Panda Express has always been something of a staple for us when we travel to the United States. It started way back in the ’90s. My uncle and I were in Louisiana for a few days for business. After maybe 2 days of eating cajun cuisine (gumbo, jambalaya, blackened something — chicken, fish, etc.) we were hankering for something um… normal. By normal we mean food that’s closer to home. As we were walking at a convention center, my uncle spotted a Panda Express stall and immediately said we were having our next meal there. That was my first taste of Panda Express, a popular American Chinese food chain that’s known for their Orange Chicken.
After that encounter, we’d always squeeze in a meal or two at Panda Express every time we’re in the US. So last December was no different. Panda Express had just opened its first Philippine branch in SM Megamall but we didn’t want to line up for hours. We decided to just eat at Panda Express in California since we were spending the holidays there. The photos on this post were actually taken during our last dinner in California, which we decided to have in Panda Express. As you can see, we went to a standalone store. They also have stalls in food courts but they are not very conducive to taking pics for the blog. Anyhow you place your orders at the counter.
Drinks are self-service. You tell them what size of drink you want and they’ll give you a paper cup to fill on your own.
At Panda Express, you can order either a Bowl (US$6.70 – 1 entree + 1 side), a Plate (US$8.10 2 entrees + 1 side), or a Bigger Plate (US$9.60 – 3 entrees + 1 side). I always have a Bowl so I had Honey Sesame Chicken as my entree with White Steamed Rice as my side. I was always having Orange Chicken so I decided to try something else. Each meal comes with a free Fortune Cookie.
Our son also had a Bowl. He opted for Honey Walnut Shrimp and Fried Rice. This entree is not in the Philippine menu.
Hubby had a Plate with Honey Walnut Shrimp, Orange Chicken, and Steamed White Rice.
Our daughter had a Plate as well. She picked Orange Chicken, Broccoli Beef, and Steamed White Rice.
We keep going back to Panda Express because we can always count on having a quick, hot, tasty, and inexpensive meal there.
With our Panda Express meals still fresh in our minds and tastebuds, we visited their first ever Philippine store in SM Megamall. There are cordons on the corridor where people can line up before they are given the go-signal to go inside. We waited for less than 1o minutes on a weekday at a little past 11am.
It’s more cramped compared to the California stores we visited. You order drinks at the counter and they’ll hand it to you… no free-for-all access to drinks machines.
Hubby ordered a Plate (P245). He had Orange Chicken and Eggplant Tofu for his entrees and Fried Rice for his side. Eggplant Tofu is pretty good and I didn’t see it in the menus of the California stores. Okay so the Orange Chicken here in PH is lacking in the orange taste. I did appreciate that the chicken was crunchier… it was very flavorful but close to no orange taste. Doesn’t taste anything like the original Orange Chicken.
I had a Bowl (P195 + P40 for a Premium Entree) with Shanghai Steak and Fried Rice. The Shanghai Steak was good but I hated that it took them soooo long to cook it. They didn’t tell me when I was ordering that they had run out and therefore had to cook a new batch. They just said they’d bring it to our table. Had I known it was going to take that long I would’ve ordered something else.
So how does it compare with Panda Express USA? Price-wise, it’s definitely cheaper to eat in the Philippines:
- Bowl US$6.70 + US$1.25 per Premium Entree vs. P195 + P40 per Premium Entree
- Plate US$8.10 + US$1.25 per Premium Entree vs. P245 + P40 per Premium Entree
- Bigger Plate US$9.60 + US$ 1.25 per Premium Entree vs. P295 + P40 per Premium Entree
- Kid’s Meal US$6.00 + US$ 0.79 per Premium Entree vs. P180 + P30 per Premium Entree
- Family Feast (3 Large Entrees + 2 Large Sides) US$36.00 + US$3.75 per Premium Entree vs. P1,200 + P130 per Premium Entree
BUT serving portions are bigger in the US, maybe 1.5x of our serving sizes here. The Orange Chicken in the US also can’t be beat. What we have here doesn’t taste anything like the original. The good news is, our Fried Rice is lots better than what they serve over there. I noticed that our Fortune Cookie here is a bit smaller and kind of tasteless. The US version has a more buttery taste, ours just tastes like flour and water with a bit of sugar.
I actually don’t mind paying less to eat less because I can never finish a Bowl in the US. Hopefully they improve the Orange Chicken so it’s at par with the original. Is it worth lining up for? No… lol, sorry. By the way, you don’t have to wait or queue as long if you order takeout at SM Megamall.
U/G SM Megamall Bldg. A, (near Yoshinoya)
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