Visiting Chinatown with Explore Chicago

This weekend, I went on a foodie photo tour of Chinatown arranged by the fine folks at Explore Chicago. The city’s Culinary Ambassador, Judith Dunbar Hines, was our guide to a few of the neighborhood’s restaurants, grocery stores and pharmacies. As we moved around Chinatown, she shared her experiences in China and talked about food traditions that came with the Chinese to this country.

Female Foo Dog

Female Fu Dog.

“There’s a lovely tradition when two people get married. They inherit a used wok from the grandparents so they have the flavor of the family which has been captured from years of use.” Judith shared with a smile. “And then the grandmother starts over with a new wok because she’s the one who knows how to season it.”

Chinatown is a visually interesting and tasty place, but it’s a completely different experience when you’re lead through the neighborhood by someone who knows and loves the culture. I walked away knowing a little more about woks, the significance of ginseng shapes and sizes, and where to buy fresh bullfrogs, but most importantly, a new-found appreciation for the stories behind the cuisine in Chinatown.

Explore Chicago brings together people who are knowledgeable and passionate about their subject with the city’s food enthusiasts. You can find out more about upcoming tours and events on their site or through Facebook. Places included on the Chinatown tour were Tony Hu’s Lao Beijing and Lao Sze Chuan kitchens, Sweet House Pharmacy and Mayflower Food. Enjoy the photos: