Official Guide: The Art of the Cheap Chinese Takeout Feast

China City, Bushwick.

We all do our best to “eat healthy.” It can be rewarding. But if we do not consume something salty, meaty, and potentially filled with MSG every now and then, we’re unhappy. Local Chinese takeout usually will do the trick and seems like a great idea when I’m tired and won’t cook (every night); and yet, in the end, I don’t order it because:

  1. You get so much Chinese food when you order Chinese food! If you’re like me and have no self control you eat everything in front of you and feel like crap afterwards.
  2.  Regarding point one, if you’re alone, you only get to order one thing because there’s so much of it and that’s boring. Two entrees could feed an entire family, and I don’t have an entire family, so instead I gorge on one dish of sweet and sour chicken and end up stuffed and sad.
  3. I know what you’re thinking: Order two things and eat leftovers! But Chinese food doesn’t taste good as leftovers. Above all, rice—integral to your meal—does not.

So what does a person with a need for a varied, salty, satisfying Chinese dinner do? A wise friend not long ago let me in on her secret: How to eat a lot of Chinese food, spend almost zero dollars, and not feel like crap afterward—The Art of The Cheap Chinese Feast. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Bring a friend. None of the following works if you’re alone. Stop being tired and solitary, call a bud, and get Chinese food.
  2. Don’t go to just any local Chinese take out, go to the best local Chinese takeout. Here’s how you find it. Go to your favorite bar that allows takeout and find out what Chinese place delivers to that bar most often. That’s gonna be the one! Because locals know best. In this case, the bar was SKYTOWN at 921 Broadway in Bushwick, and the Chinese restaurant was China City, just across the street.
  3. You’ve arrived! Heres what you do: Order three things—a veggie dish, a meat dish, and a side. That’s so much variety. Plus, it’s still cheap and it’s more than you need—not an absurd amount, just a nice filling portion. You would never indulge in such variety alone. Here’s what we went for: Veggie Lo Mein, Beef with Broccoli, an Egg Roll. Grand total: $10.75. After spending $5.50 a pop, feel rich af.
  4. Leave. If there’s anything more depressing than eating too much of a one-note Chinese dinner at home by yourself, it’s eating it on-site. Overhead fluorescents are a buzz kill.
  5. Pick up a six-pack of PBR, which will cost you less than one dollar per can. Every cheap Chinese meal needs a cheap beer compliment. (If you go for cans, you can crush them like champions afterward.)
  6.  Select the best apartment for eating, drinking, and watching something on the Internet. My friend just moved, so we went to my place.
  7. Eat. Here’s how: Serve yourself like one third of each entree and half the egg roll (or other side). That’s a lot of food but you still end up eating less than if alone (only 2/3 of one entree versus one whole boring one), and you have more fun because you’re hanging out with your friend.
  8. Pour YI PIN sauce all over it. Not too sweet, not too hot, made in BK, mysterious weirdly colored ingredients—perfect.

    Only five calories, made in BK.

  9. Take time to admire the beauty around you. Look at that egg roll wrapper! It is sealed with a delicate Chinese flute-playing woman floating on a leaf cloud. Gorgeous. Also, made locally (ish) by KARI-OUT in White Plains.
  10.  If there are leftovers, don’t eat them cold in bed the next night. Not that that would happen. I’m just saying, you’ll ruin all the good you just accomplished and suddenly feel very differently about the best hot sticky rice you’ve ever had (it was the best!), which is now like chilled cardboard.

Congratulations, you have consumed a Chinese feast, you’ve socialized, you still have some money left, and you don’t feel ill. Pass this guide on to your children, and ensure that New Yorkers for generations to come will conquer reasonable takeout cravings like the wise eaters they are.

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