Along with our Publix, Troy also boasts a brand new Panda Express. Naturally, my friend Clair and I had to go try it, because it’s new and shiny. And, we like fortune cookies.
You’re probably thinking one of three things right now. Let me guess…
- Chinese food? MSG, fried rice, huge portions… it’s a splurge.
- Panda express isn’t even real Chinese food. Not worth it.
- Yum, I’m craving some takeout now!
I’m about to challenge all of these statements.
It actually doesn’t have to be a splurge. After doing some research on the Panda Express site, I learned that there is no MSG added to the food, and they actually give nutritional info as well as offering the WOK Smart Menu – entrees with 300 calories or less and at least 8g of protein. A bowl, the smaller portion, was plenty for me – we each were able to finish our chicken but left some of the rice.
Let’s talk options – Panda Express reminds me of Moe’s or Subway in some ways, because your meal is what you make it. It can be a gut bomb or a light, fresh choice all depending on what you point at. These are the 3 things you’ll want to consider when you order:
- SIZE – the bowl was plenty for me – 1 side, 1 entree. A bigger person might be able to tackle the plate – 1 side, 2 entrees – but judge for yourself (especially rice!) and don’t feel the need to finish every bite.
- ENTREE – the WOK Smart options are great – they are much lower in sodium, and there are several options for grilled chicken, as well as a grilled beef with broccoli. I had the teriyaki grilled chicken (pictured above), and it was delicious. Not dry at all, teriyaki sauce came on the side, and it had a nice, mild flavor. Other grilled chicken options include mushroom with zucchini, black pepper with green beans, kung pao with peanut sauce, peppers and zucchini, and firecracker, with peppers in a spicy black bean sauce.
- SIDE – brown and white rice are your best options by far! They’re simple and real – just like what you’d cook at home. In my opinion, you don’t need a fancy side like chow mein or fried rice when you’ve got a fancy entree already. Brown rice is delicious and is going to provide more fiber, so I’d put it in #1 spot. I also read after the fact that mixed veggies are a side option – I may try this next time and see if I like that even better!
(PS – Don’t see what you want out? They’ll cook it for you really quickly! The sides aren’t always all out front, either – just ask.)
At only 32 calories a cookie, the fortune cookies are an easy choice!
Now to address the “real Chinese food” aspect – Who cares when it’s good? You don’t need to go overboard on flavor to have a nice meal. I like that they have some options that aren’t fried, because I know those tiny Asian women aren’t eating that every night. I also really like the chain because they attempt to make the menu choices clear, and offer thorough nutritional info online. It’s like real food with a Panda twist – chicken and rice can be a part of any culture, but with a little teriyaki, it tastes like something special.
You’re not going to want takeout here – the atmosphere is so cool. The ceilings have the coolest detailing and light fixtures, and the place was so clean (it’s only been open 2 weeks, lol!) We ate in the restaurant and enjoyed the awesome smells and trying to use chopsticks. It’s my opinion that eating out shouldn’t be a nightly occasion, but a special thing – this allows us to truly appreciate it, and to develop our own cooking skills so that we appreciate someone cooking for us.
The Panda says – stick to the basics. Sounds like a good argument for brown rice!