Welcome to The Greats, a series on the restaurants around the country that define their cities. Here now, a look at one of the Great’s signature dish, bing bread from Parachute in Chicago.
Inspiration came in the form of a baked potato, the kind topped with oozing cheddar and crispy bacon. “I love scallions in baked potato flavors,” acclaimed chef Beverly Kim says when thinking back on how she developed her most iconic dish. She would come to marry the Midwestern baked potato with Chinese bing, a type of wheat-flour flatbread, add a dash of her Korean heritage, and voila — the baked potato bing bread was born.
At Parachute, Kim’s Michelin-starred Korean-American restaurant, the bing bread has acquired cult status, making it the number-one selling dish and the only menu mainstay since opening in Chicago in 2014. In fact, the bread was such a hit that despite Kim’s plan to have a rotating Asian bread program, the bing has held its place on the menu.
“We listened to the customers,” Kim explains. “It’s something that you can look forward to if you come back.”
Though the bing bread looks deceptively simple and the ingredients are easy to find, the process of making it is laborious and takes precision. Traditional bing recipes like scallion pancakes are made with unleavened dough, but Kim uses yeast to create a round, fluffy loaf stuffed with sharp white cheddar, creamy roasted potatoes, smoky Kentucky bacon, and piquant scallions. To finish, she sprinkles on sesame seeds and a soy glaze and serves it with a whipped sour cream butter.
“We have a very specific way of making it, and it takes about two months to train someone on it and have them be able to do it by themselves,” Kim says. “The speed and timing have to be right.”
Dedicated fans can try their own hand at it with the help of the Bing Bread Cookbook, released last year. Though Kim has shared adapted versions of her original recipe with Bon Appétit and Eater, this 32-page book is dedicated to this one recipe and details the exact method she uses in her restaurant to get it right. The timing was fortuitous, as Kim worked on the final product with food writer Kevin Pang when the pandemic hit, giving them an outlet for stress, she says.
Kim has also used the bing bread’s popularity to raise awareness about issues she cares about. After the recent horrific mass shooting in Atlanta, she decided to raise funds for the Chicago chapter of organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice through a “Bing Bread for Justice” weekend sale.
“I think it’s very important to acknowledge the injustice toward the Asian American communities and toward our society as a whole,” Kim says. “Every person of color needs to come together about this.”
Over the years, Parachute has received consecutive Michelin stars and both Kim and co-chef and spouse Johnny Clark are James Beard Award-winning chefs. Parachute’s seasonal menus highlight Kim’s inventive and personal approach to Korean-American cuisine, with dishes such as vegan mapo tofu, hwe dup bop (a sashimi style rice bowl), and their knockout Korean fried chicken. In 2019, the duo opened the critically acclaimed Wherewithall, a prix-fixe restaurant.
The bing bread, though, continues to reign supreme. “It’s unique but it’s approachable,” Kim says. She’s noticed that regardless of someone’s cultural heritage, “Everyone says there’s one aspect of that dish that reminds them of something. It’s a way of people getting together and finding commonalities.”