Worth the Drive, Sun Wah Bar-B-Que

It's outside Oak Park, and it's outstanding Chinese barbecue

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By David Hammond

Chinese food is so much more than chop suey, a dish that has unfortunately defined the popular perception image of Chinese food for a generation of Baby Boomers.

There is no chop suey at Sun Wah Bar-B-Que (3059 N. Broadway), a relatively short drive from Oak Park – and worth it (though if I were you, I’d take the Blue or Green Lines to the Red Line to Argyle and walk 1.5 blocks).

Sun Wah specializes in Asian barbecue, and it offers a fantastic food experience.

The Beijing duck is a beautifully crisp, lushly unctuous fowl that the Cheng family prepares using traditional methods that involve, for instance, pumping air between skin and flesh to create a golden crust that delivers major taste and beautiful crunch. A few years ago, I produced a WBEZ segment that tracks the many sounds created during the preparation of this classic dish.

The whole pig makes for a stunning presentation, and Kelly Cheng (whose family owns Sun Wah) will cut the porker up into small portions tableside. As with the duck, the skin on the pig is perfectly crisped, offering the kind of textural satisfaction characteristic of much Asian cuisine. You need to order the whole pig in advance, but if you’re planning to eat with a group of 10 or more, it’s a fine celebratory dish.

Sun Wah also offers a “noodle cart.” This Hong Kong tradition enables diners to customize a bowl of egg or rice noodles with vegetables, fish or meat (all about five bucks).  If you’re so inclined, don’t be afraid to slurp.

How much do I like Sun Wah?  I was there the last two Saturday nights, and it’s quit likely I’ll be back in the next week or so (my foodie friends love this place; it’s big and noisy, and the food delicious and reasonably priced). 

I’m on record as being a huge fan of Suburban Chinese as practiced at Oak Park places like Luo’s Peking House. Do you have a favorite Chinese restaurant you’d like to tell us about? Please do.

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David Hammond from OakPark.com/Dining/Blogs  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 12:07 PM

I focused on the pig, Melissa, but the duck deserves at least equal billing. Served with soft buns, sauce and veggies, the duck is a spectacularly simple and richly satisfying dinner.

Melissa from OakPark.com/Empowered Parent Blog  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 11:40 AM

David, excellent recommendation and I love the photos. We are frequent diners at Luo's Peking and now, I look forward to a Sun Wah experience. Thanks!

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