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Good Chinese Food?

I don't normally like Chinese food. I usually find it too salty, or too fatty, or too gloopy. A few years ago I was in London with a friend and we ate here: http://www.newfooklammoon.com. We had the "Special Fresh Lobster Set Meal 1" and it changed my mind entirely about Chinese food. It literally blew me away. I still remember it fondly more than two years since I was there.

The thing that I liked most about this meal was how bright and distinct the flavors were. There was sauce on the noodles, but it wasn't gloopy and didn't drown them. Nothing was oversalted. Things were all still identifiable, no mystery chunks or anything. But the absolute highlight of the meal was the salt & pepper squid and eel. Light as air, non-greasy crispy fried squid and eel topped with a "sauce" of sauteed garlic, chili peppers, cilantro, spring onions and ginger. We would have both licked the plate had we not been in public :


The fried rice in the meal was outstanding too - not that murky brown soy sauce color that you see in normal fried rice. The rice was off white, fragrant of ginger and garlic, studded with chicken, a few veggies and scrambled egg and speckled with shards of salty preserved fish. It was really delicious.

My question to you all is this - I know Philly has a biggish Chinatown, but I don't really know anything about it, despite growing up here. Can anyone suggest a good Chinese place that will help me recapture my memories of that meal in London? I'm looking for just Chinese, not fusion. I've been to Susanna Foo's and wasn't overlyb impressed. And it doesn't have to be in Chinatown, I'm willing to hoof it a little. Just not all the way to London :)

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  1. I love the Chinese food at Lee How Fook. Very clean, IMO, which I think you would like. Shaou Lan Kung is also delicious.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jessicheese

      Are these both downtown in Chinatown?

    2. Shiao Lan Kung on Race between 9th and 10th has what my family thinks is the best salt and pepper squid (might be called 'salt baked squid') in Chinatown; I don't usually like seafood but I like this dish there. Light and crispy, not as much garnish as your dish above.

      Their website that you linked appears to be down right now, but according to http://www.timeout.com/london/restaur... New Fook Lam Moon does Chinese-Malaysian fusion (although Fook Lam Moon is the name of a Hong Kong restaurant chain...I wonder if they're related). So even though you did say you wanted Chinese, maybe you would also like a Malaysian place like Penang or Banana Leaf.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Dib

        is Shiao Lan Kung a BYO? We've been going to Lee How Fook for years and have never been disappointed.

        1. re: pat j

          Yes, Shiao Lan Kung is a BYOB. Like Lee How Fook, they specialize in Cantonese cuisine--fresh and light flavors, generally, especially with seafood--so I wouldn't bother with any of their Hunan or Sichuan dishes (go to Szechuan Tasty House or Chungking Garden instead if you're craving spice).

            1. re: saturninus

              3rd for Shiao Lan Kung. Went looking for a Chinese place a few weeks ago and tried this after a few write-ups on Yahoo. The salt baked Shrimp is awesome. Also, the Triple delight is very good. They do not give you any rice with your meal, so you have to order (or ask for it) it in addition. I ordered take-out but the last two times I was there, it was packed (which is a good thing right?) It's a good spot although I would like to try some other places to compare.

        2. re: Dib

          My brother tells me that he had a very good salt-baked assortment of squid, shrimp, and scallops at Rising Tide (another Cantonese place), at 937 Race, that rivals Shiao Lan Kung's salt-baked. He also recommended Rising Tide's mussels.

        3. Shiao Lan Kung and Lee How Fook are our two favorite places in Chinatown - now that Lakeside is closed.
          Try the salt-baked dishes at both and see what you think.
          They very well may not be up to what you described, but the food is fresh and good, lightly done.

          1. Feel like a trip into the northern burbs? You really should check out Yantze in Hatfield. It's in a strip mall and looks totally unassuming from the outside, but it is without a doubt some of the best Chinese that I've ever had. Nothing heavy and saucy, everything is light and prepared well and just so delicious. The service is very good and it's kind of nice inside too, with a big stone koi pond...

            I propose that you take a Saturday, go to Telford and visit Hendricks' Dairy to check out the cheeses, then head to Yantze for dinner!

            1. My family and I have been going to Shao Lan Kung for years for their house special fried chicken and garlic snow pea leaves. The chicken is great. The best of fried chicken, crispy skin without being greasy and gross.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Alissavlad

                You might want to consider Yangming in Bryn Mawr.
                It has a fine reputation.

              2. Because of all of th glowing comments in the thread I decided to stop by Shaou Lan Kung for a late lunch but was surprised to see they do not open until 3:30. I will have to try them the next time I am in that area.

                1. Wow thanks everybody! At your recommendation, I tried Lee How Fook last night, along with the same friend who was with me in London, and our spouses.

                  It was VERY worth it. I ordered the 1/2 duck "appetizer" - it was huge! - but delicious, with a light sauce made with star anise and soy sauce, I think. Not sure what else was in it, but it was terrific. My friend and I both ordered the salt baked squid, shrimp and scallops, and although I thought the scallops only okay, the squid and shrimp more than made up for it. Just as I remembered...a light crisp deliciously salty coating surrounding sweet tender squid and shrimp. The garnish was thinly sliced jalapenos and scallions. Yum! On the side I ordered sauteed snow pea leaves. I have no idea if they were really the leaves of snow peas, but they were also delicous. Served almost Italian style in a light garlicky broth.

                  My companions ordered mein fun noodles with shrimp and pork, and kung pao chicken. Both looked very good and were eagerly devoured.

                  I will most definitely go back - and also check out Shaou Lan Kung too.

                  Thanks to all you Hounds who have opened up a new cuisine for me to love!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: gwebber

                    I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Their salt baked items have been on my "to try" list. You mentioned liking fried rice- theirs has ruined all others for me. They make amazing sea bass, as well.

                    1. re: jessicheese

                      So many things to try! I have a perverse urge to try the duck feet too.

                    2. re: gwebber

                      Is either Shiao Lan Kung or Lee How Fook kid friendly. My daughter is 3 1/2 and very well behaved in restaurants. Yes, I am serious! :)

                      We want to take her to explore Chinatown and have dinner. What do you think?

                      1. re: jillphilly

                        I can only speak for Lee How Fook. It's a very small restaurant, but when we were there, there was a young child (under 5). She was quite well behaved, and her parents seemed to be enjoying their meals. While I'm pretty sure there's no kids specific menu, there are plenty of things that are on the plain side if your child isn't overly adventurous :)

                        1. re: jillphilly

                          i would say yes. i surrounded by mixed company when i was there, from a solo diner bopping away to very loud music on headphones to a first date not getting along too well to the staff chowing down after the kitchen closed. it's pretty casual there, don't let the mahogany trim fool you.