The Great Chinese Food Showdown
We’ve all been there. It’s late, you’re hungry, and online food ordering is such a convenient option when you compare it to the meager supply of food in your pantry and the effort it would take to actually cook something. You rationalize that a Chinese food combo will probably cost you less than a Panda Bowl in the HUB, even once you factor in tax and tip. But when that inevitable craving for Chinese food strikes, how do you know which restaurant to choose? Trusting the online reviews can be a risky game, as can sacrificing quality (or quantity) for taste.
Have no fear: A group of brave, ravenous Onward State writers ordered from five major Chinese delivery restaurants in State College to tell you which reigns supreme.* We agreed that the most typical Chinese food order would boil down to General Tso’s chicken, fried rice, and an egg roll. We then judged each order based on price and quantity, then added up the quality of the chicken, of the rice, and of the egg roll to offer an overall rating for quality. Here’s what we found.
The website boasted that Uncle Chen’s was “Voted Best General Tso’s” (assumedly in State College, not in the world), so we were excited as we embarked on the ordering process.
Price: $7.59 for the General Tso’s dinner special, which includes the chicken, fried rice, and an egg roll — although it should be noted that a vegetable egg roll is the only option, which we didn’t discover until after we had rated the egg roll as though it were fried pork like the rest of the options.
Quantity: A generous portion. The second largest quantity out of all of them.
Quality: After being rated by all of our taste-testers, Uncle Chen’s General Tso’s got a 6/10. Despite the hefty heap we were provided, the chicken was a bit cartilage-y, and the sauce didn’t have quite the kick that General Tso’s is supposed to. The fried rice received a 4.5/10, based on its mushiness and somewhat sweet flavor, as well as an off-kilter veggie-to-pork ratio. The worst rating of all was a 2.5/10 for Uncle Chen’s egg roll, to which one writer responded, “I think some bizarre chemical was stolen from campus and injected into this egg roll. Do I taste sour cabbage?”
Fortune Cookie: “Your smile brings happiness to everyone you meet.”
Overall Rating: 4.3/10
Hunan is a province in China and their cuisine differs from Szechuan cuisine. The more you know.
Price: Again, $7.25 for the dinner special combo.
Quantity: One of the smaller options, but still decent in portion size. Enough for a meal.
Quality: This chicken was the worst. It didn’t even taste like General Tso’s. It was batter-y and bland with no crunch or heat. Basically they were chicken nuggets, so they got a 4/10. The rice, however, had a great meat-veggie-rice ration, decent flavor, and a nice texture, so it got a 7/10. The egg roll was the best part of this one — it had more stuff inside, less grease, and a tasty pepper-y flavor. We gave it an 8/10, and would definitely order again. Well, the egg roll, at least.
Fortune Cookie: “The great and glorious masterpiece of man is how to live with purpose.”
Overall Rating: 6.3/10
We were definitely breathing fire once we were done with this chicken.
Price: $7.25 for the whole dinner special.
Quantity: It looked small, but once we began eating, it appeared to be bottomless. Definitely enough for leftovers.
Quality: This chicken was the spiciest, which to most of us was a good thing. The meat was good and the pieces were large and not too batter-y. We gave this chicken an 8.5/10. The rice, however, didn’t stack up to the chicken. It was flavorless and mushy, so we gave it a 5/10 and moved on. The egg roll was decidedly pleasant at a 7.5/10, a bit oily but with a lot of stuffing and some good crunch to it.
Fortune Cookie: Not included. Cue sadness.
Overall Rating: 7.2/10
Authentic China Wok
They took OVER AN HOUR to deliver this order. And once it finally arrived, the food was cold. Not cool, Authentic China Wok. Even though they threw in an extra egg roll, not cool.
Price: Once again, $7.25 for a combo.
Quantity: Decent. The amount is nothing to brag about, but it’ll get the job done.
Quality: Dissatisfactory. In addition to being cold upon arrival, the chicken was lacking in flavor. There was no heat, no crunch, and the sauce was thick and gooey. We gave it a 5/10. Then, they apparently sent along the wrong rice — it was white with oodles of vegetables, not pork fried. The flavor was sweet, not savory. As one of our writers put it, “This tastes like something I could make better in my own kitchen between classes, to be honest.” We rated it at a 4.5/10. As for the egg roll, we decided that it was the crunchiest and meatiest with the best flavor. We gave that baby an 8/10.
Fortune Cookie: “Life moves on whether we act as cowards or heroes.”
Overall Rating: 6/10
The least Chinese sounding of the bunch, but the quickest delivery of the bunch and pretty good, too.
Price: The combo was $7.25.
Quantity: Large and in charge. A big styrofoam container full of hot, tasty Chinese food.
Quality: The chicken got a 6.5/10. There was a good chicken-to-batter ratio, but it was relatively dry and wasn’t all that spicy. Overall, pretty forgettable. The fried rice was unnaturally yellow looking and a bit dry also, but tasted close to authentic Yang Chow fried rice, which is pretty much the best kind out there, so rice got a 7/10. As for the egg roll, it was easily the best part of the meal. We gave it a 7.5/10 on the grounds that it was tasty but could have used a little more meat.
Fortune Cookie: Not included. </3
Overall Rating: 7/10
The Final Results
1st Place: China Dragon
2nd Place: Lychee Resto
3rd Place: Hunan Wok
4th Place: Authentic China Wok
5th Place: Uncle Chen’s
So there you have it. Of the five delivery restaurants we tested, China Dragon was victorious. Think of them the next time you have a hankering for Asian cuisine.
*If you have a passion for Chinese food and happen to absolutely love a restaurant that we didn’t mention (or one that we dissed), please mention it in the comments! This list is by no means exhaustive. We’re too broke for that.
**Thanks to Yuka Narisako, Grant Brown, Greg Schlosser, and Katie Blitz for assisting in the ordering, eating, and judging of all of this Chinese food.