Instead of writing about something exotic or unique or anything like that, I'm gonna post about something dear and close to my heart... cheap Americanized Chinese food. Now I'm all for authenticity and all that jazz, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for the bastardization of my culinary heritage. Love me some General Tso's chicken. That said, I took it for granted during my time spent at Columbia. It was cheap, and delivery almost made it too convenient. In Philly though, the takeout places are grossly overpriced, with either an additional charge for delivery or an obscene minimum purchase... I mean, $100. Seriously? I have to order 10 quarts of broccoli with beef before you'll deliver something 4 blocks? Insane. All that changed though, when I happened upon the Yue Kee truck.
In some sort of miracle, they serve a full Chinese takeout menu from the back of a truck. Pretty much every dish you could think of is there, and some that I've never seen before. Broccoli chicken? Check, lunch special for $5.25 with egg roll and soup. Decent chicken, pretty standard broccoli, average MSG laden sauce. All in all, exactly what I'm looking for when I get takeout Chinese.
Hardly a one hit wonder, their 乾炒牛河 (rice noodles w/beef) was pretty decent too. It even had that characteristic smoky flavor you'd expect from the dish. The beef was okay, the noodles were cooked to a proper texture... it's every bit as delicious as it is oily. The winning part here is the fact that they pack the box so full that the lid won't even stay closed. All for $4. That's like 1/2 a pound of rice noodles for $4. America... Taiwan, it doesn't matter where, that's a damn good deal.
Mmm, I actually didn't know what I was getting in this case. I overheard a bunch of the foreign Chinese students ordering the mapo tofu (like... 4 orders at a time), so I figured it must be friggin' incredible. So I got it too. Aside from the fact that I'm more used to my mapo tofu looking like a pool of chili oil, and that I've never encountered bamboo shoots in any variation of it before, this was pretty okay (especially if you like a dish with some heat). I don't know that I'd ever order it again given the variety built into their menu, but it was acceptable. Also it was $3.50. That's stupid cheap.
Not everything is peachy though. I was super excited when I saw soy chicken leg added to their menu. Thoughts of a finely fried chicken leg dipped in soy broth w/pickled veggies swirled in my mind. Light, crisp, and flavorful. Nope, I got that. Which is basically a chicken leg that gets stewed in soy sauce. I can't really blame them for false advertising (since that's exactly what the menu said it was), but my hopes and dreams basically came crashing to the ground when I opened the box. Even though it was only $4, I still feel kind of jipped. I could've gotten sesame chicken instead! As for how it tasted... let's just say that there are additional flavors I expect from a chicken leg aside from salty. The sauce on the rice? Plain soy. Sigh.
To say that their food is outstanding would be a bit of a stretch, but let's think about a couple of things here. They serve a full menu of 60ish items out of the back of a freakin' truck. Give them a break. Their prices? Almost nothing tops $5, and that's only if you get a lunch special or a bigger order... again, give them a break. Nope, there's really nothing to complain about here. Yes orders take a bit longer than you'd expect (I attribute this to the truck factor), and no the food isn't "punch your friend in the face to get it" phenomenal, but you know what? It hits the spot for sure.