quality of the produce used for meals?
Ah, the first question!
This is highly dependent upon the restaurant you go to.
As for my own, we use fresh ingredients in almost everything. However we do use a couple canned vegetables that cannot be obtained fresh.
Many people don't know this, but some canned vegetables actually taste better than the fresh version!
Any tips to spot a bad Chinese place from a good one? And are there any things that customers should do that’ll make the staff happy or make the customer a bit more likeable?
Assuming you are talking about the taste of the food, you should try going to the restaurant around Friday evenings. If it's busy, they must have someone that is worthwhile on the menu.
The best thing you can do is just go the the restaurant when it isn't busy and get to know the workers and owners. The key is to go when it isn't busy.
When I was young i had 3 Chinese classmates and all their parents owned a Chinese restaurant. I always hung out with one kid at his restaurant and there would ALWAYS be something racist happening since they were neighbors with a bar where people would get drunk. Things like pissing against their store, prank calling, making fun of their accent (she couldnt pronounce the R), not taking them seriously, saying ni hao mockingly. This got a bit less as soon as they got more repeat loyal customers and when they changed their restaurant from a Chinese one to a Japanese/sushi one. Btw, their sushi was fire and the best Japanese food I have ever eaten, funny since both of them are Chinese and just taught it when the Chinese food was failing.
Have you also experienced these things? And do you feel like racism towards Asians, especially Chinese, is more normalized?
It’s always sad to hear such things like racism.
Fortunately, based on what you described, we did not have as many issues on that front. I experienced more racism in school than I did at work.
P.S. Many Chinese restaurant owners transitioned to owning Japanese sushi restaurant because it’s more profitable and easier work!
When it comes to Chinese food you always hear cat jokes, how do you feel about them? Are they as funny as the people telling them think they are or do you find them offensive?
Honestly, I use to find them highly offensive years back. We use to get prank call about them around 10 or so years ago.
Societal norms have progress so much that these types of jokes rarely happen anymore. As such, I do really take not of them. I still don't find them funny though.
How much do you care about the message made by 2nd-gen Asian immigrants celebrity chefs? Like Eddie Huang or Dave Chang? How does their experience resonate with you. Does their popularity trickle down to average people's attitude towards Chinese takeout restaurant?
We are sort of in completely different industries. It's not something I pay attention to.
What’s the best resource for legit recipes? I live in a place without good Chinese takeout and I miss it so much, but it is hard to find good recipes for making things myself.
I have checked out online recipes in a while. Recipes that you find online are usually quite different than the ones use in restaurants. This is due to the cooking process.
I tend to feel both great respect and regret for people in your situation (around here, it's mostly people with Turkish roots running Döner shops): while I admire the discipline needed to create, run and keep a business, no matter how small, I feel that living for your own eatery takes so many opportunities for traveling and understanding your hist country away. How can you really grasp a new country if you have to work long hours and can never take, let's say 4 weeks off in one go? (side note: that's from a German perspective where typically, people have 28 to 30 holidays a year -- adjust as needed for your own area).
OP, do you regret being "nailed to your business"?
This was definitely something that annoyed me growing up, but society is changing. There are opportunities down the line to train someone to run the store for you while you are gone.
It sucks early, but life still goes on.
Did your parents move to the US, specifically with the goal to open a restaurant as a business and had support from the community in the US to do so? I'm super curious about this because when my family moved to LA we knew exactly 0 people, but my stepdad had the financial and business support of his Korean church community when he emigrated.
There are these “special” immigration groups that help people get into America and then place them in restaurant to work. But that’s all the help you will get. From there you have to work as the janitor all the way up. How far you get depends on how hard you work and save.
Do you serve any of your childhood favorite meals? If so, what dish is it and why is it so yummy to you? Chinese food is really good and I'm wondering how authentic the average Chinese restaurant serves authentic dishes versus dishes similar to Panda express [which are still yummy!].
Unfortunately, we do not serve any authentic Chinese food. However, I still have favorite meals such as orange beef, Mongolian beef and home style tofu. To me, those dishes are perfectly balanced and go extremely well with rice.
The basic takeout restaurant can’t be compared authentic Chinese food. It’s very different.
What are some of the pros or cons of working at a chinese reataurant? Doesnt seem like a fun job, but could be wrong?
Pros: customers, free food, financial safety Cons: long hours, hard labor
What region of Chinese food are your recipes from? I've been living in China for nearly 20 years, went to almost every region, and nowhere did I find anything like what is served as Chinese food in France (no idea for USA but I expect it's the same...)
You won’t find the food we serve in the restaurant in China. Americanized Chinese food is very different from authentic Chinese food
What's the shops name and do you get to eat the food you make? :0
Yes, I actually enjoy the restaurant food
What is your pov on chopstick use or rather lack there of? I know people feel elitist or maybe disrespected when someone goes to a Chinese place and uses a fork? Idk but it feels wrong to eat at a Chinese place and use a fork but yet again I don't wanna look like a toddler.
It doesn't matter how you eat your food. What matter's is the feel and taste. If there is a neurological phenomenon that makes chinese food taste better with a chopstick, go for it. Don't let other people impact your choice. In the end, its all going to the same place.
Fork, spoon, chopstick, hands, feets. Doesn't matter
What dish would you recommend to someone looking for something healthy (not battered and fried, not covered in a sugary sauce, not high in sodium, has veggies)?
With those restrictions you are really limiting choices that have a lot flavor.
If you came into my restaurant, I would probably just make something special. Maybe like a steam vegetable dish with house seasoning.
How do Chinese restaurants manage to have menus with hundreds of options, and manage to make food so quickly, when most other restaurants only have a couple dozen at the most. Is a lot of food pre-prepared and wasted if people don't order it?
The key here is that they are all mostly combinations of the base ingredients.
It's always some combination of protein, vegetables and sauce.
What was the craziest customer that you or your parents dealt with?
In the recent years, there are less crazy situations.
If I had to choose a general situation that happens a couple times, it would be customers who would consume the entire dish and then claimed it was bad and ask for a refund.
Why do you think some Chinese restaurants stop selling duck?
Duck is time consuming to prepare and expensive.
It’s a little more on the exotic end and as a result less people order it.
What ingredients give takeout such a distinct flavor? I usually get General Tso Chicken, pepper steak or garlic broccoli. I can't make it at home, and all online recipes are also from people who don't know what they are doing. As a result, all my dishes end up tasting like teriyaki, with sugar, soy sauce and garlic. Even the worst takeout spot still has those ingredients in the food I can't identify!
Many recipes online include all the ingredients, but just in different proportions. Remember that you are the boss of your own kitchen and you don’t need to follow recipes exactly. Feel free to experiment and adjust to your taste.
I think a more important difference that affects the taste of the food is the cooking process. The high BTU woks add so much flavor.
What is the one menu item that people should avoid ordering, be it for quality or taste?
Is this restaurant specific?
I'm wary of restaurants that specialize in one region and suddenly adds another region's dish. Example: I'll never order a szechuan item from a Cantonese place. Am I being too close-minded? I once got mushu pancakes that were flour tortillas, so that started it.
For a typical chinese take out, I don't think it matters.
However, if it's for more traditional Chinese food, then its definitely a consideration. I always like giving the place a shot before completely ruling it out.
Flour tortillas for mushu pancakes is just wrong though...
Which dish or dishes would be a better judge of a place's quality?
Try their shrimp dishes for freshness and size. Good restaurant will use decently size shrimp.
Chicken dishes for tenderness and quality. Good restaurant will have extraordinarily tender slices of meat that you cant even imagine was possible.
For authentic Chinese, what is your favorite region?
I honestly like them all. Each place has their own unique specialty.
I don't like playing favorites because you end forming biases before you even try the food.
Have you ever asked your parents if they "Americanized" some of their traditional recipes? I have always heard that the Chinese food we have here is nothing like the authentic stuff!
I can safely say they havent. The food on an Americanized menus is like its own cuisine.
What are some customer stereotypes that you develop while working in the industry?
Stereotypes is usually a controversial topic and I don't think I will answer this one.
Have you ever had the chance to go back to china to re-explore Asian cuisine?
It's been a really long time and its something on my bucket list at this point.
What was the biggest health code violation you saw and kept it to yourself?
Health and safety is a big deal and not something restaurant owner overlook.
The biggest violation would be not labeling or covering ingredients all the time. When it gets busy, there just isn’t time to do it.
What's the best vegetarian Chinese dish you could recommend?
For americanized chinese food, I really enjoy Tofu in a garlic sauce.
Have you ever tried eating Indian-Chinese?
I can’t say I have. I love Chinese food and I love Indian food.
Why do I always have to evacuate my bowels 45 minutes after eating at any Panda Express?
Why do you eat at Panda express?
Can you be more specific. Ajinomoto from my memory is a fairly large Japanese company?
What are the most typical foods that kids order?
General Tso Chicken, Chicken fingers, Chicken wings and lo mein