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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Gathered ’Round the Scorpion Bowl: Spotlight on Han Fusion

One writer explores the history and community behind Han Fusion, one of Hanover’s most beloved restaurants.

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Walk down the stairs and into Han Fusion — Hanover’s Chinese, Japanese and Thai fusion restaurant — on a Friday or Saturday night, and you might mistake the eatery for one of the College’s dining halls based on the horde of Dartmouth student patrons. The restaurant, fondly referred to as just “Han,” serves as a go-to establishment for students to gather, get drinks and share a meal.

According to owner and manager Tom Liang, the tradition of students frequenting Han Fusion is a relatively new one. 

“We’ve only been open for a few years,” Liang said. “We opened in kind of a bad time — it was probably three or four months before [the COVID-19 pandemic] happened … So [business] kind of stopped for a year or two.”

Han Fusion isn’t Liang’s first restaurant venture, however — he has actually been in the business for over 30 years.

“I had restaurants all in this area and the surrounding states,” Liang said. “When we opened here, I also had been managing probably five or six different restaurants already, throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.”

According to Chandini Peddanna ’25, a self-described Han “fanatic,” much of Han Fusion’s appeal comes from its friendly atmosphere for large groups.

“All of the food is oriented to be split amongst a ton of people, so it’s really good to go with a ton of friends,” Peddanna said. “The owners of Han are literal angels — they’re so nice, and they’re so excited to see you when you come in.”

According to Liang, the restaurant’s main draw is their “scorpion bowls,” an alcoholic beverage served for a group of people in a large ceramic bowl. Contrary to popular belief, however, scorpion bowls aren’t unique to Han Fusion.

“It’s a pretty common tradition for Chinese restaurants to serve scorpion bowls, just like how … if you go to a Chinese restaurant, they always give you a fortune cookie,” Liang said. “But scorpion bowls aren’t something you actually do in China — they’re more of an Americanized thing.”

Jacob Hudgins ’24, who worked at Han Fusion this past winter, noted that the appeal of the scorpion bowls comes from their shareability.

“Han is really one of the only places in town that offers a drink that’s different from a lot of other places — in that it can be shared communally between people with different straws in one drink,” Hudgins said. “Usually, a lot of people will come in to get drinks together, and then all get soup dumplings or another appetizer on the side to share.”

Scorpion bowls are Han’s most popular drink, Liang said, but its wide selection of beverages also makes the restaurant well-liked for students looking for a “bar” scene. According to Liang, the kitchen closes at 9:30 p.m. on weekend nights — but the dining space will stay open slightly longer for customers coming for drinks. 

“Students have really turned this place into a hangout … for Friday and Saturday [nights],” Liang said. “Normally, we have a late night crowd … and they’re just here for scorpion bowls and other drinks. Which works out pretty well, because our kitchen staff needs to leave by 9:30.”

Hudgins noted that what makes Han Fusion successful is not only its food and drink options, but the way that employees manage the large numbers of diners.

“Han does a really good job of organizing the crowds that often come in,” Hudgins said. “It’s a really hard job, since there are so many people getting drinks there later in the night. And on top of that, a lot of the students there become really hammered, which makes it a different sort of space for workers to manage.”

Han’s business relies relatively heavily on student patronage, some of whom feel a personal responsibility to be Han regulars, Peddanna said.

“I remember my sophomore summer [we heard that] Han might have to close, because there’s less people on campus and people weren’t really going at the time,” she said. “We were super worried about them losing business … so we really tried to rally and support them and the business.”

In addition to its much-loved food and drink selection, Han’s staff and the warm atmosphere keeps students coming back each week.

“They make you feel like you’re wanted … like [you’re] a part of their little Han family,” Peddanna said.