Pizza Lab #8: Chinese Food Pizza
Pizza Lab is a fun theoretical column in which Meg A. and Erik S. explore their innermost passion for baking and eating pizzas. It exists purely for the sake of experimenting in the kitchen. It may not necessarily be cost-effective everytime, so don’t try this at home kids.
It’s one of the more unfortunate stereotypes in modern society that pizza is a fast food. The notion of fast food brings to mind images of maniacal corporations and mostly-plastic hamburgers which have about the same nutritional value on your body as a swift kick in the balls. Technically, fast food used to literally mean “fast” food; it was food prepared quickly, presented in a cheap, efficient fashion so as to be eaten on the run. While not all fast food is necessarily terrible and disgusting, the fast food everyone has come to know and love (and hate) is a bit of an anomaly in our civilization in how bad it is for you, and how gross it secretly is. Despite that, not all quickly-prepared food has to be awful. This brings me back to my original point, that pizza is often unfairly lumped into the same category as trashgarbage like the McRib or the Krispykreme Burger, just because it is technically a “fast food”. We all know pizza is serious business. There’s other foods that are considered fast foods, despite not really deserving the name. Our Americanized version of Chinese food is another perennial favorite of cheap slackers who don’t want to dine in, to have this dubious genre. But… what if… the two were combined into one thing?! Would time stop because of the deliciousness?! Would everyone stop eating every other source of food?!
Nah, it’s basically just a pizza crust with Sesame Chicken on it.
Chinese Food Pizza
Erik S. So looking back at our paperwork, here’s some of the comments: “Nothing special. Was too much work for just okay results. Gained nothing by being put on dough.” Those aren’t particularly positive…
Meg A. If i recall it started out okay, but then got meh as we went along.
Erik S. Yeah i think it began promising but didn’t pay off.
Meg A. Yeah…
Erik S. Hmm… what was the inspiration for this pizza anyway? Did we have anything more profound than just “pizza and chinese food are both delicious”?
Meg A. I think I originally thought of sweet and sour chicken pizza just because I’d been craving sweet and sour chicken, but we didn’t think that’d work. But we still wanted to try a chinese food pizza.
Erik S. Ah yeah, because of the flavor of sweet and sour. Though admittedly, the wannabe sesame chicken sauce I made wasn’t too compatible either. We should’ve just made sweet and sour. At least we could’ve satisfied your craving…
From the beginning, as mentioned, we were interested in trying some sort of pizza that would incorporate sweet ‘n’ sour chicken, or something similar, to satiate Meg A.’s hankering for low-quality chicken meat smothered in soy sauce and sugar. Sweet ‘n’ sour chicken seemed a bit out there, even by Pizza Lab standards due to the tangy flavor, and not to mention is a right pain in the ass to prepare from scratch. A close runner up was its browner cousin, sesame chicken which is a bit more savory, and thus more suited for pairing with pizza dough.
Americanized Chinese food is interesting in that despite it being mass-produced everyday in Chinese restaurants everywhere, the dishes themselves tend to be a little more complicated than one would expect. When that much food gets cranked out in like fifteen minutes flat, you’d assume the recipe can’t be too tricky. Most are pretty far from it actually, though this isn’t to say they’re difficult… just that they call for odd, exotic ingredients that you wouldn’t typically found stocked in a household belonging to a house full of Germans and Italians. Crafty as I am, and having some experience with Oriental cuisine, I whipped together my own sesame chicken recipe, keeping it as authentic as I could.
In addition to just dumping a bunch of chicken and broccoli onto the dough, we decided to add white rice and fried wonton noodles as well to add some fun gimmicks, and keep in the “Chinese food” spirit. White rice is a favorite of mine, despite its blandness, and everybody loves Chinese noodles, so why the hell not. Believe it or not, fried wonton noodles are actually pretty easy to find at grocery stores, so long as they have a designated Asian/ethnic section. This’ll come in handy to anyone who enjoys eating them, but doesn’t want to actually order an entire meal from a Chinese restaurant.
Erik S. While there were only four ingredients listed in our paperwork, they were all done in excess. Sesame chicken, broccoli, rice, and chinese noodles.
Meg A. That’s part of why the pizza was so messy. It was literally piled on.
Erik S. Yeah, only a few bites in and all those toppings went awry.
Meg A. The rice was disappointing because a lot of it got weirdly crunchy in the oven. And not good crunchy like the noodles.
Erik S. Yeah, the fact the rice got hard like that effectively destroyed the texture novelty of the noodles. Which is sad. The poor guys didn’t stand a chance…
Meg A. Well they were still good to snack on while the pizza cooked.
So lastly, cheese was a bit of a debate since pizzas geeenerally should have some sorta cheese on them, however, the major roadblock being that Eastern food rarely incorporates cheese into its cooking. Milk and butter and cheese, all those dairy products in general were largely European fares and even when they were introduced to early Asian civilizations, it never really caught on. Hell, the Japanese even invented their own derogatory remark for European travelers, calling them the ‘bata-kusai’, translating to “butter stinkers”, since their body odor was different from the local people’s due to their eating a lot of creamy, buttery foods. Unfortunately Meg and I couldn’t live without cheese on our pizza, and even though it’s the year 2013 with Asian countries using dairy products and we’re able to be as smelly as we want without having it blamed on butter, it doesn’t negate the history of the cuisine of that region. At first we considered cream cheese as a possibility since a decent number of Chinese and Japanese dishes do make use of it. The downside obviously being it’s a tad sweet and would inevitably just melt and liquify all over the pizza. Boring as it is, we settled on the old standby of mozzarella since it IS cheese, but has so little flavor to it that we wouldn’t run the risk of clashing tastes.
Meg A. What cheese did we use? I remember there was some discussion about it… but we just used mozzarella right?
Erik S. We ended up using mozzarella, since we figured it was best to go with a mild, mild cheese.
Meg A. Oh yeah.
Erik S. Yeah, both bread and cheese aren’t very prominent in oriental cooking, since it’s a European thing, much like driving on the left and not shaving.
Meg A. Ah, I remember now, I think we thought about using cream cheese since that can be found in cheese wontons and crab rangoon things. Best to pick a modest cheese, if it doesn’t belong there in the first place.
Erik S. Yeah, it seemed like it’d be too sweet and runny. Save that for the dessert pizzas. Though I suppose we now know why Japan is host to nightmarish concoctions like black squid-ink pizza.
Meg A. Bleck!
Unfortunately, one of the unforeseen consequences of our pre-cooking everything was that the white rice actually dried up quite a bit in the oven, going from light and fluffy to hard and chalky. As mentioned, the wonton noodles were there to add a nice crunch texture to the pie, but it ended up being drowned out by the fact that the rice was just as crunchy itself. And covering the entire pizza in a continuous layer. The stir fry itself was really good, the sauce was good, the noodles were good, the crust was good… Everything was good. But it just didn’t work cohesively. Rather than feeling like this awesome new pizza invention, it simply felt and tasted like, well, stir fry on pizza dough. It didn’t blend well at all, mostly because, as said, bread is not the starch of choice for Asian food. Rice is. And that’s probably why it all felt so awkward. Yes, the pizza felt awkward. Eating it was like that feeling you get when you’re sitting next to a third-tier friend of yours at a party, and have nothing to talk about. You’re on good terms, you guys have fun in groups, but paired together you’re gaining nothing one another’s presence.
Erik S. So not that the pizza was bad, but I think this technically qualifies as a failed experiment. We tried to combine two different food worlds, and it didn’t work out.
Meg A. Sadly it did not.
Erik S. So to all the potheads out there confusedly rambling to themselves about what would happen if they got pizza AND chinese food to cure their munchies, don’t do it. We are scientists, trust us.
Meg A. We have a clipboard and everything!
Erik S. Any other comments?
Meg A. I think that’s all. I barely even remember the pizza anymore. That’s how mediocre it was.
Erik S. Ouch. Take that, pizza!