Han Dynasty brings spicy and sweet together in collaboration with Lê’s cocktails

Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty will debut special menu items this week along with addition of cocktails from Le Hop Sing.
Molly Given

In a city where food and drink are as diverse as the people who live here, it can be hard to choose just what to indulge in. Unless you’re looking for something truly authentic and collaborative on both fronts—that’s something a bit more special in terms of offerings.

Just ask Han Chiang of Han Dynasty and Lê from Hop Sing Laundromat.

Both pillars in the Philadelphia food industry—Han, for his eventual expansion past his first location in Exton to Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania suburbs and even NYC, and Lê for the fascinating enigma that is the Hop Sing Laundromat (more on that later)—the duo has decided to collaborate on a series of cocktails that pair well with what Han’s restaurants offer. And that’s some spicy food.

When Han opened his first Sichuan restaurant, the man behind the name set out to create an authentic experience when it came to cuisine from his home country, Taiwan. But it took some time to get there.

As the self-proclaimed “black sheep of his family,” Han spent the first 27 years of his life trying to figure out what it was that he wanted to do and what his passion was. And after coming to the states with his family in 1992 and going to school in Chester County, Han was singled out for the food he brought to school every day, and for not speaking English. After eventually moving schools and then attending Drexel University (where he was kicked out because “he hates school”) the future restauranteur had an idea.

While eating with his mom at a spot serving Chinese food, or rather, the Americanized version of it, Han realized how much he actually despised it—this variation of the cuisine pours sugar into the sauce,  and deep fries everything instead of using the spices seen in Asia, and the passion seen there, too.

So, Han Dynasty was created, and the title was partially born out of Han’s love of history as well. The establishment — which has locations in the City of Brotherly Love in both Old City and University City—was born to showcase authentic cuisine, and that turns out to be quite high (but deliciously manageable) in terms of spice level.

Han Dynasty
Molly Given

That’s also where Lê’s cocktails come in. The spirited connoisseur has created an air of mystery surrounding himself, mostly for not being photographed and not using his full name, but more importantly for keeping the focus on cocktails and serious cocktail people when at his establishment.

Hop Sing Laundromat is located in Chinatown, and is known around the city for being a speakeasy-styled hotspot with plenty of atmosphere—and rules. And the latter is simply to keep the riff-raff out, and the experience of true libations in tow. Le was born in Saigon and left Vietnam in 1981. But before he became who he is today in the restaurant scene, he worked as a day trader and also as an assistant food and beverage director at a hotel in New York.

For his collaboration with Han, the key was focusing on drinks that would utilize fresh ingredients, and also, libations that would be easy sippers in conjunction with the hotter flavored dishes. Coming in both a strawberry and also mango flavor, the drinks being added to the menu at Han Dynasty mimic the popular Boba Tea—but it’s fairly elevated.

Similar to Han’s dislike of the sugary substitutes in Americanized Chinese food, the Boba drinks that you would find in some U.S. establishments simply don’t use fresh components. Instead, glucose makes a shining appearance.

With Lê’s cocktails (which resemble a Strawberry Milk Tea and Fresh Mango Boba drink, both of which boast Haku Vodka, which is made with 100% Japanese white rice), the drinks are perfectly paired from the flavors of Han’s new specialty dishes. With the Strawberry Fresh Fruit Boba Cocktail, the dairy in the drink (in the form of sweetened condensed milk) offers a way to soothe your tongue and coat your mouth, making eating the spiciest of foods an easier experience.

Han Dynasty
The Fresh Boba Cocktails.Molly Given

With the Fresh Fruit Mango Boba Cocktail, the concoction offers a refreshing spin on the tropical fruit, and even without the dairy, the flavors are matching in terms of stimulating. Both drinks (which come out to be$10) also utilize Thai Boba—but it’s made with fresh fruit. And you can certainly taste the difference.

As for Han’s new dishes—think big, bold and beautifully flavored. Han substitutes the typical Dan Dan noodle with the “Han Han” noodle. And instead of seeing General Tso’s chicken, you see “General Han’s Chicken.” There are also additional hot pot dishes utilizing some interesting and unique additions such as lotus pods, which come out to be juicy and crispy. In traditional Chinese medicine, lotus pods are cold food and hence, an excellent refreshment during a hot day, or in this case, for a hot dish… Though they are cooked to perfection.

On Han’s new specialty items, there’s also the gorgeous addition of a whole fish dish—which sometimes is killed just hours before being served. It’s not something that the restauranteur puts on every menu, more so he needs to know his audience. In West Philly near Drexel University, which does have diverse patronage, this dish could work. However, somewhere like the suburbs, it’s not so much known as a popular delicacy.

Han Dynasty
Molly Given

The whole fish comes served in an elaborate serving dish, with potatoes, garnishes, other vegetables, sesame seeds and a broth steaming as soon as it hits the table. There’s also the addition of a bok choy dish added to the specialty menu and a scallion style item with meat, vegetables, and plenty of flavor.

Han Dynasty is known for standing out due to their tastings and their innovation to tackle flavor profiles, spices and originality in Philadelphia. Now, with the addition of Lê’s cocktails, the spice meets the sweet in an authentic way.

To learn more information about Han Dynasty, visit handynasty.net