Ambience, Family, Ingredients, Neighborhoods, Service, Squirrel Hill, Traditional

How Lee.

Never been to China. Rural, urban – nope. Not even Hong Kong. And when it comes to the language, Wayne Campbell outdoes me.

I am clearly not the person to tell anybody what authentic Chinese food is. So grab yourself a grain of salt as large as you can carry.

How Lee in Squirrel Hill feels like the real thing. Can’t say “tastes.” So “feels.”

It doesn’t look like much. Which is to say it looks like most decent Chinese restaurants I’ve been in. Walk in at the right time and it might be busy, but I get the feeling a lot of people get take-out. There’s usually a table or two open in the back — I’ve seen them breaking down green beans by hand there when it’s slow.

The times I’ve been in there, I only once glanced at the inside of the menu. The fried rices and lo meins and beef with broccolis. They have their place, but no thanks in a place like this.

The back page of the menu is the only place I look. It’s where the descriptions sound like food the owners would make for themselves. For their own families.

Tea-smoked duck. Absolutely.

Dumplings in capsicum with sesame seeds. No doubt.

Pork kidney with pickled peppers – yes. Hell yes.

Twice-cooked pork belly. You tell me:

I might be wrong about this, but it also seems like I get a different level of service when that’s where I look on a menu. They’re happy to help me understand what something is, how it’s prepared. They’ve answered every question I’ve asked and been friendly about it.

There are some things on the menu that are possibly out of even my comfort zone.

The spicy pork blood, for example. Haven’t ordered it. Probably won’t. But I kind of want to.

I don’t have textural problems with jellied or congealed food, nor an issue with thick, irony, minerally blood. I love blood sausage and offal.

I like exploring things I don’t see often on menus. The evident care they take with their food, too, means I’m comfortable that even if I don’t like it, it won’t be because they prepared it poorly. For some reason, this just doesn’t sound like my thing.

Now, I love knowing that they have it. I almost didn’t go the first time I wound up there. I had a hard time looking at the name and not thinking it was a Hawai’ian joke on me.

How Lee. Haole. Funny, funny.

But I broke down and went. And now it’s becoming my go-to place for Chinese food in the city. Or at least what I’m pretty sure is Chinese food. Y’know, without going there to make sure.

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6 thoughts on “How Lee.

  1. I need to try this. No excuses since it’s so close. I heard new ownership came with the renovation there, but I could be hallucinating (again).

    Have you tried Rose Tea Cafe, down the road from How Lee? That’s my favorite.

    • Haven’t been to Rose Tea but China Star is on my list.

      I heard something about new owners post-renovation — a few folks mentioned that it’s much better than it was. But I wasn’t here for that.

  2. How Lee and Rose Tea are the 1 and 2 or 2 and 1 places in the city for chinese food depending on what you want.
    Next time try the cumin beef, the super hot dry fried chicken, and the tofu with ground pork (it’s ma po tofu, but not the awful americanized semi-vegitarian version… it’s the porky one that’s right with a huge amount of szechuan pepper corn).

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