Many of you have heard me rant about the lack of quality Chinese-style food near my apartment. There were a large number of great establishments which could be found in downtown and uptown when I worked down there. There was also Dragon Pearl out in Hudson where I used to live. Once in a while I really get in the mood for some good ol’ Chinese food. I’m no connoisseur; but I don’t want something as “Americanized” as Leeann Chin or the buffets which serve jello and some strawberry/banana concoction right next to the chicken fried rice.
As an example of my pain, I submit to you a picture I snapped of the top of a freshly opened container of chow mein from a local establishment. NOTICE THE SQUARE STRIPS OF CHICKEN Where do they get such perfectly formed strips of chicken?
Judging from the consistency of the pieces (and the little air bubbles in the chicken-like substance itself) I suspect they puree the chicken in some central factory and then pour it into molds. From there the molds, filled with gelatinous chicken, are cooked at a temperature which would kill any harmful bacteria. After removing the now cooked chicken from the molds, it is weighed, bagged, and then distributed to area Chinese-style restaurants. Because it uses all the icky parts of the chicken (the stuff that’s one grade above hot dog filling) they can get it really cheap and they don’t have to worry about all the mess from dealing with live (or still-in-one-piece) chickens.
Similar mass-produced ingredients such as sweet n’ sour sauce, fried rice, egg rolls, etc. are handled in much the same way. (You think it just happens that all of these restaurants make their eggrolls the exact same way, perfect in shape and filling every time?)