The United States Shaped Like Panda Express Orange Chicken Game
If you're like most people who love to eat, then you've probably eaten at Panda Express at least a few times in your life. And if you're like most people who've eaten at Panda, chances are you love their orange chicken.
This simple dish with the chunks of breaded, deep fried cluckers and the sweet, citrusy glaze is the one that put the franchise on the map and helped it go from a modest mom-and-pop eatery in Pasadena, California almost fifty years ago, to the largest Asian-segment restaurant chain in the world, with over 2,200 locations.
As a fan of Panda, I can also count myself among the ranks of those who savor this foundational staple from the franchise's menu board. And over my years of grinding on this sticky-sweet treat, I've also found myself playing a rather fun game using more than just my taste buds.
Now if you not only love the orange chicken at Panda but also happen to be a geography nerd like me, then you'll so get this and might already be playing along too.
You see, it just so happens that every hunk of delectable orange chicken from Panda also ironically correlates to the shape of any one of the fifty United States of America. And so after picking up on this little nugget of nuance, I started rummaging through my orange chicken with my chopsticks looking to compile a complete collection.
Now don't kid yourself, putting together a full set of all fifty orange-slathered states is not an easy task, as some are much harder to come across than others.
And so to help get you started with the trailblazing of your own order (or double order!) of a bowl, plate or bigger plate, I've compiled a handy list of all fifty states and ranked each of them from easiest to hardest at finding a match for with your meal!
In addition, I've also set up a fun points system for you to use as you explore future orders of orange chicken too!
So what'dya say? Let's pick up those sticks and dig in, shall we?!
HAWAII - 1 point
Perhaps the easiest state in the union to find a match for since most orders of orange chicken from Panda include a little archipelago of breaded bits floating in the sauce.
Consider this one like your free space in bingo!
MICHIGAN - 1 point
Another easy one. Not surprisingly, Michigan also happens to look like about half of the Chicken McNuggets ever created too!
Now we're talking about the mainland only of course, if you want the UP, that's considered a single-point bonus to collect ;-)
NEW JERSEY - 1 point
You'll get this one quick. In fact, there's typically at least one New Jersey-shaped piece in every scoop of Panda orange chicken.
RHODE ISLAND - 1 point
Yes, this one made our cover photo and is another super simple one to pick up.
WISCONSIN - 1 point
Just like Michigan, neighboring Wisconsin was born looking like any number of breaded chicken articles.
GEORGIA - 2 points
Only slightly less common than our single-point selections, Georgia won't be difficult for you to run across.
IOWA - 2 points
Iowa is similar to Wisconsin and Michigan but its a bit more compact, so you get two points for tracking this one down.
MAINE - 2 points
Most of the New England states can be found within four or five orders of orange chicken from Panda. Maine is the most widespread and folks who live there also know how much their home resembles a piece of breaded meat.
SOUTH CAROLINA - 2 points
Certainly easier than neighboring North Carolina to find, South Carolina is a lot like Iowa in your guidebook of orange chicken pieces shaped like United States.
WEST VIRGINIA - 2 points
Yeah, there's a few places where a little batter overrun will be necessary to help you out with West Virginia, but generally speaking, it'll happen pretty quick if you eat at Panda enough.
ALASKA - 3 points
Okay, so it's important to mention that size does matter when looking for certain states, and Alaska is one of them. But it's not that unusual to come across a mass of three or four pieces of orange chicken that are stuck together with enough squiggle at the left edge to be considered the Last Frontier State.
By the way, if you should happen upon the peninsula in the same batch, that's an extra three-pointer!
ARKANSAS - 3 points
Not as common as states like South Carolina or Iowa, but Arkansas still has quite the breaded look to it, so that should be checked off your list rather rapidly.
CONNECTICUT - 3 points
Similar to Maine but not quite as often seen, however still easier to snag than neighboring Massachusetts, Connecticut does kinda have "piece of orange chicken" written all over it.
MISSOURI - 3 points
States whose borders are made up of meandering rivers generally do well in the "my orange chicken looks like this state" game, so Missouri qualifies as an easier entry under the red, white & blue banner of borders to identify.
OHIO - 3 points
I liken Ohio to states such as Iowa and South Carolina in the hunt for a full set of fifty within your orange chicken orders. It's not a hard one to say, "been there, done that" with.
ARIZONA - 4 points
Here's where we start to make things a little tougher, since Arizona has some straight-line borders; but there's still enough deckle on its flanks to make it traceable in your orange chicken without too much difficulty.
KENTUCKY - 4 points
True enough, the state whose namesake is synonymous with fried chicken does look more like a drumstick from the Colonel's bucket than a random piece of orange chicken from Panda Express. But despite its more horizontal shape, it's still not a super hard one to locate.
NEW HAMPSHIRE - 4 points
More diminutive and skinny at one end, New Hampshire might have a bit of an odder shape to it, but it won't prove entirely impossible in your searches.
VERMONT - 4 points
Just see New Hampshire, since in the world of breaded chicken chunks that look like states, Vermont is basically the same thing turned upside down.
DELAWARE - 5 points
It's not the size that makes Delaware a bit more challenging than some other states to pick up, but rather its straight left edge that might prove a bit tougher. Best of luck, I'm sure it'll happen one day.
MASSACHUSETTS - 5 points
It's not the body of Massachusetts that makes it a little tougher to wrangle, but that comma-shaped part you'll need to see on the right side of your orange chicken chunk.
And yes, unlike Michigan and Alaska where the peninsula is merely extra credit, you'll need it to be there in order to count Massachusetts among your collection.
MISSISSIPPI - 5 points
Mississippi is a lot like Vermont and New Hampshire only slightly bigger. It's got one sinuous edge and one straight edge and therein lies the challenge, but by enlarge, you'll be able to nail it down eventually.
VIRGINIA - 5 points
Some might think Virginia would be harder to score but it's actually a lot like Kentucky.
It's out there for sure...now go find it!
NEW YORK - 5 points
I originally had the Empire State tagged as a six-point find but after further review decided to give it five.
Yeah, it's not really common by any means but I've bitten into several New Yorks while having orange chicken in recent years, so I know you're good to go at some point too.
IDAHO - 6 points
The gem state is indeed a pretty nice piece of bling to put in your collection of orange chicken pieces shaped like states. It's kind of like a bigger Vermont but with a bit more squiggle on the right edge along with a distinct dip.
This one'll come along sometime for certain too. I mean, hey...I've chowed down on Idaho before myself!
ILLINOIS - 6 points
Now I could see this one being worth a few more points since I've rarely encountered Illinois myself. It's got some pretty defined corners and curves, but overall it's not an improbable catch by any means.
LOUISIANA - 6 points
I personally think this one might be worth too many points, but if you're a purest going for a distinct match in the delta region and the straightened upper edge, then it's definitely worth what I'm offering in the challenge.
TEXAS - 6 points
Another state where size matters, just like Alaska.
To get Texas, you'll need to find a batch with at least two or three pieces of chicken stuck together. The big bend and the panhandle will of course be the toughest elements to come by.
ALABAMA - 7 points
Okay, now we're starting to get into some states with a lot more straight edges, and that's where things get a lot tougher in the "my hunk of orange chicken looks like this state" world of cross-identification.
Alabama's not impossible, but I'm here to tell ya, it won't be your easiest piece to swallow either!
CALIFORNIA - 7 points
Alright, now I've run across some itty bitty Calis in my orange chicken eating days before, but remember scale does count for something in your search; and a full-on piece of breaded all-white meat that truly resembles the Golden State will not be an easy find. Although I know they certainly exist.
INDIANA - 7 points
Uh oh, more straight edges! However, the Hoosier State does offer plenty of zigzag at its lower edge to make it more plausible to find.
MINNESOTA - 7 points
The trick to finding Minnesota is getting the tips to line up just right. Not a beginner-level piece for certain. Have fun searching for the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes in your lake of orange sauce.
MONTANA - 7 points
Big, long, and possessing several sharp, straight corners on the right flank, Montana can be a real b*tch to find! But make no mistake, they do happen. So beam with pride if you come across a chunk of Big Sky Country with your next order.
FLORIDA - 8 points
Alright, now we're into the harder ones for sure. Finding a Florida-shaped piece of Panda orange chicken would be a lot easier if it weren't for that damn panhandle the Sunshine State sports.
If you do happen upon this one, I recommend ditching the fork or chopsticks and picking it up by this part to eat it just as God fully intended.
NEBRASKA - 8 points
Oh, that notch! Coupled with those sharpened edges and that straight-line southern border! It all comes together to make a piece of Cornhusker State-shaped orange chicken a true rarity.
NORTH CAROLINA - 8 points
Far more difficult to locate than its breaded buddy of the same namesake to the south, the Tarheel State isn't one for the faint of heart to go searching for when ordering orange chicken at Panda. It's gonna be a long and winding road to come up with this baby!
OKLAHOMA - 8 points
Once again, we have a nearly-impossible panhandle that must be attached to a reasonable measure in order to truly be counted.
There's a lot to like in the squiggly business on the Sooner State's southern edge; but its otherwise straight-line borders along with that ridiculous beak at the western edge make this one a difficult-to-find inclusion among the fifty states.
TENNESSEE - 8 points
In Panda orange chicken ubiquity, horizontal pieces are simply harder to come by than vertical or uniform chunks. But the Volunteer State offers a particular challenge with its pointed edges and straight top and down sides. It's a hard one for certain and worth every one of those eight big ones for finding!
WASHINGTON - 8 points
Finally! Our home state, and as you can see, it's not an easy one to locate within your mound of orange chicken from Panda.
The problem with the Evergreen State is it's quite boxy and the peninsula provides a stringent task in locating as well.
NEVADA - 9 points
To put it bluntly, states that are basically squares or rectangles with four straight edges and sharp corners are virtually impossible to recreate as chunks of breaded chicken, and Nevada is almost there.
If you really happen to find this feller in your Panda order for orange chicken, you're as lucky as you'll need to be to beat the house the next time you're in Vegas.
NEW MEXICO - 9 points
The Land of Enchantment is essentially a perfect square, and that doesn't translate well when it comes to hunks of breaded chicken. Good luck finding this one...you'll need it!
OREGON - 9 points
Okay, maybe I overrated the Beaver State just a bit, but you've gotta admit, it's still a pretty tough one to compare to any chunks of your orange chicken from Panda.
Oregon's bulkiness and boxiness place it at the upper echelon of our point structure for a very good reason.
PENNSYLVANIA - 9 points
Just like New Mexico's a near-perfect square, PA's a nearly-perfect rectangle, and that's obscene in the world of breaded-then-fried pieces of chicken. I hate to be a doubter, but I find it hard to believe that this one comes along more than once or twice in a blue moon!
UTAH - 9 points
Great. A perfect square with a notch at the top. Fuh'gedda-boutit!
COLORADO - 10 points
That's right chopstick pickers and lickers looking for pieces of orange chicken that resemble states of the union, we've arrived at the top level of our point structure.
We're in the tens baby! And the Centennial State starts us off since it's a perfect rectangle. And in the world of breaded chicken...well, you know already!
KANSAS - 10 points
Another perfect rectangle, only this one's a bit longer and narrower than Colorado. A nightmare for orange chicken pickers looking to round out their collection of states.
NORTH DAKOTA - 10 points
Essentially, North Dakota is just like Kansas. It might not be a perfect rectangle, but it's damn close and damn hard to find too.
SOUTH DAKOTA - 10 points
See North Dakota...it's basically the same thing!
WYOMING - 10 points
I should just put "see Colorado" but I'll do my best to amuse you nonetheless.
Yeah, Wyoming's one of the hardest states to find in your orange chicken. It's a perfect rectangle just like its neighbor to the south. Oh, boy!
MARYLAND - 10 points
Okay, now I saved what I consider to be the very toughest for the very last.
No, Maryland isn't a perfect geometric shape like so many of its other ten-point partners in slime (with all deference to Panda's orange chicken sauce ;-), but it still has plenty of super tough straight edges, along with a damn-near unattainable shape aside.
Just take a look at Maryland on a map and you'll see why I chose the Old Line State as the hardest of the hard to match up with your orange chicken chunks. I mean, for that matter, c'mon...is there anything that's shaped like Maryland except itself?