Serious Eats: Chicago

TGI Fry-Day: Hunan Style Crispy Eggplant from Lao Hunan

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[Photograph: Joe Roy]

It is no simple undertaking to dine at any of the places making up Tony Hu's Chinatown restaurant empire. Menu items soar into the hundreds, meaning that the plethora of choices can overwhelm, especially if you go in blindly. With the amount of care and attention that Hu puts into each of his concepts, I'm not saying that you're going to have a bad meal without hours of internet research, but a little due diligence certainly goes a long way.

For example, Tony's Three Chili Chicken is a requisite order at Lao Sze Chuan, as is the Dry Chili Fish Filet at Lao Hunan. For the latter restaurant, add the Hunan Style Crispy Eggplant ($10.50) to your short list. Preparation and garnish similarities to the fish aside, this is a dish that stands on its own. Purple Chinese eggplant is cut into wide batons, coated in a salty and spicy tempura-style batter, fried to a crisp, and tossed with dried red chilies and slivered green onions. The eggplant holds its shape surprisingly well, though each bite gives way to a smooth and creamy center. If you're looking for an additional dish to round out the rest of the dishes culled from your research or your devil-may-care on the spot improvisations, you can rest easy knowing that the eggplant is a sure-fire winner.

Lao Hunan

2230 S Wentworth Avenue, Chicago, IL 60616 (map)
312-842-7888 
laohunanonline.com

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