American cuisine has always been a melting pot of different cultures and culinary techniques. For example, there’s a good chance you’ve had a taste of a little bit of everything if you’ve ever been lost in New York. Anything from authentic Korean delicacies to Greek-infused creations is in almost every corner or stall.
While purchasing dogs with the simple relish, mustard, and mayo is more common, more adventurous variants are sold throughout Chicago and beyond. The Chicago-style hot dog is rooted in a rich history, which is reflected in its unique collection of toppings over an all-beef dog. Stick around, and you’ll get more than just an ingredients list and get a taste of history as well.
The Birth of a State’s Icon
Its earliest roots came from 1893 during the World’s Columbian Exposition. It’s a fair that celebrates the arrival of Christopher Columbus, which was held in Jackson Park across 600 acres of land. Besides celebrating great explorers, it was also a great way to build awareness for Chicago as the “second city” in the US after New York.
The fair was a great culmination of sectors from commerce, technology, and entertainment worldwide. Other than a swapping of cultures, it was also a great time to introduce different kinds of food. This was where the Chicago-style hot dog would find its beginnings and continue to spread nationwide.
The Roots of the Chicago-style Hot Dog
It was supposedly developed by Austrian immigrants looking to simulate the hype over the Easter European frankfurter. Even a century later, Vienna Beef is still the main supplier of 85 percent of Chicago’s hot dog stands. What makes a Chicago-style hot dog stand out is its roots as an all-beef dog with a smorgasbord of toppings, making it a truly unique snack.
While there’s no direct document detailing the roots of its toppings, many sources point toward competition between Italian and Greek vendors. Since sales were rough during the Depression, sellers had to be savvy about making their dishes shine. To this day, Vienna Beef continues to use the original natural-casing, all-beef recipe developed by Jewish immigrants of the Chicago hot dog. This gives it its well-known and distinctive flavor profile and texture.
The Secret Ingredients to a Chicago-Style Tradition
The Toppings on a Chicago-style hot dog draw inspiration from different cultural roots. After all, the raw flavor of the all-beef Chicago-style hotdog isn’t complete without its methodical assortment of toppings. This makes it a versatile dish where every immigrant seems to have had a hand in making.
First, a few slices of sport peppers give it a decent level of zing with a dash of relish. However, it’s also topped with dill pickles which are distinctly German. Tomatoes and onions are added as a standard of Green and Italian cuisine. Finally, a dash of celery salt and mustard is laid over a poppy-seed bun to complete the dish.
A Chicago-style hot dog is born from a wide range of cultures, with some unique traditions to boot. For example, everyone knows about the ketchup ban on Chicago hot dogs, seemingly making it a blasphemous ingredient. In all its quirkiness and colorful nature, a Chicago-style hotdog is a great reflection of American cuisine and how these dishes are rich in history and flavor.
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