Hunan Springs

By Cathy Kiley

From the moment you walk into Hunan Springs, you realize you are in for a treat. This is not your mother’s take-out Chinese! Prepare yourself to indulge in some of the best Asian food to be found in the Lehigh Valley.

The old stone structure at 4939 Hamilton Boulevard (Rt. 222) in Wescosville once housed The Widow Brown’s Inn. Jay Ho explained that his parents opened Hunan Springs here in 1994 after operating another restaurant for eight years. This historical building was once an old horse stable along the Native American trade and migration route that ran through Pennsylvania. They kept the rusticity and originality of the building: muted colors, wooden walls and tasteful decor are not at all what you expect at an Asian restaurant. Tom and I visited on a recent Friday evening and had a friendly conversation with bartender Rebecca while she prepared a specialty Saketini for me. The combination of plum wine, vodka and sake was tart and refreshing. I love an old copper-topped bar and this one has seen many a beer over the years. Chatting patrons filled the seats while we sipped our drinks, obviously there to enjoy an evening of good food with good friends.

We were seated at a roomy booth in the main dining room and our server, William, began our feast with fresh and delicious Chinese dipping noodles, accompanied by zesty mustard and duck sauce that we enjoyed while studying the menu. The ambience of this room was cozy yet lively. I liked the added touch of live plants on each of

the tables and Tiffany-style hanging lamps. An added plus was William, who entertained us throughout the evening with his quick wit and exceptional service, making sure to explain the specialties of the house as well as answering all of our questions. I started by tasting the Hot and Sour Soup which is a favorite of mine. This rendition was particularly delicious with fresh ingredients and shredded tofu. I loved that it was not overly thickened with cornstarch as is common with this soup. The broth spoke for itself with its zesty taste and pleasant consistency. Tom’s choice of Lettuce Wraps was great. A favorite of ours since first eating them in Hong Kong, this rendition of chicken, water chestnuts, peanuts and pastry wrapped in crispy lettuce leaves was prepared tableside and proved a perfect starter on a warm summer night. It is difficult to find a more fresh and healthy appetizer to lead into a spicy Asian meal.

Other choices on their extensive appetizer listing include steamed or fried Dim Sum, homemade dumplings stuffed with your choice of chicken, pork or vegetables; Panko Encrusted Shrimp served with pickled cucumbers; Garlic Curry Chicken Satay grilled and served with peanut sauce and BBQ ribs to name a few. A few appetizers served family-style would certainly create a meal in itself, but please, don’t stop there.

Prepare yourselves to indulge in some of the best Asian food to be found in the Lehigh Valley

The dinner selections at Hunan Springs are a step up from those which are usually found in most local Chinese restaurants. This is a gourmet menu that includes vegetarian selections and steamed selections made without sugar, salt and cornstarch. All of their dishes are prepared without MSG and they will be happy to spice your food to your liking. If you like it hot and spicy, they will be happy to oblige or ease off the spices if your tastes are less tolerant. Their chef’s specials include interesting versions of Rack of Lamb, Hunan Springs Duck Spectacular in a spicy brown sauce, Basil Delight with chicken, beef and shrimp tossed with fresh snow peas and mushrooms in a basil brown sauce. The list goes on and on.

I chose the Pai Ya Steamed Duck, Hunan Springs’ specialty of the house. The steamed duck was so tender, it fell of the bone. This was served in a rich brown sauce with Chinese greens. I wish I could replicate the rich and flavorful sauce. The fresh julienned scallions added just the right crispiness to accent the tender duck. Tom’s favorite Chinese dish is a Whole Crispy Sea Bass and he always orders this when it is on the menu. The fish here was a visual delight, not only to us, but to surrounding diners as they watched William bring it to our table. The deep-fried whole fish is served still crackling in a sweet and sour, zesty sauce loaded with peppers and scallions. The fish’s tender white meat falls off the body with the touch of a fork. Together with the crispy skin and piquant sauce, the taste is truly indescribable; you must try it if you have never had it. You do need to watch the little bones in the fish but it is worth a little work to savor the fantastic flavor of this dish.

I noticed that they had Chicken and Jelly Fish on the menu served with fresh ginger and scallions in a white sauce. You don’t see jellyfish on local menus very often. We tasted it in China a few times—not my favorite texture but it is considered a delicacy. Peking Duck is one of our favorite Asian dishes and we plan to go back again to try it. In addition to the whole crispy fish, they had Dungeness Crab Legs on the seafood menu as well as whole lobster, soft shell crabs and giant oysters.

This family-friendly restaurant encourages sharing so please take the opportunity to taste many of the wonderful delicacies the staff will be happy to freshly prepare for you. The tasteful, yet relaxing ambience and friendly, exceptional service only add to the experience. William was a real character and quite entertaining. As a result, our evening fun as well as delicious.

This is definitely the place to visit if you are looking for something new. You are sure to find the trip worthwhile and truly discover the beauty of finely prepared Asian cuisine. Hunan Springs is open every day for lunch and dinner. It is conveniently located just off Rt. 78 for easy access from all areas of the Lehigh Valley. Visit their website at for complete menu and other information.

Cathy Kiley and her husband have traveled throughout Asia and savored great food in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, mainland China and other exotic places. She believes it is truly amazing to experience the end result of a uniquely prepared Asian meal.

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