Advertise with us

Enjoying this blog? Check out the rest of the Travel & Culture Channel Subscribe to this Feed

The Chicago Traveler

International Chicago: Asia

by Matt B on November 17th, 2007

Back to our International Tour, it's time for Asia. While many may be familiar with Chicago's Chinatown down on the South Side, there is also a New Chinatown developing and growing near the intersection of Argyle St and Broadway Ave. It's a mix of Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, and Thai shops and restaurants. Because Asia is the largest continent, there are plenty of cuisines to choose from. Sushi places and Chinese food are so common though, so let's focus on some of the lesser-known tastes of Asia.

Zen Noodles in Wicker Park (around the corner from People Lounge) does offer sushi, kung pao chicken, and the ever-popular pad thai, but the restaurant's menu extends to the cuisine of nearly every country in southeast Asia. Among the standout dishes, the Malaysian noodles are served with sausage, pork, and shrimp, and the Indonesian noodles are made with coconut milk and tamarind, which is also a main ingredient in pad thai. The roasted duck noodle soup is delicious with its spike of cinnamon. To try something familiar with a bit of a twist, the pineapple fried rice has raisins, cashews, egg, and scallions. The menu also includes Thai satays, wok-fried noodle dishes, soups, and curries. Bubble tea and fruit smoothies are ideal beverages. (If you are ordering in from Zen, they may tell you delivery will take 45 minutes, but it's usually closer to 15! Wow!)

PhilippinesMoving to the Philippines, we hit northern Chicago for Mariegold Bakery & Fast Food. This 12-year-old Filipino find serves the traditional dishes of the nation made up of more than 7,000 islands. A Spanish colony for centuries, the Philippines combines Spanish and Chinese influences in its food. One originally Chinese tradition has special significance for Filipinos: noodles prepared on a person's birthday symbolizing long life. While the noodles are characteristically Asian, other Filipino flavors should taste very familiar to Western palates. The caldereta is very similar to beef stew, and the chicken and pork adobo (made with soy sauce and crushed garlic) is good for those who are less adventurous. Other options include kare-kare (hamhocks in peanut sauce), embutido (a type of meatloaf), and kutsintas (steamed brown rice cakes).

NepalOur culinary trek leads us north to Evanston (a little over a block from Barcelona Tapas and the Fountain Square Building) for Mt Everest Restaurant, specializing in north Indian and Nepalese cuisine. Nepalese food is traditionally less spicy, is more vegan-friendly, and uses less oil than Indian dishes. While north Indian (sometimes called 'Royal Indian') food can be easy to find within the city limits, Nepalese cuisine is a delicious rarity. This spacious, elegant spot offers a hearty all-you-can-eat lunch buffet where diners can find fresh vegetables, warm naan bread, palak paneer (warm minced spinach cooked with cottage cheese), tandoori chicken, khasi ko maasu (goat meat cooked with spices and herbs) and smooth rice pudding. Whether you like it mild, moderate, or spicy, you will enjoy the taste of the Himalayas.

North & South KoreaOur final Asian stop is for Korean cuisine at Jin Ju in Andersonville (around the corner from the Neo-Futurist Theater). In terms of ambience, the contemporary restaurant doesn't look like your typical 'Asian cuisine' storefront. The Westernized trendy d'cor (ambient electronic beats, candlelight dining, exposed brick, soft globe lighting) is meant to make non-Asian beginners feel comfortable as they delve into a taste of Korea. Nonetheless, the flavors are authentic Korean; the difference is a matter of presentation. The food is presented in a Western fashion: appetizers, entrees, and desserts. This differs from the traditional family-style of Korean dishes, wherein all the food is presented at once. Popular starters include te gim (tempura) and barbecue pork spare ribs. Other scrumptious appetizers include steamed dumplings filled with kim chee (spicy pickled cabbage), seaweed roll with fish cake, and mild fried scallion pancake. Try the dol sut bi bim bap, sizzling rice topped with beef, carrots, spinach, and fried egg. Ginger and red bean ice creams finish off the meal excellently.

If your idea of Asian cuisine is little white Chinese take-out boxes, Chicago has plenty of ways for you to dive in and experience the diverse and fascinating flavors of the East.

Check out our b5media blogs:

Filipina SoulLet's Visit Asia

Zen Noodles ($): 1852 W North Ave; 773-276-8300
Mon ' Thurs: 11:00 a.m. ' 10:00 p.m.
Fri ' Sat: 11:00 a.m. ' 11:00 p.m.
Street parking difficult
Public trans: Bus # 50, 56, 72 or Blue Line train (Damen)

Mariegold Bakery & Fast Food ($): 5752 N California Ave; 773-561-1978
Mon ' Sat: 8:00 a.m. ' 8:00 p.m.
Sun: 5:00 a.m. ' 6:00 p.m.
Street parking; free parking lot
Public trans: Bus # 11, 93

Mt Everest Restaurant ($$): 630 Church St (Evanston); 847-491-1069
Mon ' Fri: 11:30 a.m. ' 2:30 p.m.
Sat ' Sun: 12 noon ' 3:00 p.m.
Sun ' Thurs: 5:30 p.m. ' 10:00 p.m.
Fri ' Sat: 5:30 p.m. ' 10:30 p.m.
Street parking; pay lot; free lots available within walking distance
Public trans: Bus # 201, 205 or Pace Bus # 208, 213
Purple Line train (Davis)
Metra Union Pacific North Line train (Evanston Davis)

Jin Ju ($$): 5203 N Clark St; 773-334-6377
Sun, Tues: 5:00 p.m. ' 10:00 p.m.
Weds ' Thurs: 5:00 p.m. ' 10:30 p.m.
Fri ' Sat: 5:00 p.m. ' 11:00 p.m.
Street parking difficult
Public trans: Bus # 22, 92

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

POSTED IN: Restaurants

1 opinion for International Chicago: Asia

Have an opinion? Leave a comment: