Devon Ave: Indian-Jewish Adventure!

Have you ever been to an ethnic market and feel a little lost in translation? Curious about ethnic ingredients and want to learn more about them? Interested in finding some great deals on fresh fruits/vegetables and exotic ingredients at reasonable prices? Well, my group is joining me as I explore Chicagoland ethnic neighborhoods each month.

This month, my tour is dedicated to Indian/Pakistani cuisine & culture located on the far north side of Chicago, on Devon Ave. But believe it or not, there is also a section of Devon highlighting European & Jewish culture as well. The second half of our tour will be focused on European (Russian & Georgian specifically) and Jewish cuisine & culture. So for this blogging adventure, create an Indian or Jewish inspired dish!

BLOGGERS: Join in the fun and share a recipe of an Indian or Jewish inspired dish for this blogging adventure!

1) Make a dish specific to your hometown, city, region, and/or country and create a blog post about it from now (the date of this post) until the midnight, November 30th. Any previous blog posts you have where you’ve created an Indian or Jewish inspired dish are happily accepted.

2) Add a link back to my blog within your blog post, Joelen’s Culinary Adventures.

3) Send an email with the following information to
– Title of the blogging adventure in subject line
– Your first name
– Your state and/or country location if outside the U.S.
– Your food blog name & link to your event entry that includes pictures

You can participate even if you don’t have a blog. Non-bloggers can email the above information (sans blog details) and I’ll include it in the round up.

But wait… there’s also a GIVEAWAY! Participate and you just might receive a giveaway item related to the blogging event. The chosen blogger for the giveaway will be contacted via email when the round up is posted to obtain mailing information. Good luck and hope you can join me in my Culinary Adventures!

Andersonville Food Tour!

Today was an especially fun day with friends. We toured a small section of Andersonville’s Clark St. where many culinary boutiques lined one of our favorite neighborhoods in the city. Here are the places we visited… and if you’re ever in the area, definitely stop in!

Tomboy Restaurant
5402 N. Clark St.
A great place for Sunday Brunch to start out our culinary adventure!
Looking for brunch recs?
We loved the Greetalian Omelet & Breakfast Burrito…
Pasticceria Natalina

5406 N. Clark St.
An Italian pastry shop filled with delicious treats.

City Olive

5408 N. Clark St.
An olive oil shop that carries some unique olive oils and olive oil products.

Bon Bon

5410 N. Clark St.
A unique chocolate boutique with amazing truffles and chocolate confections.

In Fine Spirits

5418 N. Clark St.
A great wine shop offering rare and favorite wines that are not only good but affordable.
The Brown Elephant
5404 N. Clark St.
Resale Shop

To end the tour, we also stopped in The Brown Elephant, a local resale shop. This is one of my fave places in the city for some great housewares and cookbook finds. Today, I scored a teak wood salad bowl & salad servers (to complete my set at home), 6 bamboo mini prep bowls, small olive oil cruet, 2 small glass canisters, seafood cookbook, folding card table, 4 white porcelain side bowls, and a few misc items for the hubby… all for less than $20. Woohoo!

Pilsen & It’s Vibrant Colors

Mexican culture and cuisine is evident all over the US and today, I hosted an ethnic food tour of a Chicago neighborhood that highlights Mexican culture and cuisine in an artistic way. The Pilsen neighborhood is one that is vibrant in color with the many murals that adorn the sides of buildings and the people that live and work there. The Pilsen community is located south of the UIC campus. Pilsen has served as a port of entry for many immigrant groups that have come to Chicago seeking work and a better life: Germans at the turn of the century, followed by immigrants from Ireland, Poland, Lithuania, Bohemia, and others. During the 1950s, Mexican families began to move into the neighborhood. This trend accelerated in the 1960s, when Latinos became the major ethnic group.

We started the tour at a popular restaurant, Nuevo Leon. There, we enjoyed an authentic Mexican lunch which included fresh tortilla chips & salsa:

A Nacho appetizer:

A lunch plate of a chicken tostada, steak taco,
cheese quesadilla, rice & beans:

Afterward lunch, we stopped next door at Sabino Tortilla Factory. They make fresh tortillas during the week and the public is welcome to stop by and purchase fresh tortillas, tortilla chips and even masa. Today, they had no production going on, but we were able to take some pics of the factory and the many boxes of tortillas they have ready to ship out to local stores:

To end our tour on a sweet note, we crossed the street and followed the sweet smells of BomBon Bakery. It’s a small bakery but the desserts they produce here are outstanding and worth the wait. Many of us bought some treats to enjoy… and I especially loved the trio of tres leches cakes I purchased (Kahlua, Caramel and Original):

Chinatown Treasures

It was a gorgeous day here in Chicago and perfect weather to take in the sights, sounds and tastes of Chinatown. With nearly 25 members of my group, What’s Cookin Chicago, we met up for a Chinese dim sum brunch at the popular restaurant, The Phoenix.

I’ve blogged about this particular restaurant before and dim sum in general, so instead of reiterating what’s been said & done, here are the pics of the dishes we indulged in and the sights we saw while touring the neighborhood:

Pork & Scallion dumpling

Pork Dumpling
Steamed BBQ Pork Bun

Sticky Fried Rice
Fried Curry Baby Octopus
Fried Taro Ball
Shrimp Dumpling
Shrimp Eggrolls
Pork Spareribs in Black Bean Sauce
Beef & Vegetable “Crepes”
Beef Meatball
Shimp & Cilantro Dumpling
Rice in Lotus Leaves
Pan Fried Steamed Bun
Baked BBQ Pork Bun
Fried Pork Dumpling
Chinese BBQ Ribs
Steamed Chicken Ginger Bun
Expensive Dried Shark Fins (for soups)

Corner full of TeasChicago’s Pui Tak Center

View of Chinatown (from Wentworth St)

How we all felt after the tour!

Persian Persuasion & Lebanese Love

Today I hosted an ethnic food tour for my group. This month we focused on Persian cuisine and visited a Lebanese market. I think I’ve found my new fave restaurant, Noon o Kabab. It was a fabulous lunch of Hummus, Baba Ghannouj, Kash-Ke-Bademjan, Caspian Eggplant, Joujeh Koubideh, Joujeh Kabab and Koubideh (descriptions follow).

Unfortunately my camera’s battery died shortly after taking pics of some of our appetizers, however here’s what I was able to take pictures of… (I’m definitely going back there and will try to get more pics to add here!)

Fresh Feta Cheese & Radish Plate
Blended chick peas, Tahini (sesame seed oil),
garlic and spices topped with lemon juice.

Mix of eggplant, mint and onion with Kashk (aged dried yogurt),
topped with fried onions & mint.

Baba Ghannouj
Charbroiled eggplant, tahini sauce, fresh garlic, and fresh parsley

Caspian Eggplant
Mix of sweet eggplant, tomato, onion and garlic
topped with moosir (Fine Persian Shallot Mix with yogurt).

Fresh ground beef, prepared daily with Persian seasonings
carefully put on skewers, cooked on open fire

Joujeh Kabab
Sskewers of deliciously marinated and seasoned chicken breast

Joujeh Koubideh
Skewers of marinated & seasoned ground chicken

After lunch, we walked across the street to Al-Khayameih, a Lebanese market complete with a bakery, butcher shop, countless aisles of middle eastern foodstuff and even a section dedicated to flavored tobbaccos and hookahs!

From Al-Khayameih, I purchased some sweet walnut baklava… and it was enough for me to return again (perhaps after another lunch at Noon o Kabab! I’d love to also return so I can take pictures of all the wonderful offerings the store has. It really is a great grocery find in such a diverse neighborhood of Albany Park in Chicago!

Ethiopian Eats

Today my group and I ventured into African cuisine, specifically Ethiopian. Here in Chicago we have a small population of Ethiopians who have been making their mark through numerous restaurants scattered around the city. Currently, there are at least 6 Ethiopian restaurants in Chicago.To experience Ethiopian cuisine at its finest, we had lunch at the Ethiopian Diamond restaurant. It’s a popular restaurant known for bringing out the bright and fragant flavors of the cuisine.

Dining in Ethiopia is characterized by the ritual breaking on injera and eating from the same plate, signifying the bonds of loyalty and friendship. These bonds are often demonstrated in the form of gursha – that is the placing of food in the mouth of another diner from one’s own hand. Ethiopian dishes are known by the variety of spices from which they get their exotic tastes. Watt is a stew that comes in the form of beef, lamb, chicken , fish and vegetables. These range from spice to very mild. The mildly seasoned watt is called Alicha. Vegetarian dishes are also very popular in Ethiopian cuisine, especially during the religious season of Lent. The variety of watt and alicha made of lentil, peas and other vegetables are just as popular and tasty as those with meats. — Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant

Here are pictures of the feast we enjoyed along with a trip across the street to Kukulu, an Ethiopian grocery shop specializing in Ethiopian grains, injera and coffee.

Drinks: Ethiopian Tea
This tea is fragrant and relaxing. It includes all spice, cardamom
and a cinnamon chip that are all boiled
and steeped in water to create a flavorful tea.
Appetizers: Sambusas
Thin dough shells stuffed with minced meat and/or vegetables.
We had a sampler of sambusas filled with beef, chicken,
whole lentils, spinach and potato & carrot.
Taste of Ethiopia
We shared platters like this for every four people.
Read on to learn about each item featured.Doro Wat
Chicken leg & thigh marinated in lemon juice & ginger,
cooked in a homemade spice sauce until tender.
This was served Ethiopian style with a hard boiled egg.Yemisir Watt (Spicy) & Kik Alicha (Mild)
Yemisir Watt are red lentils simmered in a spicy onion sauce.
Kik Alicha are split peas cooked in a mild sauce of onion, garlic & ginger.
Gomen, Yebeg Alicha (mild), Quosta
Gomen are chopped collard greens simmered in a mild garlic & onion sauce.
Yebeg Alicha is lamb meat booked in a mild onion, garlic, ginger & basil sauce.
Quosta are chopped spinach simmered in a mild garlic & onion sauce.Dinich Alicha & Kay Watt
Dinich Alicha are potato cubes & carrots cooked in a ginger,
garlic, & onion sauce with Ethiopian spices
Kay Watt are lean beef meat cubes cooked in a spice homemade “Diamond Sauce.”
Tikel Gomen & Dinich Alicha
Tikel Gomen is sliced cabbage & carrots cooked in a mild sauce.
Dinich Alicha are string beans, carrots and potatoes
cooked in a mild onion, garlic & ginger sauce with Ethiopian spices.
Injera is the traditional Ethiopian bread that is part of every entree. It’s a pancake like bread on which the various stew dishes are served. The traditional way of eating it is with your fingers. A bit sized piece of injera is broken off to pick up a mouth full of the chosen dish.

Destaye (My Happiness)
For dessert we indulged in these thin dough shells stuffed with dried red & white raisins, pistachios, split almonds, shredded coconut and cardamom powder…
and some French Vanilla Ice Cream
After lunch we headed across the street to Kukulu Market,
which specializes in Ethiopian products. It’s a small shop that is modestly filled with a few Ethiopian wares
and ingredients native to Ethiopian cuisine. Here’s a pic of Ethiopian coffee pots
that line the storefront window:
The owner of the shop was kind enough to provide a little talk on Teff,
a small grain used to make Injera. Here’s pic of Teff that’s sold in his store:Injera is often made from locals who bring it to the store for purchase.
Here’s a picture of shelves full of injera ready for consumers.
They even make some injera in the store too:
Ethiopian cuisine is full of flavor and its due to their use of various spices.
Here’s a pic of some spices used in cooking:Ethiopia is also made popular for the quality of coffee they produce and export. Here’s a pic of shelves in which they sell Ethiopian coffee at a fraction of the cost found in other large chains:

Wine & Cheese Tour!

In the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago, my cooking group was invited to get a special tour of the new Sam’s Wine & Spirits store. At this event we toured the new store, gourmet market, champagne bar and wine bar. We also met with Lydia, Sam’s resident cheese expert, to learn more about the various cheese available and wine pairings. Here are pictures from the event:

Vietnamese/Filipino Specialities

Arygle is a bustling neighborhood in the city of Chicago that offers an array of Vietnamese cuisine & culture. We started my Vietnamese ethnic food tour with a Vietnamese lunch at Pho 777 (a personal favorite). Here, we feasted on a family style meal including the following Vietnamese dishes:Canh Chua Ca (Hay Tom) – Choice of catfish or jumbo shrimp cooked in tamarind and lemon-leaf flavored broth

Goi Ca– Slices of cucumber, celery, shredded carrots, and mint combined with thin slices of white fish fillet and topped with a sweet & sour dressing, caramelized shallots and crushed peanuts. Ca Hong Chien Mam Toi – a whole red snapper deep fried to perfection and topped with chopped green pepper & garlic sauce, served on a bed of lettuce and sliced tomatoes Ga Xao Xa Ot– sliced chicken breast sauted in a spicy lemongrass sauce

Bo Xao Sate – Sliced beef stir fried with diced onion in a spice satay sauce

Tom Thit Ram Man – marinated tender pork & shrimps slowly braised

Cai Lan Xao Dau Hao– Chinese broccoli stir fried with crushed garlic and oyster sauce

Afterwards, we picked up some dessert at the bakery across the street called La Patisserie and went to some nearby grocery stores like Trung Viet & Viet Hoa to browse and/or buy some Southeast Asian groceries.

Here are pics of some of the asian goodies (not necessarily Vietnamese) I picked up today:

Salt & Vinegar Chips
(a fave snack imported from the Philippines)
Shrimp Flavored Chips
(another childhood snack we both love)
Mango Cream Sandwich Cookies
(another Philippine import snack)
Pad Thai Noodles & Sauce
(an new item for me to test out)
Thin Wonton Noodles
(perfect for Chinese Noodle Soups)
Soup Mixes
(these give a great depth of flavor and texture)
Fried Garlic
(which I use in soups for additional flavor)
Filipino BBQ Marinade
(which I love using with fish like salmon & tilapia!)
Fresh Chinese Broccoli
(wonderful steamed and then sauteed in garlic)
Lychee Frozen Fruit Bars
(my husband’s fave fruit dessert)

Get my boots… it’s snowing!

Today I met up with my cooking group members to get a taste of Germany! Chicago hosts an annual German event called the Christkindl Market.

Visitors from all over the world come to the Christkindlmarket Chicago annually and the numbers continue to grow every year. It is so popular and loved by all that any Chicagoan will tell you that they could not imagine the city without it. It is no longer just a German tradition – it has become a Chicago institution.The unique shopping experience, the typical German food and drinks, the diverse holiday entertainment, and a place to enjoy the city during the winter season, makes this a preferred and popular destination.

I forgot to bring my camera today but I did bring back a cute souvenir. These little boots held my hot apple cider & Gluhwein (traditional hot spiced wine) which we all drank to keep warm from the cold and snow!Some foods that our group tried included apple pancakes & potato pancakes. Everything looked delicious however the cold must have gotten to me (and everyone else!) It was a chilly 20+ degrees with the windchill and once it started snowing, quite a few people cleared out. Hopefully next year when I make my next visit, it won’t be so cold!

You Never Leave Hungry From Polish Village!

Did you know that Chicago has the largest ethnically Polish population outside the Poland capital of Warsaw?! Today I hosted my monthly Ethnic Food Tours and we headed to the “Polish Village” neighborhood for a culinary trip to Eastern European eats & treats. We started with a hearty all you can eat buffet lunch at the legendary Red Apple Restaurant. The buffet offerings were definitely plenitful with lots of Polish specialties such as stuffed cabbage, various kinds of pierogies, blintzzes, potato and apple pancakes, saurkraut, and so many sausages! Here are pics of the buffet – which in fact was so big it had to be split into 2 rooms! (Forgive the awful red glow of the buffet heat lamps…)After letting our lunch settle and a cup of coffee to help wake us up from our food coma, we took a walk to Wally’s International Market. There, we walked the aisles full of polish and eastern european ingredients and foodstuff. I love shopping at ethnic markets & grocery stores for the simple fact that the quality of food is not only great, but so are the low prices.The busiest part of the store was definitely the sausage counter. The line was ridiculously long and I’ve never seen so many sausages hanging from the ceilings and in the deli case. I wasn’t able to get a picture of the sausage counter since it was so crowded and I felt a little awkward & touristy doing so… but here are pics of a sausage case right in front of the check out lines.