I’ve posted on visits to old-school Chinese restaurants twice in recent weeks, but it takes more than two meals for me to tire of a favorite cuisine. So when my wife asked if I’d be interested in accompanying her into Center City for a mid-afternoon meal Sunday in advance of her volunteering at the Philadelphia Flower Show, it’s not surprising that I immediately thought of Chinatown. Not only is it a short walk from the site of the Show, but we hadn’t been to a couple of our old favorites there since before Covid hit.
The last remaining restaurant in Chinatown from the 1970s – when I started eating there – is David’s Mai Lai Wah, which I touched on here. It’s likely that we’d have gone there if not for the fact that they open at 4 p.m., as my wife had to be at her assignment by 4:30. But Shiao Lan Kung, which goes back to the early 90s and is one of the few remaining Chinatown restaurants that still at least partially specializes in the style of Cantonese food that I love, opens at 3 p.m. So we opted to go there.
The black and white photo below is from the early 70s and is of the same block on which we ate Sunday. I love all of those signs and still remember the restaurant names. One on the right side of the photo is China City, which was at 932 Race Street. That’s the first Chinese restaurant at which I can recall eating – probably a couple years before that photo was taken. Shiao Lan Kung is at 930 Race Street – next door to where China City was.
We arrived at Shiao Lan Kung just as they opened and had the place to ourselves for most of our meal. The interior appears more modern and spiffier than I recall. For one thing, the old carpeting has been replaced by hardwood flooring.
The menu has also changed. It’s been condensed since the last time I ate there, which must have been at least five years ago. I’m guessing Covid’s impact on their business had something to do with that. One of the dishes I planned on ordering – shrimp with scrambled eggs – is no longer available. But there were still plenty of good options from which to choose.
The first item to arrive was my egg roll. It was fried to perfection and featured the sort of old-school crust that I love. While I’d have liked to have seen a little pork inside, it was still a great egg roll.
Next up were roasted pork, ginger and scallion noodles and string beans in spicy garlic sauce. My regular readers know I don’t normally get real excited about green vegetables, but I can usually find a dish I like at a Chinese restaurant and felt the need to have something healthy after splitting those massive cheesesteaks at Curly’s Friday.
The flavor of the thin rice noodles was accented by ginger throughout, but it wasn’t overpowering. We both enjoyed this dish very much.
The garlic sauce in which the string beans were served had a bit of a kick to it, but also a nice flavor that worked well with the beans.
As I previously mentioned, the other dish I planned on ordering wasn’t available, and I didn’t have a plan B for a change. I knew my wife wouldn’t be interested in either of the shrimp dishes that I usually order at Cantonese restaurants, so I threw out the suggestion of Lychee Duck. It’s essentially sweet and sour duck with the addition of lychee nuts and pineapple and was a favorite dish of my father’s when we’d eat in Chinatown for some sort of special occasion during my youth.
This was a solid version, but not the best I’ve had. The pineapple chunks were cold and the duck itself was just okay. Some of the pieces had a bit too much breading and not enough meat.
But I enjoyed eating it in that setting nonetheless. As I said in my last Chinese food post, it’s comfort food for me.
Shiao Lan Kung is the second restaurant in Philadelphia’s Chinatown that I’ve posted on. Sang Kee Peking Duck House was the first. There are a couple more I want to get to at some point, including the aforementioned David’s Mai Lai Wah.
I intend to visit South Philadelphia for a Roast Pork Italiano sandwich and report on that in my next post, which will be up Wednesday.
2 thoughts on “Visiting an Old Favorite in Philly’s Chinatown”
And shrimp toast’s on the menu!!
The beans look like something I’d be interested in. How toothsome were they? I generally prefer my beans to be fairly soft.
I’d have preferred them to be a little softer, but that’s not popular around here.