Chicago’s Korean-Chinese Restaurants Offer Special Delights For Those In The Know

moriza / Flickr
moriza / Flickr

Chicago’s Korean-Chinese Restaurants Offer Special Delights For Those In The Know

Geopolitical population shifts can fuel some really dry lectures, but also some super delicious food.

Case in point: Korean-Chinese restaurants. This unique restaurant hybrid developed in the wake of Chinese immigration to Korea during the first half of the 20th Century. Most of those immigrants came from the country’s Shandong province, home of a treat called cha chang mien, which combines springy noodles with a thick brown meat or bean sauce.

This comforting dish became a mainstay of restaurants that catered to the Chinese population in Korea, and soon caught fire with Koreans—especially kids— as well. Today the restaurant style remains popular in Korea, even as many of the Chinese immigrants have resettled in the U.S.

Here (mainly in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago), many of those immigrants opened “Chinese” restaurants—but a special kind of Chinese restaurant if you know what to order. Amid the egg rolls and kung pao chicken, you can find nuggets like noodly cha chang mien; a spicy seafood soup called jampong and a cleaner crisp version of sweet and sour pork called tangsuyuk. If you’re in Chicago, you may also find our local Chinese-Korean specialty: Frenched chicken wing drummettes drenched in a spicy sweet sauce sometimes called gan pon.

Over the years, I’ve eaten at plenty of Korean-Chinese restaurants without ever knowing the specialties of the house. So you don’t make the same mistake, here are five ways to tell if you are eating in a Korean-Chinese restaurant:

The place will often look really old school Chinese.

There will usually be Korean writing on the menu.

You’ll probably see Korean diners at tables nearby.

Yellow turnip pickles, white onion, bean sauce and kimchi will arrive on the table.

Most people will be ordering cha chang mien/jajangmyun or jampong—often served as a combo.

And here are five places to try Korean-Chinese food in the Chicago area:

  1. Great Seas, 3254 W. Lawrence Ave
  2. Great Beijing, 6717 N. Lincoln Ave. Lincolnwood
  3. Yu’s Mandarin, 200 E Golf Rd., Schaumburg
  4. Chef Ping, 1755 Algonquin Rd., Rolling Meadows.
  5. Peking Mandarin, 3459 W Lawrence Ave.