How can I improve my (East Coast) Chinese take-out?
April 10, 2010 5:17 PM   Subscribe

How can I improve my (East Coast) Chinese take-out?

Chinese to-go is good, but I want to make it great. Really good Chinese restaurants are too expensive, and my wokking skills are still ...progressing. As a novice cook, how can I make common take-out menu recipes better? Noodles, platters, dumplings - all of it. Does everyone out there just eat it out of the box? Or do you give it a little extra before it goes in your mouth? Soy/duck sauce packets don't count; I'm abusing those already.
posted by sshelato to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Having a bottle of Hoisin sauce for dipping spring rolls and adding to pork dishes is good.
posted by rancidchickn at 5:21 PM on April 10, 2010

Just get a bottle of really good soy sauce. I like San-J tamari. It works wonders.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:43 PM on April 10, 2010

make your own! wok skillz or no...

my standard recipe:

fresh green beans, steamed
oil (i use vegetable, peanut, and chili)
diced onion (or what ever onion shape you like in your stirfry)
broccoli (i use a couple of cups)
bell pepper
and my sauce is 1/4 cup soy, tablespoon black bean paste, 1/2 tablespoon hoisin, 2 or 3 gloves of garlic, couple squirts of sriracha

add whatever protein you like and whatever other veggies you like.

we've just started using bean sprouts. sometimes i crack a couple eggs in it. sometimes i use noodles instead of rice.
posted by nadawi at 6:44 PM on April 10, 2010

oh, and probably 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water, as needed. use cornstarch if it gets too liquidy...
posted by nadawi at 6:45 PM on April 10, 2010

Really good Chinese restaurants are too expensive

what? where on the east coast are you? pretty much everywhere in new york, really good real chinese restaurants (as in they serve real chinese food) cost just as much as the hole-in-the-wall american chinese places that primarily do take out and sell fried chicken and french fries? i've taken big groups of friends for amazing feasts in manhattan that involve many dishes, including duck, without anyone having to pay more than $13, tip included.
posted by lia at 7:55 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Lia, care to name a few of these amazing Chinese places?
posted by d. z. wang at 11:46 PM on April 10, 2010

Excellent Dumpling House! (111 Lafayette. They do have excellent dumplings, and lots of other stuff.)
posted by whatzit at 12:16 AM on April 11, 2010

Beyond soy/duck sauce packets, there's also hot mustard. I used to put it on orange/sesame chicken. Rather than the 1-dimensional sweetness of those recipes, mustard gets you maybe 1.75 dimensions, a little more interesting. At dim sum I use hot mustard pretty liberally too.
posted by xueexueg at 5:02 AM on April 11, 2010

XO Kitchen. 148 Hester. Cheap and deelicious.
posted by ooklala at 7:03 AM on April 11, 2010

d.z. wang: in manhattan, grand sichuan on st mark's, or congee village on delancey/allen are great for big groups, super cheap and very delicious. most of their clients are chinese, despite the former being on super touristy st mark's and the latter being outside chinatown proper. my current addiction is the new branch of xi'an famous foods, which is not just a hole-in-the-wall but also underneath a bridge—all of their dishes are regional chinese food, most are $5 and only two cost more than $5.50. there is zero reason to eat bad chinese food in new york unless you actually want to, when good cheap chinese food is so easily available. robert sietsema of the village voice does a great job of ferreting out good cheap ethnic eats in manhattan and the outer boroughs.
posted by lia at 2:12 PM on April 11, 2010

You might want to tell them that you don't want your food sweet. Maybe even say you are diabetic or something. Authentic Chinese food is much, much less sweet than what is served in typical take-out places here.

Many Chinese dishes are finished with a drizzle of sesame oil after cooking, so you might want to put some fresh sesame oil on just before you eat. Definitely keep sriracha on hand. It makes everything better!

If you have fresh chives you could put them in, might liven up the flavor.
posted by imalaowai at 1:46 AM on April 14, 2010

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