philly foodspotting eat-up at han dynasty – september 2011


Last Friday Philly Foodspotting held an eat-up at Han Dynasty. Chef Han Chiang prepared a tasting menu of fiery Sichuan food. We had about 40 people in attendance and the vegetarians who went were able to have a tasting of their own too!

beef & tripe in chili oil

han explaining history of dishes


Some of the dishes served included beef & tripe in chili oil, dan dan mian, spicy cucumbers, cumin lamb, and double cooked fish. Han also walked around to give an explanation of some of the dishes and where its name was derived from.

double cooked fish


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Check out more photos after the jump:

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cooking: dan dan mian (擔擔麵)


So I spent 6 weeks in Shanghai, China for a study abroad program back in school. It was easily the best 6 weeks of my life and I got to try some pretty amazing food while I was out there. Only then, did I first get to try and realize what Sichuan food was really like. Shanghai is not in the Sichuan province, but in China, they have region specific restaurants all over and you can experience foods from the different provinces when you’re in a big city.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get across… I went to a Sichuan restaurant and my mind was blown. Sichuan food uses hua jiao, the Sichuan peppercorn, which gives Sichuan food it’s tingly, numbing mouthfeel. Not only did I become addicted to hua jiao, I also became addicted to Sichuan dishes such as dan dan mian (a spicy noodle dish) and mapo doufu (a spicy tofu dish). The entire time I was there, I couldn’t get over that the Chinese food served in the US is nowhere near as awesome as the food in China. Within weeks of being back in the US, I was China obsessed and craved some of the food I was eating just weeks ago. Luckily, I stumbled across Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty and ordered it immediately.


hua jiao, sichuan peppercorn

Back in college, I cooked a lot from this book and her Hunan cookbook, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. I learned a bunch about the ingredients used in Sichuan and Hunan dishes and had many fantastic meals. Unfortunately, I haven’t been making Chinese food as of late. No real reason, I just kind of forgot about it I guess. Luckily, I had a hankering for dan dan mian the other day and I pulled out Land of Plenty and came up with a recipe which is kind of a mix between two of the dan dan mian recipes she has in her book.


some of the ingredients you may need (clockwise from bottom: noodles, scallions, sesame paste, shaoxing, peanut oil, chili oil, sesame oil, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, ground roasted sichuan peppercorn)

Dan Dan Mian 擔擔麵
Adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty
Serves 2-4

-1 lb. chinese noodles (I like to use Twin Marquis lo mein noodles
-6 scallions, chopped

ingredients for meat
-1 tbsp peanut oil
-1/2 tsp ground roasted hua jiao
-4 oz ground beef
-2 tsp light soy sauce
-1 tsp shaoxing

ingredients for sauce
-1 tsp ground roasted hua jiao (can be adjusted to spice preference)
-1/4 tsp salt
-4 tsp sesame paste
-1 tbsp light soy sauce
-1 tbsp dark soy sauce
-2 tbsp chili oil

Before you start, make sure you have everything ready to go. When you cook in a wok, you have to move quickly, so it’s important everything is at hand.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Let this come to a boil while you follow the next steps. Do NOT place the noodles in the water until you’re done making the sauce.

Heat up the peanut oil over med-high heat in a wok. Just before it starts to smoke, toss the hua jiao in and stir fry quickly until fragrant. Immediately add the ground beef followed by the shaoxing. Once the meat has been separated, add the soy sauce. Stir fry until a little crispy, but not dry. Set aside when finished.

Next, whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a medium sized bowl until smooth. Make sure the sesame paste is no longer clumpy. Take about half of the scallions and toss them in the bowl. The result should look similar to this:


Once the sauce is finished, place the noodles into the water and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Drain noodles and immediately place into the bowl with the sauce. Top with ground beef.

At restaurants, the dish is served like so, sauce on the bottom, noodles, and topped with the meat. Of course, you have to stir it all up. This is why I use the large bowl. It can get messy if it’s placed in a smaller bowl.


dan dan mian

Once mixed all together, sprinkle remaining scallions on top.

Enjoy!

This dish keeps me sane between visits to Han Dynasty.

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han dynasty


It all started Monday morning as I was reading my tweets and checking e-mail. Michelle of An Empty Fridge gave me a heads up about Han Dynasty’s monthly tasting. Every first Monday, Han Dynasty holds a $25 tasting and they bring out all kinds of dishes that you can try. When I read previously that Han Dynasty was a Sichuan restaurant, I was immediately interested in checking this place out at some point. I used to live in central NJ and there was an awesome Sichuan restaurant there that served legit Sichuan food, with hua jiao (Sichuan peppercorn) and all…NOT your typical American takeout Chinese garbage. Since moving to the Philly area, I haven’t found any places that quite satisfied my craving for authentic Sichuan cuisine…until now…

I was out on inspection on Monday, so that was the only thing that could have stopped me from attending this dinner since I wasn’t sure what time I would be finished. Around the lunch hour, I felt pretty good about our progress and gave Han Dynasty a call…

“Walk in’s are for suckers!” Han Chiang said to me on the phone as I told him I might call back if work runs too long. I laughed…but at the same time a little shocked at what just happened. Then he said he was joking and said it was no problem if I couldn’t make it. Just that little interaction made me wanna go even more. This guy was hilarious.

Anyway, when I got to Han Dynasty, there were tables of all sizes placed adjacent to each other (rounds, squares, rectangles). I luckily sat at a table with a lazy susan, closest to the kitchen. They started to bring out the food to our table, eventually bringing out other plates to some of the others after.


fuqi feipian (夫妻肺片)

They started off with two cold apps, a beef tendon dish with a chili vinaigrette and one of my favorites, fuqi feipian (夫妻肺片), which is a beef offal dish consisting of thin slices of tongue and lung with a chili vinaigrette of some sort. That fuqi feipian was delish. It was tasty and had a lot of ground hua jiao, which numbed my lips and tongue just after a couple bites.



mung bean noodles

The next appetizers they brought out were Taiwanese sausage w/ slices of garlic and spicy cucumbers. The noodles came out soon after. There was a spicy mung bean noodle, a chili noodle, noodles with minced pork (or beef – don’t remember), and my all time favorite Sichuan dish, the dish that got me so into Sichuan cuisine…dan dan mian (擔擔麵). The dan dan mian was fantastic. It had a good amount of spice, with the perfect hint of sesame paste in the sauce. Ahh, it was heavenly. I’ve bought a Sichuan cookbook since my time in Shanghai a few years ago and learned to make dan dan mian…but I still can’t quite make it like this. Han Dynasty’s dan dan mian is close to what I had originally. This dish alone is reason enough for me to come back!


dan dan mian (擔擔麵)


rabbit dry pot

After the noodles, the entree dishes started to make their way out. There was a frog dish which was great. It reminded me of a similar frog dish I had at a Hunan restaurant in Shanghai. Some of the other dishes served were a dish of Chinese broccoli sauteed with garlic, fish w/ veggies, pork in chili sauce, a rabbit dry pot, and a dish of crispy beef slivers.


frog dish


crispy beef slivers

The final dessert was a sort of tang yuan, a sweet soup with glutinous rice balls.


tang yuan

I was officially stuffed and entering a food coma towards the end of the meal…though at the same time, I was euphoric. Some buddies and I got caught up in conversation that we ended up being some of the last people there. Han came by and gave us some boxes to take home some of the leftovers! Dan dan mian leftovers for later! Woot!

Han, thank you so much for filling the Sichuan sized hole in my stomach. I’m so glad you are close by and I will certainly be returning. I still have to try one of my other favorite Sichuan dishes, mapo doufu (麻婆豆腐).

Huge thanks to Michelle for the heads up on the tasting. I’m glad I made it out!

Sidenote: Dan dan noodles at Pei-wei Asian Diner are nowhere near the taste and flavor of true Sichuan dan dan mian, don’t be fooled.

Han Dynasty
108 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215.922.1888

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