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One Great Dish: Snack Planet's Nanshan Chicken

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Apr 25, 2013 7:20PM

Photo credit: Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

The best way to re-acquaint oneself with Chinatown is to eat there, as I reminded myself during a leisurely Sunday stroll through Chinatown Square. The western end of the mall has always been a richness of spoils, with restaurants like Lao Sze Chuan, MingHin, BBQ King House and others dominating the dining options.

But it’s the eastern edge of the mall, along Wentworth, which merits watching. Long the forgotten stepchild of Chinatown Square, the past few years has seen a resurgence of development spurred by Tony Hu, whose growing empire of restaurants now include Lao You Ju and Lao Ma La. But it’s the improved fast dining options within the subterranean recesses of Richland Center that have impressed me the most. What’s lacking in quantity is more than mitigated by the quality of the food dishes being produced.

One of my favorites in the food court is Snack Planet, which specializes in Sichuanese cuisine, particularly shaslik, mini kebabs of meat, root vegetables, fungi and sometimes offal and organ meats. And they’re good but, until Sunday, I never sampled from Snack Planet’s non-shaslik menu. At the suggestion of Barn & Company’s Gary Wiviott I ordered their Nanshan Chicken, a delectable blend of poached chicken, peanuts, sliced bamboo shoots, scallions, cilantro and red chili oil that’s the best $3.95 you’ll spend in Chinatown. The chicken, peanuts and bamboo make for an interesting contrast in texture, while the chili oil slowly builds in heat and intensity so that your nose is running by the time you’ve completed the dish. Get this with a couple cans of soda and enjoy a lazy day in Chinatown.

Snack Planet is at 2002 S. Wentworth, B5.