REVIEW: Panda Express Chinese Spare Ribs

Panda Express Chinese Spare Ribs

Panda Express’ Chinese Spare Ribs are Andy Kao’s swan song.

Who’s Andy Kao?

He’s a man you should hug if you’re ever fortunate enough to meet him because he invented Panda Express’ wonderful Orange Chicken, which for some of you is the only reason why you go to Panda Express. After decades as Panda’s executive chef, Mr. Kao is retiring this year. But he’s leaving us with Chinese Spare Ribs, an entree that’s almost as good as his Orange Chicken.

Panda Express’ Chinese Spare Ribs are St. Louis cut and slow-cooked for five hours. Then they’re wok-fired in Panda Express’ Chinese BBQ sauce that’s made up of sesame oil, mirin, garlic, red chili bean paste, and dried red chili flakes.

I ordered two servings and was given 14 pieces of various sizes. Most of them were somewhere between two to three inches long. Some pieces had a layer of fat, about half had most or all of their meat on them, and others had half of their meat missing. This got me thinking that these ribs were so tender that the meat easily falls off the bone.

Silly me. It’s fast food, not some Kansas City barbecue place.

The meat does cleanly come off the bone and its easy to chew, but it doesn’t melt off the bone or in my mouth. But the ribs I received weren’t straight from the wok, and I don’t know how long they were sitting in their serving trays, so they might be tenderer right from the wok.

Panda Express Chinese Spare Ribs 2

The Chinese BBQ sauce that coats the ribs was inspired by Char Siu, which is a traditional Chinese barbecued pork. It’s sweet with a mild chili pepper spiciness. It does taste like Char Siu, but spicier. The sauce isn’t messy and it helps give the ribs a wonderful caramelized exterior with a few crispy edges. I really like it, but I’m not surprised because Panda Express is great at sweet and slightly spicy sauces, like those on their Orange Chicken, Sweetfire Chicken Breast, and Beijing Beef.

There aren’t a lot of bone-in ribs in fast food history. No, I’m not counting the McDonald’s McRib and its rib-shaped pork patty. In 2010, Burger King offered their Fire-Grilled Ribs, but they were pricey and not good. Panda’s Chinese Spare Ribs are more expensive than most of their regular items. They have an additional $1.50 charge to them, just like Panda’s entrees that use premium ingredients, like shrimp or Angus beef.

Paying that additional charge is something I’m used to, but it feels different with these ribs. With the shrimp and Angus steak, everything is consumed. But with these ribs, most of the weight of each serving comes from the bones. Bones that I can’t eat. So it sort of feels like I’m not getting my money’s worth.

But, DAMN, they’re the best bone-in fast food ribs I’ve ever had. Granted, they are the only bone-in fast food ribs I’ve ever had. But they’re tasty and tender enough that they make me want to give Andy Kao a hug.

(Nutrition Facts – 370 calories, 25 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 740 milligrams of sodium, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, 1 gram of fiber and 28 grams of protein.)

Item: Panda Express Chinese Spare Ribs
Purchased Price: $8.20 + $3.00 upcharge for two servings
Size: 1 plate with two entrees
Purchased at: Panda Express
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: The best bone-in fast food ribs I’ve ever had. They look really good. Nice sweet and spicy sauce. Meat cleanly comes off the bone. Orange chicken.
Cons: $1.50 additional charge for each serving. Some pieces were missing meat. Giggling whenever I type bone-in.

12 thoughts to “REVIEW: Panda Express Chinese Spare Ribs”

  1. The man who invented Orange Chicken. Someone should film a documentary about him.

    Through good times and bad Orange Chicken has been a steadfast friend.

  2. This makes me sad I live nowhere near a Panda Express. Those ribs look delicious.

  3. I tried these yesterday as well, but they worked less well for me than they did for you. I don’t like spicy stuff, and these were too spicy for me (like the orange chicken, sadly).

  4. i didnt like the earlthy way they made them and what pissses me off to no end is the sheer size they are.. its dam ribs for peeets sake… so anyhoos panda exprress s the most overly priced joke ever.. you pay so much and get so little… well i got a sise of rice steamed then a combo of the ribs and rice again… 10 buks… yea still doesnt excuse panda mediocrity… theres a lace called hong kong express in south cali.. the food is way better and you get alot more.. too bad il be going there and most of u dont even know what that is.. adios diots

      1. shut the hell up will ya and stop beratig me.. u pinchy judeo fool… and get over it.. jeeesh some of u plp r just pathetic… get lost

  5. $1.25 upcharge here in Woodland Hills, CA. Manager of PE said $1.50 upcharge is depend on vary locations. Oh boy!

  6. They are way too spicy for us. One of the workers said the same thing about them.

  7. I’ll keep this one really short (sorta) and simple. I tried panda express three times this summer all three times especially last night made me sick literally – been sitting on the toilet most of the night. The food seems to be very dry and tasteless, old not fresh, not seasoned right and the most awefull Asian food of any type I’ve ever ever had. I will never ever ever go back to any panda express or recommend any panda express to anyone including my worst enemy. Especially the low mein which has each time reminded me of eating tasteless straw! Tried several different items too this time which also seemed to be not seasoned right and tasteless and definitely not fresh. Don’t know how they can possibly stay in business with such terrible food and the fact that it actually does not agree with me at least, and literally makes me sick I will never go back to any Panda Express or recommend them to anyone even for something quick. I love GOOD Asian foods of all types and have eaten various styles but never have I gotten sick each time like at PA. I definitely learned my lesson this time and will never ever eat at a Panda Express again. Wow. What a terrible restaurant. Just being honest.

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