Tonight was the second instance in memory that I was disgusted by Chinese food, a truly tragic occurrence. The first was in college from “Tiki House,” the only place that would deliver after 2:00 am in the area. That alone probably should have tipped us off that not only was the quality sure to be marginal but that we also should not be eating at that time of night regardless of the number of beers consumed.
Tonight was different. All day I had been craving chicken lo mein and a good crispy egg roll dipped in duck sauce. A fairly simple request, I thought. This was the first time I was ordering take-out in Pittsburgh and remembered a small place on the main street of the suburb that I live in. So on my drive home I googled the number and called in my order. A man with a light Chinese accent asked when I would be arriving and I gave him an estimated ten minutes; he laughed mischievously and asked if I could possibly be there in 9 and a half minutes? Weird.
So I pull up and park so I can quickly run in, grab my food, and be on my way. As I open the door all hopes for a anonymous transaction are dashed. “You are LATE!” giggles a small man. I shrug, apologize and ask how much I owe. It is dark in the restaurant and as I look over I notice only one other patron, a large and very drunk man who upon seeing me exclaims “Ray! I see you have ordered my new wife!” Gross.
As I am paying I start noticing even grosser things about this establishment. Piles of newspapers are stacked everywhere, random trinkets litter the floor, and in a three room restaurant only two tables. I grab the bag of “food” and quickly hurry out. On my drive home I am obviously evaluating whether the contents of that bag are safe but my sheer hunger is overpowering common sense.
At home I bite into an egg roll that is mushy and void of filling other than a meek looking shrimp. No mind, the star is still to come – Chicken Lo Mein! I open the take-out container and am pleased to see some bright-colored broccoli heads and carrot sticks. I tentatively taste a bite and immediately regret every decision to eat today. It tasted like something rancid, moldy, and dirty socks all at the same time. Again, GROSS.
So as I am sitting here trying to decide when the inevitable food poisoning is going to set in, the question “What is duck sauce?” enters my mind. As I quickly do a Google search I learn that it is also referred to as plum sauce or apricot sauce and is mostly composed of fruit, sugar and spices. Thankfully, mine tonight came in plastic packets and it is the one thing that I do not fear to make me deathly ill for the remainder of the night. Moral of the story: If you don’t trust the looks of a restaurant, why trust the kitchen that you can’t see?
In case my encounter is not entertaining enough for you, here is a song by the group Duck Sauce: Barbara Streisand.