Thursday, June 12, 2008

must.. try list:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

2008: 1ST Chen Family BBQ

We baste nearly everything with my mom's soy-based sauce (mixed with sesame oil, garlic, green onions, etc)

oden... one of the bbq musts for Chinese ppl.. at least when we grew up..

our bbq tradition: 'grilled man-tou'. Years ago, we had some leftover homemade man-tou on the table so my dad threw it onto the grill... turned out to be one of the tastiest treats EVER. These man-tou are basted with my mom's sauce, so the caramelization/crispy charred exterior is so awesome with the soft and chewy fresh interior...
and of course, corn.. awesome with mama's soy-based sauce...

marinated in salt/pepper, these ck wings came out crisp and moist..

tender, flavorful kalbi...

Grilling vegetables bring out such an amazing flavor, also great on salads the next day..
shrimp skewers are also a Chinese-must when we were little, I remember skewering live shrimp in 5th grade...

'Happy Birthday' taro cake from "Da Ban" Bakery in Chinatown

Frontera Grill

Appetizer: Quesadillas Capitalinas Mexico City Style Quesadillas (corn masa turnovers )stuffed with samuel's locally handcrafted jack cheese and fresh epazote guacamole

- perfectly crisp turnovers, very flavorful melted jack cheese that poured out...very delicious. nice combination of silky cheesiness and crisp (slightly chewy) skin...

Appetizer: Ceviche Fronterizo lime marinated hawaiian sunfish with tomatoes olives cilantro and green chile served on crispy tostaditas
I'm never too impressed with ceviches because I feel like I can marinate it at home myself, but this was one of the best. Perfectly marinated, fresh fish, fresh greens, nice & crispy chip.

Pato En Mole Negro Dry Rubbed Wood Grilled Gunthorp Duck Breast in classic oaxacan black mole (made from chihuacle chiles and 28 other ingredients) black beans almond crusted chayote
I barely ever order non-asian prepared duck, but this was raved about online. Turned out to be bedded in a flavorful dark sauce, perfectly tender -- great eaten by itself but even better with the tortillas.

Tacos al Carbon wood grilled meat poultry fish or mushrooms sliced and served with roasted pepper rajas two salsas frijoles charros guacamole and homemade tortillas
Farm Raised Catfish marinated with achiote and garlic
Their tacos were highly rated as well, and this catfish one was a great example -- very nicely seasoned & grilled. Catfish is such a meaty fish that it held up to the taco well, didn't flake off too easily yet it was still silky. Often times catfish can be a little too non-fish like and uninteresting to eat, but this was done very, very well.

Frontera Grill
445 N Clark St, Chicago 60610
Btwn W Illinois & W Hubbard St
Phone: 312-661-1434

- I thought I probably wouldn't return, but I'm actually curious about Rick Bayless's other dishes on this menu! Price wasn't too bad either :)

Ken Kee (强记)Restaurant

Yet another Chinatown exploration find, but this one turned out to be pretty good.

200 Beef Briskets With Steam Rice Noodle Roll

I Love Love rice noodle rolls, especially when I unroll these noodles and soak it in the sauce it comes with. These beef briskets are tender, flavorful, does the job well at $3.25/dish.

704 Pickled Veg. & Shredded Pork Soup

Soothing broth, tender pork, slightly crisp vegetables. It's a nice comfort after a night of drinking... if I order it again, I'll probably ask for some rice noodles.

1019 Burning Seafood In a Flamed Mini Wok
This is a very tasty wok (comes with rice, even tho there are thin noodles inside). The husband and I can polish the three listed dishes easily in one sitting.

Neighborhood: Chinatown
2129 S China Pl # A
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 326-2088

Monday, June 9, 2008

端午节 Dragon Boat Festival

We went back to our parents' last night to have our first bbq of the year, as well as celebrate 'Duan Wu Jie' (aka Dragon Boat Festival). This holiday is celebrated on the 5th of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

The most popular theory of the origin of this day is that it was derived from the activities of commemorating a great patriot poet, Qu Yuan.

"Qu Yuan served in the court of Emperor Huai during the Warring States (475 - 221 BC). He was a wise and erudite man. His ability and fight against corruption antagonized other court officials. They exerted their evil influence on the Emperor, so the Emperor gradually dismissed Qu Yuan and eventually exiled him. During his exile, Qu Yuan did not give up. He traveled extensively, taught and wrote about his ideas. His works, the Lament (Li Sao), the Nine Chapters (Jiu Zhang), and Wen tian, are masterpieces and invaluable for studying ancient Chinese culture. He saw the gradual decline of his mother country, the Chu State. And when he heard that the Chu State was defeated by the strong Qin State, he was so despaired that he ended his life by flinging himself into the Miluo River.

Legend says after people heard he drowned, they were greatly dismayed. Fishermen raced to the spot in their boats to search for his body. Unable to find his body, people threw zongzi (aka Chinese tamales), lotus-leaf wrapped parcels of cooked rice into the river, hoping to tempt
fish away from eating his body, as well as to bargain for his life with a dragon that lived in the river. Villages also trawled the waters looking for Qu Yuan’s body, making a massive din in a bid to scare away fish. Today, teak rowboats holding up to 20 peddlers, a drummer, and a tiller are rigged with flamboyant dragon regalia and race in competitions to commemorate the villagers’ original search for the patriot’s body. Since then, people started to commemorate Qu Yuan through dragon boat races, eating zongzi and other activities, on the anniversary of his death, the 5th of the fifth month.

Zongzi is the most popular food for the festival. It is usually made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. Fresh bamboo leaves are the best for the wrapping since the taste and smell of the fresh bamboo leaves is part of zongzi.

Today you may see zongzi in different shapes and with a variety of fillings, dependent on individual family traditions, preferences, city of origin, etc.. The most popular shapes are triangular and pyramidal. The fillings include shitake mushroom, taro, chestnut, meat, yolk of egg, etc. The festival is closely associated with zongzi and dragon boat races. More importantly this is also a national patriot festival through commemorating the great patriot poet, Qu Yuan. People are reminded that the importance of loyalty and commitment to the community in the festival."

note: above content is mostly quoted via various online web sites

Happy Chowing!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I want to make sure I have this in my foodiefile... this'll be difficult for me to consume, but I'm up for it if given the chance:

I always said that I'd give anything edible a try, but wow, this would take some effort (not only chewing itself, but I'd have to try hard to overcome some psychological barriers):

The eating of the ortolan has ethical eating groups baying for blood. First, it is caught with a net in the forest. Taken alive, its eyes are poked out and the bird is put in a small cage. It's then force-fed oats, millet and figs until it has swollen to four times its normal size. Then the bird is drowned alive in fine cognac. Then, it's roasted whole, in an oven at high heat, for six to eight minutes. Once it reaches the table, a napkin is placed over the eater's head. The technique of eating the ortolan is to put the whole bird into the mouth, with only the beak protruding. Here sadism mingles with masochism. The first taste as you crunch on the bird is the brandied flesh and fat. Then, the bitterness of the guts follow and finally, as the tiny, delicate bones are being chewed on, they will lacerate the diner's gums, with the salty taste of the bleeding gums mingling with the richness of the fat and the bitterness of the organs. Chewing the ortolan takes approximately 15 minutes.

The Connoisseur's Series, The Global Gourmet