Do you enjoy good Chinese food but find it difficult to locate in truck stop restaurants?
Have you ever tried to prepare it in your truck but found that it didn't turn out as you'd hoped?
We understand because we
(Note: Mike now has a local truck driving job.)
So, we're presenting some ideas on this page to help you. The key is advanced planning.
Depending on what Chinese food you like to eat -- including but not limited to poultry, seafood, beef, pork or vegetables -- you will have to consider how you are going to store your ingredients until you are ready to prepare your meal.
Personally, we have never had much success in transporting seafood products unless they are canned (such as canned tuna). We never felt comfortable taking fresh or frozen fish with us because it would have had to be stored in our ice chest. If you have a compact refrigerator (especially one with a freezer compartment), you may feel differently. And that's OK.
Some vegetables may need to be prepared as quickly as possible so as not to lose their freshness before cooking.
If you plan to fix any dishes with eggs, you'll need to determine how you will transport them.
While Chinese restaurants are used to using large woks
to prepare their dishes, you need to be mindful of two things:
How much room do you have in your truck for storing the appliances?
Do you have an inverter or APU from which to get sufficient electrical power to use an electric wok? The appliance shown would have worked in Mike's last regional truck because we had a 1500 watt battery-connected inverter installed.
We also like the Presto brand because of the quality of their merchandise, especially the hot pot we use.
We used our hot pot when preparing these dishes but we could have also used our electric skillet.
Also, for your convenience, we are posting the link to an electric wok from Amazon.com, with whom we have an affiliate relationship.
We would enjoy hearing from professional drivers who fix Chinese food from fresh ingredients in their trucks.
We would like to know -- among other things -- where you get your fresh ingredients on the road.
We think obtaining them is more challenging for drivers who live in their trucks full-time (or are "homeless").
If you are stumped for recipes, you may wish to look through the selection at Recipe Source.
Truckers who enjoy authentic, freshly cooked Chinese food will completely balk at this idea, but the way that we have learned to fix it in our truck is from canned ingredients.
Besides the two-part canned system from La Choy (shown on the right in the photo, the cans already being separated), we might add an extra can of Chop Suey vegetables or an extra can of meat (chicken breast chunks shown).
We always fix rice to go with this meal, and add chow mein noodles.
This photo shows a preparation of canned beef Chow Mein in the left bowl and a batch of prepared instant rice on the right.
For the two of us, we would split up the dish between the two bowls as we like.
This is what a typical bowl of Chinese food (prepared from canned ingredients) looked like in our truck. The rice is on the bottom, the meat-sauce-vegetable mixture is over that, with a layer of chow mein noodles on top.
As with any canned product, you will want to read the label to make sure that it has not been prepared with ingredients that will wreak havoc with your diet, especially sodium and MSG.
If you prefer, you can prepare regular white rice instead of instant (which is precooked and dehydrated, and only needs boiling water and time to rehydrate).
Not only is regular (non-instant) white rice less expensive than instant, but it seems to have more substance than instant. Also bear in mind that there are other kinds of rice, but they may require more time to cook. If you are really adventurous and like to eat rice a lot, you might even consider taking a rice cooker with you on the road. Just like using a crock pot, if you plan to use it while rolling down the road, you'll need to make sure you brace it so that it won't tip over in transit.
Because we used an ice chest to store perishable foods in our truck (instead of a compact refrigerator with a freezer), we did not take frozen foods with us on the road (because they wouldn't have stayed frozen). However, when you're looking for Asian or Chinese food, there are a number of products on the market. Some of them include everything you need for a complete meal (except, perhaps, for the rice, noodles and a fortune cookie!).
One of the easiest ways to make a fast, hot meal is to just add boiling water. For this reason, freeze-dried foods represent a very viable option for professional drivers.
These foods may be a little more expensive than other types of foods. We reviewed Mountain House beef stew (a freeze-dried food) and it was a great success!
Some pouches of freeze dried foods are advertised to contain "enough" entree for two people (depending, of course, on their appetites).
cost of canned Chicken Chow Mein
with rice and noodles (at the time this
page was first written):
|Chicken Chow Mein bi-pack||$2.50|
|Margarine and salt (for rice)||$0.10 (estimated)|
|Chow mein noodles||$0.20 (estimated)|
|Total cost of meal||$3.30|
|Total cost per serving||$1.65|
Your costs may be different.
We have only ever been to one truck stop restaurant that served freshly made Chinese food (a stir fry), but at the time, it was not served every night and was a bit pricey. This was the Petro at Bordentown, NJ.
Money saving tip: Mike says that if you want a good, hot, hearty meal that is good for you -- with a minimum of preparation and clean-up time -- you'd be hard pressed to beat Chinese food. (Using fresh ingredients is best.)
Furthermore, using canned ingredients this dish is very fast to prepare, especially when you use instant rice. From start to finish, we can have this dish fixed and ready to eat in about 15 minutes.
Mike also says that with a La Choy bi-pack, we can fix enough to fill us both without being miserable. In the past when we have added other ingredients, we have had leftovers. (Note: the leftover never taste as good the second time around, at least to us.)
Please note that in stores that we frequent, the extra can of Chop Suey vegetables costs almost as much as the entire bi-pack of sauce and vegetables. We don't think that this is worth the extra cost, so we usually don't buy it.
Compare the cost of this meal to one you'd buy in a restaurant. We have had this dish for both lunch and dinner. Typically, a lunch meal at a restaurant will cost less than a dinner meal.