Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Asian Chao
Airports, Malls, USA
Review by Diana, Runt Ekwesh

This place is a franchise, part of a concept run by a parent company who also owns "Maki of Japan" and "Cajun Chao," but this is probably the most ubiquitous of the three. They've invaded airports and malls all over the United States. "Maki" refers to the rolling of sushi, and is thus more "Japanesey" while "Cajun Chao" is an overt attempt at fusion cooking.

Of course, any Chinese food you find in the US is a fusion style. You might remember actress Mieko Umeki in Flower Drum Song when she is being fed a meal at Sammy Fong's nightclub, the "best Chinese restaurant in San Francisco." When asked what she thought of the meal, she replied, "I love American food."

This is the essence of Asian Chao's success, in that it's not really Chinese food, but it does hit all the right "triggers" for Americans on the go. Let's face it, people looking for a meal in an airport or a mall are not looking to be surprised or sophisticated or authentic. So this place offers tried and true favorites like Sesame Chicken, or Sweet and Sour Chicken, or Eggrolls, or Fried Rice, or Chow Mein Noodles. For about $6 you get a drink, a starch (white rice, fried rice, or noodles) with two "mains" of your choice, which can be bourbon chicken (obviously from the fusion chain), beef with broccoli, barbecue pork, or dumpling and eggrolls, etc. Chinese dishes are very "buffet" oriented and stand up well to that treatment. The servings are big, so if you really are hungry, you'll get filled for not much money.

This chain also staffs its buffet counters with Chinese folks (or at least overtly Asian looking people). Many are people's mothers or grandmothers imported from a place where they don't speak English, and you may have trouble understanding their English. So just point and nod. The food's pretty good, and compared to the usual airport offerings, it's nominally healthy, too. (We always get the vegetable stir-fry with broccoli, carrots, and cabbage as one of our dishes.)

And the nature of the meal forces you to sit and eat, which may be a bit more civilized than other options. (Grandpa in Flower Drum Song notes that only barbarians eat standing up!)

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