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Panda Express Wants to Get America Hooked on Sichuan-Spiced Hot Chicken Strips

The chain announces this new product with a shockingly delightful music video

Mall food court legend Panda Express is rolling out a new dish that combines two very 2019 national food fixations: Sichuan spice and Nashville-style hot chicken. To announce the arrival of these crispy snacks, the Chinese-American chain filmed a colorful video featuring customers line dining to a Mandarin version of Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart,” spicy chicken strips in hand. This song proves that Summer 2019 has room for at least one more trap country banger.

Panda Express

Starting today, Panda Express locations across the country are offering these chicken breast strips, which are doused in a Sichuan-laced oil and dusted with a “proprietary spice blend” after they leave the frier. The strips come three to an order, and customers can ask for more spice if they like. Eater LA editor Matthew Kang got a preview taste of these last week and reports that they are indeed “very good.”

Over the last decade, Sichuan food has become wildly popular throughout China as well as in many American cities like New York, where it has eclipsed Cantonese as the city’s favorite genre of Chinese cuisine. The popularity of hot chicken, a delicacy born and bred in Nashville, has also proliferated in recent years, with the dish landing on menus at buzzy restaurants across the country as well as at KFC. The Sichuan hot chicken strips are an example of Chinese-American fusion from the country’s most popular and accessible purveyor of Chinese-American cuisine. And to hammer home the idea that Panda Express is bringing Sichuan spices to America — or perhaps more accurately, American malls and suburbs — the company introduced a mobile game where the goal is to guide an anthropomorphized pepper named Pep-Pep from the Sichuan province of China to America by swiping right.

This notion of Panda Express bringing Sichuan peppercorns to the USA is kind of silly, especially considering the popularity of Sichuan cuisine in urban areas across the country. But the chain is probably correct in assuming that at some of the chain’s 2,000 plus locations, Panda Express will be the only restaurant in town cooking with these spices.

The Sichuan hot chicken strips are now available nationwide through the end of the summer, but if they are popular — a safe bet, considering American’s deep, profound love of spicy chicken — don’t be surprised if they land on the permanent menu at some point in the near future.

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