You know you’re in a more authentic Chinese restaurant when you find an entry for Crispy Fried Pork Intestines alongside the more usual General Tso’s Chicken. Of course it would be even more authentic if the General’s chicken, an American creation, wasn’t on the menu at all, but we’ll take what we can get.
Chan’s Chinese has been on Colonial Drive in the Mills 50 district before it was called Mills 50. That city-mandated designation still isn’t embraced by many locals, most of whom still call the area Little Saigon. But that moniker ignores the many other Asian eateries that also inhabit the few square blocks.
Chan’s must certainly be one of the larger restaurants in the neigborhood. It has a sizable menu, too, but be sure to take a look at the smaller menu that’s available. That’s where you’ll find some of the less well-known Chinese dishes, such as the pork intestines. Would it help if we called them chitlins instead? Whatever. The less attractive sounding food item is, of course, commonly consumed in most cultures. And with a renewed interest in being green and wasting less, shouldn’t we be eating the “whole hog?” Here, the intestines weren’t exactly crispy and had a slightly reddish color. The texture was soft, almost fatty. And there was plenty of flavor, too. They were served with a sweet and sour sauce, but mustard and hot sauce did them better justice. The plate also had a few pieces of tasty pickled cucumbers.
I also had the roast duck, which was presented in cleavered chunks on a large platter. The pieces were juicy but with crispy skin. Bones were present, some tiny. I found the best way to eat the duck was to put the chopsticks aside and pick the pieces up by the bone with my fingers.
For an appetizer, my friend and I shared the steamed dumplings, which had chopped vegetables and ground pork. They were served with a delicious chile pepper dipping sauce.
Service was businesslike but welcoming. I got a kick out of our server’s look when we ordered the intestines. She said there weren’t many Americans who like those. We had to convince her they were really what we wanted.
The dining room isn’t exactly attractive. It has a cafeteria-like feel to it, even with the white tablecloths and red napkins. On one end of the large room is a big, red wall piece with a dragon and a bird, each with glowing eyes. But there are several aquariums about the room, some empty, some holding fresh fish, none looking particularly pristine.
Want more authenticity? Chan’s doesn’t feel the need to offer fortune cookies, another American invention, with the check. Many locals say they lament the lack of authentic Chinese food. It’s here — and also around the corner at Ming’s Bistro. But I wonder how many say they want it but actually prefer their General Tso’s and fortune cookies. It doesn’t matter which you prefer, it’s all available.
Chan’s is at 1901 E. Colonial Drive in Orlando. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-896-0093. There is no Web site.