Ji Hye and I tried to taste as much as possible during my 28 hour visit to Chicago. A lot has surfaced since my last trip about 4 years ago, or maybe I just have a really good personal restaurant locator (Ji Hye).
The first place we visited was in a suburb called Westmont, about an hour train ride from the city. Katy’s dumplings is a hole in a wall- well, a strip mall- and run by a chef from Hong Kong. The menu was small, and what I’d expect to get in a good neighborhood shop in Taipei (I’ve never been to mainland China). They hand pull their noodles daily, sometimes twice a day. The chef makes everything in-house and prides himself on the authenticity and making everything from scratch- even the chili oil. This solidifies my theory that the untapped, good Asian restaurants with almost no advertisement (or English for that matter) will 1. be in a strip mall in suburban America 2. have really good authentic food from an immigrant chef that speaks minimal English, and really doesn’t care what you think because he works his ASS off 20 hours a day.
Dan Dan Mien: Just enough spices to get your nose sniffling. The veggies are traditional to Chinese soups (no foreign impostors) and are fresh and crunchy, not cooked in with the soup, but laid on top after the broth.
Hand pulled noodles, baby spinach, bai cai (napa cabbage), scallions, ground pork, spicy housemade chili oil, szechuan pepper(?)
Niu Rou Mien (Beef Noodle Soup)
The traditional Beef Ramen that I’ve had all over Taipei. The beef is chopstick tender with just enough fat to melt in your mouth. The broth was spectacular and not overly salty. The cilantro and crunchiness of the pickled mustard greens is a great texture contrast to the chewy noodles. Although there are not a lot of ingredients (vs. Japanese ramen), there are many complex flavors that work well together. Note: there is not a layer of grease floating on top from the beef like I’ve seen in… my own failed attempt. I wish there were more pieces of beef.
I love these potstickers. They are RIGHT ON what I’ve had at night markets in Taipei. Thick skin, but not too thick like a bun, a lot of filling, and the taste is light. When you bite into them, a little bit of juice comes out (perfect), and you have enough chewy skin to meat filling ratio. The meat filling is pork with scallions (or leeks?)
A few snapshots of Katy’s Dumplings:
The sign says “please ask for service”
view of kitchen from ordering counter
kitchen equipped with burners for large woks, a giant noodle boiling pot, and a rail for straining
picture menu for the Americans instead of listing ingredients. Chinese names below. Pretty limited menu which is more common than the Asian-American restaurant with a menu bigger than a dictionary (unabridged)