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Sang Kee soups up culinary infusion

Snag Kee business cards stacked in a pair of open palms greet customers upon entrance.
Snag Kee business cards stacked in a pair of open palms greet customers upon entrance.
Sang Kee Peking Duck House, Trip Advisor, my own camera (Canon)

Sang Kee Peking Duck House


With all the media hype surrounding the weekend’s biggest event, the Super Bowl, it seemed only fitting to discover what soups Philadelphia has to offer. Being a major East Coast city, it would be too arduous of a task to pop in each venue and spoon taste every soup on the menu.

It was not until the scratchy voice of a morning radio disc jockey announcing the celebration of the Chinese New Year, that it became clear the focus of the soup trek should be fixed on Chinatown. In particular, Sang Kee Peking Duck House, located on 238 North 9th Street. It is ranked 31st on Philadelphia's 50 Best Restaurants of 2008 and seemed like the ideal locale.

With three floors of dining experience, Sang Kee offers a family-style approach to Asian cuisine. Not only do they cater, deliver, and serve at banquets, but Sang Kee also operates on customer-friendly hours (click and scroll to bottom of link for full business hours).

Open on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Thanksgiving, this venue maintains the persistent work ethic of running an acclaimed restaurant in the heart of a bustling Chinatown. Any day of the week, diners can stop by the famed Peking Duck House and enjoy a relaxing weekend lunch or even a midweek late night dinner.

In addition to the restaurant's ranking and exquisite flavor, it has also received a sincere acknowledgment from Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell in regards to Sang Kee's 30th anniversary. But the awards do not stop there. Both in 2005 and 2010, Sang Kee received trophies attesting to their authenticity and stellar taste.

The trademark of Sang Kee is their Peking duck, a staple that has remained fresh and exciting after three decades. Along with the duck, Sang Kee continues to astound critics with their dumpling and noodle dishes. These are just a few of the vast, successful culinary talents Sang Kee has to offer. One must wonder what such an establishment can concoct in terms of soup.

That wonder will vanish with one simple choice: the Roasted Duck Noodle soup. Combining two of Sang Kee’s highly regarded trademarks yields a product with not just an abundance of cultural essence, but also a bold outlook into something modern.

A single mouthful is enough to set off a chain reaction of mouthful's, inevitably leading to the ninety degree tip of the soup bowl, usually reserved for only those special soups. Well, this is one of them. As a matter of fact, choosing the big bowl over the regular size would make this the perfect lunchtime selection.

Although the soup deserves award-winning recognition, what draws the diners through the doors of Sang Kee is the warm, vibrant artwork scattered among pale walls and the many windows allowing ample sunlight to flow in. It’s the friendly, constantly-smiling staff and the restaurant’s customer loyalty rewards program (VIP). It’s the chance to escape the chaos of daily life and become consumed in a world and culture so far away, yet within eyesight and earshot of the frequently traveled, concrete sprawl of Interstate 676.

Sometimes, it makes sense to infuse one successful part with another separate, yet equal part. This is because, sometimes, the product of two variant tastes can be a culinary innovation. In this case, the Roasted Duck Noodle Soup is the ideal example of such an innovation.

It takes the tender, succulent duck meat and submerges into the soup’s grin-inducing broth, swimming in the diner’s choice of seven different noodles (needle, thick egg, ho fun, rice, egg, flat, Udon, Chinese spaghetti). Upon asking the polite waiter what the difference between the regular and big bowl soups were, he cleared his throat and spoke in a thick accent.

“Noodles…they are huge difference,” he added.

It was a simple truth, really. Reflecting on the astonishing soup, the noodles seemed to become a necessary divide in texture, giving the soup its filling, balanced appeal. Altogether, the Roasted Duck Noodle Soup, a prodigy born out of the best in its own culinary lineage, has exceeded every expectation. It was evident these chefs and owners knew what they were getting themselves into thirty years ago when they decided to open the establishment.

In Chinese zodiac, the current year, 2014, is symbolized by the horse – a year of prosperity and wealth. And while the beloved Eagles have yet to return to the Super Bowl and the city collectively groans again, the bottom line is: it’s February. It’s cold. What could be a better substitute than a big, super bowl of soup, steaming from a small corner in Philadelphia’s Chinatown?

The source of the steam is a restaurant operating on brilliance, not just business. Sang Kee Peking Duck House offers a chance to get away from reality, an authentic odyssey, to a period of time where classic bleeds into modern. It’s not just about the Peking duck or the noodles. It’s about both. It’s about infusion.

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