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Coming from the south, I figured I knew fried chicken. Then I had my eyes opened on a visit to Asia. The whole eastern reaches of that continent knows chicken. From a high-end Chinese restaurant in Singapore to a local chain outside of Seoul, I was never disappointed.

I am heartened that this style is making it to the US. The Korean chain Cheogajip Chicken has a location in the Centreville, VA area. There is also BBQ Chicken and Beer, which widens the typically narrow Korean menu with more options. Even the local Grand Mart had an excellent spicy fried chicken.

Note that I used the past tense on that last sentence. Apparently, customers have been complaining about the bones, so the curse that is boneless, skinless, all-white meat (BSAWM) chicken has claimed another victim.

I don't understand this. When you strip out the skin and bones, and limit yourself to only the breast meat, you're stripping out all of the flavor. All a whole chicken really needs is salt and pepper. A sauce is never a bad thing, but you don't need too much. I can no longer eat the spicy fried chicken at Grand Mart. The meat is rather dry and there is way too much sauce which, I assume, is to compensate for the lack of flavor normally supplied by the skin, bones and dark meat.

This is what's wrong with BSAWM-ness:

  1. First of all, it lack's flavor. Try eating a chicken breast prepared with nothing but salt and pepper. Sure, if you brine it first, it will be moist, but it will still be flavorless. Look at how this is prepared in most restaurants: This type of dish is usually swimming in sauce or served with a side dish that has an intense flavor.
  2. Because of point 1, it's not as healthy. What do you think is in that sauce? I'll bet half a paycheck that it's loaded in sugar and salt.
  3. It encourages unhealthy eating habits. You eat boneless chicken much faster than a bird with bones. It's better to eat slowly. Your body will feel full with less food in your belly. I find it interesting that the BSAWM version of Grand Mart's spicy fried chicken had about twice the meat of the original dish.
  4. BSAWM encourages animal cruelty. A natural chicken does not have enough white meat to make for an economically viable business producing only BSAWM. The factory bird with large breasts cannot move, even if it was given a free range opportunity. It is a freak of the industrial process.

BSAWM is a lie perpetrated on a gullible public. I am angered and saddened that my yum has been yucked.

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I may be naïve, but is it truly asking too much of restaurants to provide me with information that actually helps in making decisions? Yes, I know the answer to that. They're out to make money, so why would they risk sending me to somewhere else? This post, then, reflects yet another windmill I'll charge.

The source of this rant is this sign at my local Baja Fresh:

Baja Fresh Sign

I don't mean to pick on Baja Fresh. I do like the place (though not as much as Chipotle). It's just a convenient example of restaurant speak: It's not meant to provide you with real information in order to make up your mind; but rather to convince you that you've made the right decision. Let's take a look at these statements:

Our salsas are made fresh daily using only top quality produce.

"Made fresh daily," that's useful information that differentiates Baja Fresh from others. "Using only top quality produce," oops, this violates a rule of mine. Descriptions should have plausible alternatives and make a meaningful distinction. Top quality? Would anyone say they are using low quality ingredients? And produce? How else would you make salsa? They should have stuck with just the first half of the sentence.

We use only boneless, skinless chicken breast marinated and charbroiled.

Boneless, skinless, all white meat chicken is evidence of the depths to which American cuisine has sunk. And these guys are bragging about it! Of course you're going to have to marinate the stuff; otherwise, there would be no flavor in the meat. You might was well be using cardboard. At least then you could brag about the fiber. And that's just the point. They're trying to convince you of how healthy their food is in a way that's easy to demonstrate, but then they overcompensate in other areas they don't tell you about, like the fact that any entree with that chicken has nearly a whole day's recommended allowance of sodium. Just what is in that marinade?

Our lean steak is trimmed and charbroiled.

Again with bragging about the removal of the flavorful parts of the meat. Maybe if you left the fat in, you wouldn't have to load your burrito up with cheese, sour cream and guacamole. I'd be that you'd wind up consuming less fat that way. Go to any street food vendor in Mexico and order a taco. All you'll get, in general, is nicely cooked meat in a tortilla. No toppings are needed.

Our special recipe beans are made fresh daily using no lard.

OK, we have something moderately useful here. It's good to know they make the beans daily. I'd like to know more about their special recipe, but that's probably too much information for a sign. However, the "using no lard" is a non sequitur since lard would only be used in making refried beans, which Baja Fresh does not do. Now, I could get into an argument with you about why you should use lard in that case (dang, they taste so much better that way), but that's not the point. Again, they're trying to make you feel good about your choice for lunch regardless of how healthy the meal actually is.

Our fresh chips are made in 100% cholesterol free canola oil.

This sentence seems to have the highest density of helpful data: fresh chips, cholesterol free and canola oil. OK, that last might not be a meaningful distinction since I'm not sure why canola would be better than any other vegetable oil. However, what is important here is the word that they do not use. How are chips made? They fry those suckers! Can't have that word up there, I guess, since it would shoot to hell any health credibility they might have garnered in the 4 previous sentences.

Don't let this stop you, though, from enjoying their fried fish taco. They're quite tasty. And 3 of them have fewer calories, less sodium and about as much fat as any of their burritos. This is the point I'm making: If you're primary concern when eating is health, then you shouldn't be relying on the health claims made by the person selling you the food.