We Tried the Latest American-Chinese Takeout in Bangkok

Clockwise from left: General Tao's Chicken and Cheese Puffs with fried rice (240 baht), Orange Chicken and Egg Roll (240 baht with an added 30 baht for vegetable lo mein), and the Mandarin Beef with white rice (220 baht).
Clockwise from left: General Tao's Chicken and Cheese Puffs with fried rice (240 baht), Orange Chicken and Egg Roll (240 baht with an added 30 baht for vegetable lo mein), and the Mandarin Beef with white rice (220 baht).

BANGKOK — Your ‘murcan friend who can’t eat Chinatown food can stop asking for Panda Express – in the Thai capital, there’s Lazy Panda.

Founded by Chinese-American James Au and his mom, Lazy Panda is the latest restaurant to offer American-Chinese food in Bangkok. Offerings might strike a nostalgic chord in those longing for American-Chinese takeout – but for others, it may just be another farang-friendly Asian food option.

“I went with the name ‘lazy’ because I want our name to pop up in people’s heads when they’re at home and want food delivered. American-Chinese food travels very well,” Au said. “Delivery can take 30 minutes to an hour, but it still tastes the same.”

We tried three boxes ordered via Line Man: General Tao’s Chicken and Cheese Puffs with fried rice (240 baht), Orange Chicken and Egg Roll (240 baht with an added 30 baht for vegetable lo mein), and the Mandarin Beef with white rice (220 baht).

Food hero: our delivery man.
Food hero: our delivery man.

The star of the meal was by far the fried and glazed chicken, especially in the form of General Tao’s. Even with the 18 kilometer delivery distance, the chicken arrived juicy and snackable, palatable to the sweet-lovin’ Thai tongue. While being delivered, the food’s condensation collected on the box’s lid and somehow enveloped the chicken in prolonged softness.

Although the website lists the dish as “spicy,” it’s anything but. “Most Thais probably won’t consider it spicy,” Au said. Spicy or not, one can still enjoy the honeyed chicken.

General Tao's Chicken and Cheese Puffs with fried rice (240 baht).
General Tao’s Chicken and Cheese Puffs with fried rice (240 baht).

The same goes for the orange chicken, glazed with real oranges rather than sugary extracts.

However, those familiar with the zest of both Thai and Chinese cuisine should prepare to be let down by the fried rice (vegetarian and vegan options available), which tastes only of soy sauce. The Mandarin Beef is also disappointing. While the beef stir fry has bouncy beef, chunky broccoli, and carrots, the only discernible condiments are again soy sauce and a whisper of black pepper. The Thai tongue thrashes in indignation, searching fruitlessly for naam pla. It reminds one of farang-friendly dishes dialed down for tourists.

Mandarin Beef with white rice (220 baht), left.
Mandarin Beef with white rice (220 baht), left.

The egg roll served with the orange chicken was larger than usual por pia fried spring rolls found in Thailand. Instead of glass noodles, it was filled with farang-friendly cabbage, carrots, and chicken. The vegetable lo mein, similar to mee sua, wasn’t oily and didn’t overwhelm the meat dishes. Those partial to the mixing of cheese and Asian cuisine may enjoy the cheese puffs (thick, fried wontons filled with cream cheese). But give a pass to the very red, very sweet, sweet-and-sour sauce packed in a little container.

Au, 30, says that Chinese-Chinese and American-Chinese food should be thought of as different cuisines, satisfying different cravings.

Those familiar with Chinese-American food, such as Thais who have studied or lived abroad, might note that, compared to chains like Panda Express, Lazy Panda seems less oily and more inclined to use fresh ingredients.

Orange Chicken and Egg Roll (240 baht with an added 30 baht for vegetable lo mein).
Orange Chicken and Egg Roll (240 baht with an added 30 baht for vegetable lo mein).

Still, the price point  – more than 200 baht for an admittedly large portion – may mean some stick to lower-priced Chinese-Chinese food. Lazy Panda also isn’t the first Chinese-American eatery in town – those with cravings may already know of places like Golden Bowl.

Nor is it the Au family’s first takeout rodeo – they’re Chinese-American restaurant veterans of Minneapolis, having emigrated there after fleeing Hong Kong’s Chinese handover.

Lazy Panda is open from 11am to 10pm Tuesdays to Sundays. Delivery is available on Line Man and Get, with plans to expand to Food Panda soon. Don’t want that delivery fee? Order and eat at their store on Soi Sukhumvit 31, walkable from BTS Phrom Phrong.

 

This review is unsponsored and based on a hosted delivery.