Friday, August 03, 2012

China West Express - Tustin

Have you read The Fortune Cookie Chronicles yet? I thought about Jennifer 8. Lee's inquisitive book on the history of Chinese food in America when, for the first time in my life, I phoned in for Chinese delivery. There was a whole chapter on this very act, how it came to be and a few sordid stories behind it; and another one on the dish that I would order, Orange Chicken, which is a variant of General Tso's chicken, an entree that no one in General Tso's hometown in China have ever heard of; and of course, when the cheerful delivery woman came in a compact car with her kid in the passenger seat, she made sure the food came with a few fortune cookies, which as you may have already heard, were actually invented by the Japanese.

As far as the meal goes, you don't need to be told how it was. It shares the same DNA strands of every American Chinese food from here to Peoria--the same dependable and delicious, cornstarch-laden, steam tray staples you see from food court to food court. The only difference here is that China West makes the dishes to order, and yes, delivers them when your total is over $12.

Like the people on TV, we ate our still piping hot food in front of the TV, hunched around the coffee table rather than the dining room, scooping the rice from those pagoda boxes, dousing it in the excess of brown gravy from the Sha Cha Chicken, which was a mushroom, spinach and white meat chicken stir fry with a touch of satay sauce that tasted eerily similar to the sauce that coated the beef and broccoli.

And the Orange Chicken was as it always is--sweet, tangy, faintly crispy, shellacked in a syrupy goo, but with a few dried chili pepper pods that I gobbled up like Cheetos. Orange Chicken, like General Tso's, is, as Ms. Lee said, a favorite of Americans for obvious reasons--"he is fried, he is sweet and he is chicken--all things that Americans love." If you should find a few stalks of broccoli in there, consider it garnish and not a significant part of the meal...and thank want every inch of that plastic delivery tub to be occupied by chicken.

Here's a video that gives you a summary of the stories and ideas told in Fortune Cookie Chronicles.

But seriously: you should get this book, or borrow it. While you're at it, you should also read Gustavo Arellano's recently published Taco U.S.A. I have them side by side on my bookshelf--both essential tales about two of the tastiest cultures to influence this one. Speaking of which are there any good taquerias around here that deliver?

China West Express
17292 McFadden Ave. Ste E
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 544-2222

Lola Gaspar - Santa Ana


At 2:05 PM, Anonymous amourra said...

looks good. is their orange chicken prepare with white meat also?

At 11:33 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

You know what? It was fried in a way that I couldn't really much tell if it was white or dark. I'm guessing white, because everything else they make used white meat.

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Delta Boy said...

Hi Mister Elmo! It's been awhile since I've last perused your wonderful food blog! I see that you've been just as active as before!

Have you been to Mexicazn in Fullerton yet? It's fusion Mexican/Asian(Korean mostly) but I think well worth checking out. It's a relatively modest place but I think makes up by the wonderful quality of dishes that they've turn out. It's just down the street from Fullerton College on Chapman. I've been there twice and have been pleasantly surprise with how tasty the dishes are (had the Korean BBQ burrito bowl & Kimchi Taco plate with taco salad).
Happy eating and continue your great blog!


At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elmo, you actually eat the dried chili pods like Cheetos?

At 9:14 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Delta Boy,

Welcome back! And I had no idea that MexicaZn existed. Sounds like a Kogi-inspired brick-and-mortar. Good thing too; I'm tired of following Kogi's Twitter feed!


You betcha I did!

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Ray said...

Great find, that orange chicken and the Korean quesadilla looks delicious! Will have to stop by these places once school starts!

At 2:32 AM, Anonymous Brekkie fan said...

Loved rewatching the Jennifer 8 post!

At 12:04 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Hope you like 'em. Remember: this is typical take out Chinese. Better than Panda, but still take out Chinese!


I can watch her presentation over and over!

At 2:35 PM, Blogger KirkK said...

Strange thing Elmo...the still of the Jennifer Lee video looks like she's giving me the finger.... ;o)

At 4:15 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

You know what, I was waiting for someone to notice that! I noticed it too and said, "Uh oh...that's an unfortunate freeze frame."


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