Find big flavor in Chicago’s Chinatown

A trip with the kids to China sounds like a bit much, right? But what if you could do it in an afternoon? Chicago Food Planet offers a three-hour walking tour of Chinatown that covers the food, history and culture of the largest Asian nation. And it’s right off the el’s Red line.

If you go

Chicago Food Planet’s Chinatown tour
Sundays and Mondays, April through November
10:30 a.m. till early afternoon
adult, children (includes food tastings)
chicagofoodplanet.com

The trip starts with the Chinese answer to brunch-dim sum-a meal that traces its roots back to the traders who traveled the Silk Road.

Kids will love the bamboo steamers of BBQ pork buns at Triple Crown, and with some urging, should also like the crispy deep-fried taro puffs. While the food spins on the lazy Susan, they’ll learn how to serve themselves from a communal plate with chopsticks, and a silent way to signal thank you.

As the tour winds through Chinatown-it covers just over a mile-there are history lessons at every turn. You’ll see the gold statues in the Buddhist Temple, visit a tea shop and stop by Ping Tom Memorial Park. Kids will be fascinated by the jars of dried animals and herbs at the medicinal supplement shop.

And then it’s back to the food. The Dried Chili Chicken at Lao Sze Chuan embodies the region’s abundant use of chili peppers -our guide called it “fried chicken on steroids.” Pair it with a generous portion of rice to cut the heat.

At Lao Beijing the specialty is Peking duck: shredded, roasted duck is wrapped in thin pancakes-like a Chinese version of the burrito-with spring onions, cucumbers and a sweet hoison sauce.

The tour ends on a sweet note, with an egg tart at a French-inspired bakery. You will not end this tour hungry.

Make sure to reward kids’ listening skills and food-trying abilities with a trip to the candy store. Aji Ichiban (you’ll pass it on the tour) is one of the biggest chain candy stores in the world and will be sure to have something every kid will love. If you’re still feeling adventuresome, try the strawberry mocchi: it’s like an Asian gummy bear.

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