Apr 7, 2022

Review: Panda Express - Orange Chicken Sandwich Bao

Panda Express' Orange Chicken Sandwich Bao is a new menu item being tested in Pasadena, CA and features a crispy-fried chicken strip coated in Orange Chicken sauce and served with pickles and sriracha aioli on a toasted sandwich bao.

I paid $3.25 for one.

Rather than a toasted steamed bun, the toasted sandwich bao was basically a Mediterranean-style flatbread that you might find at a major chain supermarket. It's somewhat like a pita but denser in a way that would prevent you from turning it into a pita pocket. It didn't feel all that toasty. Instead, it was warm and soft. Still, it did a good job of cradling the chicken strip and pickles together.

The chicken strip was fairly small (as was the sandwich bao itself) with a medium, craggy fried batter crust. It was lightly and plainly seasoned. The chicken inside was decently moist. The tender's size was just enough to get some chicken in every bite. They kept the strips in one of the warming bowl/trays of the steam table along with their regular entrees and some of the pieces looked really small (but none of them looked particularly large). The chicken strip mostly served as a crispy, blank canvas for the Orange Chicken sauce and sriracha aioli.

The sriracha aioli added a moderate kick of heat and creamy richness but didn't offer any distinguishing flavors beyond that. The bulk of the flavor was supplied by the Orange Chicken sauce, which provided the expected soy sauce-and-orange-zest-inflected sweet, tangy, and savory notes but in a milder dose than you'd get with the Orange Chicken entree.

The pickles were lightly pickled with a lightly sour bite and a watery crunch.

Overall, Panda Express' Orange Chicken Sandwich Bao was nice enough but was largely forgettable. It is a bit of a head-scratcher in terms of where it fits in the menu. I guess maybe if they want a snackable, very mainstream take on Orange Chicken, it sort of works.

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