Monday, January 5, 2015

The Richland Center 1-2 Punch

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Chowing down on Chinatown

Today's post is on what's become the best 1-2 food punch for under $10 in Chinatown. If you've never been inside the Richland Center which sits in the back of the Chinatown Square Mall then you've likely never eaten at either of today's stops. You need to change that, we need to support these places so the mall can further grow into an Asian street food hotspot, which is something we sorely lack in the city. Truth be told lack any real street food, which is a shame since we claim blue collar.

Richland Center Mall with the Chinatown Food Court down below

Lots of people don't even realize that there's a small growing, albeit slowly, food court located in the depths of this building. For a while there was really only one spot down there that was getting lots of love and that place which goes by Snack Planet was written up by my guy EZ Livin amongst others over at LTHforum. Then not too long ago Kevin Pang of the Tribune did an excellent story on a new skewer stand called Lao Pi BBQ where they're grilling meats over a small charcoal grill. In the article Pang broke down the all Chinese menu but they've since added an English version on the wall.

Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings (L) and Lao Pi BBQ (R)

Though there is an English portion to the menu one of the ladies doesn't speak it so you have to point and put up the number of how many of these little treats you want. They range in price from $1.50 - $3.00 and include the most popular offering of lamb as well as beef, chicken wing, shrimp and a couple handful of other options. They're grilled to order and spiced heavily with cumin and hot pepper flakes which makes for one of the reasons the lamb option tastes so good. Cumin and lamb pair like Nike and Mike. They're money. While all are seasoned the same they each have a purpose.

Lamb and Beef Skewers from Lao Pi BBQ in The Richland Food Court Mall

Within the last few months I became aware of a dumpling  shop that had also opened in the mall. Seeing as I hadn't been in for a few skewers of late I decided to go try this stand where I'd read they're making dumplings by hand. The couple behind this can speak English making it a little easier to order from their 20+ selections ranging from seafood, lamb, pork, and beef. All meats are then broken down on menu by what they're mixed with. I've stuck with the pork for now and tried them with leeks, green onion and cabbage. They're made to a specific style which is boiled. Some have mentioned that they stay a little bit watery and while I do agree I think its pretty easy to just drain that out. I'd say as far as value ($7/15) these are a damn good snack when smothered in a mixture of soy sauce/vinegar and also the red chile oil they provide on the counter. I'll always love dumplings.

Pork and Leek Dumplings from Qing Xiang Yuan Dumpling in The Richland Food Court Mall

Richland Center
2002 S Wentworth Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

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