In the years since the first Chinese immigrants came to America during the 19th century, Chinese takeout has become just as American as apple pie. Mention Chinese food around people and you’re sure to receive an immediate response about what their favorite dishes are and where the best place to get takeout from is in town.
Though we might not all be able to agree on who makes the best fried rice or egg rolls, there’s no denying that Panda Express reigns as one of the best places to satisfy your Chinese food cravings. The chain, which has been family owned and operated since 1983, has almost 1,800 locations in the U.S. and the world; making it easy for anyone who has access to a mall to get some of Panda Express’s famously addictive Orange Chicken.
The chain’s numerous locations and quick service are just a few reasons why Panda Express is the Chinese food king. Here are 10 other reasons why Panda Express has become synonymous with Chinese food.
1. They Actually Use Fresh Produce
Anyone who’s ever eaten at a chain restaurant has accepted the fact that 99% of the time their food isn’t going to look the way it does in the picture on the menu. More often than not, you’re going to get wilted, unappetizing produce in the food that you order.
Fortunately, Panda Express is the exception to this rule because they actually use fresh vegetables that are cut by hand every day. By using only fresh produce, Panda Express is able to ensure that the crisp bright flavors of the veggies are able to stand up to their flavorful sauces.
At Panda Express, what you see is what you get.
2. Not Everything is Fried
In a perfect world, deep frying food would have zero consequences on our health. Unfortunately, life isn’t fair and we all have to remember not to overindulge in the greasy goodness.
It’s often tricky to find a way to make healthier options tasty, but Panda Express has found the secret with their Wok Smart™ menu. These dishes are usually stir fried, contain 300 calories or less, and have at least 8 grams of protein.
Two of their top selling Wok Smart™ entrees, Kung Pao Chicken and Grilled Teriyaki Chicken, are featured here. Panda Express lets you have your cake and eat it without worrying about your waistline.
3. They’re Adaptable
One of the biggest stories to come out about the food industry in 2015 was the egg shortage caused by a large outbreak of the avian flu. The disease hit chain restaurants hard as the price of eggs skyrocketed.
In order to avoid a riot, Panda Express opted to replace the eggs in their fried rice with corn, rather than remove the fan favorite from the menu. Thankfully, eggs returned to Panda Express’s fried rice at the end of January.
4. They Want You to Play With Your Food
These days there’s a hack for everything, and food hacks are some of the most popular. Taking already prepared food and transforming it into something better is a great way to breathe new life into your old favorites.
Panda Express has taken to social media with the #PandaHack to show their followers creative ways to enjoy some of their most popular dishes. In the above post, leftover fried rice and Kung Pao Chicken are rolled into a tortilla, creating a delicious Asian-Mexican fusion burrito.
5. Panda Express Keeps in Touch with Its Cultural Roots
Everyone in the world probably has a fondness for noodles; whether it’s spaghetti and meatballs, Pad Thai, or chicken noodle soup, there’s something comforting about eating a good bowl of the starchy staple.
Noodles have a significant importance during Chinese New Year as they represent long life. Panda Express annually pays tribute to its cultural heritage by encouraging customers to eat lots of their Chow Mein during the celebration.
Here the kids from the TV show Fresh Off the Boat are enjoying their freshly prepared noodles.
6. Panda Express Invented Orange Chicken
Orange Chicken is the sweet, slightly spicy, extra crispy staple of every Chinese restaurant you’ve ever been to. Orange Chicken is so common on Chinese restaurant menus that you’d think it just appears every time a new restaurant pops up in town. Your favorite Chinese food entrée actually owes its existence to Panda Express chef Andy Kao.
Last year Panda Express celebrated Orange Chicken’s 28th birthday by going on a cross-country tour. They hopped on their Orange Chicken Love Truck and brought food, like the Orange Chicken and waffle bites above, prizes, and merchandise to their Orange Chicken fans. Orange Chicken’s popularity has cemented its and Panda Express’s place in food history.
7. It’s Even Easier to Get Your Chinese Food Fix
The rise of the internet and mobile technology has made our lives easier than ever before. You can do nearly everything these days without ever leaving your house.
Panda Express hasn’t started making home deliveries yet, but they have started taking online orders. Their online ordering system saves you from having to stand in line so you can get home quicker to binge-watch the new season of your favorite show.
Hopefully someday soon they’ll deliver and you’ll never have to change out of your sweatpants again.
8. Panda Express Cares
We’d all probably love to see more large companies giving back to those in need and thankfully Panda Express has been a leader in philanthropic work. Throughout the years, they’ve donated time, food, and funding to programs that help underserved children and families.
On June 8, 2015, Panda Express partnered with Feeding America to launch their first Family Day. It was a one day event that skillfully found a way to turn Panda Express customers’ love of their food into a force for good.
Ten percent of that day’s profits and $500,000 from founders Andrew and Peggy Cherng went to Feeding America food banks. With the help of their fans, Panda Express raised enough money to provide 10 million meals to families in need.
9. They Have Seasonal Items
Everyone loves the thought of being able to get their hands on something that’s only around for a limited time.
In addition to their regular items, Panda Express offers seasonal dishes that are only around for a few months. Their most recent special offer is the Wok Smart™ Pacific Chili Shrimp; premium shrimp and fresh veggies in a house-made chili garlic sauce.
Make sure to stop into Panda Express when these limited-run dishes pop up because chances are you’ll miss out on something delicious.
10. They’re Thinking About the Future
In the summer of 2014, Panda Express decided to enter the world of fast-casual dining with the Panda Express Innovation Kitchen.
Panda Express knows that people love fusion food and the ability to customize their order. Panda Express Innovation Kitchen offers patrons the ability to make their own Orange Chicken-filled, scallion pancake-wrapped burritos.
Also inside the restaurant is The Tea Bar where customers can enjoy popular Asian inspired bubble (Boba) teas like the Milk Tea featured above.
If the thought of an Asian burrito makes your mouth water, fret not because there are plans to open more Tea Bars and Innovation Kitchens in the future.
Panda Express has been the king of Chinese food for over three decades and there isn’t much out there threatening to topple its reign. Their ability to think ahead and change with the ever-evolving tastes of the food world will continue to keep customers flocking to Panda Express.
The company’s compassion and dedication to serving fresh food are the reasons why Panda Express will always be an American mainstay. So go on and let your love of Orange Chicken burn brightly because Panda Express will be there for you when your Chinese food craving strikes.