Will Panda Express take China by storm? It sounds improbable that the fast-food incarnation of Americanized Chinese food can succeed in its supposed country of origin (where most of its fare is alien to the populace at large), but stranger things have happened.
The contemplated move of Panda Express into China proper (as reported by NPR) is at least slightly less ridiculous than it might sound: A Cultural Revolution–era exodus of expertly traditional chefs (many of whom ended up in Taiwan or Hong Kong) weakened the country’s restaurant status quo, and a modern surge in wealth and access to international travel has fueled interest in foreign food … like General Tso’s chicken.
This isn’t the first time that an American fast-food bastardization of a national cuisine has tried to force its way back to its supposed roots. One key example was when Taco Bell opened up locations in Mexico a few years ago. The chain’s Mexican slogan, “Es Otra Cosa,” or “It’s Something Else,” prepared locals for the idea that they should expect something very different from what they were used to.
And the Outback Steakhouse chain recently—somehow, probably on the strength of the universal appeal of steak and bloomin’ onions—opened its fifth location in Australia.
But the Olive Garden? Still not a major force in Italian dining, despite its Culinary Institute of Tuscany.