It’s hard not to love takeout. It’s easy, familiar and often delivered right to your door. I’m a food writer and avid home cook, and I still feel like a whole line of my household budget goes to it, especially on nights my family is sick, tired or caught off guard with hungry guests.
I won’t promise that making your own versions of takeout favorites is faster, although you can make a compelling case for a few of my recipes below. I’m not naive enough to say you should never rely on takeout either. It’s often delicious, it’s usually quite convenient and, ideally, it’s supporting a local business you like.
An at-least-occasional homemade rendition, however, is reliably less expensive and more eco-friendly without all that to-go packaging. And depending on the quality of your regular restaurant, you might — might! — even discover you like your version better. So we invite you to put one of these recipes from our archives to the test.
Chicken With Cashews, above. You’ve probably had this bland-leaning dish from your local Chinese restaurant. This version is more nuanced thanks to a generous amount of garlic and Shaoxing wine. If you don’t have Shaoxing or the time to pick some up, dry sherry works or even a smaller amount of mirin (it’s sweeter), which is easier to find at the supermarket. (Apple juice is often used as a nonalcoholic alternative.)
Simple Butter Chicken. You might be surprised to discover that you can coax so much flavor out of a relatively straightforward yogurt marinade and canned-tomato-based sauce. This Indian staple is one of Voraciously’s most popular recipes.
Spicy Lemon Grass Soup (Tom Yum Gai). This one you can absolutely pull together in close to (or less than) the amount of time it would take for your delivery to show up. Know that even if you don’t have access to a Thai or Asian market, you can still make a fantastic soup using grocery store ingredients. The recipe includes handy substitutions for several items in the ingredient list.
Better Than Takeout Fried Rice. Fried rice at home is thrifty and fast, and if you never want to have it the same way twice, you don’t have to. What you put in it is mostly up to you, as long as your rice is cold. And, yes, it’s a great dish to use up those cartons from your other takeout.
Mushroom and Scallion Lo Mein. If you love mushrooms, this is a dish for you. Mix and match varieties you like, but regardless of what you use, you’ll have a savory, earthy flavor that plays nice with the scallions. Add fried or scrambled eggs for extra heft.
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