Chinese noodles, fried rice, dumplings, peking duck, dim sum, spring rolls

Restaurant Review: Celebrate Asian American-Pacific Islanders Month at Uptown’s Sun Wah

Chinese noodles, fried rice, dumplings, peking duck, dim sum, spring rolls

Sun Wah BBQ has been offering the finest Hong Kong fare for over 30 years in Uptown, and is renowned for its Peking (or Beijing) Duck Dinner and other Chinese barbecue delights. 

From China to Hong Kong to Chicago 

Their journey began in Maoist China, when patriarch Eric Cheng escaped communist mainland China to reach Hong Kong, a British colony at the time. Here, he met his wife Lynda, and began an apprenticeship in the art of Chinese Barbecue. To make the most of this new lease on life, Eric made America his ultimate destination. As their website notes, arriving in New York, Eric further refined his mastery of Chinese Barbecue. On a fateful visit to Chicago, he saw that the ‘food of the emperors’ was not well represented there so he took his newly started family on one more journey.

An Uptown Family Treasure 

Eric and Lynda opened their first Sun Wah in Uptown in 1987, where they built a reputation for serving exceptional ‘food of the emperors’ for the citizens of Chicago. As they grew older, the Cheng’s children took over the business. In September 2008, three of the Cheng’s four children– Kelly, Michael, and Laura—took ownership of Sun Wah BBQ to lead its next phase of growth. 

One of their first decisions was to move to their current historic building in a former carriage garage, in 2009. The front kitchen crafts stir-fry entrees, pan-fried noodles, soups, and numerous seafood delights, while in the back, custom-built roasting vaults fire continuously from morning to evening to create all the Chinese Barbecue favorites. 

Their wide-ranging menu spans from Chinese Barbecue to soup noodles to traditional stir-fry. 

For example, their Roast Duck is marinated, sewn closed and barbecued to achieve a moist, flavorful cavity that permeates to its delicious exterior.

An Off-Menu Treasure 

The Beijing Duck Dinner is a multi course feast that starts with the roasted, crispy-skin, whole duck, wheeled table side to be carved in front of you. “We don’t pre-carve this somewhere else and rob you of the experience,” they say. “Table side. Always.*

The feast starts out with six freshly steamed Gwa Bao, served with pickled daikon radish, garnishes, and house-blended hoisin sauce. The second course is a Duck Fried Rice or Duck Noodle. Just let the server know at the time of ordering. Finally, the duck bones are rendered into a duck broth soup that contains wintermelon, cilantro, and eggs as the finishing course.

Other Delights 

Pei Par Duck is glazed and barbecued flat for a firmer alternate texture. Roast Pork, (Siu Yook) starts as a pig roasted whole to achieve a crackling skin and succulent meat. Char Siu is Cantonese for their honey-glazed, boneless Barbecue Pork

Wontons and Shrimp Dumplings are hand-wrapped and cooked with an option of egg noodles, mai fun, or simply in broth. Proximity to the barbecue cutting block permits adding in delicious cuts of Char-Siu, Roast Duck or Roast Pork.

Or try Congee, aka ‘Jook,’ if  ordered in Cantonese, is a rice porridge that can warm the soul. Sun Wah BBQ offers congee simple and plain or with various classic accompaniments.

Recognition from the Industry 

In 2018, Sun Wah was named one of ‘America’s Classics’ by the James Beard Foundation.  In 2021, Chicago Magazine included the restaurant’s Beijing Duck Feast in their list of iconic Chicago dishes.

Sun Wah is located at 5039 N. Broadway. They are open Monday – Wednesday, 10am- 8:30pm, and Friday – Sunday, 10am-8:30pm. They are closed on Thursday. Reservations are recommended. For information on making reservations and more, click here. 

Alison Moran-Powers and Dean’s Team Chicago