Hi, good evening. I’m just now recovering from a weekend of feasts in Chicago! Bobby and I arrived on Friday evening to celebrate my father-in-law’s 60th birthday while visiting our gorgeous new niece Julia for the second time (the first visit being equally delicious)! To kick off the festivities, Bobby’s brother and wife, Michael and Christie, planned an excursion to one of Chinatown’s hottest spots: Sun Wah BBQ. Oh, what heart-thumping fun!
This Cantonese establishment was buzzing with eaters of all generations and ethnicity, operating with utmost precision and efficiency. Upon entering Mike ordered two roast ducks, a must before even approaching your table so they have adequate time to crisp with perfection. One duck alone comes with an array of dishes and fixin’s, but our eyeballs darted around the menu hungrily and we ordered nearly ten other dishes before the waitress said firmly, with compassion “Stop! Trust me, I’ve been doing this since I was eight years old. It’s too much.” Even if we did leave on the verge of imploding, every bite was worth it.
Our server was just phenomenal. She had a story for every dish and was pleased that we were interested in the more obscure choices on the menu like octopus whiskers and water spinach. When I asked for a vegetable dish suggestion, she responded by pointing out which vegetables had come in fresh that morning; oh, an eater after my own heart!
Most notable was the congee, a bland rice porridge that came alive with her memory of eating congee at home. Given it’s basic ingredients, rice and water, congee is a staple in every Chinese household. Bits and pieces are tossed in for flavoring and oomph. Laura (Bobby’s step-sister) chose a bowl with pork and a century egg. (Pow! Have you tried one? Think: creamy, sulphuric, black gelatin.) Congee provides sustenance, but more surprisingly, our server’s parents and grandparents depended on the stuff for hydration. Since the body is deprived of water during sleep, congee was thought to tide the body over with liquid at night and refresh the body in the early morning. Hungry at night? Congee! Hungry in the morning? Congee!
And then the peking duck. Two crispy, juicy perfectly roasted ducks arrived on a cart. They were carved before us and the bones carted away to make a soup that would seal our feast (though few managed to even take a sip). We fashioned sandwiches of sorts with a fluffy rice pancake upon which we piled duck, pickled vegetables, raw carrots and spring onions, and a rich hoisin sauce. I am literally salivating just recalling each and every perfect bite.
Washed down with bottles of beer and tea, we left Sun Wah BBQ teetering precariously on our own two feet. The food coma we fell into was well worth it.