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Oct 14, 2013 05:03 PM

Han Dynasty Taiwanese street food

Anyone planning on trying out the Taiwanese street food menu at Han Dynasty? Would be very interested in hearing how it is.

And speaking of Taiwanese food, is there anyplace else in Center City to get it?

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  1. That doesn't look particularly Taiwanese or exciting.

    10 Replies
      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        LOL, why put something on the menu no one will eat?

        1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

          Can't disagree with Worldwide Diner or Delucacheesemonger on the menu items, but where are you getting your authentic and exciting Taiwanese food in Philly?

          PhillyBestBYOB, if there's a market for durian here, there's a market for stinky tofu. :-)

          1. re: msiangal

            But Durian is Indonesia and Malaysia, nothing to do with Taiwan, entirely different culture.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              I was making a joke about foods generally considered to be stinky here in the US. And I've lived in both Malaysia and Taiwan and am aware of the cultural differences.

      2. re: Worldwide Diner

        Are you either Taiwanese or a frequent visitor to Taiwan? Basic internet research reveals that at least 6 of the 7 dishes described on the menu are commonly eaten in Taiwan. The street food part seems tenuous but not the Taiwanese part (and coming from a Taiwanese restaurateur, I bet he has some idea what he's talking about)

        1. re: Worldwide Diner

          post deleted. topic in most post already covered.

        2. I'm not a fan of Han Dynasty, but I love Taiwanese food, so maybe it'd be worth a trip... As far as I can tell from the menu, only the guabao, youfan, and dajipai are street foods. The rest (guancaiban, luroufan, luobuogao) are usually eaten from little mom-and-pop shops. I don't know what the fried chicken wings are supposed to be; given the flavors listed, they could be HD's riff on yanshuji.

          (For others' convenience:
          guabao = Pork Belly in Buns
          youfan = Sticky Rice
          dajipai = Pork/Chicken Chop
          guancaiban = Coffin Bread
          luroufan = Minced Pork Over Rice
          luobuogao = Turnip Cake)

          Empress Garden and Ray's Cafe are Taiwanese. The former is fine for a fix. You can get fresh (unfried) luobuogao at Heung Fa Chun and mediocre luobuogao at any Canto place offering dim sum.

          7 Replies
          1. re: mookleknuck

            The foobooz article indicated that Han Dynasty may expand their selection of Taiwanese items in the future, so I'm guessing they're starting out with items that are more likely to be "accessible", hence no stinky tofu or o-a-jian.

            Thanks for the suggestions. I've looked at Empress Garden's menu before (at menupages) and don't remember it being particularly Taiwanese, but will check them out.

            1. re: msiangal

              Yeah, I think I'm going to wait and see what else Han Dynasty will put out. I get the feeling that I'll look at the prices and think that they're terrible price to value ratios... Maybe it's a personal bias, but I think a lot of Taiwanese food, especially the food you'd eat in people's homes, is really accessible, excepting the dishes with offal and "weird" textures. I'd love to see some Hakka food, but that's hard to find anywhere in the States.

              I'd never looked at menupages' version of Empress Garden's menu, but I am pretty sure that they give you an entire menu of untranslated Chinese dishes along with daily specials in Chinese on the wall. I don't think that the Chinese menu corresponds all that closely to the one in English (or the one on menupages). I seem to remember thinking that their "three items" dish (it might have been celery, dougan, and something else) was competent home style cooking.

              1. re: mookleknuck

                We went to Empress Garden for lunch today so I could get my Taiwanese food fix. The decor is pretty much as you'd expect in Chinatown, but the service was much friendlier than average. One of the 2 ladies working there was Cantonese and the other was from Indonesia; both also spoke Mandarin.

                On to the food. First, there is no special Chinese menu (I specifically asked)--just the regular menu plus recommendations written on a chalkboard in English and Chinese. The chalkboard items written in English differed from the ones written in Chinese, but the 2 lists overlapped. I brought home a copy of their take-out menu and most of the items on the chalkboard are included in the take-out menu. The only thing I remember seeing on the chalkboard that isn't in the menu is the 客家豆腐煲 (roughly translates to Hakka tofu casserole).

                Overall, the menu looks like a typical Chinese-American restaurant menu with some Taiwanese and Indonesian items thrown in, which is kind of weird. We tried the following:

                Scallion Pancake (蔥油餅): Less heavy and greasy than the versions you typically get at Chinese-Amercan restaurants, but nothing special. I think it needed a lot more scallions.

                Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (台灣牛肉湯麵): One of the better versions I've had in the US. The beef was tender, the broth was pretty flavorful, and they added 酸菜 (Chinese pickled vegetable--not sure what it's called in English), which I like in my beef noodle soup. The addition of bean sprouts was a bit strange--don't think I've ever had beef noodle soup with bean sprouts.

                Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞): Not impressed with this version. The sauce was overly thick and sweet (almost syrupy), and there was very little flavor of sesame oil and ginger--mostly just tasted salty and sweet. Also, there were little shards of bone scattered throughout the dish.

                Minced Pork Over Rice (滷肉飯): Maybe there's some regional variant of this dish that I'm not familiar with, but this tasted nothing like any lu rou fan I've ever had. The minced pork was very dry, with virtually no sauce. There was no evidence of shallots or any soy flavor, but there were little bits of what tasted like 蘿蔔乾 (dried turnip/radish). It tasted alright if you pretended you had ordered a completely different minced pork dish instead of lu rou fan....

                The verdict: I might go back sometime and give some of the other Taiwanese items on the menu a try. The ones that look interesting are the Taiwanese meatball (台式肉丸; based on the waitress' description, sounds like a ba wan), Tai Lo Mein (大滷麵), and Fried Pork Chop Over Rice (豬排飯). But based on what we got today, it wasn't good enough to be worth the drive from Bucks County, especially since I can make decent versions of the items we ordered at home.

                1. re: msiangal

                  Thanks for the review, msiangal. Apologies that it wasn't worth the drive into the city!

                  1. re: mookleknuck

                    You're welcome and no problem at all! Would be interested to hear what you think if you go back to Empress Garden. I'll probably try Han Dynasty's Taiwanese items at some point, and also Ho Sai Gai based on ChemicalKinetics' suggestion, and will report back.

            2. re: mookleknuck

              Mookleknuck, thanks for the primer and related comments. As one who knows little about this cuisine, no actually nothing, it is interesting and useful.

              1. re: Bacchus101

                Very welcome, Bacchus101. If you'd like to read some more about Taiwanese food, there's some really great information on Chowhound, especially on the LA board.

            3. <And speaking of Taiwanese food, is there anyplace else in Center City to get it?>

              Philly Chinatown has at least two restaurant specialize Taiwanese dishes. Maybe more.

              Empress Garden and Ho Sai Gai

              17 Replies
              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Thanks for the suggestions, Chemicalkinetics. We just tried Empress Garden today (my review is in this thread). I've actually walked past Ho Sai Gai many times but always assumed they were a Cantonese restaurant because of their name. Will check out their menu the next time I'm down there.

                1. re: msiangal

                  Yes, the name does sound very Cantonese, but the menu is much more Taiwanese, and the waitresses and managers also confirmed so. I think what happened is that restaurants come and go. The original owner may have been Cantonese, but was bought out.

                  By the way, I was told that Express Garden is no longer run by Taiwanese anymore.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Interesting. When did you learn that it's not run by Taiwanese any more? Did the chefs remain?

                    1. re: mookleknuck

                      <When did you learn that it's not run by Taiwanese>

                      About 6 months ago, ironically, I learnt that when I was eating at Ho Sai Gai. The staffs and I were talking about other restaurants in Chinatown and Taiwanese food....etc. Long story short, the manager told me that the only two restaurants run by Taiwainese (people from Taiwan) are: Ho Sai Gai and Four Rivers.

                      According to them, Express Garden is no longer owned by Taiwanese for ~1.5 years now. So I actually ate there when it was still owned by Taiwanese. :)

                      Not sure about the chefs.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Thanks! Sounds like I'd eaten there when it was still owned by Taiwanese too. If I go to Empress Garden again, I'll post anything I learn about the chefs.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Just stopped at Ho Sai Gai late at night (for a weeknight) and chatted with the woman from Taipei. She said that the owner is Hakka and that their chefs were from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The chef on duty that night was from Hong Kong.

                          She recommended the beef noodle soup and mapodofu. We ordered the "red cook beef noodle soup" (so stated on the menu) and asked for the mapodofu to be spicy. We also got the chicken skewers. Nothing really worth the time. It was nice that the beef noodle soup had meicai, decent meat and noodles, and with additional chili oil was almost flavorful, but the broth was really really weak, given that I could taste the tap. I make better mapodofu at home as this was almost Japanese style in its mildness, and the skewers were nothing I need mention here.

                          Any recommendations?

                          1. re: mookleknuck

                            Thanks for the report. I have only been to Ho Sai Gai once. I had the giant sweet rice dumpling, which I thought was good. You know. I think there was 2 dumplings, and the two of them filled up the bowl. Each is about the size of my palm. I don't think the item was on the menu, but it was one of the displayed picture on the window.

                            Sorry that your experience wasn't very good.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Yeah, I saw that picture too and thought about ordering it, but my dining companion wasn't in the mood for it AND the woman didn't recommend it. If I return, I will try out their lion's head meatball and the sweet rice dumpling.

                              The service was sweet and friendly, but yeah, I really don't like disappointing meals... Thanks for the sympathy!

                              1. re: mookleknuck

                                <the woman didn't recommend it.>

                                Interesting. The woman server highly recommended it when I ordered it. She said "You have such good understanding". I have a feeling that we talked to the same server. She is very talkative. She herself is from Taipei. Middle age. A square like or rather round/wide face....etc.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Chemicalkinetics, you're right, it does sound like we spoke with the same woman. Perhaps I hadn't established my familiarity and preference for traditional fengwei. I did encourage my dining companion to order what she wanted and she chose based on the server's recommendations. Nevertheless, I'll try it one more time and order the sweet rice dumpling and see what else will be recommended.

                                  1. re: mookleknuck

                                    Who knows what happened. I may go back there one more time as well. So what is your recommendation for Taiwanese street food in this Philadelphia area?

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Han Dynasty.

                                      Kidding, kidding. I haven't really found any place that I recommend for Taiwanese. Even the Taiwanese food available in NY is not that great.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          What would be the point in coming to Chowhound then? =D

                            2. re: mookleknuck

                              Sorry you had a disappointing meal at Ho Sai Gai, but thanks for reporting back--you saved me another drive to Chinatown! You had mentioned Ray's Café in a previous post in this thread. Have you tried that place?

                              1. re: msiangal

                                msiangal, very welcome! Time and money are precious and I will probably eat elsewhere the next time I'm in Chinatown. I haven't been to Ray's Cafe, so can't personally recommend it, but have heard that it is Taiwanese. Please report if you try it!