RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Chinatown

Some Really Mean Cuisine

Posted on

Ah, Spring!  You have been nothing but cryptic so far in Chicago.  You have teased us with near bearable temperatures only to blindside the city with waves of freezing rain, snow, and chilly winds.  While the weather might get you down, you definitely should hit up one of the top dim sum places I have ever ate at, including America, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.  The name of this wonderful eatery is MingHin Cuisine.  My girlfriend had been there before and had nothing but great things to say about it.  It is located in the New Chinatown on the northside of Cermak Road right next to the famous Lao Sze Chuan.IMG_5718

When I arrived before Janice, I was greeted with a horde of anxious diners waiting for a table in the bustling main rooms or the side tea room that is devoted solely to the warm brews.  IMG_5719So, I put our name in and got a post it with a number on it.  It’s a simple but functional system they have for alerting customers when their tables are ready.  You have to try and hear your number on the Post-It note being shouted out first in Chinese and then in English above the din of the restaurant.  Eventually, they yelled out my number, and they quickly seated me. IMG_5743 They offered me a selection of teas to sample while I was waiting, so I plumped for a pot of chrysanthemum tea.  Janice took a seat opposite me soon thereafter, and we sipped on the tea that oddly looked like urine.  IMG_5721Thankfully, there was no trick to be had there, but it wasn’t Janice’s cup of tea.  I found it to be quite interesting with its earthy and highly herbal personality, but a bit more intense than the green or black teas I’m used to.  While the tea was warming our bellies, we looked over the two different menus on the table. IMG_5720 One consisted of the dim sum options we could pick from while the other menu was more focused on barbecue.  After much intense deliberation and taking into account Janice’s recommendations from her previous visits, we made our choices.  IMG_5737

The first dishes that came out were from the barbecue menu.  We tried the barbecued spare ribs and the crispy Macau style pork belly ($5.95 each).  Both were fantastic. IMG_5725 The honey spare ribs were lip-smacking good minus the bones, but the taste was similar to Korean kalbi ribs with a soy marinade that was both sweet with a little salt mixed in.  Then there was the pork belly. IMG_5728 Talk about a contrast of flavors and textures.  The top of the meat had a thin yet crunchy skin of sugar and perhaps a bit of cinnamon that was the perfect compliment to the multi-layered and uber-tender and juicy pork.  IMG_5731These nuggets came with a side bowl of sugar to dip them in, but I found it to be a bit excessive.  We also had a side of fried sticky rice, but I was not impressed at all by this bland and flavorless pick.  We moved on from the meaty opening salvo to more traditional dim sum options like the barbecue pork buns, fried sesame balls, siu mai, shrimp egg rolls, and chao zhou dumplings. IMG_5741 All of the dim sum plates are priced based on size with small ($3.15), medium ($3.85), large ($4.25), and special ($5.50).  I won’t go into tons of detail with most these plates since I’ve tried these a million times over.  I did love my bbq pork buns because they were fluffy and filled with that sweet sweet char siu style pork.  As for the sesame balls, the ones at MingHin are my new favorite ones because they aren’t filled with my old enemy of the Far East:  red bean paste. IMG_5733 Instead, they are filled with a more neutral and less obnoxious white bean paste.  What I found out at a later visit is that if you get the giant fried sesame ball, they just give you fried slices of the chewy rice paste that is coated with plenty of savory sesame seeds and no beans to be found.  Another stand out in this meal were the chao zhou dumplings I ordered.  They were filled with pork, but two huge surprises were the crunchy peanuts and the slightly spicy kick with each dumpling.  Another great pick were the shrimp egg rolls. IMG_5739 They were slightly addicting with their crunchy, golden-brown exteriors that were light and not greasy at all with plenty of shrimp inside.  While all of these choices were quite standard, I knew I had to try something new, something slightly frightening to those who are happy to stick with the tried and true favorites.  Enter the pork knuckle and lotus root. IMG_5734 When it was placed in front of me, it looked intimidating, but I’m not one to back down from a culinary challenge.  I picked up a piece of the burgundy flesh, and it was oddly soft.IMG_5742  It was like eating ginger-flavored jelly.IMG_5735  It was slightly unsettling but not terrible once I got used to it.  I also tried one of the lotus roots as well, but it left me with a sour taste in my mouth.  I’m glad I tried it, but I won’t get it again.  I’ll just stick to chicken feet.  By the end of the meal, we were quite happy with the food we got and for the reasonable price.

So, if you’re looking for a new and high quality dim sum eatery, check out MingHin Cuisine!  It’s a small slice of culinary amid the jungle of restaurants, and it’s fun for the whole family!  Afterward, you can check out everything Chinatown has to offer including their square of zodiac signs among many other sights.

Tame rabbits love it

Tame rabbits love it

And wild tigers love it too!

And wild tigers love it too!

MingHin Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Nosh Pit

Posted on

What’s happenin’, everyone?  Today is going to be another snack post about a bunch of small items I have been sampling as of late in Korea.  Recently, my parents came to visit me during my summer break, and we traveled to many familiar places for me like Incheon’s Chinatown and some new places like Busan where I tried poisonous blowfish and penis fish (See:  Food Porn).  Another new locale that we checked out was the DMZ, but I didn’t know that I would be eating any sort of local delicacies when I went there.

A couple of months ago, there was a lot of fear back home in the States about whether or not Kim Jong Un really was going to start World War III just to solidify his power.  Yet Korean people really couldn’t care less.

South Korea in a nutshell

South Korea in a nutshell

That was the general  vibe I got when I finally made it to the 38th parallel.  While we were absolutely forbidden to make any sort of gesture that would be used for North Korean propaganda or could be seen as a provocation for war while at the JSA, in other places it seemed like we were in some sort of theme park with colorful sculptures you could take pictures with.  They even had souvenirs you could take home with you saying, “Hey, I survived going to the world’s most militarized border!”  For me, I was more interested in the food and drinks you could buy.  While there was North Korean liquor, I wouldn’t trust them making any sort of alcohol.  It’s probably half kerosene and half paint thinner (then again, it sounds like soju).  However, I couldn’t turn down the Paju chocolate (5,000 W).IMG_0598  It looked like normal milk chocolate but the difference was that it was studded with black soybeans known as seoritae. IMG_0599 I’m assuming that the South Koreans close to the border made it since Kim Jong Un is no Willy Wonka and would only kill children if they were disrespecting the glorious Juche philosophy.  Either way, I was genuinely surprised.  The chocolate wasn’t quite as sweet as chocolate back home, but it was quite creamy while the beans brought a subtle earthy element and a light crunch to each satisfying bite.  I wouldn’t mind buying it as a snack if they actually made it outside of that one tiny region of Korea.  My second snack treat came to me via Incheon’s Chinatown.

Incheon may not be the prettiest city in the world, but there are certain areas that are nicer than others.  One of my favorite areas is Chinatown which is a bit different from the Chinatowns back home in say Chicago or San Francisco.  While the American ones are more just neighborhoods celebrating a particular ethnic enclave, Incheon’s is more like a neighborhood built more for industrial purposes since Chinese workers are seen as cheap labor here just like in the US back in the 1800s with the construction of the railroads.  However, that doesn’t mean they lack certain treats that give you a view into their own cultural heritage.  I saw many different types of mooncakes, but I also noticed the mountains of round orbs that looked like bread.  I bought one, and I saw on the sign they were called 공갈빵 or gonggalppang which literally means “hole bread”.

You're pretty

You’re pretty

While it looked completely solid, as soon as I bit into it, it shattered like an egg shell.

What's on the surface matters most

What’s on the surface matters most

I found out that there was nothing inside it except cinnamon.  This made it even better since I love anything cinnamon flavored, and by the time I finished it I wasn’t extremely stuffed.

I'm not shallow though

I’m not shallow though

It was almost like a large, cinnamon-coated pita chip in semi-cibatta form.  Then there is the funky ice cream from Fell + Cole that I fell in love with.

Yesterday, a blurb came up on my Facebook stalker feed that the annoying people from Eat Your Kimchi (an expat Korea blog) went to a gastronomic ice cream parlor in Hongdae called Fell + Cole that sold really off-the-wall flavors.   So I decided to give it a shot since it’s blazing hot out in Korea, and I had a taste for something cold.  Here’s the easiest way to get there:  1. Go to Sangsu Station (line 6) and take Exit 1 and just walk straight.  2. Turn right on your first street, it’s not a big main road, it’s just a side street.  3. The street will split left and right but just stick right and you’ll hit Fell + Cole.IMG_0626  If you’re curious, the name comes from the intersection where the owner lived in San Francisco while studying for his MBA.  When I walked in, it was a lot smaller than I anticipated, but it was very well decorated with a laid-back Cali vibe.IMG_0617

Frontroom

Frontroom

View from my solitary ice cream island of a table

View from my solitary ice cream island of a table

The owner was very friendly and allowed me to sample some of the flavors.  I settled for the double cup (8,000) of Makkeoli (rice wine) ice cream and mango hibiscus sorbet.  He gave me two pretty decent scoops, and I was definitely blown away by both of the flavors.The mango was on top, and I greatly enjoyed its tropical sweetness that was paired with a slight floral undertone.

So simple, yet so tasty

So simple, yet so tasty

As for the Makkeoli ice cream, I liked it better than the sorbet simply because I don’t know how they made it taste like a mind-blowing, decadent vanilla yet still maintaining that gentle bite from the wine.

Buried, semi-alcoholic treasure

Buried, semi-alcoholic treasure

Sadly, they didn’t have their bacon ice cream or their Sichuan pepper cream or their perilla leaf ice cream, but now I have three more excuses to visit this hip and modern boutique of icy delights!  I highly recommend this place to anyone looking for a place to beat the Korean heat.

I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Fire

Posted on

Hello to all out there on the interwebs!  Sorry for the immense amount of lag time between my last amazing post and this one, but I have been enjoying the last fleeting moments of my summer before going back to the grind of graduate school.  Anyway, I’m going to be telling you today about a food adventure I had this past weekend in Chinatown in Chicago.  The place in question is called Lao Sze Chuan located at 2172 South Archer Avenue Chicago, IL 60616 which is part of the new Chinatown square which is a bit further north of the older Chinatown.

My friend invited me out to lunch in Chinatown, and she asked me whether I wanted Dim Sum or spicy food.  Now, I had already went to a Dim Sum restaurant (check out one of my previous posts if you haven’t already!), so I went with the spicy food option.  Apparently, Lao Sze Chuan is one of the most popular restaurants in Chinatown, so naturally there was a wait.  However, it didn’t take long for us to get a table.  Upon opening up the menu, I was greeted with the story of the restaurant and all of the famous people who have dined there in the past including one Bill Clinton.  Anyway, there were plenty of options with spicy, chicken, beef, seafood, and traditional Chinese sections to name a few.  In the end, we ended up going with an order of Ma Po Tofu, LaLaLa spicy chicken pot, and double fried sliced pork with cilantro Jiazhou style.

I’ll start off with the Ma Po Tofu since I’m going to be up front with my dislike for tofu (sorry veggie readers).

A delight for veggies

However, I still wanted to try it since I never pass up an opportunity to try something new.  It was served in a brown, pork based broth along with chopped up red chilies, and the small tofu cubes looked like tiny spicy icebergs bobbing in the Arctic ocean.  With my small sampling, there was no arctic chill with this tofu as it was very soft and disintegrated in my mouth instantly with a brief spicy flourish.  If you’re a vegetarian, I’m sure you’d be more of a fan of this dish, but it was dead last during my trip to Lao Sze Chuan.  Moving on to the LaLaLa spicy chicken pot, I am a sucker for picking out food that has a funny name hence my choice.  Thankfully, I did not regret it at all as it arrived to our table on a mini-grill that kept the chicken nice and hot.  The perfectly grilled chicken was marinated in a red chili sauce and came with diced red and green peppers and onions.  It was bringing that heat that makes me sweat which let me know that I was in an authentic Chinese restaurant that didn’t pull any punches with their use of spices.  Even though some of their food might be hellishly spicy, it keeps on bringing people back since every table in their restaurant was full during our four-hour visit, but I digress.  The final choice, the double fried sliced pork with cilantro Jiazhou style, was just alright.  It consisted of thinly sliced pieces of fried pork along with blackened red chilies, whole stalks of marinated cilantro, and celery.

Definitely pigged out on this dish

The only downside was that the cilantro was a bit too overpowering and left a strange, bitter aftertaste.  Plus, the fact that the pork was dry did not go well with so much cilantro.  However, when I isolated the pork, it was very crispy and filled with bacony goodness along with some spicy highlights.

So as a whole, I would rate my visit to Lao Sze Chuan as very enjoyable and would recommend it to anyone looking for authentic (read: very spicy) Sichuan cuisine along with a slice of one of Chicago’s most famous/oldest neighborhoods.

Lao Sze Chuan on Urbanspoon

%d bloggers like this: