Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chinatown Secrets

Yesterday my friend and I enjoyed a lovely steamed chicken dish and some delightful conversation in Chinatown. I have always been fascinated by the tiered nature of this section of Chicago; there is clearly a Chinatown for locals and a Chinatown for tourists. I have managed to blur those lines when I've shopped for food items, but never while dining and certainly not remotely while trying to sneak a peak in to the bakery back rooms. If you are not a Chinese man do not ask to use the restroom. Ever. Even with my extensive Dim Sum experience, certain carts are never brought to my table; I have fantasies about the soup housed in the carts that elude me. Could they contain Bird's Nest Soup?
In the more traditional restaurants, Chinese printed menus are hung on the walls to taunt me; I don't know how to ask for something I may or may not be missing.
On one or two occasions I have asked about these items and have been met with a staunch response, "Those are not for you." Then I am left to the menus offer the dreaded century egg, sea cucumber and vegetables, or squirming drunken shrimp?
These menus and carts represent a secret food world I have not been invited into and a part of me always wishes I could visit.

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