Friday, March 4, 2011


I love tofu, and all asian-vegetarian creations, but I was never a fan of western-made soy products. I still remember the disgust when a friend offered me a taste of her block of soy. ew.

But there has been more products lately, probably because of increased environmental and animal rights awareness. I was inspired when I saw a recent Oprah episode on eating veg.

So I purchased a few items recently. One of my surprising fave was this chorizo. Keep in mind, I'm not a huge fan of chorizo, so I don't know how close this is to the real deal. But I just have to say that the texture & seasoning is pretty delicious. Definitely worth a try!

On a different note, Chinese people are very into eating the right food (& combination of food) to improve your health. This usually involves Chinese herbs, dried items that are good for your body. Since this winter has been so cold, my mom prepared three things that's supposed to bring "heat" to your body, warming it up to battle the winter. I didn't take photos of the other two -- Ma Yo Ji (Seasame Oil Chicken) and Yang Rou Lu (Lamb stew) -- actually, I didn't even get to eat the latter (it's hot pot - style). But I did get to enjoy a very delicious Jiang Mu Ya (ginger duck stew). I don't remember having this... it's a cooked duck stew, but you eat it like a hot pot -- the contents of the existing stew AND you add other things in it. The cabbage soaked up the slightly greasy, intensely flavorful broth. It's one of the best things I had all winter.

Hing Kee

The BOB and I made it our mission to try out as many restaurants in Chinatown as possible. We chose Hing Kee because of the noodles-pulling guy that can be seen through the big glass window. Smart advertisement.

It wasn't until I browsed online (afterwards) that I realized it's one of those all asian-chinese restaurants (food includes chinese, thai, korean, japanese, etc etc.) I always feel like the lack of focus equates to zero authenticity.

Regardless, I'm happy to see a fresh-noodles making place. My husband got the ramen noodles, I got the knife-shaved chunky noodles. Both the noodles & soup based turned out to be ok. It's worth trying again (and this time, I'll probably tell them to cook it a little less, since I LOVE chewy noodles).

Our waiter also recommended their salt/pepper egg tofu. A bit too heavy for the two of us, but it's decent.

Hing Kee Phohung Restaurant
2140 S Archer Ave
(between Wentworth Ave & 21st St)
Chicago, IL 60616
Neighborhood: Chinatown
(312) 808-9538

Tao Ran Ju

There are so many Chinese restaurants in U.S. that without "connection" and/or an eye for finding trustworthy blogs/reviews, one highly risk wasting money and calories on a bad meal.

Tao Ran Ju was first recommended by our friend G, who heard about the place from his dad. Supposedly (it should be true, since it's written in newspapers), the owner hired a chef from
Ding Tai Fung, the restaurant that made "xiao long bao" (soupy dumpling) extremely desirable / popular, and continues to make one of the best "xiao long bao" EVER. During our trip to Taiwan winter of 2010, I had the pleasure of eating there again. It was so good, it's stupid that they don't have a location here. so stupid.

Back to Tao Ran Ju... we were excited to find a few options of various dumplings avail. Results: tasty filling (tho a bit dry at times), soupy, but the skin is not thin nor chewy. It does not compare to the "real" xiao long bao. BUT it will have to do, since Chicago completely lacks in this (and many, many other Chinese & Taiwanese foods).

We also felt like having some soup, so we ordered their seafood vegetable soup. It wasn't bad. I liked their choice of vegetables, good ingredients, and milky broth. But it's not so amazing that I'd go back to order the same dish.

The waitress claims that their grilled meat / hot pot dish is really good. I also heard that their beef rolls are good. This place is definitely worth visiting again.

As a side note, shockingly, their service was really good. Very attentive, nice... unlike typical Chinatown spots. Space is also clean & bright.
Tao Ran Ju
2002 S Wentworth
(between Cullerton St & Archer Ave)
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 808-1111