Best Grabs at Panda Express

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…

  1. Chinese food? MSG, fried rice, huge portions… it’s a splurge.
  2. Panda express isn’t even real Chinese food. Not worth it.
  3. 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.

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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.

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The Panda says – stick to the basics. Sounds like a good argument for brown rice!

Stay bright,

Rae

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