Monday, May 25, 2009

The culinary walking tour: Chinatown

I've been hooked on culinary walking tours ever since my experience on the near North Side of Chicago last September. I appreciate good food, and furthermore, I appreciate learning about regional or ethnic food. So when I found out there's a culinary tour of Chinatown, I had to do it. I'm not very cultured when it comes to Chinese food, so this was a good opportunity to learn some stuff.

The party started at Dim Sum Go Go near Chatham/Kim Lau Square with a sampling of steamed Dim Sum (stuffed dumplings). I can't quite remember which dim sum is which... but I think we've got a shrimp and chive dim sum in there, a duck dim sum, a crab meat dim sum, and one of them is vegetarian. We also had a roast pork bun that was to die for.

Outside at Kim Lau Square, Memorial Day festivities were beginning with a parade.

It was a busy day in Chinatown.

Off to the Peking Duck House (no relation). It was amazing to learn about the incredibly meticulous process – nearly scientific – of raising and preparing the ducks for the dish. To read more about Peking Duck, go here... some of the information (regarding the treatment of the ducks) is a little disappointing to learn, but it goes to show the strict approach to preparing this traditional dish... and on a cultural level, I can accept that.

It was one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten. It's served whole (at your table by the chef), and sliced (at your table by the chef). It's usually rolled up in a tortilla-like pancake with hoisin sauce. Nearly every piece of the duck is used in the meal. The scraps and bones are taken back by the chef and made into soup for the end of your meal – there is an implied investment in time... it's not your 1-hour dinner out.

Ginger root anybody? This was the cheap bulk barrel stuff. There were pieces behind glass going for hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

Modeled after a Swiss roll, it's a tiger cake! Chinese "desserts" are generally not sweet... in fact, most don't in the slightest bit resemble Western and European treats. The sweetness of this sponge cake with a bit of chocolate filling was very, very subtle.

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