This afternoon, several hounds (Giovanna, Waydell, Joan, Carolyn, Joel and I) gathered for a feed at Spring World in the Chinatown mall.
We had a load of good grub, including a Fried Bitter Melon ($6.95) and Szechuan String Bean ($6.95), but for this post Im going to focus on just one dish, a Yunan special: Lamb Stew and Fish with Sour Pickle Casserole ($11.95). This unusual entrée came bubbling to the table in a casserole pot, and it was by far the most interesting aquatic creature/land mammal combo Ive had since Catfish and Bacon Cooked in a Clay Pot, picked up by Seth and Rene from Pho 888 and eaten at Hopleaf with Cindy and others last Saturday night.
Lamb Stew and Fish with Sour Pickle Casserole contains cellophane noodles but is eaten over rice in a bowl, and this paradigm-challenging, atypical marriage of hoof and fin was just too intriguing to pass up (even though we had eaten pretty much to capacity by the time this item was suggested). In addition to very tender lamb chunks and slices of thin white fish, the broth contained a very complex flavoring of thinly sliced bamboo and yellow pickle, hefty silver-dollar thick chunks of ginger, whole peppercorns, red chili, scallions, garlic, star anise and a mother/child reunion of coriander/cilantro. But this dish was not just unusual it was truly delicious, each bite revealing new dimensions of flavoring. The star anise in particular added a licorice-y undertone that jibed well with garlic and whole coriander seeds.
A dish like this Yunan surf and turf is one of the biggest reasons I like to go eating with chowhounds (aside from the food gab). The chow is always better than good, of course, but every now and again, you get something truly spectacular that you probably would not have found/selected on your own. And becoming mesmerized by the menu is a real possibility at Spring World, where there are a truly remarkable number of dishes given the relatively small size of the restaurant. I didnt count each menu selection, but Id estimate that there are about 200 (really, no kidding) dishes at this place, and there are lots of others that seem challenging, such as Pigs Intestine and Blood Cake, Nine Story Pagoda Duck Tongue, and Julienne Jelly Fish with Scallion Paste. I would probably not get a whole order of any of these for myself, but in a group of adventuresome eaters, why the heck not get a platter to split five- or six-ways? Maybe next time.
Incidentally, the total for two hours of eating, with 20% tip, was $11.00 for each of us truly a bargain considering that each dish was really very good and one in particular outstandingly memorable.
Thanks Joan, for proposing/coordinating the event.
2109 A. S. China Place (Chinatown Mall)
Chicago, IL 60616