Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dig: Chinese Buffets

Are all-you-can-eat buffets just an American thing? If you go to Italy, do they have buffets? How about Canada? Canada is kind of just an extension of the US, anyway - I bet they have them. Buffets seem pretty American - lots of food that's been taken from another culture and with a focus on bigger, not better. But the thing is that there aren't any American buffets out there. I'm not entirely sure what would be in those stailness steel warming dishes at an American buffet actually (hamburgers? hot dogs? PB&J?) but I do know that there are a zillion Chinese buffets in the US and I dig them!

Buffets are pretty much all about quantity over quality. There aren't too many filet mignon buffets around and you don't see many ads in the yellow pages for a place with a name like The Lobster Trough. I'm not bashing Chinese food, but it must be pretty easy to make in volume and have it still be pretty tasty. Not super-fabulous delicious, but tasty. You know, the kind of food that tastes pretty good sober and tastes even better when you're drunk. The kind of food that you can't make at home for the same amount of money and effort.

Seems like most Chinese bufetts have the same dishes. You have three or four chicken dishes that have been pretty American-ized, a couple of pork dishes and maybe a few seafood dishes. Along with those "entrees", there are usually some rangoons, mushrooms, egg rolls and some potatoes of some kind. And, in case you have come to a Chinese buffet under duress, there is some non-Chinese food like ham or meatloaf or something. Throw in a few dessert items (including a soft-serve ice cream machine), a bunch of those stainless steel warming tables, a few booths and the occasional booster seat and you're good to go.

So, back to quantity over quality. Most of the food is good. Not much of it is excellent. When someone asks you about the place to go for the best food, you probably don't direct them to the Golden Dragon. However, if someone is in a hurry and is looking for some good grub without spending a boat-load of money, the old Dragon is the place to be! I'm guessing that the guy manning the Kingdom Chicken warming tray didn't go to culinary school - in China or anyplace else. But that's OK because you don't need no stinking chef for this place, just crank up the General Tsao's chicken machine and bring in the nice people with their money! The stuff is good enough to eat once a week and, for the time you are in their nice establishment, you can pretty well gorge yourself. God bless China, I mean America!

I'm going to tread a little lightly here so as not to offend, but do you have to be Chinese to work at a Chinese buffet? Whenever I go to one, I don't see too many white-bread folks like myself working there. Is there some discrimination going on that I should know about? And what where they doing prior to working at the buffet? See, that's the thing about opening a buffet of American food. America is a melting pot of people, right? So I couldn't very well just hire white people to work there. I'd have to hire a certain percentage of lots of different nationalities. But if the Chinese buffet is located in the US, then aren't those people Americans? I don't know about you, but this converation is making my head hurt and I don't really want to open that whole racism floodgate....

Kind of a short post today - I apologize. The more I wrote, though, the more I realized that there were quite a few things about Chinese buffets that I don't get so perhaps I should have published this under the Don't Get heading. Maybe I'll go load up on some Sesame Chicken and ponder this topic some more. And, if I need to do, I can go back and help myself to some Orange Chicken for some additional ponderin'!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We have chinese buffets in the UK too... but the menu sounds different, plenty of duck pancakes with hoisin sauce, British chinese favourite.