La Choy - Chinese food for Midwestern white Moms

Ouch! That was mean, but just one comment in the article:

A wide-ranging article including references to Martin Yan, Jim Henson and Trader Joe’s, amusing and informative.

Yes. La Choy was all I knew about Chinese food by the time I left my small home town to go to college. (Things have changed a bit).

6 Likes

I can’t throw stones at La Choy.

In a tiny Midwest town in the early 70s, it was a taste of something completely unlike anything I had eaten in my world of meat and potatoes with a heavy German influence.

It opened my eyes to other cultures and flavors…something hard to find in that environment.

I have been fortunate enough to travel and eat in lots of other cultures…and those doors were nudged open by that humble stack of tins of chow mein.

We need to stop deriding things that open our horizons.

10 Likes

If it weren’t for Midwestern white moms, I wouldn’t be here!
:slight_smile:
La Choy was one of those meals a kid could make.
We always had one of the twin cans in the cupboard.
I loved the noodles.

11 Likes

I wouldn’t be here either! That’s really funny!!

2 Likes

I agree.

3 Likes

I saw one of those double cans a while back and it was a nostalgic moment for me. If it wasn’t for Old El Paso and La Choy my childhood meals would have been completely white bread. Not that that is terrible, mind you. LOL!
The odd thing is that it seems like there were three different cans, though. The dry noodles, the meat sauce and the vegetables/sprouts. It must be that the meat sauce was mixed in with the vegies. Come to think of it, maybe the Chow Mein dry noodles came in a separate can.
I may actually pick one up and see what it is like 45 years later. The ingredients have probably changed a lot over the years so it won’t be a direct comparison but it will be fun.

7 Likes

Noodles were in a separate can and so were sprouts. I bought some sprouts a few years ago while going thru a period of making Pho at home. My little neighborhood grocery didn’t have them regularly in the produce section and I remembered La Choy and finally found them. Thought about getting the whole package for nostalgia, but didn’t. I loved the noodles, too. Probably still would. I can remember snacking on them out of the can in college.

I could add Chef Boyardee. We didn’t have an Italian restaurant either. My first experience of ravioli came out of a can. And my junior hi buddy got a job at a new grocery store for the summer and discovered the pizza kits. We started getting together at his house every-other weekend when his parents were out of town and made pizza. And those were great pizzas, too. I searched for the kits a few years ago and finally found them but didn’t pull the trigger on them, either.

We, or at least I, first experienced Tex-Mex when the Houston based chain Monterrey House came to town. That was '55-56-57, not sure which. Thursday nights became Tex-Mex nights, all take-out, never dine-in – we almost never went to restaurants except on vacation. My mother, white but not Midwestern, loved the night off from having to cook everything from scratch and she never cooked Tex-Mex until years later.

6 Likes

Well, I was going to give the old La Choy 2 can Chow Mein a try, but all I could find was their stir fry vegetables with sprouts, water chestnuts, etc. and their dry chow mein noodles. I don’t like La Choy soy sauce, it tastes fake so I will probably just marinade some salmon in a mix of Kikkoman’s soy sauce, sri racha, ginger, Five Spice and minced green onions, then grill it quickly while the stir fry vegies are cooking. I may try half of the dish w white rice and dry chow mein noodles and the other half with rice and chow mein noodles that have been dunked in boiling water to reduce the salt content, but looking at the nutrition content on the can, the sodium content doesn’t look as high as I remember.
This may not be great food but it will be fun to try it out after so many years of not trying it at all.

5 Likes

That was fun! Not a great meal but a tasty one. I didn’t blanch the Chow Mein noodles because they were pretty mild with little of the saltiness I remembered. Grilled the marinaded salmon for 4 minutes then 3 minutes while the chow mein vegies were getting wok’ed.
Threw the salmon on the plate and put down a side of chow mein noodles on one side and rice on the other, covered both with the wok’ed vegie mix. The chow mein noodles reminded me of a very mild version of a pork crackling served with a Thai boat noodle soup dish, adding texture and a bit of flavor.
Had a small side salad with it. A nice relatively healthy meal I may repeat every couple of months!

5 Likes

Well done!

I don’t really remember the cans, but I remember the jingle.

“La Choy makes Chinese food…swing American!”

5 Likes

God bless Midwestern moms! And besides, I kind of like the term, white food. The United States is a virtual cornucopia of food and traditions found all around the world. I love that we have Midwestern White food. Some of the very best recipes I have came out of newspaper clippings from these wonderful moms. I can do all kinds of traditions. Our house is anything but standard American, but you know? Sometimes just nothing else will do.

4 Likes

I read this as well and found it fascinating! That “soy” sauce is a crime.

3 Likes

We never got the chow mein, but my mom did buy the La Choy bamboo shoots and water chestnuts to add to her own Chinese-ish dishes. (She had an authentic Chinese cookbook and had taken some cooking lessons when we still lived in Brooklyn.)

5 Likes

I love this topic! I have to say that growing up in basically small towns, in the inter-mountain west, in the sixties and seventies, food was rather seasonal, and quite basic. The supermarkets of that era definitely weren’t the food wonderlands of today. My mom was a pretty good cook when she chose to be, but didn’t venture far afield ever. When I started paying attention at the store, I LOVED the “exotic”aisle where the La Choy dinners were. In this section, also to be found were the pizza kits - I recall Appian Way specifically, also the Kraft spaghetti kits, as well as the canned raviolis and the Green can Kraft Parmesan, if remembering correctly. We had all of those things on occasion. The buildup to the La Choy was always better than the end result, but the pizza kits were stellar! Always a happy day when that happened. To put this in context, mom and pop hamburger stands represented the entirety of fast food then, and unless you went to the bigger cities, restaurants were also mom & pops, mainly diners or steakhouses, and the fare is what you would expect in a landlocked part of the country. Things have changed so much!

6 Likes

Indeed, I remember LaChoy in the early '50s, West Coast. Yes, we’ve moved beyond them but they gave us steps onto a ladder of expanded palates and resulting availability of authentic product . Even so, we ate pretty well, whetting our appetites for fresh bean sprouts and fueling industries like mushrooms more exotic than white, fresh Asian herbs, fresh tofu and, thankfully, fine soy sauces.

6 Likes

But I have to respectfully disagree. In my '50s small town, we had Cliff’s hamburger stand. According to family lore, well before me, a standard hamburger was $.11. Later Cliff retired and when I was in high school, his replacement jazzed up the burger and charged $.19. Supersized, yes, even then, it was $.39.

But the product that these “mom and pop” burger stands was in no way comparable to McDo’s institutionalized product. Maybe the carryover flavor of grilled onions, maybe better local beef and bun, dunno.

4 Likes

image

Chop Suey Sandwich, via Daniel Bromfield, @RegionalUSFood

5 Likes

Would like to look more closely under the bun top but it looks at least interesting to me.

1 Like

Lambchop, I remember my first McDonalds burger. I was 16, drove to the “big city” got a McD’s burger and went, “Hmm…”
LOL! It was good but it wasn’t great.

2 Likes

This is pretty interesting :thinking:

From the article

4 Likes
Help cover Hungry Onion's costs when you shop at Amazon!

Bessarabsky Market, Kyiv. Ukraine
Credit: Juan Antonio Segal, Flickr