The thing about (Americanized, greasy) Chinese food is that whatever Chinese food you had growing up is what you expect Chinese food to be like everywhere you go. No matter how awful it is in the cold light of day, the local version of General Gao's/Tso's chicken you grew up with is what you think of when you think of delicious General Gao's (Tso's!) Chicken.
Personally, I was apalled when I went away to college and ordered chicken with cashews only to have it come with green bell peppers and carrots. For shame! Correct chicken with cashews involves an abundance of water chestnuts and celery!
I was fortunate enough to grow up and live for a long time in/near Boston, which science has unequivocaly shown to have the best Chinese food in all the land. Unfortunately, however, this has ruined me for Chinese food just about everywhere else. Chinese food in Virginia, where I currently live, is particularly awful. I am still scarred by an order of Sichuan beef that was in -- no lie -- a ketchup sauce. I was talking recently to someone who grew up here, and she said that she hates Chinese food because of how awful it is here. It's not exactly gourmet to begin with, so can you imagine how awful American Chinese food has to be to make you hate it?
After much trial and error my husband and I found a pretty decent Chinese place near us. But some issues of Chinese Food Hometown Bias (CFHB) I've run into here are pretty consistent. For example: Eggrolls and crab rangoon come with spring roll wrappers, not the thick, crunchy, bubbly wrappers that make them what they should be. The duck sauce is atrocious, and I'm not quite sure why. It's corn syrupy and boring and just tastes like it's not even trying. General Gao's/Tso's is never quite right. It doesn't have the right breading, and the sauce is usually too dark and heavy and not spicy, bright, tangy, and flavorful enough. Apparently scallion pancakes can only found in New England! And, more egregiously: some restaurants literally use flour tortillas for mu shu pancakes.
Let's have a moment of silence for that last one.
I know I've been spoiled by Boston Chinese, but I can't be alone in this. Have you run into it too? And tell me, what are your favorite Chinese dishes? What are your requirements for good Chinese? I've mentioned a few above, but I should also add that all sweet and sour dishes must come with an abundance of maraschino cherries and pineapple. It's correct Chinese food. Science says so.