Pho Real Club

Asian food club in the city of brotherly love

Foolproof Recipe: Thai Basil Chicken August 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — phorealclub @ 8:48 pm

A friend e-mailed me this recipe last month for Gai Pad Krapow (Thai Basil Chicken), and I HAVE NOT been able to stop making it. It’s inexpensive, easy, and lends itself perfectly to protein/veggie subtitutions (read: you can use whatever’s in your CSA that week!) As a side, I like to make jasmine rice in coconut milk, with a dash of green curry paste if I have it on hand.

This is the ultimate “tastes complicated but it’s not” weeknight dinner, and the leftovers make for an amazing brown-bag lunch the next day.

Happy eating!


Shiao Lan Kung July 31, 2010

Filed under: BYOB,Chinatown,Chinese — phorealclub @ 10:12 pm

A very famous Philadelphian once said, “Beer is living proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.”  I would like to amend that statement: “[The Salt-Baked Squid at Shiao Lan Kung] is living proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.”

After a recent visit, the members of Pho Real Club have agreed that Shiao Lan Kung serves up some of the best food in Chinatown.  We ordered about 13 dishes, and I think I said squealed “mmmmmm,” after each bite.  The food is fresh and expertly seasoned.  Plus, they have lazy susans, so you can spin entrees among friends.


The jellyfish appetizer was a sleeper hit, with G.L. nominating it for “surprise dish of the year.”  Gelatinous texture? Natch.  But cool and refreshing on a humid evening, and doused in quality sesame oil. 

M.C. felt “at least triple-ly happy” about her Double Happiness, and A.P. thought the Shrimp Szechuan Style would “make a great lunch special…if they were open for lunch.” (wellllll, technically they open at 3 pm).

Double Happiness

Shrimp Szechuan Style

The veggie sides, Choy Sum in Oyster Sauce and Spicy Eggplant in Garlic Sauce, added great color to the table and were devoured instantly. What is it with me and Chinese eggplant? I just can’t get enough.

Choy Sum in Oyster Sauce

Spicy Eggplant in Garlic Sauce

However, the reigning champions of the evening were the Salt-Baked Squid and the Salt-Baked Softshell Crab.  Imagine tempura batter, but lighter and less greasy, with the perfect amount of salt stirred in.  The squids were like popcorn – I’d definitely bring a bucket of them to the movies.   How can they possibly be SO delicious?  I need to know.  Until that day arrives, I will be content to gorge myself on the salt-baked offersing at SLK. 

Salt-Baked Crab

Salt-Baked Squid (or heaven, as I like to call it).

‘Tis also worth noting that this place is a steal – A 13+ dish feast + 9 people = $25 per person, including tip – and it’s BYOB! 

Shiao Lan Kung
930 Race Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 928-0282

Tue-Thu: 3pm-2am
Fri-Sat: 3pm-3am
Sun: 2:30pm-1am


Rangoon July 8, 2010

Filed under: Burmese,Chinatown — phorealclub @ 6:45 pm

Everytime I come here, I can’t stop repeating Dr. Evil’s monologue from Austin Powers:
“Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons…In the spring we’d make meat helmets.”. F’amazing. The food here is pretty darn good too.

I succumbed to peer pressure and ordered the thousand layer bread and tea leaf salad, because EVERYONE on the Philly food blogs seemed to be doing it. The bread was tasty, but *very* greasy, and the tea leaf salad, while unique, didn’t blow me away. What did blow me away were the Rangoon Crab Meat Dumplings. I’m not one to order Crab Rangoon – I like to keep dairy out of my asian fare – and I was nervous about the grease factor post-thousand layer bread. But these were DELICIOUS. Delicate and wonderfully cooked, the inside had just the right amount of spice and cream cheese. This appetizer was the clear winner – go for it.

I ordered the jungle tofu as an entree. I had been craving green curry all day, but was weary that there would be too much coconut in the sauce. Rangoon did a really nice job – sauce was excellent, light and well seasoned, with a few peppers for kick. My dish could have had more veggies, but no complaints other than that. I also tried bites of the Spicy Rice Sticks and Burmese Cold Noodles (Let Thoke). The Rice Sticks are a carb lover’s heaven; the next time I’m craving noodles, I’m doing a face plant into a plate of these. Cold Noodles were good as well, but LOADED with either dried shrimp or shrimp paste – beware if you’re not a shrimp fan.

Rangoon is nice – it’s not as cheap as some other places in Chi-town, nor is it BYO, but it has a really interesting menu that I’m looking forward to exploring further!

112 N. 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 829-8929


Han Dynasty June 4, 2010

Filed under: BYOB,Chinese,Spicy — phorealclub @ 3:52 am

I have visited “the Dynasty” twice now – once for a tasting menu extravaganza with my Asian food club, and again for a quiet dinner for two.  To (dim) sum up these experiences succinctly?  MIND.BLOWN.

First,  Han is awesome.  He’s young, blunt and obsessive about his recipes.  Put yourself in his hands, and he’ll love you forever with special creations from the kitchen that you won’t find on the menu.

For the food club dinner, about twelve of us were serenaded with appetizers and entrees specifically chosed by Han for the discerning palate.  He was excited, we were excited…it was great big foodie love fest (although he did ask me if we could seat all the vegetarians in the bathroom . . . hahaha, it’s a JOKE, don’t get all huffy).

For appetizers, we had:
-beef & tripe in chili oil (aka husband & wife sliced lung);
-Taiwanese sausage with garlic;
-cold sesame noodles;
-cucumbers with chili oil; and
-pork dumplings.

Everything was outstanding, but MAN I love the combination of cold & spice in the cucumbers and sesame noodles.  Those two dishes stood out above the rest.  During the appetizer course, we all felt our mouths start to tingle and go numb as the infamous Szechuan peppercorns began to kick in.

Cold Sesame Noodles

Entrees there were a-plenty, and they were all delicious as well, inclduing double cooked pork belly, rabbit with anise & mushrooms, sea bass, and pea shoot leaves.  The stand-out, however, was the beef & scallions.  It was beautifully flavored, melt-in-your-mouth divine, and one of the most popular dishes of the evening.  As I left the restaurant, belly full and mouth a-tingle, I saw the Ben Franklin bridge in the distance…and I felt grateful to live in Philly amidst such a thriving restaurant scene.

I returned to the restaurant for the second time last week.  Han remembered me, and cooked up some special Szechuan soft shell crabs.  I’m still having dreams about them.

Han Dynasty

108 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 922-1888


Kavei May 2, 2010

Filed under: BYOB,Camobdian,South Philly — phorealclub @ 6:30 pm

I really wanted to *love* this place.  I imagined it becoming the new hidden gem in my rotation of Asian restaurants…unfortunately, the food was just so-so.

Took a trip to Kavei with my Asian food club this past Sunday night.  I love venturing out of center city, especially for Asian food!  I was stoked because the menu had Cambodian and Laotian options.

The descriptions on the menu were tantalizing…red curry, lemongrass, dried chilis…unfortunately they didn’t translate on the plate.

The clear winner of the night was certainly # L03. Sai Krong – laos sausage, char grilled pork sausage stuffed with lemon grass, garlic, kaffir lime, shallot & rice.  They were savory, flavorful, and had just the right amount of crunch to the skin.

Other than that, I was underwhelmed…the ingredients just failed to gel with each other.    With # K27 -Somlor Machu Yoan sweet & sour soup Khmer style – the tilapia fillet tasted bland…and just…wrong.  And while # K34 – Sach Ko Spey Jrok (sweet & sour beef with pineapple) – looked dazzling on the plate, it failed to dazzle the palate. One group member ordered #  L11 – Aom Laos – Beef lao curry mixed with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, shallot, & chili, in a light broth – I asked her “Do you like it?” and she merely shook her head no 😦

I WOULD go back and give this place a second chance…they are new, and need to work out a few kinks.  However, I’ll be sticking to the delicious Sai Krong, and perhaps a few noodle dishes as well.

320 W Oregon Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 952-6688


Lights too bright…Dim Sum February 21, 2010

Filed under: Chinese,Dim Sum — phorealclub @ 5:30 am

What’s scarier than a dim sum restaurant on a Sunday at 11 a.m.?  A dim sum restaurant on a Sunday at 11 a.m. during Chinese New Year.  That’s right, 10 members of Pho’ Real braved the crowds to celebrate the year of the tiger (and cure their hangovers) in style at Ocean Harbor.  Check out our photos and faves below.

Bok Choy

The obligatory chicken feet

With so many carts rolling around, what were the standouts?  Well, G.L. loved the shrimp cakes, as did almost everyone else in the group.  S. T. favored the salted prawns, while L. S. proclaimed that chicken feet “are actually pretty good.”

Shrimp Cakes

Custard Ball

J.S. Designs liked the custard balls so much, she bought some at the Asian mart nearby to hold her over until our next extravaganza.  As for me, Lawngirl, I adored the clear shrimp dumplings and bok choy.

The check? or a Kandinsky? You decide.

Ocean Harbor, 1023 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.


Qie Zi February 14, 2010

Filed under: BYOB,Chinese — phorealclub @ 7:52 pm

One reason that I started Pho’ Real. 

Due to the frigid weather, myself, M & N nipped around the corner last night for some local fare at Green Garden.  By the by, they make a fierce kung pao tofu – it’s not on the menu but kung pao chicken is, so the switch is NBD. Tip: I always substitute water chestnuts for carrots (mmmm…water chestnuts).

ANYWAY, I had to laugh when I opened my fortune cookie.  Sitting atop my lucky numbers was a little message: “Learn Chinese- Eggplant  (qie zi).”  My obsession with Chinese eggplant was one of the impetuses for starting Pho’ Real.  Coincidence ?  Or a sign from Confucius?  You decide.


Green Garden
237 South 10th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 351-1114