Chinatown, Chicago

18 Feb

It’s been a while since I’ve done a plain old photography post, and I have some neat pictures from today, so here goes.

I went with my dearest bros down to Chinatown today to see the New Year’s parade and get dim sum.

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We got there after the parade started, and it was totally mobbed so we missed a good chunk of the beginning, and probably some of the best floats…

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But there was still a lot of good stuff to be seen.  Including a bunch of adorable kids from the local schools:

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I saw a lion dance for the first time at my school’s Chinese New Year gala, and I was really happy to see more.  I love pretty much any kind of dancing…

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Of course, after the parade, everything was absolutely hectic.  We managed to snag some cotton candy before we fought to get a dim sum table at one of the massively over-crowded restaurants.

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We did finally get into a restaurant, not dim sum sadly, called Lao Shanghai.  I had heard good things about the Lao restaurants, so I figured it was a good bet.

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And ohhh, it was.  The wait was tremendous, first to get seated and then to get food, but goddamn, it was worth it.

Although… there was a group ahead of us.  And by group, of course I mean two parents with a small horde of babies.  Who got the big dim sum table with the rotating center.  For two adults.  When there were six of us.

Can you feel my anger through your screen?  Because we were all mad as hell, let me tell you.  I hope someone stole their damn stroller while they were eating.

Ahem.

Anyway.  Up above there are pork shao mai and Shanghai dumplings, which were insane.  The pork we perfectly marinated and incredibly juicy, with really good seasoning.

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We didn’t know what these were–Shanghai Man Tou–so we ordered some.  Turns out they’re just dough…  So that was a little disappointing, but we were glad for having tried them.  And dipped in the bitter sauce that was on our table, they were pretty good anyway.

My favorite by far were the xiao long bao, which are soup dumplings.  I didn’t get a picture because I think my roommate would have stabbed me if I had delayed her eating any longer.  I had been wanting to try xiao long bao for a while, and I am still thinking about them even though I’m not remotely hungry.

I was reading about dim sum last night instead of doing anything productive, and apparently there is a story surrounding the origin of bao.  There was a military strategist in ancient China who was trying to cross his troops across a really tumultuous river that they had little chance of fording because the river spirits were mad as hell about whatever spirits get mad about.  The spirits told the strategist that if he brought them 49 human heads, they would let the troops past.

Of course, the strategist was like, “To hell with you, I’m not sacrificing my men to you assholes”, so that night he and his men cooked a ton of meat and wrapped it up in dough so that they were shaped like human heads.  They gave these to the river spirits who said, “This looks legit.  You can cross, I guess.”

Ecce, bao.

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We went to a Chinese bakery next, in search of anything containing red bean paste.  We hit on Chiu Quon Bakery, which has a ton of amazingly delicious food, almost all for less than a dollar.  Needless to say, we ate… quite a lot.

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My friend Katie, very happy with her red bean bun, not as happy with her pink eye.

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I got an almond cookie (and then a whole sleeve of them to go, which I ate way too many of not long ago),

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a giant puff of angel food,

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and a red bean moon cake!  Which was so, so good.  Ah, I am going back to that place very often, I can tell you.  I know China isn’t nearly as big on dessert (or not the same kind of dessert) as America is, but I love what they have.

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One of the highlights of the evening was sitting in the back of the bakery where a Cantonese channel was on TV, and seeing everyone’s reactions to a Chinese music video that was playing.

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No one was impressed, evidently.

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Finally, we ended up in a gift shop because Katie wanted to look at something.  Among the inventory were: a pen/magnet shaped like a croissant, face masks with boy bands on the wrappers, photocopies of sticker sheets, gorgeous cutlery that we admired with too much enthusiasm, and a comb my roommate bought that operates like a switchblade.  She’s wanted one for ages, so it was a very exciting discovery.

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All in all, we had a good time not doing anything related to school or sitting around and staring at the walls, which is probably what would have happened otherwise.  We’ve resolved to go back for dim sum during the week when some places are 20% off and also not packed to the rafters.

I’ve got a couple of recipes floating around that I’ll write up soon, but until then… I return to my research project and endless essays on religion and weapons of mass destruction.

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