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Richland Center Food Court- Snack Planet, Et al

Richland Center Food Court- Snack Planet, Et al
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  • Post #31 - April 23rd, 2014, 2:32 pm
    Post #31 - April 23rd, 2014, 2:32 pm Post #31 - April 23rd, 2014, 2:32 pm
    It's called Lao Pi, and it's excellent. Cooked over live charcoal, clearly visible from the counter, this is by far the best Chinese style kebabs--called shaokao in general--that I've had here in the States.

    I've been a few times already, and the lamb is tops, chicken wings are good but were once overdone, the mantou is excellent and unique (different from how I had it in China, but improved), chili peppers, garlic cloves, all kissed with charcoal. I regularly made whole meals of these during my summers in China, and have happily done so here.

    Language barrier might be a problem occasionally--I've had one person who did speak English and one who didn't--but thankfully Kevin Pang wrote about this place in the Trib not long ago: https://twitter.com/pang/status/451743072175411201

    A few pics below:

    Lamb kebabs, loaded with cumin
    Image


    Chicken wings, loaded with cumin
    Image

    Chili peppers, loaded with chili sauce:
    Image

    Mantou, loaded with cumin:
    Image
  • Post #32 - April 23rd, 2014, 2:38 pm
    Post #32 - April 23rd, 2014, 2:38 pm Post #32 - April 23rd, 2014, 2:38 pm
    They have an english menu now.
  • Post #33 - October 10th, 2014, 12:26 pm
    Post #33 - October 10th, 2014, 12:26 pm Post #33 - October 10th, 2014, 12:26 pm
    Is Richland Center worth taking a drive from the NW Side of the city at lunchtime to eat there? I enjoy the food court at Super H-Mart in Niles, the teeny dining area in Joong Boo, some of the offerings at Mitsuwa, and especially like the cafe inside Tensuke Market in Elk Grove.
  • Post #34 - October 11th, 2014, 8:46 am
    Post #34 - October 11th, 2014, 8:46 am Post #34 - October 11th, 2014, 8:46 am
    Snack Planet is good in its own right and worth a meal, and there's a skewer place and new dumpling place a couple spaces down that looks promising but I've yet to try. Other than that, it's pretty bleak down there.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #35 - October 12th, 2014, 9:58 am
    Post #35 - October 12th, 2014, 9:58 am Post #35 - October 12th, 2014, 9:58 am
    Jazzfood wrote:Snack Planet is good in its own right and worth a meal, and there's a skewer place and new dumpling place a couple spaces down that looks promising but I've yet to try. Other than that, it's pretty bleak down there.


    Despite the depressing circuses, I'd definitely say the skewers at Lao Pi are destination worthy. I've sampled my way through the menu and though they are all essentially seasoned the same way with a cumin/chile/garlic sprinkle, the meats in particular sing with a chargrilled smokiness that make them totally addictive and one of the best things I've eaten this year. I was a pretty big fan of the lamb skewers at Homestyle Taste, but these guys are more succulent and well seasoned. Order many of the lamb, maybe throw in a kidney if you're up to it, definitely the chicken wings (a sleeper) and the beef short ribs. The buns are unique and make good filler and I typically get the on-the-mild-side chiles for some roughage. And yes, Snack Planet also has many intriguing offerings to round out a meal.
  • Post #36 - October 12th, 2014, 10:10 am
    Post #36 - October 12th, 2014, 10:10 am Post #36 - October 12th, 2014, 10:10 am
    Jefe wrote:And yes, Snack Planet also has many intriguing offerings to round out a meal.


    Image

    Here's a pic of a few said offerings at SP. Those crawfish (on special) were super fun– they gave us vinyl gloves to wear so we could really go to town! Quite spicy, though probably not bayou-fresh. I remember the pig ears were okay, a little chewier than my favorite version over at another northern Chinese food stall at RichWELL Market up the street (which I've been remiss to post on).
  • Post #37 - October 16th, 2014, 9:55 am
    Post #37 - October 16th, 2014, 9:55 am Post #37 - October 16th, 2014, 9:55 am
    The dumplings at the new dumpling shop are good and cheap. 5.50 for something like 14 dumplings. The dumplings are super juicy but not anything like XLB. I was super satisfied.

    Lao Pi is still the shit. Last night the grill cook was smoking a cigarette while cooking my chicken wings which no doubt improved the flavor. People would pay big bucks for tobacco smoked chicken wings at allinea, you can have 2 of these wings at Lao Pi for 1.50.

    Snack Planet was good as usual.
  • Post #38 - October 17th, 2014, 11:30 am
    Post #38 - October 17th, 2014, 11:30 am Post #38 - October 17th, 2014, 11:30 am
    dagrassroots wrote: Last night the grill cook was smoking a cigarette while cooking my chicken wings which no doubt improved the flavor.


    heck yeah! now this is the kinda thing that motivates me to give it a whirl. i'm going next week and will report back.
  • Post #39 - December 16th, 2014, 11:59 am
    Post #39 - December 16th, 2014, 11:59 am Post #39 - December 16th, 2014, 11:59 am
    I just checked out the new dumpling stall, Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings. I popped down there last week to grab a couple of lamb skewers at Lao Pi (still excellent). The dumpling stand definitely has the buzz right now and I actually felt a little sorry for Lao Pi– in the spring when the skewer stand opened the waits could be up to 30 minutes and on this afternoon I literally saw them glaring in the direction of the steady stream of customers grabbing plates of dumplings.

    Though already pretty full, I knew it my duty to grab a plate and at $5.99 for maybe 2 dozen dumplings, it would have been foolish not to. There's a pretty long list of options, I asked what the favorite was and the very gracious man taking my order pointed my way to pork and leek. Also on the menu are $1 servings of classic Northern cold appetizers, beating out my new favorite deal in Chinatown by half.

    The dumplings are made to order by hand and you can see the action in plain sight, one worker rolling them out and filling them, the other boiling them on wok station. They have a great DIY dipping sauce situation, offering bottles of different vinegars, soy, and chili oil. The wrappers were rolled thin and quite delicate. As you can see on the menu below, they offer directives to "enjoy, bite a small hole to drink the soup, then, eat the dumpling". These are not xiao long bao, but of the half moon and pinched shaped variety and not nearly as broth- filled. I can't say I've had too many dumplings in Chicago like these, the closest I've had would be the dumplings from my favorite HitW in Manhattan's Chinatown at Super Taste. I found this plate of dumplings quite subtle– the filling not too assertive but pleasantly clean tasting. One quibble would be that they were not drained 100% and residual wetness caused the bottoms of the dumplings to sog out just a bit (or maybe it was the liquid inside the dumplings).

    I really dig the ever expanding street food options down in the food court. Its gradually feeling less depressing as the stalls fill and it seems as though business is bustling. Loving the breadth of Northern snacks at bargain basement prices!

    Image
  • Post #40 - December 16th, 2014, 7:50 pm
    Post #40 - December 16th, 2014, 7:50 pm Post #40 - December 16th, 2014, 7:50 pm
    Excited by Jefe's post, I went straightaway tonight to try these out. There are some decent dumplings to be had around town, but greatness and variety are lacking. These generally made up for both. I warped right back to my student days in Beijing.

    Walked in around 5 or so, and ordered three different types--lamb with cilantro, pork with chive, and beef with onion. The lamb was pricey, eight or nine bucks, while the others were six or so bucks each order. The orders were sizable, and well-rendered. Clearly these were hand-made--when I ordered them to go, they quoted a ten- to fifteen-minute wait. I contented myself with some lamb kebabs from next door (yes, still kick-ass). They were ready in about ten, and off I went. Before leaving, I was made to try one to make sure they were good, and warned that if I wasn't careful they could burn my mouth from the liquid. They were superb fresh, and ought best to be eaten on the spot. Still, I live close, and made the short trip home, were they were still just fine.

    The skins are pretty delicate, on par with any of the best dumplings I've had, at homes or in restaurants. They taste simple, look simple, feel just right. The fillings were good. As for any subtlety, I think that comes from a lack of ginger. These rely on meat tasting like it's supposed to, and a complementary vegetable. The lamb and beef stuck out to me the most, perhaps because I'm most used to pork. I haven't had good lamb or beef dumplings since I last went to China, and these scratched the itch. Lamb and cilantro were bold, easily identified, and good. Beef was the same. Pork was good, too, and the most soup-y, though the thin skins easily tore by the time I got home. Regardless, these were homemade, cheap, and plentiful, and will no doubt be in my regular line-up. They deliver, too, apparently. Between this and Lao Pi, I'll be eating there more often.
  • Post #41 - December 16th, 2014, 8:04 pm
    Post #41 - December 16th, 2014, 8:04 pm Post #41 - December 16th, 2014, 8:04 pm
    i need to do an extended lunch hour in chinatown sooner than later
  • Post #42 - December 21st, 2014, 5:44 pm
    Post #42 - December 21st, 2014, 5:44 pm Post #42 - December 21st, 2014, 5:44 pm
    I visited the dumpling stall too a couple of months ago (but forgot to post earlier), and while I wanted to like them a lot more, I didn't. I loved the friendly proprietors, I loved the care with which they made the dumplings upon order . . . but I hated that the dumplings were boiled, and I suppose that's where my problems lie.

    I ate the dumplings there, freshly cooked (as opposed to taking them to go), but I found that so much water had seeped through the skins from the boiling that they just weren't that flavorful. Ultimately, the most prominent flavors were the dipping sauces. I'm not sure if this was an aberration this day (and I'm willing to give them another shot), but they just didn't thrill me.

    Image
    I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats. (Seinfeld)

    Twitter: brbinchicago
  • Post #43 - December 22nd, 2014, 9:26 am
    Post #43 - December 22nd, 2014, 9:26 am Post #43 - December 22nd, 2014, 9:26 am
    Call me a heretic, but I always prefer boiled dumplings to fried at the hole in the wall NYC Chinatown joints off East Broadway like Sheng Wang and Lam Zhou. I enjoy the light texture of well-made dumpling skin. But there's no excusing flavorless filling as you've described.

    I don't want to jinx anything, but it looks like I will be moving back to Chicago sometime next year. Nice to see that the regional Chinese options are expanding, because if there is anything I will miss about NYC food, it is cheap hand pulled noodles and dumplings. Oy vey, I get sad just thinking about leaving my favorite places behind (a post on them is long overdue).
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #44 - December 22nd, 2014, 12:39 pm
    Post #44 - December 22nd, 2014, 12:39 pm Post #44 - December 22nd, 2014, 12:39 pm
    Habibi wrote:Call me a heretic, but I always prefer boiled dumplings to fried at the hole in the wall NYC Chinatown joints off East Broadway like Sheng Wang and Lam Zhou. I enjoy the light texture of well-made dumpling skin. But there's no excusing flavorless filling as you've described.

    I guess my objection is really with the amount of water that seeped into the filling. I could tell it was from the boiling because I watch them being made and the the filling wasn't liquidy at all. I'll admit to having less experience with boiled dumplings though so I don't know if this is a typical issue.
    I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats. (Seinfeld)

    Twitter: brbinchicago
  • Post #45 - December 22nd, 2014, 5:47 pm
    Post #45 - December 22nd, 2014, 5:47 pm Post #45 - December 22nd, 2014, 5:47 pm
    These are shui jiao, so they're boiled. But it's possible that they're not being sealed properly, hence BR's negative experience. As the dumplings boil, the meat inside is supposed to give off juices; if those are washed out by the water, it makes the dumplings much less flavorful.

    Check out Tianjin Dumpling next time you're in Flushing; if that doesn't make you a boiled dumpling fan, nothing will.
  • Post #46 - April 28th, 2015, 1:54 pm
    Post #46 - April 28th, 2015, 1:54 pm Post #46 - April 28th, 2015, 1:54 pm
    Regarding Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings:

    This shop has at least one off-menu item of note: Beijing-style fish dumplings.

    After I learned at Katy's in Westmont that fish dumplings are the king of shui jiao, I've tried to make sure I order that filling when available. They are great at Katy's and were pretty darn good at Lao Beijing as of a few months ago. Given the focus of QXYD, I was a little surprised to see fish is not on the menu. So I asked. The owners seemed happy/surprised and said of course they had them but wondered why I would ask. LTHers basically invented the trend of unearthing secret menu items, but this place takes the challenge a step beyond. I have no idea why a place would fail to list an available filling, especially one as short-lived as fish. Who knows. Maybe it lurks on the menu only in Mandarin characters.

    Dough was rolled and filled to order, and the boiled dumplings were quite good. The dough here is extremely soft and pillowy, a little like some of the better pierogies in town. I equally enjoy the slightly more toothsome skins at Katy's and other places, which probably has more to do with pre-making and freezing the dumplings, but you must appreciate rolled and filled to order pasta of this quality. The fish filling here is different -- it's basically a mild whitefish mousse with a few chives and a pinch of salt. Very subtle and delicate. Other versions around town are a bit more rustic, with ground fish.

    As at Katy's, the fish is more expensive than other dumplings by quite a lot. Still, given the quality and number of dumplings, my $12 bucks was well spent. The owner was almost apologetic about the price, explaining that it's "all fish, no filler or veggies" and an expensive thing to make. My perception after talking with the Katy's in-law is that the premium price reflects the market as much as the ingredient costs - folks from inland China might expect to (and will) pay more for these.
  • Post #47 - April 28th, 2015, 4:04 pm
    Post #47 - April 28th, 2015, 4:04 pm Post #47 - April 28th, 2015, 4:04 pm
    I've gone to QXYD a few times and I really like them. Boiled is a very common way of doing it - steamed is the other way. Maybe the poster went at a bad time because everyone I've had has been pretty flavorful.
  • Post #48 - January 24th, 2017, 1:19 pm
    Post #48 - January 24th, 2017, 1:19 pm Post #48 - January 24th, 2017, 1:19 pm
    There is a recent(?) addition to the Richland Center Food Court: a place serving dry pot. It is to my knowledge the only such place in Chicago (please correct me if I'm wrong). You choose your ingredients with tongs from a selection of perhaps 20 meats, vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, and noodles. The stall attendant whisks them away and they are returned to you minutes later, stir-fried in a wok with a fiery and savory mala sauce.

    The cost is $10/lb, with a minimum of 1 lb per order. I have yet to try the meats, but the mushrooms, tofu, and vegetables are all delicious and fresh tasting.

    Presumably a Mandarin speaker could adjust the spice level to his or her preference. The default is nicely hot but bearable. Those seeking more spice but without the language skills to request it can always add chili oil.

    Definitely worth checking out.
  • Post #49 - February 16th, 2018, 4:37 pm
    Post #49 - February 16th, 2018, 4:37 pm Post #49 - February 16th, 2018, 4:37 pm
    Can anyone verify the operating hours of this food court? Yelp says 6 pm on weeknights, but that seems really early.
    "To get long" meant to make do, to make well of whatever we had; it was about having a long view, which was endurance, and a long heart, which was hope.
    - Fae Myenne Ng, Bone

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