Mango Mama was in Chicago last week during Chinese New Year. If there’s one thing Mango Mama loves, it’s a good parade. Empanada Boy and I decided to take her down to the one in Chinatown that afternoon. And what better way to prepare oneself for a parade than with a breakfast of dim sum? I briefly considered trying a few places in Chinatown before I realized the wait would be far too long to make it worthwhile. EB and I decided to stick a little closer to home with Furama in Uptown.
Furama’s upper level had been rented out by a private party, so the lower level was filled to the gills with people enjoying dim sum. But they were herding people through quickly: we put our names down on the waiting list and were seated soon after. Our table was directly inside the door in front of the hosts’ booth, a fact which we would later come to regret.
The food was fine, but not exceptionalâ€” just like most dim sum places outside of San Francisco and China itself. Chinese broccoli, spinach and shrimp dumplings, steamed barbecue pork buns, and sticky rice were among the numerous dishes delivered to our plastic-coated table. (After each set of diners leaves, bussers just peel away a layer of plastic tablecloth to reveal another clean sheet below.)
But as we sat there, people waiting in the foyer gradually started coming into the dining room to wait. A substantial crowd soon gathered near the door and started winding its way between the tables. Empanada Boy and Mango Mama were repeatedly bumped by hungry diners literally breathing down their necks. To make matters worse, the carts had to continue to squeeze through the crowds to deliver food to the various tables in our area. The manager feebly tried to tell the crowd that the room was at capacity, but no one seemed to think he was talking to them. Parents, children, grandparents, friends, all stood in eager anticipation directly around our table. No one left.
Half amused, half annoyed, we tried to ignore them as we finished up our meal. Then something happened that tipped the scales toward the totally absurd and ridiculous. A water pitcher had been placed on our table by a server. Another server passed by our table with a glass of water and poured the water from the glass into the pitcher, leaving the pitcher on our table without saying a word! Then, yet another server saw the pitcher on the table and came to reclaim it, pouring in another glass of water before he did so. By this time we were all laughing uncontrollably.
We took the train south to Chinatown for the parade. There were a few distinctly Chinese displays in the parade, including a couple dragons, some children from a Chinese school playing drums and some women dressed in elegant, traditional garb. There were also a few commendable high school marching bands. But a good part of the parade was taken up by politicians running in Chicago’s upcoming municipal elections. Oh, Chicago, you and your blatantly pandering politicians! At least some of them were waiving Taiwanese flags to help them blend in.
After the parade, we walked over to a wonderful outdoor Chinese mall, filled with shops selling everything from dried fish products, to housewares, to traditional herbal remedies. We stopped in at a magnificent store, which sold some of all of these things. We looked at the dried skate and fish cartilage and then bought a variety of candies. Among these were tomato and cucumber flavored chews.
Finally, unable to resist the call of the bubble tea, Empanada Boy braved the line at the wonderful Saint Anna Bakery to get himself an avocado bubble tea. For those of you who have never tried bubble tea, it’s like a milkshake or smoothie with round globes of gummy black pearl tapioca at the bottom. EB loves the avocado because the fruit’s creaminess adds extra richness to the drink. St. Anna’s version was sweetened with honey instead of sugar, making it lighter and a bit more savory that others we’ve tried.
EB and I will be back to sample more of St. Anna’s delectable-looking baked goods. But until then, have a wonderful year of the boar. Gung hei faat choiâ€” congratulations and be prosperous!
4936 N. Broadway St.
Chicago, IL 60640
Saint Anna Bakery
2158 S. Archer Ave.
Chicago, IL 60616