Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The meat of it

I was eating at Joy Yee Noodle Shop the other night and had the good sense to ask the waiter what kind of beef was in the Special Korean Beef Noodle Soup. Lucky for me I asked. He paused, and then started to mimic heavy chewing with his mouth, cow-style. "Skin," he told me, amidst fake, theatrical gnawing. The soup was made with skin.

I generally steer clear of anything inordinately chewy, gamey, gristly, or out and out bleeding, and this is why. Because I could be eating skin. Or eyelids. Or, God forbid, bowels. And I think I speak for most people in this country when I say, without apology, I am thoroughly disgusted by parts. I enthusiastically draw the line at musculature. I don't want to put organs in my mouth that have been cleansing the renal system of a cow. I don't care if it's wasteful. I do not want to eat a liver.

And yet, I seek out the most authentic ethnic restaurants, which are usually the ones that serve the most parts. I love that my favorite Vietnamese place serves well-cooked pork blood, but you couldn't pay me enough to eat it. Joy Yee is that kind of place, which is probably why real Asians eat there. It's like being home.

There are four Joy Yee's throughout Chicago (I'm counting Evanston and Hyde Park as Chicago). The one in Evanston has a menu that's a spiral-bound Asian pictorial and from the looks of it, assembled at Kinko's. The pictures are so tiny, you can't really tell what anything looks like. Which is fine because the tables are so close together you can practically taste what the people sitting next to you are eating.

Normally, I wouldn't order chow mein at a place with 500 options on the menu, but Joy Yee has a way with chow mein. The sauce is addictive and actually tastes like something (I'm thinking sweet garlic, but it's way more intriguing than that), which is a feat for chow mein. I can also vouch for the red curry chicken, which is so good, I would throw it in a blender, stick an umbrella in it, and make a delicious blender drink out of it. Everything I've had there is good, abundant, and cheap.

They also have a separate drink menu that majors in bubble teas, and Joy Yee has 500 of those options as well. I'm square with the fruit bubble teas, although the black tapioca pearls remind me of eye of newt, or eye of something, and just might be, given the source. So I say hold the tapioca, hold the skin, hold the balls. Just bring me the chow mein with a strawberry smoothie and I'll be good.

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