Sunday, January 17, 2010

Feel The Burn - Szechuan Food That's Truly Hot-Hot-Hot

I like to think that if my husband and I were to play one of those, "how well do you know your partner" games that we would kick some ass. It's not that we're really lovey dovey or anything. It's just that we think alike, we're pretty adventurous and just about every adventure we embark on, we embark on together. Put those things together and over 5 or 6 years you really do start to finish each others sentences (perhaps after 50 years we'll be telepathically linked...scary thought). Case in point, last night at dinner. We live 8 blocks from Chinatown in Philadelphia, so our neighborhood isn't exactly hurting for a Chinese restaurant. I mean, how lazy do you have to be to not walk 8 blocks? Well, sometimes, you'd be surprised at just how lazy you CAN be. So I was extremely delighted when a new Chinese restaurant opened just two blocks away (1 1/2 if you cut through the alley!). The hubby told me that it was supposed to be the "real deal" Szechuan style Chinese, and it was BYOB, so with a six pack in hand we moseyed over, looking forward to some scorching cuisine. As we sat down at the table we began wondering just how hot it was going to be, and so, in unison we said, "it can't be as hot as those wings in Vermont". This is the finishing each other's sentences part. We both agree, and probably always will, that THE hottest thing we've ever put in our mouths was a honey-habanero wing at this little pub on Church Street in Burlington Vermont. These wings were horrible. We like to think that we can handle some heat. Not that we have anything to prove...we just like it hot. But these wings were like putting 100 habaneros in a sauna in the middle of the Sahara dessert, taking the oil and juice that drained from them, mixing it with a pin-head sized drop of honey and spreading them on perfectly good wings. They were just wrong. After that experience we've realized that "hot" food really isn't all that hot in comparison, and we've also realized that you can easily ruin a perfectly good bite of food by drowning it with spice. Fortunately, that was not the case at Han Dynasty last night.

There is a bit of a buzz in Philly at the moment over the Han Dynasty restaurant. The buzz is that the cuisine is very authentic AND very hot. There is a heat-o-meter on the menu that goes from 1 (least hot) to 10 (burn your face off). I ordered a 7 and the hubby ordered...drumroll...the 10 (I mean come on...he kind of had to try it).

The hubby's 10 was called "Dry Pot Style". Basically you chose a meat or seafood and they prepared it with hot peppers, more hot peppers, seasoning galore, fresh vegetables and served it in a mini-wok over a mini-jet engine. Good presentation and excellent taste. It was unlike anything I've ever tasted before. The mixture of peppers and spices almost gave it a floral taste, and, although it really was "burn your face off" hot, you could still taste all of the ingredients, including the delicate fish he chose. How did they do it? I haven't the slightest idea. But it was delicious.

My 7 was called "Hot Sauce Style". The menu stated that the sauce was "very authentic" and that's all I needed to hear. The menu was filled with starters that were soaked in pepper oil and the owner brought us a small dish of pepper oil covered cucumber as a little starter, so I figured mine would be right along the same lines and I was right. It was delicious and completely different from my husband's. Mine was pork and cabbage in a much more savory and juicy sauce that coated your tongue and married well with the fatty pork. For a 7 it was PLENTY hot and left my mouth almost as numb as the hubbie's, but was enjoyable as can be.

So what better way to warm yourself up smack dab in the middle of winter than to eat something that will make you sweat?! **And sweat you will**. So go ahead and keep with that new year's resolution to try something new and find yourself an authentic Szechuan restaurant. Even if you don't think you like spicy, give it a try. It's not your typical jalapeno heat and even if it's not your cup of tea at least you'll have tried something new.

Han Dynasty
108 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19106

Han Dynasty on Urbanspoon


  1. My wife an I are headed t oPhilly this saturday. If it wasn't for the fact that we're headed to El Vez with friends we'd give this place a try. It sounds great! Next time.

  2. Hi there anonymous! I'm glad you're a fan of El Vez. I'm not sure that I ever posted about the place, but I too love it. The Sea Bass tacos are my favorite!!! Who ever thought that Sea Bass and sweet potato puree would go so well together? Now I'm hungry ;)