O-Ishi (West Lafayette, IN)

New Family Favorites at O-Ishi

Moving to the Greater Lafayette area from a smaller town, one of the first things we marveled at was the wide array of restaurants and cuisines newly available to us. We were impressed by the ethnically diverse food scene found in our new home town that seemed much richer than what we expected in a city of its size. After trying some of the local standbys like XXX for a Purvis Burger and Arni’s Pizza (Axl Rose’s favorite pizza we’ve been told), we immediately began our exploration of the numerous Chinese restaurants we’d found on Google. The oddly Japanese-sounding O-Ishi in West Lafayette, nestled between Purdue and the Wabash River, was one of the first local Chinese restaurants we tried. Despite trying many more since, it established itself as a family-favorite and kept us coming back for more.

Like any good Chinese restaurant, there are literally too many items for me to talk about in one sitting. They offer hot pot items, various belly-warming noodle soups, and a few Japanese and Vietnamese dishes, but the stars are the numerous authentic Chinese dishes that lean slightly towards the Sichuan side of Chinese cuisine. We’ve enjoyed dishes ranging from their Mapo Tofu or Chengdu Dry Chili Chicken to some of the American-Chinese go-tos like Beef and Broccoli or Orange Chicken, but I’m here to highlight some of the dishes that have become our favorites since making Lafayette our home.

First up is Mollie’s absolute must-have dish: Ground Pork with Steam Buns, or as she aptly calls it “Chinese Sloppy Joe”! There is a chili icon next to it on the menu, so it does have some spicy chili heat to it, along with an aromatic mix of garlic, cilantro, onions, cumin and bell peppers. Delicious and, yes, very sloppy when you stuff the mixture into a fluffy steamed bun.

Next we have Spicy Green Beans with Ground Pork which has a similar flavor profile and heat-level to the pork and steam bun dish, but there is also a milder Stir Fried Green Beans option that subtracts the chili peppers and pork and replaces them with an umami-packed black bean sauce that is just as good. Mom and Dad used to have these all to ourselves, but now that the kids have gotten past the heat level, we have to fight them for our share of them!

This dish is all me. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed a taste for some of the “nastier” bits that scare off the rest of my family (think tripe, tendon, and braised gristly cuts of meat). If you’re up for it, this is the Beef Tendon Casserole which is a comforting beef stew with braised beef brisket and tendon pieces that have been cooked until the connective tissues have been converted into gelatin and become melt-in-your-mouth tender. The flavors, at least to my palate, include ginger and star anise, and is rounded out with potatoes and napa cabbage. There is also a spicy version, the Spicy Beef Tendon with Dry Bean Curd, that takes out the potatoes and adds chili and sheets of dry tofu to the mix that might be even better. I’d highly recommend either if you’re feeling adventurous, but the kitchen might be able prepare the dish substituting plain beef/brisket as they offer that as an option in some of their noodle soups. Don’t worry, I won’t judge–my younger self probably would do the same!

Here’s my competition: the fried rice that our fried rice-obsessed son says that my rice is ALMOST as good as. He demanded that I take a picture of it! This Yangzhou Fried Rice with Chicken has a very delicate, lightly-seasoned flavor with onions, scallions, and just a hint of sesame and ginger. And yes, I’ll admit, I think it’s better than mine… for now.

I could go on: the crispy Sweet and Sour Fish Filets, the Pan Friend Pork Dumplings, the savory Curry Chicken Wings… we’ve tried them all and loved them. It took a while, but after many visits our family has found our O-Ishi favorites and I recommend you peruse the menu so that maybe you can find yours, too.

213 E State St.
West Lafayette, IN 47906

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