Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. We’ve updated it with new recipes and take-out suggestions.
With Chicago’s restaurants closed to dine-in customers, many people have been using their time at home to refine their cooking skills. We have another dish to add to your list of aspirational quarantine meals, and it happens to be a food that originated right here in Chicago.
Whether you call them chicken lollipops, spicy Asian wings or little hotties, they inspire love and loyalty from snackers across the country. Originally called gam pong gi wings, they’re juicy chicken chunks, squished to one end of a bone, then deep fried and slathered in a sweet, spicy sauce
So, how did this Chinese-Korean dish end up evolving in our Midwestern metropolis? You can read the original story here. Below we've got a couple of recipes you can try at home and a list of local restaurants still offering take-out and delivery, just in case you need back-up in the kitchen.
A brief history of how the dish was created
Many Chinese-Korean immigrants moved to Chicago in the 1970s and ‘80s, settling in places like the Northwest Side’s Albany Park neighborhood--and re-establishing their Korean-inspired Chinese restaurants. Two of these restaurants ended up on Lawrence Avenue: Peking Mandarin and Great Sea. And it was here that the two chefs innovated the traditional Shandong-style dish. The original gam pong gi, which in Koreanized Chinese means “dry stir-fried chicken,” featured deep-fried pieces of chicken (from the whole bird or just boneless nubbins) tossed with hot chilis and garlic.
The first chef, Hsing-Tseng from Peking Mandarin, thought of innovation number one: make the dish with just chicken wings. These were considered the tastiest part of meat in China, but were then seen as cheap junk cuts in America. Then, Nai Tiao of Great Sea added two more innovations: a sweet, chili-flecked sauce and a handle to make enjoying the wings cleaner and easier. And thus, the chicken lollipops were born.
To make a successful Chicago-invented food, just mix one part traditional recipe with two parts thrifty local ingredients and a large scoop of immigrant ingenuity. But we also have a couple of recipes that only require some grocery store ingredients.
Recipes to try at home
Recommended by Curious City reporter, Monica Eng, this is the classic Chinese-Korean dish that became the basis for the Chicago innovations. Monica says that even though frying at home can be a pain, a lot of us might have a bit more time on our hands these days. So why not give it a shot?
This little invention forged in Albany Park kitchens has become such a nationwide culinary hit, even celebrity foodie chef Guy Fieri has a version you can make at home. This one includes the lollipop style innovation, if you want to give this Chicago twist a try.
Local restaurants to order out
The two restaurants where the Chicago lollipop wings were created are offering takeout and delivery during the stay-at-home order. And if you don’t live on the Northwest Side, there are a few other places you can try a gam pong gi variation.
Great Sea (open for carryout and delivery): 3253 W. Lawrence Ave.
Peking Mandarin (open for carryout and delivery): 3459 W. Lawrence Ave.
Landbirds (open for carryout only): 2532 N. California Ave.
Crisp (open for carryout and delivery): 2940 N. Broadway Ave.
Lollipop Chicken Wings (open for carryout and delivery): 1705 W Algonquin Rd., Mt. Prospect, IL
Monica Eng is a reporter for Curious City. You can follow her @MonicaEng. Mackenzie Crosson is the interim multimedia producer for Curious City. Get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.