Han Dynasty

November 16, 2011

I can’t pretend I know anything about Chnese food.  Sure I’ve read stuff but you don’t learn that way do you? You learn by trying the good and trying the bad – and I’ve just not eaten enough of the former.

You’ve got to respect the efforts of the Hong Kong immigrants who’ve put Chinese food in every town in the nation, but we all know they presented a simplified version of a complex cuisine in order to attract the timid locals. But our relationship to China is very different now. Earlier this year I patched up two separate friends  who both happened to be on business in Shanghai at the same time – inconceivable a few years ago.  And of course it works  both ways – friends who teach in higher education say their classes are packed with Chinese students.

All of which means we’re leaving behind the chow mein years.  Chinese restaurants are catering for Chinese clientele who expect what they enjoy back home.   Thus it was that four of us paid a visit at the weekend to Han Dynasty on Abbey St, near St Margaret’s bus station in Leicester.   From the moment we entered it was clear it was going to be fun but also that we were well out of our comfort zone.  The joint was jumping,  packed full of young Chinese, with large pots bubbling away on their tables.  Once seated we were asked if we wanted a la carte or “hotpot” –  we jumped in and said hotpot, which resulted in big approval from the staff. Our waitress, who had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on a human being, promised to explain what to do.

Each table has an induction hob at each setting and and barbecue grill in the centre.  You choose a soup flavour, which becomes your cooking broth steaming away on your hob.  Then a visit to the buffet bar to create your dipping sauce from a wide range of ingredients, most of which we were in the dark about. Then it’s collect a variety of marinated meats and fish and a selection of raw veg, varieties of tofu, dumplings, salads and other stuff. Back to your table to grill what needed grilling, poach what needed poaching and dip what needed …well you get the picture.  It took us a while to get up to speed, somewhat nervously looking around to see how were others doing it.

Once we realised we were along the the right lines we started to relax – the Tsingtao helped  – and realised some of this was really nice food. Can’t tell you much about precise ingredients but certainly the prawns and squid were great, the meat was tasty and there were many hits and as well as a few misses among the unfamilar stuff. Best of all  we felt was the concept – good fun, very communal, flexible and interactive. We were having a really good time, and this seemed preferable to loading up with fried food and sticky sauces keeping warm under lights. A few things confused me – once we’d loaded up the soup with noodles and veg, it started to reduce down into a really tasty mixture. Then before you could stop them, someone filled it up with some watery stock. Maybe I’m missing the point.

So apologies to all you sophisticates for this naive newbie account, but we all start somewhere. Han Dynasty has branches in Birmingham, Nottingham and Plymouth – if you’ve been to any of these  or indeed to similar places in downtown Beijing, and have tips on the best ways to enjoy, please do share.

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5 Responses to “Han Dynasty”

  1. Soon these places will have you growing the ingredients too! Who gets sued if a customer doesn’t cook their meal properly?

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    • riponia said

      A good question and one that did fleetingly cross my mind when eating. They did make a point of telling us to cook things for five minutes but don’t know how that would stand in a court of law.

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  2. Vivian Sin said

    The broth is usually meant for cooking food only… Once things start to bobble about and such, they should be taken out for eating before they overcook, the water is refilled so you may continue to cook more food in your hotpot ^,^

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  3. Kevin said

    Hi Tim, a Chinese friend of mine responded to my question as to whether she knew Han Dynasty.

    “yes, of cos!i guess the whole Leic Chinese community have been to Han Dynasty!!
    Chinese hotpot is one of our long lived food culture. Han dynasty is alrite in terms of quality n value for money. even thou i heard Birmingham branch is much better.
    basically hotpot is boiling soup stock and you pick anything you like, fresh veg or seafood etc and boil them. you can make ur own dip and dip the cooked veg or meat in the sauce.
    chinese ppl normally have hotpot on Chinese new yr for family gathering!

    so have a try sometime with whole family! but I have to warn you after meal ur whole body will smell like hotpot^_^ “

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