My friend Heather has been raving about Han Dynasty for months, so I recently went to the Manyunk location with her. Han Dynasty is an authentic Chinese restaurant with several locations in and around Philadelphia. The restaurants are known for their authentic, sweat-generating, runny-nose-inducing spicy dishes. The chain has gotten accolades from sources other than Heather, including a spot on CNN’s Top 50 Chinese Restaurants in America list. After my meal there, I can confirm that Han Dynasty definitely belongs on this list.
I let Heather take the reigns on ordering our meal because she’s a regular. I ate things that I never would have thought to order for myself, and the risk was well worth the reward. We split the following dishes and each had enough leftovers for another meal.
Each menu item has a number next to it indicating the heat level, on a scale from 1 to 10. The Pork Belly in Garlic Sauce ($9.95) was supposed to be level 5 spicy, but we asked the waitress to tone it down a bit and prepare it at level 4. The dish was the highest level of spice I could handle without the flavor of the dish being ruined. The whole meal was spicy, but somehow I managed to go make it to the last course without a sniffle, which was quite an accomplishment. However, I definitely felt my body temperature go up with each dish.
I’ve never had pork belly before, so I was amazed by how thinly it was cut. The dish looked like and had the same texture as pad see ew noodles. The pork was soft, chewy and delicious. The pork was sitting in a greasy puddle of garlic sauce, which gave the dish a piquant flavor. This was a unique and flavorful dish. Despite belonging to the Cold Appetizer section of the menu, the pork belly came out at room temperature.
The Dan Dan Noodles ($7.95) noodles came next. Han Dynasty is known for this dish, so I was surprised when the waiter brought out a very plain looking bowl of noodles. He put the bowl on our table and stirred the noodles in the sauce they were sitting in. The sauce is made of minced pork in chili and peppercorn oils. The dish was listed as a 6 on the spiciness scale. We were going to lower the heat but our waitress, an older Chinese woman who seemed like she owned the establishment, advised us that they weren’t very spicy.
Heather said it best when she told me, “the noodles look innocent but are dangerous.” Online sources say that the dish is particularly tongue-scorching, but these noodles didn’t seem very spicy to me because the pork belly had already made my mouth numb to heat. It seemed like the noodles themselves, and not just the sauce, had their own flavor. They had a chewy texture and great, savory flavor. Take my word (and every Yelp reviewer’s word) and try the dan dan noodles, or recreate them at home.
I was skeptical when Heather said we should order the Eggplant with Garlic Sauce ($11.95) because I don’t like eggplant and was therefore hesitant to spend money on it. Heather assured me that she didn’t like eggplant either but that this dish was incredible. Once again, she was right.
The eggplant was a beautiful purple that made it look like some kind of exotic sea creature. It also had the chewy texture of my imaginary purple fish. The eggplant served as a sponge for the spicy, garlicky sauce that masked the aubergine’s natural flavor. The sauce reminded me of liquor and balsamic vinegar. It was really good and I loved the texture. This dish came with a bowl of white rice.
Our meal also came with tea that was unlike the green tea I usually drown with sweetener.There was no Splenda in site at Han Dynasty, but the tea didn’t really need it. I don’t know what it was, but this tea was milder and probably not green tea.
You should also know that the restaurant has a BYOB policy and delivers. Check Han Dynasty’s website to see which locations deliver and for their phone numbers.
I’m starting this new thing where I rate each restaurant based on food, ambiance and service. I’m currently working on back-adding these to my old posts. Here’s the bottom line for Han Dynasty. The food gets 5/5 because everything was amazing. No complaints. As for the ambiance, I was expecting more from a place that I had heard had such great food. The restaurant’s decor was indistinct from your average takeout place, so I gave the ambiance an average 2.5/5. There were also only two other tables of people dining at Han when we were there. It was about to close, but I still thought the restaurant would be more hoppin’. I gave the service a 5/5. I enjoyed the bluntness of the older waitress who took our order and her recommendations. She was more knowledgeable than curt. Some people may not enjoy this, but I found it helpful. Another younger, polite waiter brought each dish to our table. As he brought out each dish, he said “excuse me” and named the dish as he put it on our table. Overall, the meal was a pretty good value. For about $15 per person before tax and tip, I got stuffed at the restaurant and had plenty for another large meal at home. I will definitely be back to Han Dynasty.
The Bottom Line:
Check out Han Dynasty’s other locations below:
Exton, PA // Cherry Hill, NJ // East Village, NYC