6 November 2016


 November 6, 2016
Shun Lee Palace Gluten-Free Chinese Restaurant New York City

One of the most crushing blows of my celiac and shellfish allergy diagnoses was having to remove Chinese food from my restaurant repertoire. When I was originally diagnosed there simply were no options out there and my love of Chinese food would remain something akin to looking for a gluten-free unicorn. When I was in Hong Kong and Macau it was definitely a challenge because navigating with my shellfish allergy posed a unique challenge.

Fast forward to years after my diagnosis and that unicorn has indeed been found as gluten-free Chinese options first gained notoriety at chains like P.F. Chang’s – though unfortunately, the last time I visited, there was literally one thing that I could eat because all of their other gluten-free items contain oyster sauce. Not really being a chain restaurant kind of guy, I never really bothered to go out of my way to re-visit.

Living and working in New York City I am spoiled for gluten-free choices and when one day, on a complete fluke, I noticed that Shun Lee Palace (a stone’s throw from my old office) was on Seamless and more importantly had a gluten-free menu, I was hooked. Now there are Chinese restaurants and then there is Shun Lee which has been a New York fixture since 1971. It is definitely at the higher-end of the price spectrum (and no gluten-free lunch specials here) and their gluten-free items in general come at a premium. That being said you are rewarded with expertly prepared dishes that are far more exciting and flavorful than what you might find at a more Americanized grab and go type of establishment. There are still some U.S. influenced standards, but there is a host of more traditional dishes that you don’t often see on a menu.

Shun Lee Gluten-Free Menu

Lunch menu — click to enlarge.

Walking-in is like stepping back in time – a time when dining was an experience to be savored and service was not an afterthought. The gluten-free menu is relatively small in comparison with the regular menu but still offers a very nice selection of appetizers, soups and main courses. The lunch and dinner are the same with the exception of the prices with dinner obviously coming in higher than lunch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Photo Credit: Shun Lee Palace
Some of my personal favorites include the Sizzling Rice Cake Soup with Chicken – a piping hot bowl of crispy vegetables in broth with soft rice cake and chicken peppered throughout. Absolutely perfect on a cold winter’s day. My main course favorite is the Dry Sautéed Shredded Crispy Beef. Thin slices of beef that are lightly breaded and pan fried with shredded carrots and green peppers tossed in a light clear sauce that is slightly sweet with a bit of heat from green chilies. The Three Pepper Crispy Chicken is also good with pieces of chicken lightly coated and dry stir-fried with a selection of spicy peppers. The Mo-Po Bean Curd with Ground Pork (it can be ordered without meat as well) swims in a fragrant spicy sauce that pairs perfectly over steamed rice. If you miss noodles, then the Stir-Fried Angel Hair Rice Noodle is a must-have – simple rice noodles stir-fried with a selection of fresh vegetables makes for a refreshing option and despite being carb-laden, does not leave you feeling overly full.

My final recommended go-to lunch at Shun Lee is their fried rice. Take everything that you think you know about fried rice and toss it out the window. Shun Lee’s version is light, not greasy and mildly seasoned so that the accompanying ingredients take center stage and the rice is chock-full of fresh vegetables, egg and whatever protein you choose (chicken, pork, shrimp, or vegetable are all options). Just a side-note: If you want pork you will get wonderful natural pork (not roast pork – which is not gluten-free at Shun-Lee).

Being a creature of habit I would typically order Shun Lee for lunch at least once a week (okay, sometimes twice) since having it delivered is so easy – though in nice weather I tend to just pop-in and pick it up myself (the tiny walk making me feel less guilty about indulging). It also became a fast favorite for lunches with friends as we could pop over to the restaurant, have a lovely meal and get back to the office to continue our day.

If you are in Manhattan or planning a visit, then definitely add this Chinese staple to your visit. You will not be disappointed and it will forever change your perceptions of what fine Chinese cuisine should be.

Shun Lee has two locations in New York City:

Shun Lee Palace
155 East 55th Street

Shun Lee West (and Café)
43 West 65th Street

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