Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Han Dynasty Spiced up our Day!

We have fallen in love with Han Dynasty, the Szechuan Chinese Restaurant on Chestnut Street near Front.  Desperately and dizzily in love, like a tween for Justin Beiber.

We kindled our ardor during one recent lunch.

Han specializes in Szechuan food, which relies heavily on chilis and garlic.  If you prefer a bland diet, this is not the place for you.  But the servers always ask what spice level you want on a scale of 1-10 so you have some control of your destiny; our group has a high tolerance for spice and level 3 was enough kick for us.  So, a word to the wise, err on the side of caution.

We started with the dumplings in chili oil.   These gorgeous half-moons, traditional noodle pillows filled with seasoned pork, doused with chili oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds were hotly wonderful.  And wonderfully hot.

The spicy, crispy cucumbers, sliced and dressed in a delightfully zippy dressing, could make even the most die hard carnivore turn a fork to this vegan dish.

We progressed to the dan dan noodles; again spicy, but infused with peanut, scallion, garlic, and an abundance of other lovely things that brought a complexity of flavor beyond mere chili.

Han Dynasty's main courses present flexibility, and require some decisiveness.  Each available preparation is listed with the protein options--so diners who want a garlic sauce style opt for that, and then select pork/chicken/beef/lamb/tofu/shrimp/scallops.  We chose dry pepper-style shrimp; the shrimp were crisply fried, then tossed with dried and long hot chilis.   Alas, there is no photo of this dish; we tucked into it upon its arrival at the table and by the time we remembered to shoot it there was not enough left on the plate  to fill the frame.

The vegetable sides were spectacular.  The pea leaves with garlic (admittedly my favorite green) made me long for spring even more, when these lovely sprouts are readily available at farmers markets.

And the eggplant with garlic sauce, which was a (naturally) spicy sweet and sour concoction was both scrumptious and pretty to look at.  Wouldn't you love a cashmere sweater in that purple shade?

After lunch we headed home, thoroughly full, with our tongues pleasantly tingly, sinuses clear, eagerly planning our next meal there.  And we thanked our lucky stars that we live in a neighborhood that has such a tremendous variety of high quality ethnic restaurants.

What are your new fave places in Philly?

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