CRISPY CANTON: Crispy egg noodles, pork, shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, spring onions, savory soy sauce

We were invited to Hawkers Asian Street Fare to check out their new fall/winter menu and we were very impressed with our tasty visit.  Fans can experience seven new menu items at all locations now through Spring!

“Our inspiration for the dishes come from our desire to curate a menu that closely reflects what one might find on the streets of Asia.  Authenticity is what we’re focusing on so that we can offer a taste of the unique experiences that we’ve had while eating through the streets of Asia.”  said Kaleb Harrell, Co-Founder of Hawkers Asian Street Fare, pictured below with Co-Founder Allen Lo.

PRAWN CHIPS: Crispy puffed prawn chips dusted with Hawkers’ Five Spice seasoning (only available at the bar)

CHICKA-RONES – (not new but a must try!) Filipino-style crispy chicken skins tossed in jerk seasoning

‘DRY-POT’ CAULILINI: Celery, spring onions, red peppers, Szechuan peppercorn

SALT-N-PEPA RIBS: Crispy pork riblets, ginger, serrano peppers, garlic, onions

ROTI CANAI – (not new) This appetizer is a classic and a must for every Hawkers visit!

SEOUL HOT CHICKEN STEAMED BAOS: Two per order, steamed buns, filled with Seoul hot chicken

SHANGHAI STIR FRY: Steamed rice cakes, pork strips, shiitake mushrooms, spring onions, napa, bean sprouts, lo mein sauce

JO-HÉ BAG O’ DONUTS: Tender pastry puffs rolled into a doughnut shape, deep-fried to perfection and tossed in a cinnamon-sugar

SPIKED THAI TEA – I heard raving reviews about this adult drink from other people at my table.  I ordered mine non-alcoholic and it was still super delicious!

To find the location closest to you, please visit

Get ready to roll!  Free Sushi Day at P.F. Chang’s is this Thursday, September 20 and you’re invited!

On Free Sushi Day, guests get a FREE California Roll or Spicy Tuna Roll, no purchase required, 1 per person; dine-in only.  This offer is valid nationwide excluding Gainesville, Atlantic City, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and airport locations.


Dine-in only. One redemption per person. For more information, please visit

Pictured: Ahi poke bowl, California roll, crab wontons, spicy tuna roll

P.F. Chang’s – Winter Park
436 Orlando Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 622-0188

P.F. Chang’s – Millenia Mall
4200 Conroy Rd, Orlando, FL 32839
(407) 345-2888

Miso ramen, roti canai, Korean twice fried wings

Want to win FREE Hawkers takeout for a whole year?  Of course you do!  Here’s how to play: order some delicious Hawkers takeout and they’ll slip in an exclusive Hawkers magnet in the bag.  Snap a creative photo of your magnet, post it on social media and tag @eathawkers with the hashtag #yearofthehawker, and you’ll be entered to win!  Contest ends on October 7, 2018 or while supplies last.

My mom & I and our delicious Hawkers takeout with Hawkers co-owner, Allen Lo!

1. (1) magnet per order
2. September 10 through October 7
3. For carryout customers only
4. Does not apply to any 3rd party delivery service orders
5. Contestants must use the event hashtag to be entered to win
6. One Winner will be chosen and notified via social media
7. While supplies last
8. Promotion applies to food and non-alcoholic beverages only
9. (1) $100 gift card per month for 12 consecutive months

For more information and official rules, visit

Hawkers Asian Street Fare – Orlando
1103 N Mills Ave Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 237-0606

Hawkers Asian Street Fare – Windemere
9100 Conroy Windermere Road Suite 110 Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 583-6334

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Seafood dishes, Cantonese stir fry noodles, dim sum – these are just some of the many staples at Chan’s Chinese Cuisine in the heart of Orlando.

Partners Tony Yeung and Annie Wong opened Chan’s Chinese Cuisine in late 1996 in Orlando, and have now been open for over 20 years here in Orlando serving authentic Cantonese Chinese cuisine. On June 5, 2017, the City of Orlando proclaimed it “Chan’s Chinese Cuisine Day” in honor of their anniversary.

Black Pepper Lamb Chops

Annie Wong’s uncle Chan opened Tom’s Chinese Cuisine in Daytona Beach many years ago. Annie, who operated her uncle’s restaurant, wanted to continue the success and opened an authentic Chinese cuisine in Orlando with Tony Yeung as a partner in 1996.

Chan’s Tony Yeung and Annie Wong

With over 45 years of experience, Chef Tony Yeung first started his chef career in Hong Kong at the very young age as 14. Prior to coming to Orlando, he worked as a managing chef in New York.

Special Roast Pork, Cucumber, and Dried Squid Appetizer
Special Roast Pork, Cucumber, and Dried Squid Appetizer

20 years ago when Annie and Tony founded Chan’s, they discovered that many customers did not know what authentic Chinese Cuisine consisted of, with many more knowing just the Americanized Chinese take-out version of the cuisine.

When they first opened, Tony and Annie had to explain and educate the customers about dim sum and authentic Chinese cuisine. Other challenges they faced including sourcing.

Special Geoduck Sashimi

“We had a hard time to find the right ingredients and often needed to order from New York or even California. Now, it’s easier to have fresh and good ingredients as the Asian American population is growing together with Chinese tourists,” said Chef Tony Yeung.

Ginger Scallion Dungeness Crab

“Many customers were from out of states or tourists who looked for authentic Chinese Cuisines. But right now, there are more customers especially younger folks who know about Dim Sum and authentic Chinese cuisine,” said Annie.

Seafood Fish Maw Soup

Today, Chan’s still has many customers who are tourists and convention guests looking for a traditional style Chinese banquet meal. Chan’s is still one of the few restaurants in Orlando who can cater wedding and birthday banquet and can host around 18-22 big tables, for a total of 200 or so guests.

Pipa Tofu – shaped like Chinese pipa string instruments

Managing Chef Tony told us he can prepare pretty much anything authentic Chinese as long as he has the ingredients. Call ahead to find out and coordinate at least 24 hours. Some local favorites at Chan’s include Stir fried noodle – Hong Kong style and egg tart dim sum. Chef Tony likes his secret recipe Soy Sauce Stir Fried Lobster, made by special request many years ago on special request for VIP high rollers when he was still a chef in Hong Kong.

Steamed Fish with Chinese spinachv

Some Special Dishes found at Chan’s

  • Baked Dungeness Crab with fried rice in lotus leaf
  • Chicken & Shrimp Fried Rice in Cream & Tomato Sauce
  • Superior Soy Sauce Live Lobster – secret recipe
Superior Soy Sauce Live Lobster – secret recipe
Dessert – Osmanthus Flower Jelly with Wolfberries

Chan’s Chinese Cuisine
1901 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32803

At Hawkers, the founders Kaleb Harrell, Allen Lo, Wayne Yung and Kin Ho – all traveled the world to curate a menu of handed-down family recipes and hand-picked popular street foods from all over Asia – Korea, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan to be exact.  Today, all of the original founders are active in restaurant operations ranging from chefs to brand and operations managers.

Since the brand’s inception in 2011 with the Orlando – Mills 50 location, it has opened three additional Florida locations in Jacksonville, Neptune Beach, and St. Petersburg.  New locations are under construction and slated to open in Windermere (located in the Greater Orlando area) in November 2017 and in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward in March 2018, marking its expansion outside of Florida.  Four additional locations are slated to open throughout the Southeast in 2018.

The restaurant’s name is inspired by street vendors found throughout the streets of Asia known as hawkers.  They depend on locally grown ingredients to create dishes sold from mobile carts and stands.

“We are on a mission to disrupt the restaurant industry, and essentially redefine what it means to “eat Asian” in America.  People often ask me who our competition is, and I can’t come up with one–and, for us, that’s a positive thing.”

A place where sharing is not just caring, but the way to eat, Hawkers offers a fresh take on today’s Asian street-fare experience with dishes that are always made to order using local and imported ingredients.  Hawkers is considered a “local’s favorite” and has been featured in Delta SkyMagazine, Florida Trend and Orlando Magazine, and Food & Wine as Andrew Zimmern’s number one pick on his list of “12 Places to Stay, Eat & Shop in and Around Orlando.”

The tables are communal and are inlaid with newspaper to resemble the way street food is often served wrapped in newspaper from hawker stalls.

All Hawkers locations have a weekday happy hour and a wide selection of imported and local wine, beer, and saké.

The menu changes with the seasons and features house favorites such as Roti Canai and award-winning Pad Thai and more common items such as Yi Yi’s Chicken Dumplings and Miso Pork Belly Ramen.  The diverse menu offers options for various palates with vegetarian-friendly dishes, gluten-free and a variety of pescatarian offerings.

(Source credit: Hawkers Asian Street Fare)

We had the opportunity to try some of their new menu items + some classic dishes and we are so excited to share them all with you!

* indicates a new menu item.

*#dimsumcrunchyballs – shrimp, pork, crispy spring roll batter.  This is a traditional Chinese dish using ground up shrimp thrown across the table to get air pockets out, then coated with egg wash and shredded spring rolls wrapper, and finally fried and served with a hot oil-soy sauce.  It has a bounciness to it.

*Crispy Chicken Skin – Hawkers’ version of skewers that can be found in Asia cooked over coals.   They get all of the protein fat scrapped off, season it with Szechuan style seasoning, bake it in oven, then finish it over a grill burning charcoal.   This dish is suppose to be eaten with lime sprinkled over it to accentuate its smokey flavors.

*’Nam Nem Rolls – chilled rice wrap, fried rice paper, chicken sausage, lettuce, cucumber, basil, mint.  Nem in Vietnamese means sausage.  This dish is traditionally made with pork, however, they make theirs with chicken because less people eat pork.  The chicken is baked in the oven then finished on the grill.  The sauce is a Vietnamese vinaigrette consisting of fish sauce, Coco Rico, and red chilies.

*Singapore ‘Chili’ Crab – national dish of Singapore, soft-shelled crab, house-made chili garlic sauce, and fried bao bun.

*Tiger Salad– poached octopus, cilantro, carrots, green onions, celery, cucumber, rice wine vinaigrette, and lemon juice.  A light and refreshing salad.

Roti Canai – Malaysian flat bread served with a side of their signature curry.  Chef Allen Lo describes the bread as “if a croissant and pancake made a baby”.   He ate this dish every day growing up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Wok-Fired Lettuce – shiitake mushrooms, red chilies, light hoisin soy sauce, lettuce.  This staple dish makes a great side dish with every meal.

Chicken Dumplings – hand-rolled in-house daily, wok-seared (pictured) or steamed.  Hawkers makes their dumplings at 7am every morning; it is the first thing they make.

Pad Thai – rice noodles, shrimp, chicken, eggs, scallions, bean sprouts.  Pad Thai is a staple dish in Asia.  At Hawkers, they let their sauce simmer for eight hours before serving it over the noodles.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee  – available in iced (pictured) or French drip.

Mocha Trio – Green tea, lychee colada, and Thai tea.  Made at the Mochidoki shop in New York.

Be sure to check out the launch of the new menu items this Wednesday, August 16, at a Hawkers near you!

Hawkers Asian Street Fare
1103 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 237-0606



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My first experience with Yummy House was during college when my friends and I would travel to Tampa to visit friends at USF. The main draw: a 3 dishes for $20 menu at the time for very decent Cantonese style Chinese cuisine – a great deal for some delicious food for a bunch of starving, poor college students.

They have since expanded to many other cities outside Tampa, including right here in the Orlando area in Altamonte Springs. There is a special 3 for $22.99 menu still, which is great for family style dinners, but do mind you have to ask for it.

The regular menu is still a good bargain for what you get. I would count Yummy House in the top 3 Chinese restaurants in the Orlando area. Some may argue that their sauces are a bit on the sweet side, but their Hong Kong style roast duck and their perfectly cooked sweet and sour Mandarin Pork Chop (known as Peking pork chops in other restaurants) push Yummy House to the top for my list, especially in a city which surprisingly lacks many good Chinese establishments for the time being.

Here is the 3 for $22.99 menu!

HERE are some of our FAVORITE choices for a dinner at Yummy House, enjoy:

Crab Meat Fish Maw Soup $14.00
Fresh crab meat and fish maw in broth.
Salt and Pepper Calamari $7.99
Beef Chow Fun $9.50
Cantonese style rice noodles stir-fried with beef, bean sprouts and green onion.
Salted Fish with Chicken Tofu Clay Pot $12.00 (try any of the hot clay pots)
Stir-fried white meat chicken, salted fish and tofu in brown sauce.
Hong Kong Style Roasted Duck $12.00 half / 22.00 whole
Traditional HK style roasted duck marinated with our house special five spice sauce.
Mandarin Pork Chop $9.50
Stir-fried pork chops and onions in sweet and sour Mandarin sauce.
Snow Pea Tips with Roasted Garlic $12.00
stir-fried snow pea tips with roasted garlic

Yang Chow Fried Rice $8.50
Shrimp , BBQ pork, egg, green onion and cilantro with jasmine rice.

Shrimp and Scallops Spicy XO Sauce $14.00
Sauteed tender scallops, shrimp and snow peas in their classic spicy XO sauce.

Black Pepper Beef $9.95
Sautéed beef with onion and green pepper in black pepper sauce.

For the full menu, visit:
Yummy House Orlando
(407) 339-8877
478 E. Altamonte Dr. #102
Altamonte Springs, FL

Hours: Sunday & Monday lunch: 11am – 2:45pm, dinner: 4:30pm-9pm
Tuesday – closed
Wednesday & Thursday lunch: 11am – 2:45pm, dinner: 4:30pm-9pm
Friday and Saturday lunch: 11am – 2:45pm, dinner: 4:30pm – 9:30pm

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Dim sum

There’s no English signs to let you know you’re at Mr Wong’s Family Taste Chinese Cuisine until you’re inside. It just says “Chinese Cuisine” outside.

This place is in the so called “Chinatown” plaza here in Orlando – on Colonial Drive just west of Pine Hills Road where 1st Oriental Supermarket is located. It’s right next to Sapporo Ramen.

With that said, good dim sum is hard to find in Orlando. I think Ming Bistro and Golden Lotus are a few of the better ones in Orlando, but it’s not saying much. Mr. Wong’s would be up there in the top 5, but their service knocks it down a few notches. The decor is a bit Spartan and the waitresses here are a bit more rude than usual. But the har gow shrimp dumpling and beef chow fun are quite good.

Good dim sum is hard to find in Orlando.
Dim Sum menu
Dim Sum menu
Fried shrimp ball
Fried stuffed taro dumpling
Turnip Pudding
The push cart – dim sum served daily 10am – 3pm
some fried stuffed tofu
Shrimp Rice paste
Stuffed eggplant

Fox 35’s Valerie Boey and the members of AAJA Florida
Dim sum
Siu Mai and Ha gow

Mr Wong’s Family Taste Chinese Cuisine
5076 W Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32808

Mr. Wong's Family Taste Chinese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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On far-flung World Center Drive, near the Epcot area, you can find authentic Shanghainese Chinese cuisine at the newly opened iShanghai. It’s a hidden gem that is a welcome addition to the rather bleek Orlando Chinese restaurant landscape.

Shanghai, the bustling port city on the central coast in China, is known for their seafood and the use of fresh flavors and methods that retain the taste of the ingredients.

Shanghai dishes usually are pickled in wine, stewed, braised, steamed, or deep fried.

A notable Shanghai delicacy is xiaolongbao, also known as soup dumplings in the United States. Made popular by the Michelin starred Din Tai Fung restaurant, which is headquartered in Taiwan, but have locations around the world including in the US, the xiaolongbao is a type of hot steamed bun made with a thin skin of dough and stuffed with pork or minced crab, and notably, soup.

The soup is said to be congealed first before placing into the pork mixture and then steamed, allowing for the soup to stay inside the dumpling. Often times in local Chinese restaurants here in Orlando, they may advertise xiaolongbao and the flavors are there but the soup is not there to many a disappointed patron.

Photo Jan 16, 7 49 31 PM

So let’s just say we have finally found the holy grail of dumplings in Orlando – the soup dumplings are found here at iShanghai – with a few caveats.

A good xiaolongbao should be able to hold in the soup until it is bitten – nothing is worse than a soup dumpling that has its soup just missing from the dumpling. The soup dumplings here at iShanghai do hold up well, and there is some soup, some very little soup – but still soup, inside the dumplings.

Photo Jan 16, 7 52 53 PM

A common way of eating xiaolongbao is to place it on your spoon, puncture the dumpling or bite off the top, blow on it to cool down the steaming soup, and then drink the soup from the spoon. Then, finally, eat the whole dumpling together.

Photo Jan 16, 7 55 17 PM

It’s satisfying and quite tasty – but I do believe it is priced a bit high at $6.00 for 3 dumplings, or $2.00 a dumpling. I think even Din Tai Fung’s soup dumplings at locations in California are priced at $10-$13 for 10, or about $1.00-$1.30 each. For that much, there better be a whole cup of soup in those dumplings.

Overall, it was a good soup dumpling and I am glad we finally have a place to try some here in Orlando, even though it is nearer to Epcot than to downtown Orlando.

Photo Jan 16, 7 24 48 PM

The other dishes we tried at iShanghai were also quite good – we started with the salami ham and winter melon soup, a very authentic Chinese soup that is quite refreshing, hearty, and healthy.

Photo Jan 16, 8 04 58 PM Coo Lao Meat (Pork Belly)

Our coo lao fried pork is a sweet a sour crispy pork belly dish that had praises from all around our table that evening. Crunchy, sweet, and sour – you’d hardly realized you were eating a dish that is literally half pork and half bacon fat.

Photo Jan 16, 8 02 12 PM Stir-Fried Grouper Fish with Pine Nut

A rather exotic dish – the crackling eel – piqued our interest, but we decided to go for a safer
Stir-Fried Grouper Fish with Pine Nut dish instead.

We were quite happy with the selection – the fish, sliced and tender, went well with the pine nuts that added a nice crunchy texture to the dish.

Photo Jan 16, 8 31 04 PM Crispy Skin Chicken

We ordered the Crispy Skin Chicken, a super crispy fried salt and pepper chicken for an appetizer, but they seemed to have put it the order in late – maybe they forgot – so it arrived after our entrees.

They were very apologetic though and service overall was pretty good.

They upgraded the interior from what was formerly the location of an Asian buffet. They need to play some light music or something because it is awkwardly silent inside.

Photo Jan 16, 7 33 09 PM

I noticed an elderly couple helping out in the back – you know the food is good if you have grandma and grandpa making it.

I definitely recommend coming here with a family or a group of at least four to try several dishes and share family style.

IShanghai Orlando
8216 a World Center Drive, Orlando, FL, United States
+1 407-238-2997, 407-238-2998

Mon – Thu 12pm – 10pm
Fri – Sat 12pm – 11pm
Sun 12pm – 10pm

IShanghai  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Fried La Zi Tofu

We’ve posted extensively about our favorite Chinese (Sichuan and otherwise) restaurant in Orlando – Chuan Lu Garden – and continue to be surprised and delighted about the depth and diversity of the menu at Chuan Lu.

They recently published an easier to read menu including a new hot pot menu so I thought it would be good to share here.

See below, as well as some photos of our favorite dishes to order.


Beef, tendon in chili sauce – CA1


Eggplant with garlic sauce in clay pot – CH1SONY DSC

Pan Fried Green Beans with Ground Pork – CV9SONY DSC

La Zi Fish Fillets – CZ8IMG_0797 IMG_0798 IMG_0799 IMG_0802 IMG_0800 IMG_0801

Cucumber with red pepper
Cucumber with red pepper
Szechuan wontons
Szechuan wontons
Beef and chicken dry hotpot
Beef and chicken dry hotpot
Fried La Zi Tofu
Fried La Zi Tofu

When most folks think of authentic Chinese cuisine, it’s often the Cantonese regional cuisine that comes to mind as many of the first immigrants to America came from that region, hoping to strike gold in California during the 1800s, only to be hired as low waged rail workers building the Transcontinental Railroad.

From char siu roast pork to shrimp wonton dumplings and all the wonderful little bites from dim sum, Cantonese cuisine’s strength lies in its use of fresh ingredients from the sea and land. Canton, or Guangzhou, is a coastal region near Hong Kong known for its seafood and great harbors.

In Orlando, when I want Cantonese cuisine – particularly noodles and Chinese barbecue, I usually choose Tasty Wok or Ming Bistro.


At Tasty Wok, you will see a classic familiar scene of roasted ducks and barbecued pork and squid hanging from hooks in a display case near the counter. Recently, I learned there is a difference between the types of roast duck – ask for the hanging roast duck as it has been double marinated in duck juices. SONY DSC

Roast duck can be fatty, but is a great dish served with rice. SONY DSC SONY DSC

Shrimp wontons, little dumplings served with egg noodles in a chicken broth soup. SONY DSC

Three meat platter – roast duck, Char siu – or Chinese barbecue pork – and soy sauce chicken on rice. SONY DSC The fish with black bean sauce, stir fried with vegetables.

Chinese roast pork – char siu – with shrimp and noodles.

Salt and pepper fried trio of scallops, shrimp, and squidSONY DSC

Not the most refined nor the most healthy, it serves its purpose – it’s Chinese soul food.

Tasty Wok
1246 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32803
+1 407-896-8988
Hours: 10:30 am – 9:30 pm

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Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall

The Florida Mall recently opened their new Dining Pavilion (aka the Food Court 2.0) – it’s sleek and modern and just very futuristic . The food court of the 21st century we deserve – though the offerings – which include 3 variations of Asian Chao and the usual suspects of chains – leave more to be desired (see here). There are some stand outs though like the new Spoleto Italian fast casual / assembly line restaurant imported from Brazil as well as some interesting new concepts such as the Dumpling and Noodle Bar.

At first glance, it looks like another variation of Asian Chao – an island outpost with a line of sweet and sour chicken, beef and broccoli, and bourbon chicken in steaming trays behind plexiglass while an older Asian lady stares at you disapprovingly for snapping photos of their shop.

Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall
Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall

But there’s got to be some dumplings, some noodling going on somewhere since their name is Dumpling and Noodle Bar right?

Around the corner is a tiny section dedicated to an assortment of dumplings (spicy wontons, steamed pork and veggie dumplings, fried dumplings) and a rather impressive list of authentic noodle dishes from Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup to Cha Jong noodles (black bean sauce noodles) and Hong Kong style wonton noodles.

Spicy wonton dumplings at Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall
Spicy wonton dumplings at Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall

Overall, very impressed with the Taiwanese beef noodle soup – the flavor was there and there was a ton of braised beef with our bowl. Not as good as some of the authentic Taiwanese restaurants around town, but still for a mall food court dish – I’d definitely go back for more.

Taiwanese beef noodle soup from Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall
Taiwanese beef noodle soup from Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall

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In the United States, there are more Chinese restaurants than McDonald’s, Burger Kings and KFCs combined. As with any immigrant cuisine, the food often takes on characteristics popular to the host country’s own culinary tastes.

In South America, Peru has its own version of fried rice called chaufa, stir fried beef with potatoes called lomo saltado, and countless other Chinese dishes adjusted and adapted for Latin tastebuds.

In Japan, even, the lowly la mien, or noodle soup, has become adapted and converted into a very Japanese dish known around the world as ramen. Here in the US, we’ve got General Tso’s chicken and bourbon chicken. Syrupy sweet and fried, it’s the American way.

The history of Chinese immigration dates back to the mid-1800s when Chinese workers arrived in the United States to work as miners, railroad builders, farmers, and laborers.

The first Chinese restaurants were not opened by professionally trained chefs, but by immigrants who were denied work elsewhere or simply wished to feed their own communities. The Chinese restaurant business continued to expand throughout the early 1900s as Americans became intrigued with new exotic flavors at an inexpensive price.

Chinese restaurant-owners found ways to combine their traditional recipes with Western flavors in order to attract more American customers. As most of the immigrants came from the Guangdong region of China, most of the “Chinese” cuisine we know today in the US is heavily influenced by this region’s cuisine.

The Immigration Act of 1965 and Richard Nixon’s Visit to China in 1972 also increased both the diversity and popularity of Chinese cuisine among the American populace – but many of us have never tried true traditional Sichuan, Hunan, or Zhejiang cuisine. (Source: Smithsonian Institution: Sweet & Sour Showcase)

Here are 8 ways to know you’re at an American Chinese restaurant:



1. They serve General Tso’s Chicken


This sweet, slightly spicy, deep-fried chicken dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang, or Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty general and statesman, although there is no recorded connection to him.

In The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer Lee, descendants of General Tso still living in Xiangyin, when interviewed, say that they have never heard of such a dish.

Stories say it was developed by a chef in Taiwan, another in New York. Whatever the case, this dish is quintessential in the American Chinese restaurant menu.



2. Their name is some combination of the words “Dragon”, “Golden”, “Wok”, “Palace”, “China”, etc.


Dragons are considered royal, magical, and lucky. It’s generally considered to be a rain god as well, so Chinese restaurant owners love being associated with this powerful mythical creature.

I guess it helps to know you’re going to a Chinese restaurant if the name has China or Wok in it as well.

Palaces, also, quite a popular and imperial place to be, quite flattering for the diners I suppose. The number 8 is also very popular, and double or triple 8’s even more so because 88 sounds like (a homonym) for “get rich” in Chinese.



3. They use Broccoli (also known as western broccoli)



Traditional Chinese restaurants would use Chinese broccoli also known as gailan rather than western broccoli which originated in Italy and the Mediterranean.



4. Everything is Fried and Sweetened – it’s the American Way



Traditional Chinese cooking has a lot less deep frying and more stir frying, baking, or steaming involved.


5. They serve Crab Rangoon


Going on the fry theme – Rangoon’s not even a city in China – it’s named after Rangoon the former capital of Myanmar, now known as Yangon in Burma. Cream cheese is definitely not a Chinese ingredient. It was probably invented from a Burmese recipe in the US and adopted en masse by Chinese restaurants.



6. Fortune Cookies – they’re American as Apple pie. Actually they’re Japanese.



Fortune cookies are often served as a dessert in Chinese restaurants in the United States and some other countries, but are absent in China. The exact origin of fortune cookies is unclear, though various immigrant groups in California claim to have popularized them in the early 20th century.

As far back as the 19th century, a cookie very similar in appearance to the modern fortune cookie was made in Kyoto, Japan; and there is a Japanese temple tradition of random fortunes, called o-mikuji. The Japanese version of the cookie differs in several ways: they are a little bit larger; are made of darker dough; and their batter contains sesame and miso rather than vanilla and butter.

They contain a fortune; however, the small slip of paper was wedged into the bend of the cookie rather than placed inside the hollow portion. Makoto Hagiwara of Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is reported to have been the first person in the USA to have served the modern version of the cookie when he did so at the tea garden in the 1890s or early 1900s.

The fortune cookies were made by a San Francisco bakery, Benkyodo. Fortune cookies moved from being a confection dominated by Japanese-Americans to one dominated by Chinese-Americans sometime around World War II.

One theory for why this occurred is because of the Japanese American internment during World War II, which forcibly put over 100,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps, including those who had produced fortune cookies. This gave an opportunity for Chinese manufacturers. From Jennifer Lee’s article in the New York Times: Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie



7. The menus look like this:




Apparently all made by the same few menu companies in New York.



8. The soy sauce packets looks like this:


“Packaged soy sauce is often a cocktail of processed ingredients that resemble the real thing: water, salt, food coloring, corn syrup, MSG, and preservatives. But soy sauce, strictly defined, refers to a fermented combination of soybeans and wheat whose earliest direct predecessor was first mentioned in writing in the year 160.”



Chop suey – it’s an American invention.

Meaning “miscellaneous leftovers”, it consists of meat (often chicken, fish, beef, prawns, or pork) and eggs, cooked quickly with vegetables such as bean sprouts, cabbage, and celery and bound in a starch-thickened sauce. One account claims that it was invented by Chinese American cooks working on the transcontinental railroad in the 19th century.

Another tale is that it was created during Qing Dynasty premier Li Hongzhang’s visit to the United States in 1896 by his chef, who tried to create a meal suitable for both Chinese and American palates. Another story is that Li wandered to a local Chinese restaurant after the hotel kitchen had closed, where the chef, embarrassed that he had nothing ready to offer, came up with the new dish using scraps of leftovers.

If you want to learn more about Chinese food in America, check out Jennifer 8. Lee’s great book “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles.”

“Lee takes readers on a delightful journey through the origins and mysteries of the popular, yet often overlooked, world of the American Chinese food industry. Crossing dozens of states and multiple countries, the author sought answers to the mysteries surrounding the shocking origins of the fortune cookie, the inventor of popular dishes such as chop suey and General Tso’s chicken, and more.

What she uncovers are the fascinating connections and historical details that give faces and names to the restaurants and products that have become part of a universal American experience. While searching for the “greatest Chinese restaurant,” readers are taken on a culinary tour as Lee discovers the characteristics that define an exceptional and unique Chinese dining experience.

Readers will learn about the cultural contributions and sacrifices made by the Chinese immigrants who comprise the labor force and infrastructure that supports Chinese restaurants all over the world.”

Check out her TED Talk on her Hunt for General Tso:

Reporter Jennifer 8. Lee talks about her hunt for the origins of familiar Chinese-American dishes — exploring the hidden spots where these two cultures have (so tastily) combined to form a new cuisine.

It’s a Chinese family tradition – while some folks sip on mimosas and munch on French toast on the weekends, others hit up one of the few dim sum restaurants in town for some steamed shrimp dumplings and a cup of Jasmine tea.

Dim sum, which means a little bit of heart, is the term used for the collection of small plates made of dumplings, sweet buns, and other little delectable bites, all eaten of course with tea and shared around a table with family and friends.


One of the best dim sum restaurants in Orlando has been Ming Bistro. They recently went under new ownership changes and have even had some interior decoration changes. Gone are the chandeliers, replaced with lowered, black painted ceilings and dim lighting, giving the restaurant a slightly more sophisticated feel. Quality remains about the same, though some friends have noted a slight decrease.

Same are the long lines at the door of customers waiting for a table to clear (you can avoid this by going on the off hours – outside the 12pm-2pm peak hours on the weekends). They serve dim sum all day here, but you can only get the push cart service on the weekends. I prefer ordering my dim sum dishes by the menu a la carte – where you are guaranteed hot and fresh plates coming out from the kitchen, rather than something that may have been sitting out for a while.


Service at Chinese restaurants have historically been quite lacking. It is a little better here, where a manager made the rounds asking how things were and the waitresses made sure the tables stayed clear.

How to Order Dim Sum

  • Make sure to order some tea, like Jasmine or Heung Pin, as well as a glass of water as it can get salty
  • As the carts make their way around the room, wave one of the ladies down to showcase her wares from the carts – one is steaming, the other not.
  • Each dish has a certain price range, from $3 to $5 depending on the size.
  • Drizzle a dab of soy sauce and some chili sauce on your dumplings to taste.
  • The shrimp rice paste can be ordered separately as can any of the dishes on the regular menu, such as beef chow fun.


Typically, we order shrimp ha gow dumplings, siu mai pork dumplings, fried taro shrimp balls, chicken feet, steamed spare ribs, a plate of beef chow fun, salt and pepper calamari, and some egg custart tart pastries for dessert. Typically the bill comes out to be about $12 a person, great value.

My favorite dim sum dish here is the fried turnip pudding cubes, crunchy and salty, perfect with some hot chili.




SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC Fried Turnip Cake Cubes

Beef Chow fun noodlesSONY DSC

Here are photos of the menu:




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I tend to break down Chinese restaurants into three categories:

Chinese take outs (you’ll see the neon signs saying New York Style Chinese Takeout at these places – New York meaning “Americanized – often a miss in terms of quality and a menu full of general tso’s chicken and pork fried rice with chicken wings combos ),

Traditional Cantonese sit down restaurants (you’ll find some form of beef chow fun, salt and pepper squid, and possibly dim sum at these establishments),

and the increasingly less rare,

“Other Chinese cuisine” restaurant (Sichuan, Shanghainese, Taiwanese, etc).

I’d file Chan’s under traditional Cantonese sit down restaurant —
1. Dim sum on the weekends? Check.
2. Lazy susans on the tables for family style banquets? Check.
3. Seemingly callous waitresses? Double check.

The decor is rather minimal, like walking into someone’s house for a dinner party and there’s not really enough space for everyone.

The food here is solid Cantonese fare – you’ve got your pan fried noodles to dim sum via cart on the weekends. For dinner, it gets a bit fancier with dishes like Cantonese style pan fried steak, salt baked chicken, sweet and sour pork chops, and even abalone, the exceptionally pungent mollusk that the Cantonese go crazy for.

I was at Chan’s recently for a banquet with some friends – the brothers of Pi Delta Psi Fraternity at the University of Central Florida to be exact – who held an end of the semester banquet at the restaurant with quite a list of about 7 banquet dishes for just $25. Call ahead to find out if you can organize something like this there because it’s got great value if you have a group of 10 or so per table.







Seafood Pan Fried Noodles
Seafood Pan Fried Noodles
Sweet and Sour Peking Pork Chops
Sweet and Sour Peking Pork Chops
Fried Crispy Chicken
Fried Crispy Chicken



Chan's Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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Lam’s Garden is probably known best for their banquet style Chinese Cantonese cuisine.

Though my favorite dim sum restaurant may be elsewhere, Lam’s Garden also offers solid dish choices for the weekend dim sum lovers.

They have the steamed push carts here for dim sum service, where guests can point and ask what plates lay hidden beneath the covers. I prefer the menu method to ordering dim sum – no waiting and wondering for your favorite dish, and it arrives hot and fresh more often than not in comparison to the push cart service method.

Dim sum is served here every day, but the push carts are only on the weekend.



Spare Ribs, Pork Siu Mai, and Sticky Rice in Lotus leaf at Lam's Garden
Spare Ribs, Pork Siu Mai, and Sticky Rice in Lotus leaf at Lam’s Garden
Steamed Chinese BBQ Pork Buns at Lam's Garden
Steamed Chinese BBQ Pork Buns at Lam’s Garden
Pork Siu Mai dumplings at Lam's Garden
Pork Siu Mai dumplings at Lam’s Garden
Fried stuffed shrimp tofu at Lam's Garden
Fried stuffed shrimp tofu at Lam’s Garden
Fried taro dumplings
Fried taro dumplings
Shrimp ha gow dumpling
Shrimp ha gow dumpling
Egg custard tarts for dessert
Egg custard tarts for dessert



Clams stir fried in black bean sauce
Clams stir fried in black bean sauce
Salt and pepper calamari / squid
Salt and pepper calamari / squid
Braised beef and tofu hot pot
Braised beef and tofu hot pot
Braised beef and tofu hot pot
Braised beef and tofu hot pot
Stir Fried lobster
Stir Fried lobster


Lam's Garden on Urbanspoon

Simmered pork belly over rice with Taiwanese sausage and hard boiled egg - I think simmered means braised...

Update November 2014

Taipei 101 over the past year has added a few new Taiwanese “street food” items on their menu! Check out the latest offerings:

Stinky Tofu topped with Kimchi
Stinky Tofu topped with Kimchi
Pan Fried Turnip Cake
Pan Fried Turnip Cake
Gua bao pork buns
Gua bao pork buns


Oyster and Chitterling sesame noodle soup
Oyster and Chitterling sesame noodle soup
Spicy fried tilapia
Spicy fried tilapia
Fried Fish bento box lunch special
Fried Fish bento box lunch special

Shout out to Kay Y. on Yelp for spotting this little hole in the wall near UCF in Oviedo!

Taipei 101 just opened this week and I for one am very glad it is here. Though my favorite Taiwanese place still remains to be Teriyaki House on the west side of Orlando, this is a nice substitute when I am not able to make the trek over there during the work week.

Taipei 101 Oviedo UCF Area

Taipei 101 Oviedo UCF Area
Taipei 101 Oviedo UCF Area

The menu is still developing as they have been open only just a few days.

Here are some highlights

1. Everything is relatively cheap ranging fro $2 – $9, so I can see it as a popular place for lunch in the UCF area.

2. My favorite dishes included the Lou Rou Fan (Simmered Pork Belly over Steamed Rice $4) which was topped with a nice pork gravy and hard boiled egg along with the pork belly (see pictures), as well as the steamed pork belly bun (gua bao $3) stuffed with mustard greens, cilantro, peanuts, and a sweet and sour sauce.

Overall it was good and very homey tasting (like it was cooked at home by your Taiwanese mom or aunt).

I also tried the simmering combination which was an appetizer with four different types of meat – though I did enjoy the egg, chitterling, and pig ear, I was not a big fan of the pig’s blood rice cake – that’s just me though maybe?

I sampled some of my friend’s salt and pepper chicken, thought it was okay but definitely needed to be more “crispy” .

The Bian Dang meal boxes look like they are a real value, I’d get the simmered pork or bbq pork next time.

Overall, nice effort from the Taipei 101 team, lots of little snacks and to go items that are fun to eat and overall a nice change from the usual around this area. I would try the Zhong Zi rice and pork dumpling next time and see what else is good here !

Gua Bao - Steamed Pork Belly Bun with mustard greens, peanuts, sweet and sour sauce
Gua Bao – Steamed Pork Belly Bun with mustard greens, peanuts, sweet and sour sauce
Simmered pork belly over rice with Taiwanese sausage and hard boiled egg - I think simmered means braised...
Simmered pork belly over rice with Taiwanese sausage and hard boiled egg – I think simmered means braised…
Taiwanese stir fried noodles with pork
Taiwanese stir fried noodles with pork
Assorted appetizer meats - chitterlings, pig ear, pig's blood cake, egg
Assorted appetizer meats – chitterlings, pig ear, pig’s blood cake, egg
Salt and Pepper chicken
Salt and Pepper chicken


Pan fried dumplings - not too shabby
Pan fried dumplings – not too shabby
Wonton Soup - nice cuts of cha siu pork and slivers of egg included
Wonton Soup – nice cuts of cha siu pork and slivers of egg included


"Zong zi" - rice dumpling stuffed with pork belly, beef, and topped with a sweet and sour sauce, wrapped in banana leaf
“Zong zi” – rice dumpling stuffed with pork belly, beef, and topped with a sweet and sour sauce, wrapped in banana leaf
Curry chicken lunch box - their lunch boxes are a great deal with lots of food including pickled daikon radish, housemade Taiwanese sausage, noodles, veggies, rice
Curry chicken lunch box – their lunch boxes are a great deal with lots of food including pickled daikon radish, housemade Taiwanese sausage, noodles, veggies, rice
Fried tofu topped with spicy pickled kimchi cabbage
Fried tofu topped with spicy pickled kimchi cabbage
Housemade egg wafer rolls
Housemade egg wafer rolls

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2013-11-07 12.10.55

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup at Taipei 101
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup at Taipei 101
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup at Taipei 101
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup at Taipei 101

Taipei 101 on Urbanspoon

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hotto potto chinese hot pot orlando

I love eating hot pot, especially during the cold winter months, around a table of friends, when the hot pot’s hot soup and a cold beer warms the soul.

Hot Pot (pronounced huo guo in Mandarin Chinese) refers to several varieties of stew – also known as shabu shabu in Japan, Lau in Vietnam, fondue in France – consisting of a metal pot of soup stock at the center of the dining table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients such as meat, noodles, dumplings, vegetables, mushrooms, seafood, etc. are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table, and usually eaten with a dipping sauce.

Hotto Potto in Winter Park is an awesome concept restaurant specializing in Chinese hot pot as well as othr Chinese noodle dishes. I really like the fact that we can have hot pot till whenever we want (they are open till 2 am on weekdays and 5 am on Fridays – I’d call ahead to be sure though) and none of the clean up involved. Typically at home we would have up to 20 dishes of sauces and bowls and ingredients and it would be such a night mare to clean up for large parties.

hotto potto chinese hot pot orlando

The soup bases here range from vegetarian to “spicy numb” (a Sichuan style spicy soup base) to Thai style tom yum goong. My favorite is the spicy numb flavor but you might want to go with the milder soups if you aren’t a fan of spiciness. You can season the soup to your liking with some of the house made sauces available at your table, ranging from savory sa cha, soy bean, to hoisin bbq sauce.

The lunch special at Hotto Potto starting at $7.99 includes beef, chicken, and pork as well as noodles and is a great deal of food and definitely enough to fill one up for lunch.


hotto potto chinese hot pot orlando

Beef, chicken, pork meat and tofu and cabbage with fish balls , beef balls, and pork balls to cook in the hot pot

hotto potto chinese hot pot orlando

hotto potto chinese hot pot orlando


hotto potto chinese hot pot orlando

Noodles with Beef Brisket sauce


Hotto Potto
3090 Aloma Ave. Suite 150
Winter Park, FL 32792

Hotto Potto on Urbanspoon

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Update: Our readers and friends ask us what are some good choices out of the quite extensive menu at Chuan Lu Garden. Here is a sample menu for a group of 5-8 friends to try from family-style around the lazy susan.


Pan fried pork buns!
Pan fried pork buns!
Feng Bao La Zi Fried fish Fillets - Like the Chongqing La Zi Ji Chicken, but better!
Feng Bao La Zi Fried fish Fillets – Like the Chongqing La Zi Ji Chicken, but better!

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Authentic Chinese cuisine in Orlando (not counting all the “American Chinese” take out spots out there) has long been dominated by Cantonese style Chinese restaurants (most popular for their dim sum and seafood dishes). Recently, a few new places specializing in other regional Chinese cuisine have opened, including Taiwanese cuisine (Teriyaki House) and Shanghai cuisine (Magic Wok).

Chinese Sichuan (often spelled Szechuan in North America) cuisine has taken a foothold this year in Orlando with the arrival of Chuan Lu Garden.

Originating from Sichuan province in southwestern China (whose capital Chengdu was named a “city of gastronomy” by UNESCO in for its thousands of years of culinary innovation), Sichuan cuisine is known for its sophisticated use of spicy Sichuan peppercorns, chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and peanuts.

Sichuan Peppercorns via
Sichuan Peppercorns via

To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Sichuan peppercorns – maybe I am a little afraid of them. They’re little prickly bombs of spice and numbing flavors.

It is definitely an experience for the adventurous though, and it may even grow on you after a while. The spice is a member of the citrus family and there is a little acidity that you can taste when crunching on the peppercorn.

At first, there is a fragrant, flowery taste, and then slowly a spicy, tingly, metallic numbness (a flavor called “ma-la” in Chinese) starts at the area of impact on your tongue. The Sichuan peppercorn is prominent in Sichuan cuisine, and can be found in several of the dishes served at the new Chuan Lu Garden restaurant in Mills 50.

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Built adjacent to the Ginza Japanese steakhouse in the Mills 50 District, and connected by a hallway, Chuan Lu Garden serves up refreshingly authentic and tasty Sichuan style dishes not found any where else in Orlando.

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The dining room is a bit small, and walking through the hallway made it feel like going into a secret speak easy kind of a place, but I was told you could order the same menu if you sat in the larger dining room area inside Ginza. I liked the tight feeling of the place though, like eating in some small nook in Manhattan’s Chinatown, except we’re in Orlando.

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Sliced Roast Beef, Stomach, and Tendon with chili sauce

Our dinner party started with an appetizer: CA13 – Sliced Roast Beef, Stomach, and Tendon with chili sauce and topped with scallions, cilantro, and garlic. Served slightly chilled, the cuts of tendon and beef were fun to eat, with a nice simmering spice level not too hot to be overwhelming. There was almost an addicting flavor to it, with our dining companions continuing to pick at the dish despite their own spiciness tolerance levels.

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The hand pulled Lanzhou style beef noodle soup (a very popular dish in New York City’s Chinatown) was next. I had the chance to watch the master chef in the kitchen prepare the noodles by hand.

Called “Lamian” in Chinese, these noodles are made by stretching and folding the dough into strands of noodles. The chef here surprised me with hour fast and adept his handwork was in making the noodles, which are made and prepared to order. The Lanzhou style ordered is named after the city of Lanzhou in northwestern China where these noodles (as well as the chef here at Chuan Lu Garden) originated.

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The Lanzhou noodles were exceedingly tender and delicious to eat, and the broth and slices of beef brisket were very good as well. I would come here just for the noodles alone if I had the chance.

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Fei Teng Yu Xiang – Fish Fillets with bean sprouts and tofu in a special spicy sauce – a nice slow burn

The next dish ordered is said to be the most popular here at Chuan Lu Garden the CS16: Fei Teng Yu Xiang – Fish Fillets with bean sprouts and tofu in a special spicy sauce consisting of dried red chillies and Sichuan peppercorns. This dish was beautiful to look at with contrasting reds from the chilies, greens from scallions, and the white flesh of the fish fillets and tofu slices, and tasted very fresh and authentic with a nice level of spiciness to it. The sichuan peppercorn…like I said, kind of grows on you…especially when you accidentally eat some hidden ones folded in the layers of fish.

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Gan Gou Liang Yiang, an authentic Sichuan beef and chicken dish stir-fried in a dry pot

Our waitress, who was very kind and accommodating despite language barriers, suggested to us the Gan Gou Liang Yiang, an authentic Sichuan beef and chicken dish stir-fried in a dry pot, made with veggies, dried chilies, garlic, and ginger. The beef and chicken were very tender and was good and slightly spicy, but not too spicy. It tasted like a dish that would be eaten with a family at home with bowls of rice and soup.

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Lastly, we had the cumin lamb, a very tender lamb dish with onions and dried chillies, and also one of the favorites of the night.

Overall, the dishes tried were some of the best Chinese style dishes I’ve had in Orlando and would definitely warrant a return trip to try their other dishes, like the ChongQing La Zi spicy fried chicken.

You can find their menu on

Shout out to Feng E. for the great scoop on Yelp!

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Chuan Lu Garden on Urbanspoon



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Update – Saturday April 20, 2013
I visited a few more times to Chuan Lu Garden to try out more items from their expansive menu, particularly the more unique items I have yet to find anywhere else in Orlando. What I found was that Chuan Lu Garden not only had really good authentic Sichuan style dishes, but also some of the best Chinese overall dishes I have had in Orlando.

The following are my top favorites at Chuan Lu Garden including must tries for those who are unsure of what to get:

1. Kou Shui Ji – literally Saliva Chicken or Mouthwatering chicken, it’s similar to Hainan chicken steamed and served cold but topped with a special spicy sauce

2. Chong Qing La Zi Chicken (Spicy Fried Chicken with Sichuan Peppercorns) – if you are wanting to try the Sichuan peppercorns for the first time, or like spicy food, this spicy La Zi chicken is a signature dish and chock full of the peppers…just be ready to ask for more water.

3. Handmade pork and cabbage dumplings, steamed – the best dumplings I have had in Orlando, the meat is tender and you can tell they didn’t just boil some from a bag because the dumplings are all uniquely shaped, a result of having been made by hand.

4. Ma La Niu Rou – Spicy Beef Hand Pulled Noodle Soup –  Topped with crunchy peanuts, cilantro, spicy chili, savory beef brisket slices, the tender, hand pulled noodles go well with all the toppings and the deep, earthy broth

5. Cumin lamb – a spicy, tender delightful dish

6. Salt and Pepper shrimp or calamari – both very crispy and deliciously fried.

7. Feng Bao La Zi Fish Fillet – Fried fish fillets done the ChongQing La Zi sichuan style, with plentiful Sichuan peppercorns all over, delicate and delicious.

8. Pan Fried Pork Buns

9. Sliced Roast Beef and Tendon in Spicy sauce


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Handmade pork and cabbage dumplings, steamed – best dumplings in Orlando

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Chuan Bei Liang Fen – Northern Sichuan style Bean Gel appetizer with spicy black bean sauce – jelly like noodles, interesting textures and a nice spice sauce, but overall not a favorite item for me.

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Hong Yao Chou Shou – Szechuan Wontons

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Gan Lao Niu Rou – Sour and Hot Beef hand pulled Noodles

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Yu Xiang Rou Si – Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce – maybe my least favorite dish as it was a bit too familiar, though good, it was boring after having a few bites of the dish.

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Salt and Peppery Calamari – tenderly fried, and deliciously breaded

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ChongQing Lazi Chicken – Spicy Fried Chicken with Sichuan Peppercorns and Dried Chillies

Watch out when eating this dish, as a few of my friends half-choked from the unexpected spiciness infused into the fried chicken.

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Ma La Niu Rou – Spicy Beef Hand Pulled Noodle Soup topped with peanuts, cilantro, spicy chili, beef brisket…so good

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Szechuan Double Cooked Pork Belly Slices with Hot Sauce

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Salt and Peppery Shrimp – these shrimp are delicately fried and topped with fried garlic and jalapeno peppers, but make sure to ask for a side of chili oil (Thanks Chirag for the tip!) to add a nice hot flavor to the shrimp

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Dan Dan Noodles – these noodles are prepared with “hand cut” noodles, a type of wide noodle resembling chow fun, and topped with ground pork and chilli pepper paste

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Jumbo shrimp with Szechuan sauce – This is shrimp with tofu and veggies, topped with the familiar spicy flavor of Sichuan peppercorns

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Sauteed Potatos with long hot pepper – This dish was not very memorable, just cuts of potato sauteed with pepper as the description says

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Szechuan Double Cooked Pork Belly Slices with Hot Sauce – a popular item at our dinner table, and very fatty 🙂

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Ma Po Tofu – this dish was good but otherwise very standard Chinese fare

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Kou Shui Ji – literally Saliva Chicken or Mouthwatering chicken, it’s similar to Hainan chicken steamed and served cold but topped with a special spicy sauce

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Don’t let the name mislead you. This is not your typical to go Chinese take out joint, but rather a nice little family-owned restaurant with authentic Chinese food made to order. The decor inside, rather than your typical Spartan fittings, has nice furnishings and a small wine list, perfect for a sit down meal.


I first heard about Magic Wok from fellow foodblogger, where he went and tried among other things, stinky tofu.

I was intrigued. The first time I had stinky tofu was at a street stall in Hong Kong. The stench was undeniable and reached as far as three blocks away.

Magic Wok specializes in both traditional Shaghainese and Americanized Chinese food with a variety of vegetarian and healthy choices. Shanghainese cuisine is often thought of as the youngest of Chinese regional cuisines, with elements of Cantonese, Szechuan, and Peking style foods. I didn’t end up ordering stinky tofu on my visit (mostly due to my lack of ability to translate the “Chinese” menu), but there were plenty of other great items listed in the traditional “English” menu.

Dim sum is most known for being from the southern, coastal region of Guangzhou and Hong Kong, though there are variations of the brunch menu in Shanghai and other cities. The small Shanghainese dim sum menu here features steamed pork buns (similar to soup dumplings, but without soup), honey ham and bean curd skin in a steamed bun, and steamed fish dumplings, among other items not found at most other dim sum places, which trend more towards the Cantonese variety. I enjoyed the steamed pork buns, but would have enjoyed it more if there were soup. Its looks deceived me. The honey ham and bean curd skin bun was delish. The sweet honey ham with crispy bean curd skin in a soft bun, provided a nice contrast in textures and sweet and salty tastes.


Your appearances deceived me, dear steamed pork dumpling.

The chef’s specialties feature crunchy, delectable Shanghai-style sweet and sour ribs and Peking duck. There is an extensive list of home-style soups like ham with winter melon soup, sea cucumber with fish maw soup, and stuffed fried dough and bean curd soup. Braised meat balls, braised pork belly with bean curd knots, and spicy stir fried snapper are some other must-tries here.

The restaurant is owned and operated by a mom and pop (Nina and George) for over 20 years here in Central Florida and have been known for their kindness and friendliness. Because there are literally only two people who work here, the meals may take a while longer to come out, especially if there is a large order, but it’s worth the wait.

Honey ham and bean curd skin buns – very fun to eat


Scallion pancakes, a classic dim sum dish, especially in Shanghai


Steamed pork buns – not the soup dumplings variety – but close.


Fried rice with eggs, salty fish, and chicken


Roast duck, not the Peking variety, is rather standard. Order ahead if you want the crispy Peking style Duck to allow the kitchen time to prepare.

Fried anchovy and nuts dish – typically an appetizer or snack


Shanghai style sweet and sour ribs, a hit with our dining companions


Braised Pork belly with curd skin knots


Chinese Water Spinach

See their full menu, in “English”, here!english-menu

Magic Wok on Urbanspoon

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Once an Asian buffet, Cheng’s Asian Bistro has turned back into an Asian restaurant serving up a mix comprised mostly of Chinese cuisine and Japanese sushi with a little bit of Thai offerings added. I was recently invited by my friend and co-worker to try out this restaurant out in West Orange county in the city of Ocoee.

The decor is nice here, a touch above other stereotypical Chinese places with granite table tops and deep red painted walls. A sushi bar set beneath a green roof is positioned in the back wall. 


The interior of Cheng’s Asian Bistro


Traditionally a Thai dish, this Tom Yum soup with shrimp was fresh and hearty, very similar to what you may expect to find at a Thai home.


Cheng’s Asian Bistro serves up some rather tasty renditions of rather typical Chinese fare. Start off with some crispy beef, a Szechuan based dish made with thinly sliced beef that’s fried to a crisp. It’s fun to eat though it can be a bit dry. The flavor of the sauce is slightly tangy, spicy, and sweet, but not overpowering.


One of my favorite Chinese dishes, the “White Snow Prawn”, or more commonly known as creamy walnut shrimp, is made to perfection here. Jumbo plump, fresh shrimp lightly battered in a creamy mayonnaise sauce and topped with walnuts, truly a delight.


Chicken three ways: lemon chicken (fried), General Tso’s chicken, and Chicken with vegetables


Sushi is a big hit here as there is an all you can eat $19.95 sushi menu


Giant Dragon Roll with fresh tuna and Unforgettable Sunshine roll with eel

Overall, Cheng’s Asian Bistro was a welcome change with food  that is fresh and tasty and not too heavy.I would definitely try it again when I am in the mood for some traditional dishes done well.

Cheng's Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon

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A mysterious e-mail arrives in my inbox one autumn day. An invitation to visit the illustrious Omni Resort Hotel at Championsgate, just outside of Orlando a few exits south of Disney World on Interstate-4. The reason? To try out some new drink menu items on their bar menu and be whisked away for a mini-staycation at the hotel. Hmm…I thought…this sounds enticing…


On that pre-arranged date, ten strangers assembled on the steps of the lobby of the Omni Hotel, greeted by Ms. Jackie of the Zimmerman Agency, the ever smiling Mrs. Kelly Burnett (Follow her official Omni Resorts twitter here @kdburnett), Director of Leisure Sales for the Omni Orlando resort, and Mr. Mel, head of food and beverage at the hotel. Some of the guests this evening come from Orlando Style magazine, Orange Appeal, and local blogs like ourselves and our friends at MEGAYUMMO.

All of it seemed too much like out of a summer mystery novel to me: strangers meeting at a hotel, invited by a unknown mysterious host, having a delightful time, a lovely overnight stay…only to awaken in the morning to find out one of the guests has mysteriously disappeared overnight and the whole hotel is locked down while an old detective with a checkered past is brought in to figure out the crime and solve the mystery.

Luckily for us, things did not require a detective in the morning. Things actually went quite smoothly and relaxing.


A beautiful view of the family pool and the golf course at Omni Resort at Championsgate

First off, the drinks. Omni Hotel has a nice little bar area on the left of the lobby near Zen restaurant where a piano player is set up for light enjoyable piano music. Here, the bartenders have assembled a presentation area where they whip out the latest “organic” and “local” creations from Omni resorts including the Sweet Honey Dew Foam made of Monin pure can syrup, Highland pepper, Berry ron-dezvous, Southern Basil Smash, and New Age Juleps. My favorite of the evening was the Berry Ron-dezvous, a very sweet yet also very potent mixed drink that packs a punch right after the unassuming sweetness settles in.

Below are the recipes for the new drinks at Omni Resort at Championsgate.

Sweet Honeydew Foam
(topping for the New Age Julep Recipe)
8oz Orange Juice
4oz Monin Pure Cane Syrup
2oz Organic Pasteurized Egg Whites
1. Pour ingredients directly into iSi Gourmet Whip Plus Canister* 2. Place the lid on and screw tightly 3. Screw on the CO2 cartridge, you should hear a hissing noise during this
step 4. Shake the canister well 5. Completely invert the canister upside down 6. Last, pour the foam at the side of the glass and top your cocktail
*an iSi canister is also known as a whipping cream bottle/canister
Highland Pepper
Glass: Highball Method: Muddle/Shake & Fine Strain
Ingredients: 1 each Jalapeno Slice
Muddle above ingredients
1each Dash of Celery Bitters
1.5 oz Patrón Silver
.75 oz Fresh Squeezed Florida Grapefruit Juice
.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.75 oz Monin Agave Nectar
Shake above ingredients with ice
Garnish: Fine Strain over Ice
Jalapeno Slice Grapefruit Wheel
Southern Basil Smash
Glass: Rocks Method: Muddle/Shake & Fine Strain
2 each Fresh Strawberries (hulled & sliced)
3 each Basil Leaves
Muddle above ingredients
1.5 oz Woodford Reserve
.5 oz Cointreau
.5 oz Dry Sack Sherry
.5 oz Monin Pure Cane Syrup
.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Garnish: Fine strain over ice
Berry Ron-dezvous
Glass: Martini Method: Shake with ice & fine strain
2 each Fresh Blackberries
4 each Fresh Raspberries
Muddle above ingredients
1.5 oz Bacardi Superior
.5 oz Grand Marnier
.5 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.5 oz Monin Pure Cane Syrup
Garnish: Fresh Blackberries
Glass: Rocks Method: Muddle/Shake
New Age Juleps
Ingredients: 8 each Mint Leaves
Muddle above ingredients
1.5 oz Absolut Vodka
.75 oz Plymouth Gin
.75 oz Monin Honey Sweetener
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Shake above ingredients with ice Strain without ice
Garnish: Top with Mint Sprig
Sweet Orange Foam



After the presentation, we were treated to a very amazing dinner at David’s Club, a kind of relaxed pub type restaurant inside Omni hotel, best known for their steaks. Right next door is Zen, a fusion Chinese pan-Asian restaurant, whose dishes were also presented that evening. My favorites included the Chinese style barbeque spare ribs, the Zen roll, and the Florida sushi roll from Zen as well as the short rib ossobucco from David’s Club. All in all, the food was magnificent and the company was great.

Zen Restaurant  – Pan Asian cuisine



Seafood Bird nest


The Chinese style bbq spareribs – must try!


Lobster Tempura


Amazing, fresh sushi rolls


Short rib ossobucco


The Lamb chops 


Swordfish steak

In the morning, we ventured out into the Trevi restaurant, traditionally a Italian restaurant, but also a breakfast spot in the morning where they have a full blown breakfast buffet as well as select specialty menu items such as the french toast, eggs benedict, etc.




French toast


Bacon, bacon, bacooonnn


Salami cuts and charcuterie

Omni Resort at Championsgate is pretty much all you could ask for in a staycation trip: great food, a nice little lazy river to lounge in, a huge pool for the family, and a giant golf course, all within 30-45 minute drive from downtown Orlando. You definitely feel at peace at this place and away from all the noise and traffic of the City Beautiful. Check it out some time if you can!

Luxury and relaxation.
Lazy river at the Omni
For more information visit:
Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate
1500 Masters Blvd
ChampionsGate, Florida 33896
Phone: (407) 390-6664, Fax: (407) 390-6600
Special thanks to the good people at Omni Resorts, Kelly and Mel, and Jackie of the Zimmerman Agency for setting up this beautiful event! And to the great staff at Omni resorts for doing such a fine job in hospitality and guest services.

Zen Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Trevi's on Urbanspoon

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With two locations, one in Altamonte Springs and the other near the Orlando International Airport tucked off of a side street of Semoran Boulevard, Eastern Pearl is probably one of the better Chinese restaurants around town. It is actually a sit down Chinese restaurant rather than your typical “New York” style Chinese (what does that mean anyway? cheap and fast Chinese take out joint?), with a full menu of dishes ranging from Szechuan specialties to traditional fried rice and seafood tofu hotpot, as well as “Americanized” offerings of general tso’s chicken, etc. (thanks Rob!)

I recently visited the Airport location for Eastern Pearl to check out their offerings. Although it isn’t the best Chinese out there, it is passable if you are in the area looking for some Chinese fare.

The biggest surprise that I had was that Eastern Pearl served soup dumplings, Shanghai style dumplings filled with small amounts of piping hot soup that spewed out from the dumpling when you bit into them. The only other place that I have had these devilishly good dumplings was in New York’s Chinatown where they serve an excellent rendition of the dish. The dumplings here, though not as authentic or flavorful as the hand made ones in New York, were enjoyable enough. I would wait to go to NYC to try the real thing though.

We also ordered the sizzling pepper steak, a huge plate of slices of beef served literally sizzling on a hot plate. Also ordered was the seafood tofu hot pot, a tricky dish to master as it often comes out a bit bland in most Chinese restaurants. Here the dish was okay. Which is pretty much my thoughts for Eastern Pearl, an okay Chinese restaurant that is a bit of a hybrid between the traditional Chinese authentic restaurants and the more ‘Americanized’ Chinese places that have been popping up every where. Don’t get me started on all the new Chinese buffets in the area!


A look inside of Eastern Pearl


“Shanghai soup dumplings” aka xiao long bao


Seafood tofu hotpot

Photobucketsizzling beef steak

for more information visit

Eastern Pearl on Urbanspoon

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Hawkers Asian Street Fare – Mills 50 District – Orlando


Hawkers Asian Street Fare is a brand spanking new restaurant that opened recently on Mills Avenue in the Mills 50 district in the same building as the old Chinatown restaurant. Although I enjoyed the food from the former occupants, I think I enjoy Hawkers much more. I think what they are doing at Hawkers is one of the best things to happen to the Asian food scene in Orlando in a long time.

A hawker is a person who travels around selling goods, typically advertising them by shouting. Although you won’t see any yelling about here at Hawkers, the cuisine is heavily influence by the food peddled by street hawkers in Asia, particularly from Malaysia. The owners of Hawkers actually have family in Malaysia who are street hawkers. They brought these street hawker recipes over and adapted them for the Hawkers menu. The curry dishes, skewered beef, noodles, and more all show this influence.

If you look carefully at the Chinese-like symbol adorning the Hawker building, you can tell its made from the shape of a person carrying two baskets on a wooden pole stretched across his/her back. This is how street food is done in Asia with old ladies and men carrying their wares to market and plopping on the street to start selling their creations.

The decor at Hawkers is similar to the urban warehouse feel of Chipotle, with walls accented by corrugated metal sheets and high bar top stools. Photos of street food scenes from Vietnam to Malaysia decorate the walls. Chinese newspapers are laminated into the table tops, reminiscent of street stalls in Asia.


To start off, street food is often best eaten late at night with a round of beers and drinks. Hawkers has a impressive beer selection including some beers that come from local Orlando Brewing Company downtown. I’d recommend getting some beers to go along with the street food theme.

The roti canai is one of the signature dishes from southeast asia, a crispy crepe like roti that you dip in the curry sauce. It was pretty delicious and would taste even better if it came with 2 rotis instead of just one.

Another popular appetizer were the Hawker wings, made with Asian spices and served with a sweet chili Sriracha sauce.

Hawkers is best for their noodle dishes, noodle soups, and roast duck items. I thought their five spiced pork choppetes could use some work, maybe include a bowl of rice to balance the flavors.

One of my favorite items was the char kwa teo, a Malaysian dish from the teochiu people who immigrated from China, sort of like a Chinese influenced pad thai.

The curry chicken dish that I had was okay, I thought it needed some more hot pepper to bring the spices up a notch.

The roast duck in the roast duck banh mi sliders that we ordered was awesome, crispy and tasty to the bite. The roast duck udon noodle soup was another popular item; the broth was very light and mild tasting and went well with the flavors of the dish.

The fried fish with black bean sauce was a dish that was good, and would be better if served with a side bowl of freshly steamed rice.

My friend ordered the five spice fish tacos and he enjoyed it thoroughly.

On another occasion, I ordered the very spicy prawn mee noodle soup, a satisfying bowl made with a shrimp and pork based spicy soup, topped with slices of hard boiled egg, chinese vegetables, and shrimp. The curry laksa, a similar type of noodle soup, but with more curry flavors of course.

I thought the prices were reasonable, with most of the dishes under $6.00. Its important to note that the portions are much smaller than at traditional Chinese restaurants, but I think of it more like dim sum or tapas portions and prices that are meant to be shared. My friends and I ordered about 10 dishes and it came out to be about $15 per person for the meal.

Overall, I would definitely recommend checking out Hawkers, especially with a group of friends to share in good food and good times.

Click here for their menu!


Roti Canai at Hawkers


Hawkers Wings


Hawkers Hot Iron Mussels


Hawkers Five Spice Pork Choppettes 
Five spice fish tacos


Curry Chicken


Beef Chow fun


Char Kwa Teo noodles


Crispy Cantonese noodles


Roast Duck banh mi sliders


Roast Duck udon noodle soup


Prawn mee noodle soup


Fish filet with black bean sauce


Chilled spicy tofu


Hawkers Asian Street Fare on Urbanspoon

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I visited Golden Lotus many times before but was recently asked by Asia Trend to visit Golden Lotus again for a article in their upcoming issue. Here is a rough draft:

Golden Lotus: Authentic Chinese Restaurant in Central Florida

Seafood Pan Fried Noodles

Chinese cuisine has been an integral thread of the American cultural tapestry since the gold rush days in California, with Chinese rail road laborers setting up shop and making “chop suey” dishes out of everything they could find. This all changed when in 1972 President Richard Nixon visited China for the first time bringing new attention and interest for all things Chinese, especially for authentic Chinese food.

Golden Lotus restaurant owner Jackson Lo started his career around this time many decades ago beginning in Hong Kong. He is now a builder of Chinese restaurants throughout the Central Florida area and also owner of the famed Szechuan restaurant near Walt Disney World. Golden Lotus is the restaurant he created to bring authentic Chinese food to Central Florida.

Golden Lotus restaurant is hidden in a plaza on the southeast corner of Sand Lake Road and John Young Parkway, only a few miles away from the Florida Mall. The wait staff here is attentive and kind, having been at the service of Golden Lotus for many years, a loyalty that is not found in many other restaurants.

Golden Lotus specializes in Cantonese and Szechuan dishes, serving dim sum until 4pm daily. They have helpful menus with pictures of dim sum, items on them to aid those of us who may be confused what a fried taro dumpling or shrimp rice paste looks like. Their dim sum is among the best in Central Florida, with fresh ingredients and skillful preparation.

Ha Gow – shrimp dumplings
Siu Mai pork dumplings

Egg tarts

The egg tarts here are flaky and bite-sized sweet delights, a perfect dessert to go with hot tea, a drink cultivated for thousands of years by the Chinese for their healthy qualities. The shrimp dumpling (ha gow) and pork dumpling (siu mai) are both plump and savory, freshly steamed from the kitchen.

Lotus Leaf Steamed Rice
Beef Chow Fun Noodles

A specialty at Golden Lotus is their beef chow fun noodles, hand made right on the premises from scratch, giving the noodles its unique texture and taste not found in any other restaurant in Orlando.

Tea Smoked Duck

Another specialty is the tea-smoked duck which takes hours to make. The duck is first salted and spiced inside, then hung over night. The duck is then dry smoked with Chinese tea leaves using wood chips over hours to absorb the flavors into the duck.

Their Szechuan wontons are a spicy treat, with just the right amount of kick. They also serve noodle soup bowls starting at $6.95, a great meal for a great price. I’ve had their beef noodle soup on a previous occasion and can attest to their heartwarming flavors and beefy aroma.

Szechuan wontons

Golden Lotus is a restaurant full of tasty surprises and authentic dishes made with care. Visit them soon for a fantastic Chinese meal for an affordable price.

Golden Lotus Chinese on Urbanspoon

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Teriyaki House is a paradox. It neither serves teriyaki nor is it a “new york style” Chinese fast food place as it appears from the outside/inside. It does serve the “americanized” Chinese food we are familiar with (general tso’s chicken and its fried, sweet, battered ilk that we Americans just so love), but the essence of Teriyaki House lies within its traditional Taiwanese dishes.

A true mom and pop shop (run entirely by an elderly couple), Teriyaki House lies on the southwest corner of Kirkman Road and Colonial Dr (SR 50), just north of the SR 408 exit for Kirkman. Inside, Teriyaki House is a hole in the wall type joint, with four tables and about 16 seats, various Christian relics adorn the walls and a small TV plays the latest Taiwanese gameshows and news. The clientele is mostly Chinese ( a good sign).

There are two menus here: an “American” menu in English with the above-described items, and a “Taiwanese” menu, entirely in Chinese. Their “Taiwanese” menu posed a problem for even our most Chinese-literate friend on this visit to the shop. But luckily enough, I could figure out a few of the items from a group of photos of dishes that they had on the wall. I pointed to them and the lady nodded and smiled, not sure if she really understood what I wanted…

The food takes a while to finish as there are only the two of them at this place, which is understandable. It was fun not really knowing what to expect to come out from their kitchen.

Our drinks were the sweet iced black tea and iced lemon tea, Taiwanese staples, and extra sweet and refreshing. The first dish came and it was fried tofu stuffed with garlic and topped with lettuce and a sweet/salty sauce. The tofu was crispy, fresh, and delicious to eat. It tasted just like what my grandma would have made at home.

Our first item was the appetizer sampler platter of mushroom, Taiwanese sausage, hard boiled egg, collard mustard greens, and tofu topped with green onions, parsley, and bean sprouts, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

There are also these lunch combos that come with rice, stir fried green beans, chinese sausage, hard boiled egg, and a entree of your choice. My companions and I decided to get the Taiwanese style stewed beef and the fatty pork dish which was literally fat layered with pork and soft and buttery to the touch.

Apparently, you can also ask the chef to cook to order any number of Taiwanese dishes not on the menu. I saw one lady come in with a bitter melon from the 1st Oriental Supermarket down the street and asked the chef to cook it to order.

Overall, I was very satisfied with my dishes at Teriyaki House, a diamond in the rough. They all tasted home made and incredibly fresh. Check it out!

the decor inside Teriyaki House
Black tea, sweet and iced

Mike, co-owner of custom apparel t shirts, enjoys the hard boiled soy sauce egg

Sampler platter


Fried Tofu!

a plate of fresh Chinese veggies

Home made Taiwanese style sausage

Lunch combo

Taiwanese style stewed beef

Fatty pork!

Teriyaki House on Urbanspoon


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