PANDA…YOU HAVE BETRAYED ME.
Revelations at Yunnan Garden Chinese Restaurant
My favorite Chinese restaurant is Panda Express. MMMM love that beef with broccoli. But when the Chinese food enthusiast and famous political scientist,Howard Rosenthal, and his wife Margherita invited us out for Chinese, I figured a strip mall chain store with plastic trays was probably not their venue of choice. I was right.
We met for dinner at the Yunnan Garden in the Chinese district of San Gabriel. Chris, my boyfriend had discussed political sciency things with Howard all afternoon while I spent the day taking care of business regarding the semi truck I had decided to smash into on the 101 the night before.
Turns out you can live through crashing your driver’s side door into a truck’s rear wheels, spinning yourself across the freeway and slamming into a wall. Doesn’t leave you with much of an appetite though, which turned out well in this case.
I was pleased to see that the decor at Yunnan Garden was as colorful as a Panda Express, though some of the decorations seemed to be left over from Christmas.
They also had a display case where you could see the food you wanted to order (so i guess Panda got that part right!)
Reading the English side of the menu, however, I made the shocking discovery that BEEF WITH BROCCOLI and ORANGE CHICKEN are not included on an authentic Chinese menu. WHAT?!?! Panda…how could you?
Instead, other intriguing delicacies are offered such as Boiled Chicken Feet and Seasoned Pig Ear. Howard ordered us some of those to start.
For our main courses we shared a duck dish that was so gum-numbingly spicy that it could be used as an oral surgeon’s anesthetic, a beef and tofu combo dish (for the dietarily confused omnivore), a crab dish minus any utensils besides your fingernails to get at the shelled meat, and some relatively benign noodles mixed with an unidentified protein source.
I sat back and admired Margherita and Howard’s adventurous munching. Chris also took the plunge, gnawing on chicken feet like corn on the cob and sweating through his shirt while devouring the fire infused duck.
I put a few animal parts on my plate for show, but eventually stuck to the noodles, and rice covered on soy sauce. My stubborn taste buds refused to budge even when I promised them a gelato reward afterwards.
And in this way, I discovered Panda Express’s deception. After years of eating faux-Chinese, my childish taste buds are narrow minded and easily nauseated. In theory, I should be severely disappointed with Panda’s lack of authenticity.
Shouldn’t it be “Kung Pau Chicken’s Feet” and “Beef with Pigs Ear?” I should boycott…but I know I won’t. My blunt American taste buds will continue to crave those boneless white meet chucks, deep fried by hard working employees from Mexico and covered in a sweet orange glaze.
I urge you to take the higher road. Visit Yunnan Garden in San Gabriel and give your taste buds the gift of authentic Chinese food…before it’s too late.
545 West Las Tunas Drive,
San Gabriel, CA 91776-1134