3 Little Pigs - Chicago
At Humboldt Park's 3 Little Pigs, chef Henry Cai serves up "untraditionally authentic Chinese American food." Chinese food is undeniably one of the most popular "ethnic" cuisines in the United States, and Cai wants to hit all the familiar flavor buttons while at the same time stretching the concept of "authentic" Chinese American food in interesting new directions.
For starters, you can have (somewhat predictably) Crab Rangoon -- a Chinese-American favorite -- but there are also Shrimp Chips, and, (somewhat less predictably) Crinkle Fries. Cai isn't afraid to mix up Chinese, Chinese American, and straight American.
You may have enjoyed Salt and Pepper Shrimp at any one of dozens of Chicago's Chinese restaurants; Cai, however, is the *inventor* of Salt and Pepper Chicken Sandwich, which is getting major applause. Louise Chu writes in the Chicago Tribune that "His fried chicken sandwich alone shows a mastery of many worlds. A golden, crackling, delicately spiced crust holds a tender, juicy thigh that’s further gilded with a brilliant sauce inspired by honey walnut shrimp."
Always on the lookout for new ways to serve Chinese-American food, Cai offers a build-your-own lo mein bar: you take a base of cabbage and scallions, add any one of a number of additions, then top it off with exceptionally well-made fried noodles.
Getting a great deal of praise on Instagram is Cai's Pork Cha Siu, a Cantonese take on barbecued pork, eaten with rice, or playing a leading role as an ingredient in noodle dishes and stir fries. Chu writes that "The barbecue pork rice box includes an egg sunny-side up on a bed of rice and a radiant red serving of the signature saucy char siu. In the barbecue world, there are two camps: fall off the bone or bite off the bone. The char siu falls in the first camp, though it’s pork butt, so there is no bone."
The Pork Cha Siu is also a little smokier than pork cha siu you'll find at other restaurants; Cai does a long, slow smoke to drive the smoky flavor into the pork.
As of mid 2022, 3 Little Pigs is operating as a takeout-delivery restaurant.