Ton-Ton's Journey: Vancouver 2007 will continue on Monday, December 10, 2007.)
(Back by popular demand.)
Since I've received a few emails from readers who can't wait until Monday to see Ton-Ton, here's a shot of him working on this post with me.
(New Panda Chinese Food. I like the name.)
What is it about steam table Chinese take out places that keeps calling us back? It's certainly not the food, which at its best only manages to be decent. It's not the ambience, unless you frequently pine for that special cafeteria experience only found in college dorms. No, I think the answer is far more basic.
(Clean tables, cute staff, and blue collar customers.)
There's a part of each of us that craves three basic food elements; meat, starch, and grease. Normally we keep it buried, embarrassed to let it out while we count calories, choose grilled foods over fried, hunt for carb-free options, cut out cholesterol, and generally make ourselves miserable in the pursuit of healthier and more productive lives. It stirs fitfully as we debate the merits of organic vs. local, growls when we can't decide between artificial and natural sweeteners, and rages over every Pinkberry lunch.
(Chow Mein, Pepper Chicken, and Teriyaki Chicken. Taste the authentic inauthenticity!)
Eventually, something has to give. We find ourselves stepping under the forgiving florescent lights of our favorite nutritional flophouse. That place we swear we'll never eat at again every time we drive by it. The type of joint we turn our oh-so-sophisticated noses up at. We'd never admit to liking it. Not with our refined palates and designer diets. If any of our friends told us about it, we'd stare at them in genuine horror and launch into a sincere lecture about the dangers cholesterol, carbs, and saturated fats.
(New Panda's Curry Chicken. With a bowl of rice, this is some seriously good stuff.)
Yet, a curious sense of freedom overtakes us as we contemplate each glistening vat of greasy goodness steaming merrily away behind its sneeze guard. After all, we've been good, haven't we? Don't we deserve a little break? It's not like we're eating at McKing's Jack-in-the-Bell Jr. Thanks to Fast Food Nation, we all know better than that. This is better, isn't it? I mean, you have to use utensils here.
(BBQ Pork Noodle Soup, not half bad given what it costs.)
Hey, whatever it takes to get you through the night. Moral crisis averted, we plunk down our handfuls of change scavenged from the ash trays of our cars and proceed to gorge ourselves on everything we know we shouldn't...
(New Panda's made-to-order Kung Pao Shrimp. I love the spicy kick and lack of filler, but it could use more peanuts.)
...only to find that it's good. It's oh-so-fucking goooood. Each bite delivers forbidden satisfaction that reaches beyond mere taste to soothe the ravening beasts we keep hidden within ourselves. It's the fulfillment you get when you listen to that snake and eat that apple, right before the Big Guy decides to bake himself a pie.
(They serve pho! It's expensive and not very good compared to the stuff in Little Saigon, but it's pho at a steam-table place in Santa Ana.)
With the primal part of our souls sated, we can resume our carrot-crunching lives. We serve penance with detox days and extra time in the gym, even as we vow once more to never return. But, deep down, we know we will.
(Deep fried garlicky sin in the form of New Panda's made-to-order Salt & Pepper Shrimp.)
New Panda Chinese Food - C'mon. You know you want it. Just one little bite...
1-Item Combo - $3.99
2-Item Combo - $5.49
3-Item Combo - $6.49
BBQ Pork Noodle Soup - $5.49
Kung Pao Shrimp - $6.50
Salt & Pepper Shrimp - $6.99
Pho - $6.50
New Panda Chinese Food
3814 S. Bristol St., #B
Santa Ana, CA 92704