Han Fusion (Hanover, NH)

In my 20 years of living in the Upper Valley, 3 Lebanon Street (the “Hanover Park” building) has had a succession of Chinese restaurants in the basement: when we first arrived, it was Panda Garden, and then after that it was Orient, and then in 2019 it changed to Han Fusion. I hadn’t been too much of a fan of either Panda Garden or Orient in general, since they mostly seemed to serve fairly generic Americanized Chinese food, and I originally hadn’t expected Han Fusion to be much better. However, I started to hear some good things about Han Fusion from several people in the Upper Valley who I actually trust with Chinese food (such as Chris Ng, who runs the local Upper Valley Foodie Group), and looking at their menu, found several menu items that I really like (soup dumplings, dry-fried chicken, and rice cakes). We had vowed to finally get out and try them… and then the Pandemic hit.

We actually got takeout from them a few times, and I was quite pleased, but still hadn’t had a chance to get in for an actual visit until August, when the Upper Valley Foodie group had a nice group outing there; Han Fusion had just reopened their dining room, and with the reports of rising cases of Delta Variant Covid, we all decided this was a good opportunity to get in and try things. Since there were a total of six people there, we decided that was enough to do the classic approach of ordering: everyone ordering a dish they liked and then passing things around.

As anyone that read my Qing Hua Soup Dumpling would know, I enjoy really good Xiaolongbao “soup dumplings”, which are tender little pockets of thin dumpling dough steamed up with an interior of spiced pork and soup broth, which, when properly done, make little exploding pockets of flavor. Han Fusion’s version is quite good: the pork is nicely flavorful and spiced, the broth nice and rich without being overwhelmingly salty, and the dumplings holding it together nicely without being too doughy. I think everyone at the table enjoyed these.

Next up was the dish I selected: the Dry-Fried Chicken with Chiles and Sichuan Pepper Oil. When I usually encounter this dish (like at Sichuan Garden in Brookline, MA, it’s usually called “Chengdu Fried Chicken”, but this was essentially that dish: small pieces fried chicken, mixed up with a collected of fresh chiles, dried red chiles, a copious amount of Sichuan peppercorn oil, and just a very light sauce, and the version here at Han Fusion was quite good. Unlike a lot of Chinese places in Northern New England, they didn’t sparingly apply the spices here: this had a nice, bold hot pepper flavor, accompanied by the lip-numbing Sichuan peppercorn. Mixed with just a bit of fresh steamed rice, and this is a great dish, one that I hope to order again soon.

Going around the table, the next dish was a shift back towards the “American” Chinese food: Sweet and Sour Chicken. I don’t normally order this sort of dish (if I’m at all craving a “sweet” Chinese dish, I usually go for something like beef with dried orange peel), but this is a case where having a group with different tastes of mine worked out well: the Han Fusion version of Sweet and Sour Chicken was very nicely done: the chicken perfectly moist inside and crisp outside, the veggies still a bit firm, and the sauce more balanced than cloying. I actually liked this version of it, and wish more places could execute this Chinese-American dish this well.

Next up was Three Delights, the classic combination of beef, chicken, and shrimp with veggies (including some baby corn) in a light brown sauce, and the version here was quite good: the beef nice and tender, the chicken well crisped, and the shrimp cooked just to the point of starting to crisp. Everyone seemed to enjoy this one quite a bit as well.

Carol had opted for one of the daily specials, which was Stir-Fried Shredded Pork with Dried Tofu, and this was probably my favorite dish of the evening: a nicely tender pork stir-fried with carrots, celery, red peppers, and dried tofu in a very flavorful but light five-spice sauce. This worked out surprisingly well: the dried tofu and pork combined very nicely with the five-spice sauce, with the vegetables adding a nice crunch.

The last dish at the table was another special: Rice Cakes with Chicken. I always like rice cakes; like their close cousin the Chow Fun noodle, rice cakes just have a wonderful texture that works quite well with a nice, rich sauce when fried up. This dish was very nicely composed: the rice cakes just starting to show a crisp, the chicken nicely stir-fried, a good selection of bok choy, carrots, and onions, and a nice lighter, garlicky sauce, I thought this was pleasant as well.

Overall, we had a great time: everyone enjoyed the food, and it was nice to actually be able to dine out with friends for a change. While I had enjoyed Han Fusion as takeout, it was even more enjoyable fresh from the kitchen, and I even discovered a few more dishes they do well. I’m hoping to get back for another visit soon.

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