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Jan 10, 2014 10:41 PM

"Special Flavor Chicken"- Have You Seen in Boston?

I'm finally remembering to ask if anyone has seen on local Chinese menus- 2 dishes I used to really enjoy in Boston long ago.

On Galen St., just outside of Watertown Sq, there was a really good restnt, Hunan Palace, in the '80's. They had "Special Flavor Chicken' which was thinly sliced breast meat in a thin tomatoey glaze with fresh cilantro. No chili peppers in sight.

Also in the 80's at Royal East in Central Sq. they had Lemon Chicken, which was thin chicken breast cutlets sandwiched with chopped waterchestnuts, fried in crunchy coating and napped with a not very sweet lemon 'sweet 'n sour' type sauce. I have read recent reports of Royal East's changing owners (from Island Hopper, yes?)
I had something like it at Szechuan Garden II in Woburn a few yrs ago, but it was dry as cardboard and i never got it again.

I know the majority of you are dragon breaths, and these dishes may well have been individually created by their respective chef, but has anyone seen these dishes in Boston? thx much!

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  1. I believe Mandarin in Reading had a dish on their New Years buffet that was called Special Flavor Chicken, but I don't see it on their regular menu. I thought it was an odd name for a dish, but it was tasty. Unfortunately, I don't remember what else was in it.

    1. You might also look for "mystery/mysterious flavor chicken" which shows up now and then. I know Mary Chung has it, and Zoes did before the accident. Not 100% sure this is the same thing but it seems reasonable to think so.

      1. I've also seen it around town as "Strange Flavor Chicken", but I've never tried it.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Boston_Otter

          I've eaten strange flavor chicken many times and it never had a tomatoey glaze.

          Chef Changs did taste iof dry coriander, but not cilantro.

          1. re: C. Hamster

            Interesting! I always figured it was the same dish. My mistake!

            1. re: Boston_Otter

              I also think it was fried like the general's

              But if you name something vaguely as "strange" or "special" maybe that gives you license to do anything you want.

              I definitely would have remembered a Chinese dish that was tomatoey with fresh cilantro (yum!)

              1. re: Boston_Otter

                I believe there is a dish which translates to strange/mysterious flavor chicken but I don't think it's quite what the OP describes. I suspect the OP had an A-C dish which utilized the name.

                I could be 100000x off base but I associate tomatoes with taiwanese cooking, but who knows.

            2. re: Boston_Otter

              GOOOOO,OTTER! that was it! STRANGE flavor chicken, not special flavor chicken. I would ask myself where my name memory went, but that would be pointless. Anyway, that's what it was- Strange Flavor Chicken. And it was chicken and sliced bamboo shoots, tomatoey glaze and cilantro. And these were the days- '70'S and '80'S, before cilantro was a well known entity, so i think the cilantro accounted for the 'strange flavor'. thx otter.

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                I remember strange flavor chicken dishes from that era and earlier, none had tomato. IIRC they were various versions of bang-bang (spelling varies) chicken--a little sweet/sour/spicy, with cilantro.

            3. "Mysterious Flavor Chicken" is on the regular menu at Wang's in Somerville, on Broadway's, uh, rooster block (alongide Pini's pizza and Woody's liquors).

              It doesn't taste particularly mysterious to me; at least, no moreso than anything else at restaurants using staple ingredients I didn't grow up with. But I do enjoy it.


                never had it there but I know exactly what you are talking about. I miss it too because it was my cousin's place and those were the original Joyce Chen clan of cooks knew how to cook that dish in the 80's. Go figure, I can't cook it.

                7 Replies
                1. re: janetc4ads

                  janet, FanTAStic!! I can't thank you enough. I wish i could run over and try it right now (and it looks like they have the same Lemon Chicken too!) Can't wait!
                  It was your cousin who owned Hunan Palace? Is she out of the food bus? I think she birthed 3 children during the course of when I knew her......

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    Yes, it's my male cousin who owned it. They just retired after Chinese food bus got too competitive. Same with my dad/uncle's place in Harvard Sq. House of Peking. All the chefs are from the original Joyce Chen in Fresh Pond in Cambridge that has been gone for years. The secret ingredient is ketchup. LOL

                  2. re: janetc4ads

                    Hi Janet, so glad to have found this site.
                    I worked at Hunan Palace as a part time waiter when I was a student in Boston. 1985 to 1989. I left in 89 and came to Los Angeles for school and the follow years, I have been contacting the owner of Hunan Place, Mr, Ho However, recently years, I tried to call the original number but learned that it's disconnected. I checked with a friend the was told that it was sold to a Jap restaurant.
                    Could you kindly give me their contact number? I remember him and his wife Debbie and the two younger brothers of Mr. Ho. They were really nice to me and my wife when were there as college students, struggling to pay tuition. I also remember his partner chef Chua who left and opened another restaurant some where else. Mr. Chua was very nice to me as well when I was working there.
                    I will really appreciate if you can help to reconnect with them. I like to talk to Mr. and Mrs Ho, his brothers and even chef Chua if you know the name of his new restaurant. I was told that is somewhere in Brookline?? I also remember that Mr Ho lives in Newton.
                    thank you in advance

                    1. re: samg9982

                      Hi Sam,
                      email me your phone # at and I will let my cousins know that you are looking for them.
                      It's nice to see people still remember the nice things about them. Always pay it forward! It's a nice thing to do.

                      1. re: janetc4ads

                        this is great, janet. Plse also tell them that some people still dream about their Strange Flavor Chicken at Hunan Palace!

                          1. re: janetc4ads

                            Hey Janet, did you receive my email? I sent it couple days ago, just wanted make sure you got it.