Hans Restaurant is not German nor a tribute to a certain Star Wars
bounty hunter smuggler. Hidden in the City Plaza strip mall in Calgary’s Chinatown, it’s the labour of a hard-working Taiwanese family.
This is a bona fide hole-in-the-wall with maybe eight tables and dry-mounted food photos hanging on the wall, but Hans serves up some deliciously spicy Taiwanese and Szechuan food.
You must, must order the #5 sliced garlic pork on soya sauce ($9.50). It’s a plate of thin slices of pork side (I think, because a leaner cut would not work), in a swooningly garlickly sauce with hot oil and a bit of soya sauce for an amazing pop of flavours.
Warning: This is not a place for first dates, or shy eaters. Hans’ flavours are all about the wham and the bam.
The classic Szechuan long beans are misleadingly listed as braised long beans in soya sauce (#40 for $10.50) on the menu. The title is too bland for such a mouth-watering dish, and I think it’s more dry-fried than braised. (Barbara Fisher has a detailed illustration of Szechuan dry-frying on her great food blog.)
The beans are salty and garlicky (see warning above) with bits of dried shrimp and maybe minced pork, which Jason swears he tasted, but I wasn’t sure.
We rounded out our dinner with #13, the stir-fried diced chicken with sweet and sour sauce ($10.50). Again, don’t be misled by the description because this is not at all battered and smeared with a cloying neon pink sauce. Instead, the boneless chicken is nice and tender and the sauce a balanced layer of sweet and sour.
In such a small restaurant, you can clearly hear the constant scorching-hot sizzling of the wok in the kitchen. Han’s food has a lot of “wok hay,” a Cantonese term translated as “energy of a wok,” which breathes heat and fragrance into the food. (For more, see Grace Young’s excellent article on wok hay.)
There’s also Taiwanese spicy beef noodle soup that’s not on the menu but you can point to a picture on the wall near the front door, and amazing hot pots.
Hans does a steady work crowd at lunch so get there early. It’s also open for Taiwanese breakfast on weekends with a limited menu of things like hot soy milk, and beef rolls — a crispy, green onion pancake wrapped around beef and scallions (like a burrito) with a bit of hoisin sauce. That’s the best way I can think of describing it. I know it sounds awkward, but it’s really very yummy.
Hans Restaurant, 303 Centre St. SW, Calgary, (403) 263-5667.
Open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Closed Mondays.