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Han Dynasty 2


philadining
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A fair number of eG folks have made it to Han Dynasty in Exton, and it remains one of my favorite places for traditional Chinese food, especially Sichuan and Taiwanese specialties. So I was thrilled to hear that they were opening a second location in Royersford, which is closer to my home. In the midst of a crazy fall, a few months went by before i managed to find my way out there.

I don't tend to go in that particluar direction all that much, but I will now, since I discovered that the new place is really easy to get to, and is at least as good, maybe even better than the original. The new location is just a stone's-throw from the Royersford exit off of rt 422. Heading west, you just bear right off the exit, make a left at the stoplight you come to almost immediately, then another immediate left into a big plaza with a Genuardi's supermarket, a "Texas Roadhouse" restaurant, a bunch of fast-food places, pretty much a typical suburban strip-mall.

But, much like in Exton, hidden behind that generic facade is an exemplary restaurant. Sadly, the Taiwanese dishes that are among the standouts at the original place are not available here, at least not right now, they may add some in the future. But the spicy cuisine of Sichuan is well-represented, with a few more selections than are on the menu at the first restaurant.

And most importantly, the execution here is top-notch. I'm a big fan of the chef at the Exton location, having followed him from Tifco China Bistro, to Chung King Garden in Chinatown, and back out to Han Dynasty, so I'm reluctant to start ranking the kitchens, but everything I had at this new place tasted a little bit more focused, vivid, intense than I've had anywhere else. That includes the Chinatown places and some fabled spots in NY as well. Yep, I think this food is significantly better than Szechuan Tasty House, Chung King Garden, even Four Rivers. I'd even go so far as to say that I like it better than Grand Sichuan International and Wu Liang Ye in Manhattan.

Of course, all these assessments are subjective, and to be candid, I did recieve some special treatment. They recognize me as a frequent customer from the other place, and have figured out that I post pictures, so I'm sure the kitchen brought their A-game. Han, the manager, was even nice enough to sit and chat with me, arranged for some extra samples, even gave me a beer. I'll admit that I've done some irresponsible things under the influence of Victory's Golden Monkey, but I'm feeling pretty confident that my judgment was still intact after one of them! Of course, it's hard not to get caught up in the thrill of a place close to your home that has good food, and where they're being very nice to you, but I feel like I can step back and objectively say that this food is first-rate. The random customer might not get quite as much attention, but I'm confident that they will get excellent food.

I'm currently mired in some computer problems that are making it harder for me to manage and edit photos, so please forgive the incompleteness of the documentation, there are a few more photos on my blog, and I'll try to add more here when my technical problems get sorted out!

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Wontons in Chile Oil are especially good here. At the other place, they're served in a spicy broth, but I prefer this version with just the hot oil.

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Double-Cooked Pork is much lighter here than any other version I've had. Yes, it's still a heap of bacon, but it's not swimming in oil, and the intense smokiness of this pork gives it a dimension that's missing in most other renditions I've encountered.

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Tea-Smoked Duck was especially delicate, with a wonderful crispy skin, and tender, juicy meat carrying the complex flavors of smoldering tea leaves.

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I didn't get a really good translation of this dish's name, it's one of those poetic ones, something like "Man in Red Robes Standing in the Snow." It featured tender slices of beef, tingling with spice from abundant dried chile and Sichuan peppercorn, over snow-white noodles made from green mung beans. This was pretty punishingly hot, but perhaps my favorite dish, the complex flavors were intriguing, as they faded into the fuzzy numbness of that unique spice effect.

I also sampled a fried sweet-potato cake, a wonton soup, the classic "Husband and Wife Lungs" which is actually sliced tripe and tongue, Bang Bang Chicken, and Fish in Dry Pot. Every one of them was delicious, and quite distinct. I especially liked the fish in dry pot, I've had it before with lamb, but the (boneless) fish filets might have been an even more effective delivery system for the Sichuan peppercorns that studded this dish.

I'm really thrilled to have yet another source for traditional Chinese food. That it happens to be not too far from my home is a bonus for me, but I'd highly recommend to even you city-dwellers that a quick drive out route 422 would be worth your while. I'm pretty sure that's why Philly Car Share was founded, to help people get better Chinese food...

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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  • 3 weeks later...

We convened a group up in Royersford for, well, I suppose it was a Chinese New Year's banquet... really it was just an excuse for some friends to get together and eat!

We put ourselves in the capable hands of Han, and just let him pick a selection of dishes for us. He made some last-minute tweaks to a couple of dishes to accommodate some dining restrictions, but I don't think anything suffered from the changes. (OK, there was some small heartbreak among a couple of diners over the Ma Po Tofu being stripped of its pork, but you know, it was still quite tasty! And it's not as if we were hurting for pork! Although somehow the controversy caused me to miss taking a picture of it... )

I'm sorry to tell you that not all these dishes are on the regular menu, a few of them weren't even specials posted on the wall. But many of them are straight off the menu, so you could get most of these dishes on any given day.

Fish and Pickled Vegetable Soup

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Sweet Potato Cakes

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Wontons in Chile Oil

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Sliced Beef and Tripe in Hot Sauce (cold)

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Spicy Rabbit with Peanuts (cold)

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Chengdu Style Green Bean Noodles (cold)

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Shredded Chicken in Spicy Sesame Sauce (cold)

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Spicy Hot Pot (with fish, shrimp, scallops, beef, noodles, tofu, vegetables, probably more treasures that I didn't manage to find...)

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Sweet and Sour Fish Filet

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(no, it's not always served with the carved carrot sculpture!)

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Smoked Bacon with Leeks

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Tea Smoked Duck in Beer Sauce

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Szechuan Style Sea Bass

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Eggplant Stuffed with Shrimp

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Three Cup Chicken

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Fish in Dry Pot

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Stir-Fried String Beans

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Chicken with Dry Hot Pepper

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Ma Po Tofu (missing photo)

Taiwanese Sausage with Snow Peas

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Deep Fried Shredded Beef

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Bok Choy with Black Mushroom

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Lamb with Cumin

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Braised Bacon

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Sesame Dumplings

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I thought everything was delicious. Even the Sweet and Sour Fish, substituted-in to offer a respite from the meat and the spice, was very tasty, perfectly fried, and not doused in that typical over-sweet, florescent red goop.

I found myself obsessed with the Deep Fried Shredded Beef, and I don't think it was just because the plate was parked next to me. I just couldn't resist going back for just one more chewy jerky-like shred of beef, tingling with spice. I think I would have done the same thing with the Chicken with dry hot pepper if I hadn't gotten the plate away from me. We've decided we want to get buckets of those two dishes to take-out, and sneak them into the movies as a snack. Except we'd need beer. Heck, we can smuggle that in too, I suppose...

The bacon with leek was stunning, perhaps in part because it was so simple. The intensely smoky pork is the key. We were told that the entire recipe consists of: bacon, leeks, a little salt. Stir-fry. Done.

I really enjoyed the duck in beer sauce. The meat was tender, and that sauce! I think I would probably drink that with a straw, given the chance.

I loved the soup. Ahhh, the sausage with snow peas...

I basically totally enjoyed this dinner...

Big thanks to Han for taking care of us so well, the selections were excellent. And even bigger thanks to the chef for executing it so expertly.

Thanks also to my dining companions, many of whom made long drives in the snow. It's so much more fun with a group of simpatico eaters. And thanks for the great wine and beer.

Happy New Year!

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Good G*d, 24 dishes?! I bow at you!!

I'm sorry I missed it. It looked fantastic, and I hope I can make Han Dynasty 3 (hint, hint).

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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Dude you eat WELL. Is Han the 30-ish dude with long hair and glasses? I stopped by after work a few weeks ago and had the wontons in chile oil and boiled beef Szechuan style, and he was nice enough to chat with me and go through the menu, circling all of his favorites and items that were very spicy, which I had told him that I liked. He tried to steer me towards the dumplings in chile oil for next time, saying that they had more spice, and that the difference was that the wonton was just a more simple preparation. I thought everything rocked, and it's dangerously close to my work. All good developments. Anyone else get the feeling that the inside of the place is exactly like the Sang Kee on Lancaster Ave?

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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Dude you eat WELL.  Is Han the 30-ish dude with long hair and glasses? ...

Anyone else get the feeling that the inside of the place is exactly like the Sang Kee on Lancaster Ave?

That's Han.

My buddy said the same thing about the room on my first visit there. There were only two of us, so we didn't have 24 things on that trip.

Thanks again, Phil A!

Charlie, the Main Line Mummer

We must eat; we should eat well.

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Seriously good and seriously spicy food. Cant remember the last time I ate food that seriously spicy. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. My faves from the night were the zingy soup, the bacon and leeks, the chicken with hot pepper, the fried beef with hot pepper (movie munchies! LOL! And probably not a bad idea either....), the braised bacon, sweet and sour fish, duck in beer sauce and fish in dry pot, And that wacky mind-bender of a dessert---it felt and tasted like a fluid, marshmellowy Reese's peanut butter cup! I swear!

Despite the prodigious amounts of food, I didnt really feel stuffed at the end, just overwhelmed. We also enjoyed 3 growlers of Sly Fox beer, fresh from the brewpub nearby in Royersford: Sly Fox Pikeland Pils, Route 113 IPA and Dunkel Lager, and they paired very well with all of the dishes. I know we also had a lot of wines there, but I didnt catch any of their names. What were the rest of you drinking, Katie?

Righteous hosting, Jeff, it was a blast!

Edited by Rich Pawlak (log)

Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large

MY BLOG: THE OMNIVORE

"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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This spice level of the food is variable - I've had some of those particular dishes served hotter. I suspect they toned it down a bit for a large group of non-Chinese. That said, there was indeed still some serious spice lurking around some of those dishes...

But whatever your preference is, just let them know: if you'd rather it not be all that spicy, or full-on raging inferno, they can adjust.

As for the look of the restaurant - as I understand it, they inherited the decor of the previous restaurant that inhabited that space, and indeed several people have mentioned that it looks a lot like the Sang Kee in the burbs. It's a nice-looking space, so I wouldn't urge them to change it, but apparently the design is mostly just what was there. Maybe the previous owners used the same interior designer as Sang Kee did...

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I just had the last two bites of the Braised Bacon and a big bowl of Hot & Sour soup for lunch. Damn, I wish that place was closer. Food is fantastic, but the company last night was aces. Great beer and wine, and lots of laughter. A Most Excellent Gathering. :smile:

I don't think I can honestly pick a favorite from that group. It was ALL good! The Spicy Hot Pot, the bacons, the Tea Smoked Duck and the Cumin Lamb were the least like things I had tasted before and therefore very interesting to me. And that soup was fantastic! I dunno. I'd order any of those dishes another time.

The drive home was slower and a tad more challenging than I would have liked, but manageable. The downtown streets were probably the worst of it, once we got off Route 422, which wasn't too much fun either. But it wouldn't be a Han Dynasty outing without inclement weather of some sort... :rolleyes:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Three cup chicken is a traditional Taiwanese dish, using , as I best recall 1 cup rice wine, 1 cup soy sauce, 1 cup sugar and small bone-in pieces of sautteed chicken usually topped with a ton of basil too. I wrote an article for a local magazine this time last year, following a visit to the Exton HD and it featured the recipe. I will try to source the article and recipe on my home offic e computer later and post it here. I will say this:it's a damn tasty dish.

Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large

MY BLOG: THE OMNIVORE

"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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Three Cup Chicken is on the regular menu at the Exton branch, but I don't think it is in Royersford.

(Edited to update: The Royersford Menu DOES indeed feature "Triple Delight Chicken" which I'm pretty confident is the dish we're talking about, the Chinese characters are right for Three Cup Chicken - 三杯雞 )

I've seen a bunch of different recipes indicating what the three cups are. I think traditionally it's Sesame Oil, Rice Wine and Soy Sauce. It is indeed a slightly sweet dish, but I'm not sure there's a whole cup of sugar in there! It's kind of sweet, but also very garlicky and gingery.

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Indeed Jeff is correct about the recipe, which I paste in below, from the above-mentioned article:

3 Cup Chicken

adapted from Han Dynasty

Serves 2-4

2 lbs chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

20 garlic cloves, minced

10 thin slices of fresh ginger

2 small chili or Serrano peppers (optional)

1/3 cup sesame oil

1/3 cup rice wine

1/3 cup soy sauce

3-4 tbs sugar

2 cups Thai basil, chopped

Peanut oil for frying and stir-frying

In a large wok or Dutch oven, fry chicken pieces until thoroughly cooked and juices run clear. Remove chicken and set aside. Pour out oil and wipe out wok/Dutch oven.

Heat a small amount of oil in wok over high heat. Add garlic, ginger and peppers if desired. Just before garlic and ginger are about to brown, add chicken. Add sesame oil, rice wine, soy sauce and sugar. Stir fry vigorously until chicken is evenly coated and sauce is thickened. When the sauce is almost dried, add basil, toss to combine. Remove pieces to a platter and serve with hot, white rice.

Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large

MY BLOG: THE OMNIVORE

"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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Thanks for a great evening and giving the opportunity to try some dishes I might normally not have known to order, but now are on the list for sure!

I also shared Jeff's great photos with my husband who would have loved to be there, and we're already planning a future Tuesday night out in "Rofo" with a visit to HD2 with our $6 Sly Fox growlers- thanks Rich for the reminder of that- the Phoenixville SF doesn't have as many specials as that location.

<a href='http://retroroadmap.com' target='_blank'>Retro Roadmap - All the Retro, Vintage and Cool Old places worth visiting!</a>

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I know it's supposed to be a stock item, but did anyone else think that the Hot and Sour soup was outrageously good? Forget the common cold, I think this stuff might cure cancer. Just got back from lunch. I had the Dumplings in Chili Oil and Three Pepper Chicken. All of it was awesome. I'm stuffed, my belly is warm and my mouth is still slightly tingling. Now I need a nap, except I have this annoying thing called "work" to do.

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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I really need to do a side-by-side comparison, as I look back, I think our big blow-out dinner included dumplings in chili oil, and not wontons as I had labeled them. I seem to recall that they're both good, but I'd like to figure out what the differences are, besides shape.

I agree, they make a pretty great hot and sour soup. But there are just so many other unusual soups there that I rarely think to get it.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I really need to do a side-by-side comparison, as I look back, I think our big blow-out dinner included dumplings in chili oil,

I agree, they make a pretty great hot and sour soup.  But there are just so many other unusual soups there that I rarely think to get it.

We did have dumplings in chili oil on Tuesday night. I'd had them on my previous trip, also. Dunno the difference with wontons, but it seems a worthy research project.

Han gave us leftover hot and sour soup as a parting gift. Yeah, it's mighty good.

Charlie, the Main Line Mummer

We must eat; we should eat well.

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I forgot to mention that. He also offered me some Hot and Sour soup to go since he says they toss it at the end of the night and start from scratch every morning. These are things that one likes to hear.

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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CH and I went here last night since he missed the gathering last Tuesday. Definintely recommend Tuesday paired with the growler special at Sly Fox. Had the dumplings, dan dan noodles with pork- closer to the noodles at Exton that I remember craving, and also chicken with dry peppers- something I would not have thought to order prior to the EG event, but had a hankering for it as soon as my husband mentioned it. Food was delish, really hit the spot, and Han was nice enough to chat with us for awhile. Do your best, spread the word, this place rocks, especially for the 'burbs!

<a href='http://retroroadmap.com' target='_blank'>Retro Roadmap - All the Retro, Vintage and Cool Old places worth visiting!</a>

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