Food That Is Better Than the Orange Chicken:
The item that stands out above all at Panda Express is actually from Japan. The teriyaki chicken thighs sit in a silver warming tray like the other food, but behind it, there is a cutting board and a cleaver, and the chicken is actually chopped right there. Then sauce is added before it hits your plate. That little tweak in the preparation keeps the chicken moist, and the fact that it isn’t sitting, drowning in teriyaki sauce the entire time, makes it actually quite excellent. My mom’s take: “Ooohh, I want to learn how to make this at home.”
The Beijing Beef was also very good, with a crispy texture, sweet and sour flavors, and acid from the onions to keep balance. So was the Kung Pao Chicken, which had some serious spice and a solid combination of peanuts and not-overcooked vegetables. My mom’s take: “Kevin, you know I’m not eating the spicy stuff. You should’ve told me that was spicy. Don’t laugh, that wasn’t nice. I’m getting more tea.”
Finally, from the appetizer menu, the chicken egg roll was satisfying and its crispy wonton wrapper was shockingly not incredibly greasy. Eating it made me feel nostalgic for my middle school days when my friends and I would all get the $8 lunch special plate at the pretty bad Chinese place in my suburban Boston town’s center, then bring the egg rolls that came with said plate to eat on the walk to Sam Goody to peruse Stone Temple Pilots cassette tapes. Also, I am old.