Huan Xi’s Authentic Taste of China
Special menu lets you enjoy the real thing
The minimalist setting at Huan Xi may be modest, but its authentic Chinese food is something to brag about. First-time visitors will be handed a menu featuring standard carryout Chinese food. It is still a decent menu, with lunch and dinner specials that are very inexpensive, but this is not what puts Huan Xi on the map in the local Chinese dining scene. People come here for the real thing.
The key is to ask for the special Chinese menu, which you will find is very different from the standard menu. The restaurant does not focus on any single region of China. There are items from Sichuan, Canton and East China. Options can be as authentic as pig intestine with preserved vegetables and sautéed preserved pork with dried tofu slices. That said, the majority of items are far tamer. Vegetarians will be pleased with the choices available to them.
One must-try item is lamb with cumin powder ($10.95), with flavors that seem more Central Asian than Chinese. Tender slices of lamb are topped with sprigs of cilantro and served over lettuce. The cumin is bold, but the flavor of the lamb holds up to it. The dish is unique in this area.
Fresh pork with dried tofu ($11.50) also qualifies as different from the norm. The tofu is pressed, making it very firm. It has the texture of cheese. Most of the flavor comes from the accompanying ingredients: sweet red pepper, slivers of jalapeno, scallion and large slices of garlic.
Mouth-watering chicken slices ($11.95) arrive in a bowl. This entrée offers slices of breast meat with plenty of liquid sauce, sesame seeds and cilantro. The sauce has black vinegar, chile oil and other spices—a most unusual combination of flavors.
Salt and pepper squid ($12.95) is tame by comparison. This Cantonese favorite features squid rings with a thicker batter than usual. It has plenty of salt and a dusting of hot red pepper powder. It is served with diced red peppers, onions and jalapenos.
Ma po tofu ($7.25) is a large serving that appears on both menus. This is a vegetarian version with the usual peas and carrots. Onions and mushrooms substitute for the minced pork, and it comes with a standard hot chile sauce.
If you are in search of real Chinese fare, you will find it here. Huan Xi offers Chinese cooking without any Americanized touches. Forget about egg foo young, egg rolls, pork fried rice and General Tso’s chicken. Instead, explore Huan Xi’s special menu and discover why it is a true gem for the Asian foodie.n
2428 N. Murray Ave.