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This is kind of a scattershot post-wish I was at Sou'wester now having BBQ, but I'm not-I'm thinking about Chinese takeout, because my daughter had a bunch of friends over the other night & it seemed the easiest thing to do was order in Chinese food. So, if anyone wants to weigh in on this, do you have a favorite local Chinese takeout (or dine-in) place? What dishes do you order (especially for a first time order, to check out the kitchen) & how many people are you generally trying to feed?

It seems like most places I've lived, it takes a little while to find a good spot, & sometimes, you have to compromise. For example, my kids like the food at another place that's just far away enough to not deliver, but sometimes the convenience of delivery outweighs the (perceived, because I don't notice much difference) food quality. Also, I tip differently for takeout, delivery, & in the restaurant service, how about you guys? Not trying to start any flame wars, I am curious to know if what I do is normal. Also, what do you do with all the leftover packets of soy, & if they include it, duck & mustard sauce?

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We like Chen's Gourmet on MacArthur Blvd. It is on my way home from work and they have a lot of vegetarian dishes, either with tofu or the fake chicken (I realize that this is probably just another form of a tofu-based something). My daughter always gets the Sesame Tofu and I like eggplant with black bean sauce, although I sometimes ask for different sauces. We do not like the fried noodles that much - not much flavor. The egg drop soup is a bit thick, but it has some corn in it. We also like the tofu and spinach soup. What I appreciate is that you can order small or large sizes for all the entries. Prices have gone up, but for what we get it is ok. If we do not want to cross the river back into DC, we order from Peking Gourmet on Sycamore St/Williamsburg Blvd in Arlington. I really like the kung pao tofu (or chicken). We order it with broccoli instead of green peppers, and if you are getting chicken, you can request all dark or white meat. And on the packets, i only ask for the mustard. What is in the other things??? on tipping, I generally tip a few dollars at Chen's. while Peking Gourmet crosses out the tip line on carry out orders.

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Egg drop soup was my daughter's favorite before she became a pescatarian again. My son is the prince of fried dumplings, we've gotten them at every Chinese & Korean place we've ever eaten at (strictly fried, shumai just doesn't cut it for him). When I ordered for the kids the other day, Lizzy wanted shrimp w/ broccoli, 2 chicken w/ broccoli, beef w/ broccoli..I protested & we got beef w/ snow peas & mushrooms( I have leftovers). I have probably 3 kinds of soy on hand, but have occasionally mixed the duck sauce w/ sriracha, to dip egg rolls in...I generally do not tip if I pick something up, 15% for delivery, 20-25% in the restaurant....

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do you have a favorite local Chinese takeout (or dine-in) place?

Not quite sure how this is a different question from: What is your favorite Chinese restaurant? After all, they virtually all do carry-out. So, for instance, in recent months our stand-bys for carry-out are Sichuan Jin RIver for Sichuan, and East Pearl or Full Kee (H street) for Cantonese -- because those are our favorites for dining in, too. (And of course, when we're on our way home from BWI or want to drive an hour and a half . . . Grace Garden.)

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Not quite sure how this is a different question from: What is your favorite Chinese restaurant? After all, they virtually all do carry-out.

[Agreed, and this is my fault for scampering to organize these threads without putting the correct amount of thought into each title.]

One thing I *always* ask is the following question (and this goes for just about any Asian restaurant):

"Is it possible to get it the entire order with no MSG?"

Depending on their reaction, I know, nearly 100% of the time, whether a restaurant serves MSG as a matter of course, or not. Typical reactions are as follows:

"Yes, one moment please" [as I write it down, or type in special instructions to the kitchen] = They use MSG

"We don't use MSG in our cooking" = They probably don't use MSG

"We don't add MSG, but it's in some of the sauces" = They absolutely don't add any MSG

"It depends on the dish" = They probably use MSG in their long-cooked stews, but maybe not for a-la-minute items

Once you start asking this question as a matter of course, it becomes very easy to determine a restaurant's policy without them coming right out and saying it.

I don't think MSG is any great crime against humanity, but it's nice to know who uses it and who doesn't, and with this technique, you develop a knack for being able to figure it out with a pretty strong degree of confidence.

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Not quite sure how this is a different question from: What is your favorite Chinese restaurant? After all, they virtually all do carry-out.

Peking Gourmet is a full service restaurant, but Chen's is carry out only. Neither deliver, and where I live, I think our only delivery option is through whatever the current version is of Takeout Taxi, a premium I never want to pay.

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One thing I *always* ask is the following question (and this goes for just about any Asian restaurant):

"Is it possible to get it the entire order with no MSG?"

Depending on their reaction, I know, nearly 100% of the time, whether a restaurant serves MSG as a matter of course, or not. Typical reactions are as follows:

"Yes, one moment please" [as I write it down, or type in special instructions to the kitcen] = They use MSG

"We don't use MSG in our cooking" = They probably don't use MSG

"We don't add MSG, but it's in some of the sauces" = They absolutely don't add any MSG

"It depends on the dish" = They probably use MSG in their long-cooked stews, but maybe not for a-la-minute items

Once you start asking this question as a matter of course, it becomes very easy to determine a restaurant's policy without them coming right out and saying it.

I don't think MSG is any great crime against humanity, but it's nice to know who uses it and who doesn't, and with this technique, you develop a knack for being able to figure it out with a pretty strong degree of confidence.

So Don, who do you recommend in Arlington for no MSG? We never get Chinese takeout or delivery because my husband reacts badly to MSG. I used to love eating at Hsian Foong before they closed (would love to find a new purveyor of sesame broccoli!).

And do you know any dim sum places that don't use MSG? Years ago, I called around and they all used it, except for the Taiwanese dim sum place (Seven Seas?). We have a dim sum gathering with friends a few times a year and my husband has had to skip it since he started having MSG reactions.

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So Don, who do you recommend in Arlington for no MSG? We never get Chinese takeout or delivery because my husband reacts badly to MSG. I used to love eating at Hsian Foong before they closed (would love to find a new purveyor of sesame broccoli!).

And do you know any dim sum places that don't use MSG? Years ago, I called around and they all used it, except for the Taiwanese dim sum place (Seven Seas?). We have a dim sum gathering with friends a few times a year and my husband has had to skip it since he started having MSG reactions.

Honestly, Genevieve, I don't get much Chinese, as I find Chinese-American to be one of my least favorite "ethnic" foods. I've been known to make late-night runs to X.O. Taste, requesting no MSG - they've upsold me in the past, however, and I certainly can't rave about them although if you order correctly, their food can be pretty clean. Mark's is great when you want to bring wine to have with Peking Duck; Fortune has gone down the tubes. Hong Kong Palace has a lovely cumin fish (thanks Eric), but that, along with Bangkok Garden (yes, I know it's Thai and Laotian), are the Twins of Terror when it comes to MSG, I think. Believe it or not, the decrepit Happy Family in Falls Church advertises no MSG, but it's filthy and the food is pretty awful. I haven't tried Hong Kong Pearl, but that sounds like it's best for Dim Sum. I don't like Asian Kitchen, and that backs me into recommending Oriental Gourmet for carryout Chinese (for Americanized Chinese, I think it's pretty good) they will make their food without adding MSG if you ask them, but advise that there are pre-made sauces which contain it. So ... Oriental Gourmet is my off-the-cuff answer. I've also heard a couple positive murmurings about the dicey-looking China Kingdom in Chesterbrook, and once had a good meal at House of Fortune in McLean (the friendly owner specifically told me to ask for her, saying that she'd help me with the Chinese-language menu), but I don't know anything about their use of MSG.

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Honestly, Genevieve, I don't get much Chinese, as I find Chinese-American to be one of my least favorite "ethnic" foods. I've been known to make late-night runs to X.O. Taste, requesting no MSG - they've upsold me in the past, however, and I certainly can't rave about them although if you order correctly, their food can be pretty clean. Mark's is great when you want to bring wine to have with Peking Duck; Fortune has gone down the tubes. Hong Kong Palace has a lovely cumin fish (thanks Eric), but that, along with Bangkok Garden (yes, I know it's Thai and Laotian), are the Twins of Terror when it comes to MSG, I think. Believe it or not, the decrepit Happy Family in Falls Church advertises no MSG, but it's filthy and the food is pretty awful. I haven't tried Hong Kong Pearl, but that sounds like it's best for Dim Sum. I don't like Asian Kitchen, and that backs me into recommending Oriental Gourmet for carryout Chinese (for Americanized Chinese, I think it's pretty good) they will make their food without adding MSG if you ask them, but advise that there are pre-made sauces which contain it. So ... Oriental Gourmet is my off-the-cuff answer. I've also heard a couple positive murmurings about the dicey-looking China Kingdom in Chesterbrook, and once had a good meal at House of Fortune in McLean (the friendly owner specifically told me to ask for her, saying that she'd help me with the Chinese-language menu), but I don't know anything about their use of MSG.

Thanks, Don. I've pretty much stopped getting Chinese years ago other than the dim sum trips with friends, and very occasional stops at Peking Gourmet (I still like their duck) and Ping (not terribly good but an okay place with a group when you're in Shirlington anyway - my son likes their pork belly buns - but the last couple time I got sushi there instead of Chinese, since their dumpling soup went downhill).

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I posted this somewhere else on dr.com but I like Panda Cafe at the intersection of Wilson & George Mason Drive. I get delivery from them about 2 times a month and always get the eggplant in garlic sauce. I don't know their MSG policy but you can ask. It's good basic Chinese, like all the delivery places I grew up with in NYC. I asked them once where the cuisine is from and they said Fu Shin (excuse my butchering of the spelling).

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I've ordered some from Shanghai Peking in Alexandria, and I've really liked them so far. They claim to not use MSG, but again, it might be in some of the products (you'd have to call and make sure, I guess). I don't mind MSG, so I've never asked. I grew up on this stuff, in any case, so maybe I'm immune by now. Heh. I'm hard to please with Chinese-American food since I'm still of the mindset that my dad makes the best, but Shanghai Peking comes the closest I've had in the area. Granted, I don't eat this type of food too much anymore...

I've also tried South China on Mt. Vernon in Del Ray, and they're pretty good, especially their Malaysian menu. Their Chinese-American stuff isn't bad, either, but I don't like their crab rangoons too much. Prefer Shanghai Peking for that.

Nowhere I've tried makes their own duck sauce around here, which is disapointing re: fried appetizer items. That's why I like Shanghai Peking's crab rangoons - they serve them with the red sweet & sour sauce that's usually served with the fried chicken/pork nuggets.

I also have yet to find a good Chinese-American place around here that uses fresh mushrooms in its lo mein, instead of the canned kind. Oh well. Can't win 'em all.

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We don't get Chinese food that often, but for this group of young teenagers, it seemed a better choice than pizza. We live pretty far south in Fairfax county, near Ft. Belvoir, & we get delivery from Great Wall (not sure if it's connected w/ the one in DC). No msg, free delivery over $12., & the kids enjoyed it- my daughter actually said she thought her shrimp & broccoli from Great Wall was better than the order from China Garden (previous preferred takeout, Kingstowne shopping center, ordered for comparison on Sunday). The local Thai & Korean places get more of our business, though.

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Believe it or not, the decrepit Happy Family in Falls Church advertises no MSG, but it's filthy and the food is pretty awful.

They did, however, have the most unintentionally hysterical (due to poor translation I believe) menu/flyer I've ever seen. I saved it for ages because it would make everyone laugh.

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I posted this somewhere else on dr.com but I like Panda Cafe at the intersection of Wilson & George Mason Drive.

I agree with the recommendation. I pick up an order two or three times a week when I'm working late because Panda Cafe is close to my office.

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[Agreed, and this is my fault for scampering to organize these threads without putting the correct amount of thought into each title.]

One thing I *always* ask is the following question (and this goes for just about any Asian restaurant):

"Is it possible to get it the entire order with no MSG?"

Depending on their reaction, I know, nearly 100% of the time, whether a restaurant serves MSG as a matter of course, or not. Typical reactions are as follows:

"Yes, one moment please" [as I write it down, or type in special instructions to the kitchen] = They use MSG

"We don't use MSG in our cooking" = They probably don't use MSG

"We don't add MSG, but it's in some of the sauces" = They absolutely don't add any MSG

"It depends on the dish" = They probably use MSG in their long-cooked stews, but maybe not for a-la-minute items

Once you start asking this question as a matter of course, it becomes very easy to determine a restaurant's policy without them coming right out and saying it.

I don't think MSG is any great crime against humanity, but it's nice to know who uses it and who doesn't, and with this technique, you develop a knack for being able to figure it out with a pretty strong degree of confidence.

As Jeremy Lin heads south, so does MSG stock.

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