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Are you really, really sure you want those bones?

Chinese chicken curry

Chinese chicken curry

The nice waitress at Canton Cooks really, really, really tried to dissuade us from ordering this Chinese curried chicken special. “It has bones,” she intoned gravely.

“We’re fine with bones,” we said.

“You’re sure. It’s Chinese style.” The  warning in her voice was so somber she might as well have uttered, “It causes permanent erectile dysfunction.”

No problem, we persisted. Nevertheless, the waitress came out of the kitchen a few minutes later and let us know we could get a boneless version of the dish, if we preferred.

No. Thank you.

Indeed, we knew what we were getting into, since there was also a warning printed on the menu. Little, mystery chicken chunks clinging to chunks of bone. We were down with that.

The dish was wonderful. The chicken chunks had been fried then braised with hunks of eggplant and tofu in a coconut-rich curry sauce that tasted almost Vietnamese. Each bony nugget offered bits of beautifully rendered skin and tender meat. I love eating food like this. canton2

We also enjoyed salt-and-pepper calamari with their all-important fried jalapeno rings and a wonderful plate of sauteed pea shoots with garlic.

All in all, a fine meal.

But is it true? Do most Americans really hate eating bony chunks of chicken?

Would you go bone-in or boneless?

16 comments Add your comment

Amy on Food

June 21st, 2010
4:47 pm

Love the bones and love Tasty China! Also ask for the Chinese Salad (not on the menu – very tasty, spicy salad).


June 21st, 2010
5:02 pm

Boneless. Hate it, but it’s true. I know that bone-in has superior taste, but I have a thing about marrow… so if i’m eating something, and the bone breaks, I’m done. I just can’t get past it. Doesn’t matter what meat it is either. I made stuffed bone-in pork chops the other night, and one of the bones had stuff that had seeped out of it during the braising. I gave it to the BF. I know there was some of the stuff in the liquid I braised it in, but I didn’t see it, so I could pretend it wasnt there.

That being said, I can usually stuff that isn’t slow-cooked with the bone in… Except for chicken wings.

Greg B

June 21st, 2010
5:09 pm

I love the bone-in. Most Jamaican meat dishes are loaded with bony bits – curry goat, oxtails – and if you get your jerk chicken in mysterious bony chunks that’s a good clue it’s authentic. I know we love our ribs and fried chicken n’ stuff, but dishes with those little bony bits require special mouth work to avoid cracking a tooth. As an American that has lived in Jamaica I did observe the rituals of folks eating these kinds of dishes and I’m willing to guess the rub with Americans is that we take it as poor manners to put something in our mouths, pull it out, put it back in and work it.

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the fish

June 21st, 2010
5:10 pm

Funny, but a few months ago at Canton Cooks the waiter tried to dissuade us from having the BBQ Chinese ribs because “they come with bones”. We also had to fight on our hands to be allowed to order them. He said that people would send them back because of the bones. After we signed a contract saying that we would not send them back, and that nobody at our table would choke on them, we were allowed to order the ribs. They were delicious!! Why is it that we always crave Canton Cooks on Wednesdays and Chick-fil-A on Sundays?


June 21st, 2010
5:18 pm

if it’s in a soup–boneless. any other time, bones are fine with me. it’s just that soups are meant to eat in spoon-portioned bites with no other fussing around.


June 21st, 2010
5:47 pm

I don’t know if that is the case with this dish, but at a lot of “authentic” Chinese restaurants (and in China), they cut the chicken into small pieces, bones included. This makes for bone shards you really need to watch out for. Its fine with me, but I can see this bothering people–especially those not used to it. I am also convinced there is no polite way to deal with the bones other than pick them out of your mouth. At some point these restaurants probably have enough dishes sent back that they no longer want to sell them to certain customers who look like they may not like it.


June 21st, 2010
6:38 pm

I just can’t eat Phoenix Claw. But I don’t mind bones!


June 21st, 2010
11:30 pm

This is ironic, because the other day my husband and I went to Kowloon, which is the new restaurant where First China used to be. We ordered one sort of clay pot dish, but were dissuaded from getting it because we were told that it had “stinky fish.” So then we ordered the Sizzling Chicken clay pot, described on the menu as having bones in it, and the server warned us that it had bones in it. We confirmed with him 3 times that we wanted it and were fine with the bones, but when it came out of the kitchen, he had apparently decided for us that we would get the boneless version. I would have been miffed about that, but the boneless version turned out to be pretty tasty anyway, so I won’t fault him for trying to cover his butt, should we have turned out to be crazy white people who ask for things that we really don’t want.

I also eat my shrimp whole, head-on with shell and tail. I’ve noticed that I’m a rare case among white people in this respect, too.

Hungry Gringo

June 22nd, 2010
8:46 am

Boneless is for wimps who want to forget our agrarian heritage. My great-grandmother killed chickens two at a time, and now my mother and sister won’t even stand in the kitchen when I cut up a rotisserie chicken.


June 22nd, 2010
9:38 am

Bone-in, baby – bone-in. And frankly, I believe I would be irritated to no end (actually, probably, to the extent of leaving) if I were constantly asked and reminded of something you told me about earlier.

“It has bones”

“Ok – we’ll order that.”

That should be the end of it – anything more and I’m seriously irritated.

@ the fish – a contract? Really? Nope, not I.


June 22nd, 2010
9:48 am

BTW, did the dish cause PED? LOL!


June 22nd, 2010
12:31 pm

That chicken in a mystery brown sauce doesn’t look too appetizing but those snow pea tips sure do!


June 22nd, 2010
1:50 pm

Must have bones! Love the chicken feet at Hong Kong Harbor. Actually I love going there for Dim Sum on Sundays.


June 22nd, 2010
10:08 pm

The last two times I have been to Canton Cooks the server has tried to prevent me from ordering various dishes. First, the Thai hot & sour soup (”too hot for Americans”), the braised spareribs “(”very little spareribs”), and the shrimp and chinese dumpling (”chinese dumpling not sweet”). I finally fought my way into beef with bitter melon which I enjoyed very much thank you.


June 23rd, 2010
5:15 pm

Depends on the food and how lazy I am feeling. I have no revulsion for bones, but sometimes just don’t feel like dealing with them.

One thing that just gets on my LAST nerve though is paying “extra” for a bone. A bone in (or cowboy as they are now calling them) rib-eye costs the same or more than a boneless one. I’m just not down with paying 10 or 11 bucks at the grocery store for a bone. It’s as stupid as paying 16.99 a lb for bacon when you buy a “bacon wrapped” filet-mignon from a store. Buy a one without the stupid bacon at $16.99 a LB and wrap it yourself dummy.