Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pork Pastries

I'm not a fan of pork. If a friend invites me over for some pork-fueled fare, I'll happily indulge, but when given the choice I'm more likely to opt for beef, fish, or poultry. Hell, I'd even pick the one vegetarian dish on the menu if it saved me from gnawing away at a slab of pig all evening. At least those were my sentiments toward the stuff before I entered Chiu Quon, dangerously tucked just around the corner from my studio.

This Chinese pastry shop uses pork in almost everything, even cookies. My first trip to Chiu Quon was daunting, the minuscule storefront was jam-packed with Cantonese speaking patrons who knew exactly what they wanted. And then there were the little plastic containers of sweet and sour chicken feet staring me right in the face.

I quickly scanned the translucent case for anything that looked familiar. There were a few variations of nutty cookies--walnut, almond, sesame-- that were much lighter in color and crumbly in texture than the sugar-rich rounds you'd find in a standard American bakery. But this would've been taking the easy route and I was in the mood for something more adventurous (though not quite ready for the cackling images of chicken feet parading around my stomach), so I ordered up a pork sesame cookie for a whopping 60 cents. Everything was so damn cheap I was tempted to try it all, but first I had to taste this meat-filled treat.

Chiu Quon only has three tables and they were all full, so I grabbed the goods and headed home. Thank god I was eating this in solitude because I think I moaned after the first few bites. And a few bites were just about all I could take of the thing. The flavors were spectacular and I would've gone straight down to the crumbs had it not been for the cookie's extreme density. No worries though, I wrapped up the other half and had it for breakfast the next morning.

All heaviness aside, the pork sesame cookie was strangely brilliant. Once you bite through the first crispy layer, it becomes a chewy concoction bursting with toasty, honey-esque notes. Any expert pastry chef would probably cringe at this comparison, but, it reminded me of baklava. Baklava in cookie-form stuffed with meat and sesame, that is. While it's certainly more sweet than savory, the pork adds a healthy dose of salt which harmonizes quite nicely with the heavy-handed sugar.

Chiu Quon has quickly nestled itself into my list of Chicago favorites. It may have something to do with the fact that I only have to step a few feet from my apartment to get there, but for anyone off the radar, it's definitely worth the trip.

Chiu Quon Bakery
1127 W. Argyle St.
(773) 907-8888

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmmmm, a pork cookie...? Interesting... I guess I'll be adding that to my long list of things to try before I die... monkey brains are not on that list, thank you...