A Very Chinese Weekend in Chicago

It had been awhile since I ventured into Katy’s Dumpling House in Westmont. A few weeks ago, I had tried, but arrived just as they were closing. On Saturday, however, my son’s soccer game ended nearby at 7 p.m., so we had plenty of time (why the Chicago City team plays in Westmont every week is another story). It’s more than just dumplings, of course, as they also do the hand-pulled, jagged, slightly uneven noodles here, and the dan dan noodles never disappoint. They employ just enough Szechuan peppercorns to lull your tongue into a state of dull numbness, but they also bring the heat in the form of a chile-slicked broth that also contains verdant spinach and a tiny mound of highly-seasoned ground pork. I would have been happy to have just called it a night, but xiao long bao beckoned, and these soup dumplings were also top-notch: puffy, soft pleated packages of dough hiding a thimble-sized nub of ground pork surrounded in a rich chicken stock. The accompanying spoons didn’t do much to contain any excess drippings that escaped out the top of the pouch, but by then, we had devoured most of the dumpling in one giant bite. They come eight to an order:


Then last night, Madeline and Max were clamoring for a Chinatown visit, and while I’m usually in the habit of popping in to Lao Sze Chuan or MingHin (even Phoenix for nostalgia), we opted instead to try the relatively new Xi’an Cuisine, along Cermak, just a few doors West of Wentworth. Kevin Pang had told me about it last week, and my first thought was: lamb and cumin burgers at Xi’an Famous Foods! In Flushing! (now Manhattan too). Chicagoans craving the lamb and cumin combo have been able to go to Northern City in Bridgeport, but they don’t do the pocket-sized sandwich, referred to as a “flatbread” at Xi’an Cuisine:


The buns are slightly crispy on the exterior from being griddled, dotted with sesame; they’re quite sturdy, and contain a great blend of finely-diced lamb, spiked with cumin and chilies, plus some bits of crunchy celery and scallion. Even though the menu warns they are spicy, we found them to be just perfect. My 14 year-old could have easily polished off another, and at just a couple of bucks each, so could you.



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