Don’t Take Away My Takeaway

23 Nov

If asked I’ll tell you that my best ever job was working in a Chinese takeaway. It’s true.

When I was 15/16 I used to sit behind that counter in the Po Lee every Thursday and Sunday nights writing numbers on little bits of paper to take through to the kitchen, watching TV and eating whatever I liked from the menu.

I loved the owners who ran the place and they seemed to like me too (they taught me how to use chopsticks), always pressing food upon me and my family whenever we popped in and I always went home with a little something in a bag.

Sometimes I’d get badgered by late night drinkers for free fried rice on their way home, or now and again a lonely person would decide the warm, inviting takeaway was preferable to being home alone and take it upon themselves to sit with me for the evening watching Antique’s Roadshow.
I didn’t usually mind, and besides the kindly owners had furnished me with a huge meat cleaver that sat next to the cash box under my counter, just in case anything got too hairy (I only had to get it out once).

And the pay wasn’t bad either for a teenager whose only purchases were lace tights from Miss Selfridge, black nail varnish and 10 Silk Cut.

But it meant that I started a life long love affair with Chinese food. Probably nothing like food you would eat in China (and certainly nothing that my lovely Chinese family would eat) but food identified by a number written on a fold out menu.
My perfect Chinese takeaway would consist of:

  • Plain Chow Mein
  • Sweet & Sour Pork Balls
  • Quarter Crispy Duck
  • Egg Fried Rice
  • Chinese Curry Sauce

For the next 15 years I continued with my love affair, never really straying to pizza or curry. I would move to a new flat and just change the number listed under the ‘Chinese’ entry in my speed dial and carry on ordering.
Not every night you understand – just my go to in times of takeaway need!

What I hadn’t realised, never having really looked into what was going into my regular treat, was that I had built up a rather alarming allergy in the shape of an intolerance to MSG (monosodium glutamate) – the mainstay of quick Chinese cooking, and a host of other convenient foods too!

I had spent years going to doctors and hospitals for tests because of my racing, thudding palpitations and accompanying chest pains, with little progress or diagnosis. I was at my wits end, spending some nights awake and sweating and thinking I was going to die.

I know it sounds stupid now but it had honestly seemed so random I just hadn’t put two and two together (4. Pancake Roll).

My oversight was pointed out to me by my soon-to-become-husband. Epiphany!
My Chinese lover had turned on me. (Or I had eaten so much of the stuff from such a young age my body had taken a disliking to the nasty additives, and quite right too).
I was horrified. I deleted the number from my phone.

I gave up eating Chinese takeaways, and anything with MSG in and haven’t looked back. No more painful palpitations caused by food for me. I can tell immediately if I have eaten something containing it now and usually ask about it when I eat out.

But I was bereft. Indian takeaways are great in their way but just not the same…

Amazingly years later on moving to our new home a menu came through the door. MSG Free Chinese Restaurant. And Takeaway. And Delivery. It was sent from Heaven, not just up the road. There is a new entry under ‘Chinese’ in my speed dial now and I couldn’t be happier.

Why all this Alice you might be asking right now? What has this got to do with cooking?
Well I was reminded of all of this the other night while I WHIPPED THIS UP BY MYSELF IN A WOK:
Beef and Green Pepper in Black Bean Sauce with Noodles.

Ok, so the sauce was shop bought and I did only have to put four things in a hot wok with some oil for a few minutes.
But still, MSG free and made by me!

What’s your perfect Chinese takeaway?


6 Responses to “Don’t Take Away My Takeaway”

  1. All That I'm Eating 24/11/2011 at 6:48 pm #

    I know exactly what you mean. There’s something about Chinese takeaway that pizza and Indian just can’t cut. I hate MSG but I do have it occasionally when I get Chinese. It’s always beef in black bean sauce with egg fried rice, vegetable spring rolls and crispy seaweed. Mmmmm. Your stir fry looks lovely.

  2. Alice Can't Cook 26/11/2011 at 8:52 pm #

    Hello! Thanks for reading and your comment.
    Yes, Chinese is king for me too.
    Honestly I wasn’t aware of MSG at all, funny how something so damaging can have such an effect on taste. And a shame because it obviously tastes so good (which is its job!).

    Mmmm Beef in Black Bean with Egg Fried Rice and Spring Rolls? You are a girl after my own heart… (but not a racing one)



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