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Introducing Lao Hunan

Introducing Lao Hunan
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  • Introducing Lao Hunan

    Post #1 - September 6th, 2011, 9:15 am
    Post #1 - September 6th, 2011, 9:15 am Post #1 - September 6th, 2011, 9:15 am
    The continuing quest of Tony Hu (the unofficial Mayor of Chinatown) to introduce Chicago to every Chinese regional cuisine continues with his newest addition to his expanding empire. Behold ... LAO HUNAN.

    I was wandering on Wentworth after buying a ginger grater for a co-worker at Wok's N things when I noticed a little addition to the menu of the restaurant next door announcing Lao Hunan. Of course, I had to go in.

    The restaurant is not even close to getting finished yet. The service is choppy. They still offer food from the previous restaurant. Which turned out good for me.

    None of the appetizers or soups were Vegetarian so I had an Egg Drop soup from the old menu. I had something that was called Hunan Style Tofu. This was AMAZING. It was a healthy, fragrant version of Mapo Tofu that I admire so much from Double Li. Instead of gobs and gobs of chili oil, they used soy saucey broth with a whole bunch of Five Spice Powder. The result was fantastic. It had Shallots, frash Ginger and sliced garlic along with spring onions with the same silky tofu as in Mapo Tofu.

    If the other vegetarian dishes are even half as good as this, this will be a fantastic addition to vegetarians in Chinatown. What is really nice is Tony is expanding onto the old stretch on Wentworth which I rarely go to now. This gives me a reason to go back.

    Lao Hunan .... a new Tony Hu experience in the making

    PS: They also offer bubble teas and smoothies at the counter. But then Who doesn't in Chinatown nowadays. :-)

    PPS: Forgot to post the address

    Lao Hunan
    2230 S Wentworth Ave
    (between 22nd Pl & Alexander St)
    Chicago, IL 60616
    The art of living well and art of dying well are one. ---Epicurus
  • Post #2 - September 12th, 2011, 4:18 pm
    Post #2 - September 12th, 2011, 4:18 pm Post #2 - September 12th, 2011, 4:18 pm
    I paid a visit to Lao Hunan today. This new Tony Hu outpost follows his now familiar formula of buying an existing restaurant, keeping the old menu in place and hiring a chef with a specialty in a certain region's cuisine. This formula has been hit or miss for Tony's restaurant empire, but I'm glad to say the the guy he has cooking at Lao Hunan has got some serious chops.

    I'm not sure of Tony's plans for the interior of the restaurant, if any. As it is now, the restaurant is somewhat rustic, rather then possessing the polished decor of Tony's Chinatown Mall places. I think this aesthetic is probably just fine for its stretch of Wentworth. There's an interesting mural on one of the walls profiling "Famous People from Hunan" The restaurant is not very large; approximately the same size as Little Three Happiness, and the service is friendly and efficient.

    There were only two of us at lunch, so we were somewhat limited in the number of dishes we could order, but judging by the three we tried, and the number of interesting looking choices on the new Hunan menu, this place is worth checking out with a larger group.

    Here's what we had in the order it appeared on our table:

    Stir Fried Beef & Pork Country Style
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    This was the weakest of the dishes we tried. To me, it tasted out of balance with too much of a ginger taste. It also contained American celery, which does nothing but remind me of a cheap chop suey joint. This dish wasn't bad, but there are far more interesting looking things on the menu, so I doubt I'll be ordering it again.

    Dry Chili Fish Filet
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    We ordered this because I wanted to compare it to the similarly named dry chili chicken and shrimp served at Lao Szechuan. This turned out to be a much more delicate dish than either of those. The fish had a light but spicy breading. It was expertly fried just enough to cook the fish and no more. The fish stayed very moist, and combined with the taste of the chili infused oil, this dish really did it for me.

    Green Chilis With Black Bean Sauce
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    These were a chili lover's wet dream. They packed some serious heat. Everyone in the restaurant warned us that they were spicy, and even the cook came out of the kitchen to see the two white guys downing his peppers. The peppers were wok seared along with some garlic chips and a light sauce. The peppers themselves were serranos and some other type that I couldn't identify. This dish would make a fantastic condiment to order along with some other dishes.

    I can't wait for my next visit. I'll probably organize an event here in the near future so I can go there with decent ordering power to fully explore the menu.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #3 - September 12th, 2011, 4:32 pm
    Post #3 - September 12th, 2011, 4:32 pm Post #3 - September 12th, 2011, 4:32 pm
    HI,

    This location was once home to Taste of Asia recently and Seven Wives earlier. It is just a few storefronts away from the funeral home.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #4 - September 12th, 2011, 5:41 pm
    Post #4 - September 12th, 2011, 5:41 pm Post #4 - September 12th, 2011, 5:41 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:HI,

    This location was once home to Taste of Asia recently and Seven Wives earlier. It is just a few storefronts away from the funeral home.

    Regards,


    If Taste of Asia was its most recent incarnation (before Lao Hunan), then the full Taste of Asia menu is still available. You get it, along with a separate two sided Hunan menu, when you sit down. I didn't even look at the old menu because I was interested in checking out the Hunan dishes, but we did see a nice looking lobster dish being served to another table, and I'm pretty sure I didn't see any lobster on the Hunan menu.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #5 - September 12th, 2011, 7:12 pm
    Post #5 - September 12th, 2011, 7:12 pm Post #5 - September 12th, 2011, 7:12 pm
    stevez wrote:
    Cathy2 wrote:HI,

    This location was once home to Taste of Asia recently and Seven Wives earlier. It is just a few storefronts away from the funeral home.

    Regards,


    If Taste of Asia was its most recent incarnation (before Lao Hunan), then the full Taste of Asia menu is still available. You get it, along with a separate two sided Hunan menu, when you sit down. I didn't even look at the old menu because I was interested in checking out the Hunan dishes, but we did see a nice looking lobster dish being served to another table, and I'm pretty sure I didn't see any lobster on the Hunan menu.


    Cool. Taiwanese Special Luodi Peanut at Taste of Asia was a fantastic dish.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #6 - September 14th, 2011, 10:59 am
    Post #6 - September 14th, 2011, 10:59 am Post #6 - September 14th, 2011, 10:59 am
    stevez wrote:
    Cathy2 wrote:HI,

    This location was once home to Taste of Asia recently and Seven Wives earlier. It is just a few storefronts away from the funeral home.

    Regards,


    If Taste of Asia was its most recent incarnation (before Lao Hunan), then the full Taste of Asia menu is still available. You get it, along with a separate two sided Hunan menu, when you sit down. I didn't even look at the old menu because I was interested in checking out the Hunan dishes, but we did see a nice looking lobster dish being served to another table, and I'm pretty sure I didn't see any lobster on the Hunan menu.


    Yes. there is a lobster dish under the back side of the Hunan menu. The third item of "Seafoods", called "Spicy lobster Hunan Style"
  • Post #7 - October 27th, 2011, 4:41 pm
    Post #7 - October 27th, 2011, 4:41 pm Post #7 - October 27th, 2011, 4:41 pm
    Left really impressed by my first meal at LH today. To start things off we were served an amuse of pickled daikon, which was kimchi- like with its fermented tang, dressed in a pool of chile oil, as simple and satisfying as the cabbage at LSC. Three of us ordered three plates and an item from the "cold appetizers" section of the menu. We were amused by some of the names of the dishes, so for our app. we ordered "Countryside Chicken", which as a dish was very similar to the even perhaps more poetically named "Never Forget Chicken" from the menu at LSC, though the meat was off the bone and it was not fortified with ground chiles. A nice dish drizzled in chile oil with a present numbing from szechuan peppercorn, though not something that wowed us with new taste sensations. We ordered the Famous Hunan Chile dish praised above and lauded by Mike Sula in his recent review of the restaurant. An elegantly simple dish that I am fairly certain I could reverse engineer at home. Not much more than large green chiles (variety I am uncertain, we had a combination of two chiles, one long and one wider, the former dark green the latter yellowish), fried until skins blistered, served in a sauce of its frying oil and black bean paste with coins of fried garlic. It doesn't get much better. The Sula also- recommended dish of pork with pickled vegetables had a greater ratio of pickled veg to pork, many of which were slim light green chiles. The oily, sour, hot flavor was rightly compared to giardiniera and I also tasted a hint of clove or cinnamon, evocative of Al's Beef flavor profile. A delicious dish spooned over rice. The big crowd pleaser, and another one we ordered for its descriptive name, was Double Fried Autumn Fish. I have no idea what the actual fish were, bigger than a smelt, smaller than a sardine, dark in color, heads intact. It was another brilliant study in nose to tail seafood eating in Chinatown, the heads held a rich sweetness familiar to lovers of fish guts and the tails were as crisp as could be. The flesh was much milder than the two aforementioned fish and were just lovely. The fried batter looked like tempura but was denser, though definitely not entombing the fish in a crust. I imagine they fry the fish once, then batter it. These guys were nestled in a mountain of chiles- mostly dry short red ones, with the occasional jalapeno slice. Chopped garlic, ginger, and red pepper completed the seasoning and there was a lack of a coating in chile oil like you might find in some of the other dry chile dishes in the Hu empire. Highly snackable and addictive. My real camera died before I could take nice pics, but this photo camera shot will give you an idea of this dish:
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  • Post #8 - October 27th, 2011, 5:26 pm
    Post #8 - October 27th, 2011, 5:26 pm Post #8 - October 27th, 2011, 5:26 pm
    I've only eaten here once but have been thinking a lot about that meal ever since. As a big fan of Sichuan cuisine, I was delighted to learn, on my way to the restaurant, that Hunanese cuisine is known for being much spicier than Sichuan. At the meal, this was confirmed by waves of insanely spicy dishes arriving at our table one after another. I was stunned by how fiery this delicious food was.

    Eating this meal was a tantric experience. I was pushed to -- but not over -- the very limit of what I could tolerate heat-wise for almost the entire meal. Each successive dish held my palate in a state of frenzied and nearly-panicked delight. But it wasn't just hot. The flavors were intense, satisfying and so unknown to me. It was such new territory, I actually began to worry if I'd be ok later. It felt like the food was having a psycho-active effect on me. I was tripping on chilis but I could not stop eating from the plates that were being put in front of us.

    4 dishes just blew me away. The first, a relatively mild but still intense soup, contained jiggly-fresh clams and, I believe, bitter melon. The other 3 dishes have already been described (and pictured) quite well upthread. The Pickled Vegetables with Ground Pork was a stunner and was accurately compared to giardiniera, except that I've never had any giardiniera this fiery. It was insane...and yet I kept coming back for more. The Dry Chili Fish Filet was sensational. I really could not believe it was tilapia because it was tremendously flavorful, with a hard but still light coating that was bursting with flavor. The Famous Hunan Chili in Black Bean Sauce was astonishing, and every bit as awesome as Jefe describes above.

    I just cannot wait to get back here and work through more of the menu. I agree with what Sula wrote in his review. This was one of the best meals I've had this year.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #9 - October 28th, 2011, 8:20 pm
    Post #9 - October 28th, 2011, 8:20 pm Post #9 - October 28th, 2011, 8:20 pm
    When I ate here I didn't go into a chili trance, perhaps because we ordered one-chili dishes. The Twice Cooked Sliced Duck wasn't my favorite, but I think it would be a terrific snack for drinking because the dish resembled duck french fries. Unfortunately, I didn't get as much duck flavor as I was hoping for, but my friends liked it. We also enjoyed Chairman Mao's Favorite Pork Belly and the Eggplant Casserole with Ground Pork, but our favorite was Water Boiled Fish Hunan Style: flavorful fish in a spicy sauce that wasn't overpowering. I'm looking forward to my next visit. Has anyone tried the dessert? We were too full.
  • Post #10 - October 30th, 2011, 7:22 am
    Post #10 - October 30th, 2011, 7:22 am Post #10 - October 30th, 2011, 7:22 am
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    Friday visit to Lao Hunan was successful overall. The hostess was helpful and friendly, if skeptical that we really wanted to order the Hunan Green Chiles with Black Bean Sauce. A glance at the menu yielded some unusual choices.

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    In the end, we passed up the Long Pig in favor of a shrimp dish recommended by the hostess that was presented in a sizzling iron pot with its own heating element.
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    I'm not sure the chafing dish treatment added to anything but the presentation, but this was a different take on shrimp. Breaded, spiced and fried shrimp were tossed with dry chiles, red onion, strips of sweet red and green pepper and scallion, and very lightly sauced, perhaps in the style of the Dry Chili Fish Filet mentioned above by stevez. I liked the shrimp best at first taste, and less and less as the breading became somewhat gummy in the pot with the sauce. However, the large pieces of onion and pepper gave this dish a rustic appeal.

    We opted for an all-pork version of Beef and Pork Country Style, and were assured by the hostess that this is a "very healthy" dish, with the wood ear mushrooms being "very good for your skin." I'll have to let my aesthetician be the judge of any dermatological effects, but, from a culinary standpoint, I thought this dish the least successful of our choices. In spite of having eaten my limit of celery in Palo Alto's cheapest Chinese spot in the 70's, I actually enjoyed the sharp flavor of the celery in this otherwise forgettable dish, and picked out all the pungent celery stems to munch on.

    Hunan Green Chiles with Black Bean Sauce did not disappoint. My dining companions concurred that "These are so good they are almost Mexican." I'd go back to Lao Hunan by myself to order the chiles, some soup, and white rice, so I could give this dish my full attention and work out a plan to duplicate it with just the right proportions of chile, garlic, black beans, ginger and oil.

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    A grilled and stir-fried chicken and dry chili dish was presented in a wrapping of foil. This was good but not mind-bending.

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    I felt a bit sorry for the waitstaff, all but one of whom appeared to feel uncomfortable in Red Army uniforms, not only because of the stares they received from patrons, but also because the uniforms appear to be better suited to outdoor temperatures than hot restaurant work.

    I'm eager to go back to Lao Hunan to try more dishes.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #11 - October 30th, 2011, 9:29 am
    Post #11 - October 30th, 2011, 9:29 am Post #11 - October 30th, 2011, 9:29 am
    Josephine wrote:Hunan Green Chiles with Black Bean Sauce did not disappoint. My dining companions concurred that "These are so good they are almost Mexican."


    Not "almost Mexican" - ARE Mexican!!! Our waitress told us that they procure the green chiles for this dish from a local Mexican market although I don't recall which variety she said are being used .
  • Post #12 - October 30th, 2011, 11:37 am
    Post #12 - October 30th, 2011, 11:37 am Post #12 - October 30th, 2011, 11:37 am
    PIGMON wrote:
    Josephine wrote:Hunan Green Chiles with Black Bean Sauce did not disappoint. My dining companions concurred that "These are so good they are almost Mexican."


    Not "almost Mexican" - ARE Mexican!!! Our waitress told us that they procure the green chiles for this dish from a local Mexican market although I don't recall which variety she said are being used .


    LOL. Right you are. Only I've never had slices of ginger on Mexican chiles. It's an innovation waiting to take hold as a classic.

    And thanks for the recommendation, PIGMON!
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #13 - November 1st, 2011, 7:09 pm
    Post #13 - November 1st, 2011, 7:09 pm Post #13 - November 1st, 2011, 7:09 pm
    I suspect it would be a good idea to visit Lao Hunan soon, before the waits become extreme. To me, it's the best new Chinatown restaurant in a long time and isn't very big. The Mao theme—servers dressed in Red Army uniforms, Mao's "Serving People" motto everywhere—takes some getting used to but some of the food is spectacular.

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    Serving people?

    The menu currently has about 70 dishes but will expand soon. By choosing randomly, it's likely one's meal will be good but it's best to try to avoid too many similar dishes of the same style, say, dry fried, brown sauced, in spicy oil or with pickled chilies. Hopefully the following pictures and comments, based on 2 visits and nearly 20 dishes, will help somewhat.

    I don't find the soups to be a strong point but they're still worth ordering, partly because they're good counterpoints to the spice and heat to come. Both the clam with squash soup and the seafood hot and sour soup are surprisingly mild.

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    Fresh ingredients and subtle broths characterize both soups. If you don't automatically receive a dish of chili oil for the hot and sour soup, be sure to ask for it. The soup is transformed with a few drops.

    The two cold appetizers we tried were both worthwhile. Jade tofu is light but packs a punch, with deeply-flavored chili oil and pickled chiles.

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    Tai gan Hunan style is a real winner, with crunchy textures and hot-pickled flavors. Obviously another dish sauced with chili oil.

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    We found few duds in the main dish and seafood sections, though aiming for a balanced mix is important. One essential is ground pork with sour pickle.

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    Dry chili fish filet is another essential. This is how every tilapia dreams of ending up.

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    Chairman Mao's favorite pork belly is another highlight, the best version of this dish that I've had.

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    The jury is out on duck in beer sauce in hot wok. It didn't dazzle me during dinner (I think it sort of got lost on my overflowing plate) but leftovers were fantastic.

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    The Hunan/human pork liver is an interesting dry-fried version with ultra-well-done chips of liver. I like it but it's probably better shared among a large group.

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    There aren't many casserole dishes on the menu but eggplant casserole with ground pork is a winner. Might be best to skip it, though, if you already have a lot of brown-sauced dishes.

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    Famous prawn in hot wok is served like the duck. Be sure to order the shrimp with heads. A good dish though not one of the more exciting ones.

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    Famous stir fried lamb is another worthy dish but one that got a bit lost among some standouts at our meal.

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    Don't overlook the vegetables. Probably the most exciting dish of all is famous Hunan chili in black bean sauce.

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    I can't imagine visiting without ordering a plate of these hot, salty, flat-out terrific capsicums. Be warned, these are truly hot.

    Home style bean curd is one of the few dishes I can't get excited about. Lao Hunan's weakest dish would be a standout at many restaurants.

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    Bok choy with 1000 year eggs was pleasant enough (I think it was gai lan, though, not bok choy) but the elements just didn't come together. This might not be a bad respite from the heat.

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    Basil eggplant, somewhat light on the basil, is another fairly mild one that could come in handy.

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    Ronnie Suburban wrote:I just cannot wait to get back here and work through more of the menu.

    I actually started writing this a couple weeks ago and mentioned how these meals reminded me of my first visits to Lao Sze Chuan.

    Over ten years ago, Rene G wrote:Like I said, I've only been there twice so it may not be quite as good as I think. Still, I can't wait to return. This is the kind of place where I repeatedly read over their takeout menu and try to plan my next few visits. I sure can't say that about too many other Chinese restaurants in Chicago.

    As true now for Lao Hunan as it was for Lao Sze Chuan.

    Lao Hunan
    2230 S Wentworth Av
    Chicago
    312-842-7888
    Menu
  • Post #14 - November 8th, 2011, 9:35 am
    Post #14 - November 8th, 2011, 9:35 am Post #14 - November 8th, 2011, 9:35 am
    I dropped in for dinner last week with Mike G, and I have to agree, this is some pretty fabulous stuff (though my calibration may be slightly off due to the mostly lackluster offerings in Phoenix). We mostly stuck to the path laid out above.

    Chairman Mao's Pork Belly is sweet and not without heat, but more spiced than spicy. I love the star anise and cinnamon. I loved the fried fish fillets. Seriously, this is tilapia? I was completely down with JeffB's suggestion that we all pledge not to order tilapia anymore, but based on this dish, I'm out. No offense, Jeff. The chiles in black bean sauce are simple and fabulous, as described. And though it tastes great no matter where the chiles come from, it certainly seems there are competing versions of the story. I'd be curious to know their provenance. We also had a couple that I don't see mentioned above:

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    Dry Chile String Beans

    I had thought we intentionally avoided the Sichuan string beans on the menu, though this preparation was awfully similar, fried and wrinkly with chiles, garlic and fermented black beans. Tasty and as you'd expect.

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    Home Fed Chicken XiangXi Style

    This was significantly more distinctive, a pile of stir-fried peppers, onions and shallots covering chunks of bone-in chicken that was densely textured and very deep-flavored without much in the way of sweetness. Mike commented that it had an almost cheesy quality, and while that doesn't exactly capture it for me, it did have a tiny bit of funk, almost like a lightly fermented tofu or dairy product. And it was familiar to me from visits to China, but I have no idea how it gets there. I'd be very curious to know how it's made. This was one of two dishes that weren't demolished... the other being the chiles, for obvious reasons. I'd get it again, but I'd want to try a bunch of others first.

    I know the decor is bordering on controversial, but I'm reminded of a place I was once taken to in Shenzhen called "First Work Team," which was a theme restaurant intended to inspire nostalgia for the days when tens of millions of Chinese were dying of famine by serving unseasoned mashed tubers to guests seated on bare concrete floors (I only wish I were joking). So my perspective on that is perhaps a touch skewed. I suppose it all depends on how comfortable you are with dictator chic.

    Anyway, great place... wish I had the chance to try more.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #15 - November 8th, 2011, 10:31 am
    Post #15 - November 8th, 2011, 10:31 am Post #15 - November 8th, 2011, 10:31 am
    Dmnkly wrote:Image
    Home Fed Chicken XiangXi Style

    This was significantly more distinctive, a pile of stir-fried peppers, onions and shallots covering chunks of bone-in chicken that was densely textured and very deep-flavored without much in the way of sweetness. Mike commented that it had an almost cheesy quality, and while that doesn't exactly capture it for me, it did have a tiny bit of funk, almost like a lightly fermented tofu or dairy product. And it was familiar to me from visits to China, but I have no idea how it gets there. I'd be very curious to know how it's made. This was one of two dishes that weren't demolished... the other being the chiles, for obvious reasons. I'd get it again, but I'd want to try a bunch of others first.


    This dish didn't really do it for me. I didn't get a cheesy quality to it, but I believe the chicken is salted, hung and then smoked (hence its dense texture), and for my tastes, the smoke took on a floral, almost potpourri-like taste that was not pleasing.
  • Post #16 - November 8th, 2011, 10:33 am
    Post #16 - November 8th, 2011, 10:33 am Post #16 - November 8th, 2011, 10:33 am
    Is that what it was? Smoke? Should've known. It's very distinctive, that's for sure.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #17 - November 8th, 2011, 10:36 am
    Post #17 - November 8th, 2011, 10:36 am Post #17 - November 8th, 2011, 10:36 am
    I read somewhere that it's lightly smoked in a wok with spices and dry rice -- jasmine rice has a floral quality to it, so I think that's what I was picking up in the dish.
  • Post #18 - November 8th, 2011, 10:42 am
    Post #18 - November 8th, 2011, 10:42 am Post #18 - November 8th, 2011, 10:42 am
    Dmnkly wrote:The chiles in black bean sauce are simple and fabulous, as described. And though it tastes great no matter where the chiles come from, it certainly seems there are competing versions of the story. I'd be curious to know their provenance.


    Yeah, on one occasion a waitress told us you could find them at Cermak. But then later Tony told me it was a special chile they were getting from New York.
  • Post #19 - November 12th, 2011, 7:34 pm
    Post #19 - November 12th, 2011, 7:34 pm Post #19 - November 12th, 2011, 7:34 pm
    We decided to try out Lao Hunan tonight. In deference to other patrons, we came quite early - 4:45 - to spare a full house the joys of our toddler. Didn't work; the restaurant was packed. We did get a table right away, but immediately after us people were having to wait. Unexpected, to say the least.

    After carefully studying this thread, we ordered pork belly, Jade tofu, chili in black beans, and the dry chili fish. I really have nothing to add to the assessments of the above, as conscious thought during the meal was eradicated by "uhhhnnn goood unga unga," more or less.

    High praise: my husband liked it, even though he's more of an orange chicken kinda guy. Not so high praise: the Nom scraped everything we gave him off his tongue. Too soon?
    As a mattra-fact, Pie Face, you are beginning to look almost human. - Barbara Bennett
  • Post #20 - November 13th, 2011, 11:49 am
    Post #20 - November 13th, 2011, 11:49 am Post #20 - November 13th, 2011, 11:49 am
    Ate there a couple of weeks ago for a birthday with some fellow LTH'ers.

    I was feeling totally like a foreigner so I ordered a vegetable fried rice, don't worry other vegetable dishes were ordered. It was fantastic. I find fried rice is a lot like french fries, it should be fantastic but so many places get it all the way wrong. The food was incredibly hot, not temperature but spice. Soooo hot, and I like hot food, that I also ate a lot of white rice, as did everyone at the table.

    Those dried green beans were delicious. I'm not the biggest lover of tofu but that Hunan style tofu was so hot, I kept sucking in breaths between bites, that I ordered one to take home to Mr. Pairs4life ( he adores ma po tofu & this dish reminded me a lot of it.)

    I couldn't stop thinking about one dish that everyone adored and I couldn't have, the pickles with ground pork. It never crossed my mind to cook pickles, but by golly lunch at home on Friday was fried rice made from Chinese takeout earlier in the week, with a couple of spears from this years batch of Asian spiced pickles along with egg, ginger, garlic, soy, pepper, and zucchini. It was delicious and I look forward to including more of these pickles in a veg version of that ground pork and pickle dish.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #21 - November 13th, 2011, 10:52 pm
    Post #21 - November 13th, 2011, 10:52 pm Post #21 - November 13th, 2011, 10:52 pm
    The menu has been expanded. I was there last night and the old, one-sheet menu is a thing of the past. It's been re-organized and the Hunan items are no longer all grouped together. Instead, the menu is organized by protein, and other categories (soup, vegetables, etc.)

    Again, our meal was phenomenal, with fantastic flavors and meaningful, serious heat. Our dinner was 95% social, so I didn't take any notes and I didn't have my camera but we did enjoy a few dishes I hadn't had before. The server-recommended Combination Seafood Soup - Hunan Style (not spicy), was very flavorful, and contained big pieces of fish, dumplings, and cooked sliced omelette among other goodies. We also had a great pork tongue dish that was fiery as hell, a spicy lamb stew that was also quite hot. A beef tendon dish was also really tasty and a bit less spicy. The twice-cooked duck was the duck equivalent of 3-chili chicken at Lao Sze Chuan and was absolutely magnificent. I'm not sure it's actaully a Hunan-style dish (I tend to think not because it physically resembled the dish at LSC) but it was delicious nonetheless. A whole tilapia was fried perfectly -- ultra crispy on the outside and moist on the inside -- and presented beautifully (swimming upright on the platter), The sauce it was served with was too sweet for my liking but others at the table loved it.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #22 - November 15th, 2011, 3:52 pm
    Post #22 - November 15th, 2011, 3:52 pm Post #22 - November 15th, 2011, 3:52 pm
    I was there with a group about a week ago and was blown away by the flavors. This is the kind of place that would have taken me a while to find on my own so many thanks to LTH for putting it on my radar. There were ten of us,

    Image
    Baby Orla @Lao Hunan

    but baby Orla chose not to partake this time. Not everybody wanted to find out what "human liver" was so we covered a lot of what was posted above. We followed Rene G's advice about not going totally with brown dishes and tried to mix it up. We tried Chairman Mao's Favorite Pork Belly, Dry Chili Fish, Homestyle Bean Curd, Chilis in Black Bean Sauce, Famous Prawns in Hot Wok, Chef's Special Spicy Crispy Chicken in a Wok, Ground Pork w/Sour Pickle, Ground Pork w/Rice Noodle, Eggplant Casserole (this we got vegetarian), Dry Chili String Beans and Vegetable Fried Rice from the former menu.

    The real standouts for me were the Ground Pork w/Sour Pickle,which had a wonderful fermented quality that got more complex as I ate it. Dry Chili Fish (just how can that be tilapia???), Chilis in Black Bean Sauce and the Homestyle Bean Curd which was deeply spicy and flavorful and spicy.

    There were a few spice cautious people at our table, but by the end almost all the dishes were finished. There seems to be a tolerance built up that allows you to eat what you thought was spicy 20 minutes before.

    I also need to compliment the service, it was a busy Friday evening, but they were very attentive bringing water, clean plates and making suggestions when they saw we really wanted to try a range of items. I would however warn you guests about the Red Guard uniforms as at least one member of our group caught unawares burst out laughing and had to retreat outside. They were very gracious about allowing us to have a Hoosier Mama pie as a birthday dessert.

    Image
    Hoosier Mama Pie

    They also brought us a dessert, but I'm hoping someone else will identify it. It was a large bowl of sweet liquid/syrup with, I believe taro balls. It was a little sweet for my taste and I was quite full so I'm not going to give item it's due description.

    I can't wait to go back a explore the menu.
    For what we choose is what we are. He should not miss this second opportunity to re-create himself with food. Jim Crace "The Devil's Larder"
  • Post #23 - November 15th, 2011, 6:31 pm
    Post #23 - November 15th, 2011, 6:31 pm Post #23 - November 15th, 2011, 6:31 pm
    mbh wrote:They also brought us a dessert, but I'm hoping someone else will identify it. It was a large bowl of sweet liquid/syrup with, I believe taro balls. It was a little sweet for my taste and I was quite full so I'm not going to give item it's due description.

    Here's a picture:

    Image

    I don't know what that's called, but I liked it because it reminded me of a thinner, less milky version of the Filipino dessert ginataang bilo-bilo. I can't wait until baby Orla can eat solid food; I see an LTHer in her already.
  • Post #24 - November 17th, 2011, 10:07 am
    Post #24 - November 17th, 2011, 10:07 am Post #24 - November 17th, 2011, 10:07 am
    I made a trip to Lao Hunan the other day and the new menu does not appear to list ground pork with sour pickle. Based upon what I could tell, it appears to be called something else on the new menu. While we were not able to order this item, it looks a great deal like the picture of menu item 408 in the front of the menu, which was called something like ground pork with sour bean.
  • Post #25 - November 17th, 2011, 10:22 am
    Post #25 - November 17th, 2011, 10:22 am Post #25 - November 17th, 2011, 10:22 am
    deesher wrote:I made a trip to Lao Hunan the other day and the new menu does not appear to list ground pork with sour pickle. Based upon what I could tell, it appears to be called something else on the new menu. While we were not able to order this item, it looks a great deal like the picture of menu item 408 in the front of the menu, which was called something like ground pork with sour bean.



    Hmmmm...I wonder if they were pickled sea beans which would make sense--that's what they tasted like! I couldn't put my finger on that flavor until I read this.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #26 - November 17th, 2011, 11:05 am
    Post #26 - November 17th, 2011, 11:05 am Post #26 - November 17th, 2011, 11:05 am
    boudreaulicious wrote:
    deesher wrote:I made a trip to Lao Hunan the other day and the new menu does not appear to list ground pork with sour pickle. Based upon what I could tell, it appears to be called something else on the new menu. While we were not able to order this item, it looks a great deal like the picture of menu item 408 in the front of the menu, which was called something like ground pork with sour bean.

    Hmmmm...I wonder if they were pickled sea beans which would make sense--that's what they tasted like! I couldn't put my finger on that flavor until I read this.

    Yes, this is what this dish is now called. I got the sense they are chopped long beans -- and chilis -- but that's only a guess.

    A few of us met for lunch yesterday and had another great meal at Lao Hunan. A few of the dishes seem to be changing from visit to visit and I can't tell if it's variation or evolution. In any event, it doesn't really matter since there wasn't a dish in yesterday's lunch that I wouldn't order again . . .

    Image
    Lao Hunan - 2230 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago


    Image
    Serving People!


    Image
    Hunan Wall of Fame


    Image
    Spicy Cabbage


    Image
    Tai Gan Hunan Style


    Image
    Jade Tofu


    Image
    Green Beans
    We ordered the Hunan-style green beans but the bill said Sichuan, so I'm not entirely sure which these were.


    Image
    Famous Hunan Chilis with Black Beans
    Soupier than on previous visits and maybe a bit less black beany but still one of my favorites.


    Image
    Famous Stir Fried Lamb


    Image
    Chairman Mao's Favorite Pork Belly


    Image
    Dry Chili Fish Filet (tilapia)


    Image
    Ground Pork with Sour Beans


    Image
    Twice Cooked Sliced Duck

    I just can't get enough of this place. If you haven't been, I think it's worth hurrying over for a meal.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #27 - November 17th, 2011, 11:08 am
    Post #27 - November 17th, 2011, 11:08 am Post #27 - November 17th, 2011, 11:08 am
    Stunning, simply stunning lunch at Lao Hunan. Powerful vibrant flavor, texturally diverse, nine dishes nine winners with a couple of can't wait to have again standouts. Twice-cooked duck, as Ronnie_S says up thread, favored comparison to Tony's Three Chili Chicken at Lao Sze Chuan, though fattier duck lent a luxurious richness, Dry Chili Fish took pond chicken to never before realized heights and Famous Hunan chili black bean a dizzying flight on a capsicum fueled rocket.

    Reading the thread before I posted there is some discussion on *Ground Pork w sour bean, we also wondered about the veg. At first I thought it might be sea bean, then possibly, probably, dried vegetable. A little google reveals it is (maybe) Meigan cai. Either way, a damn fine dish.

    Nine dishes were ordered for 6 people, seemed a lot of food when it came out, nary a scrap left at the finish line.

    I was a first timer at Lao Hunan, I will list dishes had for those not so fortunate to go with those experienced with Lao Hunan.

    I just noticed Ronnie_S posted pictures of lunch, stunning pictures, terrific lunch.

    - Twice-cooked sliced duck
    - Dry Chili Fish Filet
    - Famous Hunan chili black bean
    - Ground Pork w sour bean
    - Tai Gan Hunan Style
    - Jade Tofu
    - Chairman Mao's Favorite Pork
    - Sichuan string beans
    - Famous Stir Fried Lamb

    Lao Hunan, count me a fan!

    * Quick follow up/correction, I would agree Ground Pork with Sour Bean is long bean, Tai Gan Hunan Style is the dish I mean to refer to as containing Meigan cai.
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #28 - November 17th, 2011, 6:54 pm
    Post #28 - November 17th, 2011, 6:54 pm Post #28 - November 17th, 2011, 6:54 pm
    happy_stomach wrote:
    mbh wrote:They also brought us a dessert, but I'm hoping someone else will identify it. It was a large bowl of sweet liquid/syrup with, I believe taro balls. It was a little sweet for my taste and I was quite full so I'm not going to give item it's due description.

    Here's a picture:

    Image

    I don't know what that's called, but I liked it because it reminded me of a thinner, less milky version of the Filipino dessert ginataang bilo-bilo.

    I think that's now number 801 – Sweet Osmanthus Flavored Sticky Rice Ball in Soup. That bowl looks big enough to serve 40.

    ronnie_suburban wrote:
    boudreaulicious wrote:
    deesher wrote:I made a trip to Lao Hunan the other day and the new menu does not appear to list ground pork with sour pickle. Based upon what I could tell, it appears to be called something else on the new menu. While we were not able to order this item, it looks a great deal like the picture of menu item 408 in the front of the menu, which was called something like ground pork with sour bean.

    Hmmmm...I wonder if they were pickled sea beans which would make sense--that's what they tasted like! I couldn't put my finger on that flavor until I read this.

    Yes, this is what this dish is now called. I got the sense they are chopped long beans -- and chilis -- but that's only a guess.
    . . .

    Image
    Ground Pork with Sour Beans

    The dish on the original menu was listed as 酸菜肉末 - Ground Pork with Sour Pickle. I think directly translated it would be something like "pickled vegetable minced meat." On the new menu the same dish is number 408 - 酸豆角肉末 - Ground Pork with Preserved Sour Bean. I believe that's literally "pickled bean minced meat." Consistent with what others suggested, I think the characters 豆角 (dou jiao) refer to long (green) beans. You can see the short sections of pickled long beans in Ronnie's photo above. Hopefully the new menu will be available on Lao Hunan's website soon.
  • Post #29 - November 18th, 2011, 10:17 am
    Post #29 - November 18th, 2011, 10:17 am Post #29 - November 18th, 2011, 10:17 am
    I'm not sure I can add much to what's already been said about Lao Hunan but I really enjoyed dinner here last night.

    It's impossible for me to pick a favorite dish, but I'm pretty sure I could make a meal out of the jade tofu and the twice cooked duck. But then I think about the famous stir fried lamb, and the tai gan, and the dry chili fish filet...so much good stuff. We also had a steamed whole fish in chili sauce which I enjoyed but I think others may have had textural issues with. Hopefully someone got a picture because it was actually quite visually striking. Also visually striking was a noodle soup with beef. It was red, and fiery, and angry but was probably less successful taste-wise. At least for me the highlight was the noodles which were nicely toothsome.

    There was so much good and interesting stuff, I actually thought the pork belly seemed almost pedestrian by comparison. Sure, it was very well prepared and would be a standout dish at almost any other restaurant in Chinatown, but I found the rest of our menu much more interesting and bold.

    I'm definitely looking forward to a return trip and exploring more of the menu.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #30 - November 18th, 2011, 11:39 am
    Post #30 - November 18th, 2011, 11:39 am Post #30 - November 18th, 2011, 11:39 am
    jesteinf wrote:At least for me the highlight was the noodles which were nicely toothsome.

    Not sure if this is the right place for this, but I consistently see noodles being described as toothsome on this forum, and I don't think it means what people think it does. Dictionary.com defines it as:

    tooth·some   [tooth-suhm]
    adjective
    1. pleasing to the taste; palatable: a toothsome dish.
    2. pleasing or desirable, as fame or power.
    3. voluptuous; sexually alluring: a toothsome blonde.

    Certainly the first fits in a very general way, but given its almost exclusive use for describing noodles I suspect a definition more similar to that described by al dente is usually intended?

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