Gung hei fat choy! This 2013 year of the Snake is all about steady progress and attention to detail. Focus and discipline here we come! Lots has happened since last Chinese New Year, including my move to Chicago. 2012’s Chinese New Year was spent at one of Sydney’s best hole-in-the-wall haunts – Chinese Noodle House Edward Street. It may be colder in Chicago, but the food is just as exciting, which made me want to share with you my recent trip to one of Chinatown Chicago’s most awarded establishments, Lao Sze Chuan. Part of Tony Hu’s Tony Gourmet Group, it consistently features on the Eater 38 list of Chicago’s hottest restaurants as well as being the recipient of a “Bib Gourmand” award from Michelin Guide for 2012 & 2013. Offering authentic Sichuan cuisine and judging by the crowd it never fails to live up to the hype. There is plenty for everyone and with a veg menu extending over two pages, you’re sure to find something to love.
Above, traditional spicy pickled cabbage brought as a palate cleanser is as moreish as it is hot. Below, Vegetarian egg rolls (AKA spring rolls) are crispy and fried to perfection. On the table is every condiment one could wish for, with a variety of extra sauces available upon request including Srirarcha, the obsession of many.
String beans in black bean sauce are salty with just enough crunch, while Chinese eggplant in garlic sauce is worth avoiding your significant other for (you’ll need to do this for several days, if they don’t eat it too).
Spicy tender tofu dim sum is not at all what I am expecting, an amass of silken tofu with huge scoops of chilli oil and spring onions scattered over the top, I’m sure licks of fire escape from my mouth as I reach for a glass of water. Stir-fried Chinese okra is a little slimy for my liking, but fun to experiment with. I guess that’s the beauty of the 60 something odd vegetarian dishes available, some you’ll return to have again and others will have you returning to try something else.
Lao Sze Chuan is consistently packed out. The chilli assault provided by most of the dishes will have you crying out for the only available solace, green tea and steamed rice, but believe me you won’t be able to help yourself from coming back for more.
Lao Sze Chuan
2172 S Archer Ave Chicago, IL 60616