Confessions Of A Chinese Food Restaurant Worker


How do all the Chinese takeout restaurants have the same menu? Is there some secret “American Chinese food” cookbook that everyone uses?

This is probably because everyone copies the success of another. And as a result, everyone expect all chinese takeout to have the same dishes. Its a cycle.

Every Chinese place near me has the exact same egg rolls. I mean like they look and taste EXACTLY the same. Same thing with a few other dishes like lo mein noodles, sesame chicken, etc. I assume there’s some food supplier in the area that they all get their stuff from. Any thoughts on this / how widespread is this?

There are usually 2-3 competing suppliers for every location, but all those suppliers stock the same products and its just the price that is different. Now to answer your question, there are premade egg rolls and I am sure places order those egg rolls because they don’t want to make their own. However, I am not sure how widespread it is. Even places that dont order the premade egg roll still have to order the veges to put in the egg rolls and that is the same regardless of where you go. And becauses egg rolls are so lightly seasoned and the veges are usually the same, rolls premade or not usually look and taste the same. There are small differences if you pay close attention, but usually people put such an abundance of extra sauce on it that they cant even taste the difference anyways.

How much of typical Chinese food is made from scratch vs made from prepackaged ingredients?

Most chinese food dishes are made from scratch and rarely are they ever prepackaged. the most common thing that is prepackaged are probably dumplings.

Is North American style Chinese cheaper and/or easier to make than something more authentic?

North american Chinese is definitely easier and cheaper to prepare. Most of the prepping can be done in bulk and final product from the precook stages only takes a couple minutes.

Authentic chinese food requires more ingredients and a longer cooking process.

Which do you personally prefer to eat?

I prefer authenic chinese food on a daily basis but I do get cravings for the north american style.

Do you guys cook authentic chinese food for yourselves in the back? Can I request it?

We do cook authentic chinese food for ourselves and we do make it by special request to the customers!

You just have to know the name and how the dish is like and then ask if they know what you are talking about and if they have the ability to make it! Some authentic dishes require a lot of prep so they wont be able to.

Can you recommend some authentic dishes?

One of my favorite authentic dishes is Cantonese lobster!

How often, if at all, do you eat at other Chinese restaurants? Can you just enjoy the food or do you compare/critique it?

I actually eat at other chinese takeouts pretty often when I am out an about.

Its fun trying out different places and comparing them to your own. So I do critique it but it doesnt mean I dont enjoy it when I do.

Most Chinese food places have the stereotype of being unclean. Is there any truth to this? If so, why?

I am not surprised from this stereotype, but it is usually dependent upon the area. I have been two a few places that i felt were not clean, but most are usually sanitary. All stores have health inspectors come by, so they have to meet some sort of standard.

If you live in a nice neighborhood, the store will be clean, if you really want to make sure, just go to the store and ask to use the bathroom.

The reason behind the negative stereotype comes from china. They probably work in a store in china and what worked over there might not work over here. I dont have any personal experience with this so I can not elaborate further.

Is there any way to get on the staff’s good side? I feel like where I go they just want me gone.

That’s a hard one and it depends on the store. I really think the best way is to talk to them, but not about the store. They work in the store 11+ hours a day. Local news or anything interesting

What’s the best seller?

General Tso Chicken and its variations.

What’s the actual way to pronounce Tso? Some people say general so or taos or chows

It’s usually “so’s” or “sao’s.” Please dont try to sound out the “T.”

Ever see “The Search for General Tso”? It’s a documentary all about how and why that dish got to be so popular.

I havent seen it, but I will definitely give it a shot when I have time

What is used for coating the chicken in dishes like general Tso’s?

It’s lightly seasoned wet batter ( water, salt, oil, egg white, flour)

Cooking is 4ish steps:

  1. marinate in he chicken in light seasoning
  2. mix in batter
  3. fry it hot oil to lock on the batter
  4. lower the temp of the oil to fully harden the outside and cook the inside
  5. Stir fry the chicken with the sauce.

I try and try to make Chinese food at home and it’s never as good as the worst Chinese takeout. What’s the secret?

I can guarantee you the main reason is the sauce. The recipes you find online dont use the same ingredients we have in stores. The sauces in restaurants usually mix a variety of seasoning and sauces togethers to achieve the correct taste.

Also the ability to flash cook in a wok makes a big difference believe it or not.

What is in the brown sauce used in egg foo young? I typically get roast pork or shrimp egg foo young on occasion

To be honest, that is probably the hardest sauce in the store to make. So many different ingredients go into that sauce, I actually need my super secret recipe book that was passed to make it.

What is in the lobster sauce?

Its mainly just thicken chicken broth with salt, sugar, msg, white pepper and flowered egg whites.

Is there a dish that is ordered rarely but you think is one of the best on the menu?

Probably mongolian style dishes and actual chow mi fun noodles (rice noodles)

What is the number one thing you would never order from a Chinese take-out restaurant?

Probably french fries if they offer it. We dont but i know some places that do.

Does your place proudly proclaim “no msg” like some I’ve seen? Because I want the damn msg! It took me some serious searching in my town to find a bag, and it was in the Asian aisle of the restraunt supply store. A little bit on meat does miraculous things.

Dont believe the places that say no MSG. Cause their food will have it regardless. Even if they dont add additional MSG, the sauces will have it.

Two local stores have kids that are always playing around inside, and they are there so much I have literally watched them grow up to some extent. Did you have this same experience? If so, how would you describe being there so often?

I know exaclty what you are talking about. I am one of those type of kids! The restaurant is a love hate relationship! Its great because it keeps your family so close together, but at the same time it keeps them far apart because they are working 24/7. However, it is a unique eperience, you learn about tons of different people and personalities. you also learn about the value of money and work ethics!

My local Chinese take out place puts a guy that can barely speak English on the phone but a fluent guy delivers the food, can you explain the thinking behind this?

There can be quite a few reasons. but the main reason is probably the driver doesn’t work in the restaurant and is just hired to deliver food.

What’s the worst client you had to deal with?

One of the most common sayings you hear in the food service industry is that “The customer is always right.” I wish you didnt have to follow this rule, but no matter how much you hate it, there is a reason for it.

Because of this mindset, you get these customer sometimes that believe they can do whatever they want.

One time, this individual comes in with an already eaten dish. I mean like, the dish was already almost done; only a couple pieces of veges left on the plate. he claims that the dish is not what he order and ask for a refund and starts throwing a fit while there were tons of other people around. he throws the food on the ground and then leaves. We end up with a mess and dead silent waiting room. What an asshole

Are you offended if someone doesn’t tip for take out? I tip most times but sometimes I think it’s unnecessary.

Never! No one should be forced to tip. If you like us or the food then tip if you want, but dont tip because you think you have to! I would never go to a place that forces people to tip, especially take out!

How does it feel to know that Chinese restaurants have, over the decades, become so ingrained in North American culture that it’s almost not even seen as “foreign food”?

To be honest, I would consider American Chinese food American food! There is a vast difference between the this and authentic. It’s actually quite humbling the American society was so welcoming to the food!

What’s your life outside the restaurant like? Do you have a lot of free time to yourself?

I am actually a college graduate looking for higher education right now. So I do that in my free time.

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