Jackie Tan Thinks Big

On a lark one night, I ordered the fried intestines as an appetizer. You don't see this on the menu at Pei Wei Asian Diner, I said to my dinner companions. I expected them to be shocked.

But the intestines were fried very crispy and tossed with pickled cabbage. And my guests, who were both born and raised in Europe, loved offal. I may have ordered them as a joke, but we ended up fighting over the little crunchy rings of fried guts.

A dish of fresh snow pea shoots, quickly sautéed with garlic, was as simple as it was exceptional. We also got panfried wide rice noodles topped with pork, al dente Chinese broccoli and brown sauce.

Try the terrific softshell crabs while they're still in season.
Troy Fields
Try the terrific softshell crabs while they're still in season.


Hours: 7 days, 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Fried egg rolls: $6 Salt toasted shrimp: $10 Shrimp salad: $11 Bo luc lac: $12 Softshell crab: $20

12983 Bellaire Blvd., 281-988-1668.

I loved the flavor and crunchy texture of this fried noodle dish. It's one of the few dishes that make gloppy Chinese brown sauce taste good. But it's a real challenge to cut up the Frisbee-like disk of crunchy noodles without getting food everywhere. So I asked the waiter to cut the noodles into four portions when he delivered them.

The best thing I ate in four visits to Jackie Tan was crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-in-the-middle, deep-fried softshell crab pieces served over a cold mixture of chopped scallions, herbs and hellaciously hot sliced green chiles. I suggest you hurry up and try this terrific seafood dish while softshell crabs are still in season.

I searched the menu for softshell crabs. I never did find them. Luckily, the waiter understood what I was asking for and pointed them out. And that's the problem here.

The menu at Jackie Tan's is too big and there are too many boring fried wontons, fried rice and gloppy brown sauce dishes lying in wait for the unwary. You have to take your time and study the phone book of a menu, ask for help from the waiter and hold out for greatness. If you really try, you can get some stellar food here. You might also fall in love with some things — like fried intestines — that you have never had before.

Houston has never seen an Asian restaurant quite like this. It's huge, it's inexpensive and it's fun. Call it an oversized Asian diner or a noodle house on steroids; whatever you call it, Jackie Tan is defining the new frontier in Bellaire Chinatown.

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