Eating Philadelphia: DanDan

Recently, and by recently I mean over Memorial Day Weekend, I went to Philadelphia for the first time ever!  Being that it is only 2.5 hours from D.C. and I have been here for almost 5 years now, there is really no excuse for waiting so long to get up there!  Much to my surprise, I thought Philly was an awesome city.  It is cool, cultured, historical, walk able and the food scene is amazing!!

The trip was originally planned around the fact that we (finally) got reservations at Zahav, a Michael Solomonov restaurant- my friend and I who went both love him!  So, we decided to make a trip out of it.

After doing some research, and strategically planning all of our meals we decided that the night before Zahav, we would try out a Sichuan and Taiwanese restaurant called DanDan and boy was it delicious.

It is a swanky two floored restaurant in a hip part of town that reminded me of the East Village in NYC.  Since our trip was based around food we decided to order a lot of tastes:

We started with Tsingtao beer and the Spicy Crispy Cucumbers.  I am a HUGE fan of Taiwanese Spicy Cucumber salad of any sorts.  I love the cooling cucumbers with the creamy and vinegary and spicy sauce.

Spicy Crispy Cucumbers

 For the next item we got was something we both could resist- you guessed it- bao buns.  They called these Taiwanese Hamburgers, which i thought was confusing, but after reading the description I knew exactly what they were.  These were delicious, I actually don’t think I have ever had a bad bao unless they are frozen.  What made these buns different from ones I have had in the past was the peanut powder and the pickled mustard greens which gave a new element of flavor to a normal bao.

Taiwanese Hamburger with Picked Mustard Greens & Peanut Powder with Braised Pork Belly

Then came the main course, where we ordered three things.  First we got the Dan Dan Noodles which came in traditional Sichuan style, with the chili oil and sauce on the bottom of the bowl and the noodles on top.  You have to mix it all around before eating it to get the sauce and the noodles together.  This practice comes from the (literal) streets of Sichuan where Dan Dan Noodles are served to go, making it so the sauce doesn’t slosh around.  Then we got the Salt & White Pepper Crispy Chicken which was unreal.  I am used to salt and pepper (insert protein) from Chinese restaurants, but the use of the white pepper gave the crispy chicken an unusual kick to it. Lastly we got the Lamb Dry Pot.  Sadly this dish was my least favorite ONLY because the Sichuan Pepper Corns made my mouth tingle and tongue go numb, making it so I couldn’t really taste what I was eating.  Besides that, it was delicious and I always love seeing lamb in Asian cooking.

Lamb Dry Pot and Dan Dan Noodles, Salt & White Pepper Chicken not pictured because it came later and then we tucked into it too fast.

Overall I thought DanDan was such a treat.  In D.C. even though we have a Chinatown, what lacks is the variety of provincial food.  Back in SF, I love to go to different types of Chinese restaurants, Hunan food being one of my favorites.  It is important to try authentic, and different types of regional food in order to understand the history as well as the country as a whole.

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