Moar food for the guest

My guest, Michael Turelli, left Chicago this morning, bound for a thesis exam in Rochester.  But before he departed we gave him a send-off meal at my favorite Chinese restaurant in Chicago.   It’s a small place called Spring World, specializing in the spicy and complex food of Yunnan province.  Turelli and I went with my Chicago colleague Manyuan Long, who happens to come from the border of Yunnan and Szechuan.   That, of course, gave us a special entrée to the food, and we placed ourselves in his hands.  Here’s what he ordered (I recommend clicking on each dish to enlarge it in full gustatory glory):

Beef with rich sauce and several kinds of wild mushrooms. This dish was fantastic:

Chengdu cold rice noodles with spicy sauce, a Szechuan dish.  These were incendiary, but superb.  The sauce, heavily laden with hwa jo (Szechuan peppercorns) tasted exactly like the kind of stuff I ate on a trip to Szechuan several years ago:

Jao, pork-filled dumplings.  I liked these better than the northern Chinese version, for the wrappers were quite thick and chewy.  Yum!

Duck smoked over wood (I didn’t find out which wood) and served scallions and what I think was hoisin sauce—much like a Beijing duck, but without the pancakes:

Yunnanese crispy chicken:

Home-cured Yunan ham with leeks.  This has a taxonomic resemblance to twice-cooked pork:

The end of a perfect meal: Drs. Turelli and Long, sated.  We forgot to order vegetables. . . . .

Manyuan, having spent most of his life in China, is naturally picky about Chinese food.  In fact, Spring World is the only Chinese restaurant in Chicago where he’ll dine (the only better place is his own kitchen).  I’m not quite as picky, and usually choose among three favorite places.


  1. JBlilie
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Oh man, another must-hit spot! Looks and sounds wonderful.

  2. Rilke's Granddaughter
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    What are the other two?

  3. Hempenstein
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    Yum indeed! I’d love to compare the wood-smoked duck with the tea-smoked duck I had in San Francisco once – it was so good we put in a second order.

  4. BeamStalk
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Keep the food places coming in, I am writing these down for when I go back to Chicago this summer.

    • BeamStalk
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      Oh, and apparently I walked right by this place last November.

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    This has a taxonomic resemblance to twice-cooked pork:

    Always the evolutionary geneticist 🙂

    Now if the OUP publishes foodie books…

  6. Sajanas
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    I’ve only been to Chicago twice, but I stopped in the Chinatown twice and had the best Chinese food I’ve ever had there in a little unassuming place that looks like a cafeteria, but had a menu as thick as a phone book. After having such a good first experience, I meant to visit it again the second time, but I forgot what it looked like, so I just went into a random place, which turned out to be exactly the restaurant I was looking for.

  7. daveau
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Chinatown! Near south side, so it’s much easier to get to than Uncle John’s. Much more of the kind of interesting tourist area that you should consider visiting when in Chicago. I hate to say, but you probably won’t really want to hang around the Uncle John’s neighborhood after you’ve had your ribs.

    I don’t remember if I’ve been to this place in particular, but next time we go, this will be the one. I used to have lots of Chinese friends back in the 80’s and spent a lot of time hanging out in Chinatown. They’ve all gotten married and moved away, so now I only go when we have out of town visitors.

    • daveau
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink


      1. Who needs vegetables, anyway?

      2. A really good tropical drink menu is imperative.

      • Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        The drinks are what I remember (sort of) best about Chicago’s Chinatown.

  8. Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Looks and sounds reeeeeeeeally good.

    (The ribs and links didn’t actually look good. I take it on faith that it is, it’s just that the picture looked more like a crime scene.)

    • daveau
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      They might even make you some brown rice if you ask real nice…

      • Posted March 17, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        Well I know I’m allowed to have rice with Chinese food! Barbeque is a whole different etiquette.

        • Diane G.
          Posted March 17, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

          In fact, one seldom sees them in the same sentence. 😀

      • NMcC
        Posted March 18, 2011 at 3:07 am | Permalink

        I was thinking that he mixed up the photos of the food with those of Steve Gschmeissner’s amazing SEM photos. That first one is definitely the head of a bed bug up reeeeeal close.

  9. Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Is that a bowl of abdominal bristle I see next to Turelli?

  10. Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I heartily agree that the Sichuan style of jao tze is the best.

    One of my all-time favorite dishes is mapo doufu. I frequently make it, myself — though not in an authentic Sichuan style, I’m sure; mine generally isn’t as hot, and I like to add eggplant and edamame. The black rice I often serve it over probably isn’t exactly authentic, either.

    There’s a family-owned Sichuan restaurant in Tempe that’s one of my favorites. I’m sure it’s not not up to Spring World’s standards, but the family are immigrants who’re good people, good cooks, and passionate about giving their (now-grown) kids a running start at the American dream. Last I heard, they’re doing quite well.

    As much as I love Sichuan food, I’d have to put Hong Kong dim sum ahead of it.

    There’re a few dim sum restaurants in the Phoenix area, though none in Tempe. All are good places to eat, though none are up to the standards of the places in San Francisco we used to go to when I was growing up (and occasionally revisit). Toronto has some outstanding dim sum as well.



  11. bigjohn756
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Hey! Peppers and onions are vegetables, aren’t they? What more do you need? Don’t noodles count as vegetables, too?

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      Noodles count as vegetables in the same way as a bottle of wine counts as 5 of your five-a-day!

  12. Grania Spingies
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    My tofu is looking less and less exciting 🙁

    This is becoming one of the foodie-est sites ever, it’s heavenly 🙂

  13. Chris Slaby
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Especially delicious-looking!

  14. Posted March 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    my former house mate and one of my closest friends is from the region and introduced me to Szechuan food – you’ve included a few of my favourite dishes!

    Another province north west of there called Uyghur (Turkish background) also have some wonderful food, my favourite being their kebabs and Da Pan Ji.

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