Nestled in an unassuming storefront at 7230 W. North Ave. in Elmwood Park, Lotus boasts a sign offering Szechuan and Mandarin cuisine, but locals in-the-know order up lesser known Taiwanese dishes at the 31-year-old family-owned establishment.

“My family and I have been coming to Lotus for decades now. We love the Yang Chow fried rice, the Governor’s Chicken, and the Vegetarian Duck.” said Ben Soong, Oak Park resident and devoted foodie. “They also have a Taiwanese menu which is delicious. Some of our favorite dishes are the Spicy Salt Chicken and Pork Belly over rice!”

Our attention turned to Lotus’ Taiwanese beef noodle soup — after all niu rou mian is the national dish of Taiwan. Variations on the comforting soup abound throughout China and globally, but Lotus offers a traditional take on the homey dish.

Slices of supremely tender braised beef shank swim alongside flat noodles, baby bok choy, cilantro, scallion and pickled mustard greens in a dark broth. The deeply flavored broth has heavy spice notes coming from star anise and black pepper and benefits further from the addition of ginger, garlic, chilies and vinegar.

Ordering this lesser known dish for takeout is a fun DIY project. Noodles and garnishes arrive separately from the meat and broth allowing diners to customize the dish at home.

Lotus also serves up a popular Taiwanese street food called Gua Bao, or pork belly buns.  Served on a delicate (and appropriately named) lotus leaf bun, the handheld sandwich features aromatic braised pork belly slices, fresh cucumber, pickled greens and fresh cilantro. Crunchy peanuts finish the rich bite.

Hot-heads should look at the Szechuan dishes on Lotus’ menu — they are known to be slick, peppery and especially spicy. Pay particular attention to their meat-filled Szechuan dumplings smothered in garlic-spiced sauce. The generously sized boiled dumplings come four to an order and are doused in a sweet and spicy sauce made from chili-oil, vinegar and sweet soy sauce.

According to Lotus employee, Kayla Martinez, the American Chinese dish, shrimp and lobster sauce, is a popular selection among customers looking for milder and less adventurous Chinese fare.

No matter if you are looking to explore Taiwanese cuisine or prefer to stick with simple fried rice, Lotus has an offering for every inkling.

*All items were ordered for carry out and plated at home.

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