Chicago’s Chinatown is an adventurist’s dream, with exotically pungent grocery stores offering dried herbs and live frogs, Chinese barbecue merchants displaying rows of crisp, head-on ducks, and restaurants with windows filled with plasticized entrees. In the heart of this lies the best of them all: Hing Kee, a small sit-down offering Asian dishes, hand-pulled noodles, and soup dumplings. While the first two categories are definitely worth a trip, the real star is the soup dumpling—a small steamed purse filled with meat and seafood, surrounded by luscious broth. The made-to-order soup dumplings, or Xiao Long Bao (pronounced shyow-lohng-bow), are served eight to an order in two versions: pork-filled Shanghai Style ($6.99) and Crabmeat and Pork ($7.99).
Tiny bowls of dipping sauce arrive alongside, and proper dumpling-eating etiquette calls for carefully picking up the dumpling and letting it rest in the bowl of sauce to soak up the soy and ginger flavors. Then, gently, using a soup spoon, pick it up out of the sauce and slide the entire dumpling into your mouth. It’s not the prettiest sight, or the daintiest, but catching all of the juices from inside these delicious pockets of umami-rich, driptastic dumplings is a must. Wash it down with a big gulp of oolong tea and grab another. You’re going to have a hard time stopping yourself.
2140 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, 312-808-9538, hingkeeonline.com
This article appeared in the January 2014 issue.