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Thursday, March 29, 2012

[Cincinnati chili] Unique cheesy chili from Cincinnati

In August 2009,
we drove down to Cincinnati, Ohio for summer vacation.

It was the summer after we went to NY for three consecutive years,
to see the US Open.
Flushing Meadow is great. But, the only thing is that everything, including hotel, food, tickets, parking and even toll fee, was really too expensive.
So we decided to try a Masters 1000 series instead. That was how we chose Cincinnati Masters.
The official name of the tournament is Western & Southern Open and it is a part of US Open series.
As I wrote a few times, we are all tennis fanatic. And my clock and calendar goes around the tournament schedule of the ATP.

We were surprised indeed by the tourist attraction spread over two states, Kentucky and Ohio.
The hotels were so much affordable.

(My favorite player~ Mr. Roger Federer)
Considering the scale of the prestigeous status of the tournament that the total prize money reaches $5.6 millions, the size of the main stadium of Lindner Family Tennis Center is rather modest. It means that with a relatively cheap tickets, you are pretty close to the court and see the players in action very much in detail. And you can see the players' practice session really up close.
I actually loved it. I'd like to go back to the tournament again in a near future.

That being said, another attraction of the city was its chili.
Have you heard of Cincinnati chili?

Cincinnati chili is a typical chili con carne, chili stew with meat, but developed in its regional style through the chili parlors and hotdog stand run by Macedonian immigrants, since 1920s.

The unique twist of Cincinnati chili is that it is commonly served over spaghetti or a hot dog, and topped with ample cheddar cheese.
Seriously, I've never seen such a generous amount of cheddar cheese on anything else.
You can barely see some hints of chili that lies underneath.

Isn't it already so appealing? :)
As a chili-loving family, we were already excited to the prospect of tasting a unique spin on chili.
Well, maybe not the entire family, but Mr. D and I were obviously the two people who had talked about it more than 5 times~
We even studied the basics of Cincinnati chili, which are called "way(s)".

(@ Skyline restaurant, one of the biggest Cincinnati chili restaurant chain)

The ways are as follows:
Bowl: chili in a bowl
 Two-way: chili and spaghetti
 Three-way: chili, spaghetti, and cheese
 Four-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, and onions
 Five-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, onions, and beans

Kids had Three-ways and Mr. D and a I had five-way chili.

Kids loved the chili served on top of spaghetti or a hot dog.

So, when we get back home, I decdied to make chili in Cincinnati style.
and that become one of my family's favorite!

Oh the major difference is that I always make chili in already-five-way chili :), with cheese & onion and beans~
Oh I don't let grated cheese overpower my chili either.

It's really easy to make, as most stews are. :)

Here goes the recipe for the "Cincinnati chili"
And I'll share the golden ratio of chili seasoning.

2 lb lean ground beef
(or 1lb lean ground beef + 1 lb stew beef)
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
*1 + 1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
(I used only 2 teaspoon since my kids cannot eat anything spicy)
1/2 teaspoon chili flake
1 teaspoon salt
1+1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 tomato can (28oz)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinetar
1/2 cup water
1 red kidney bean can (14 oz)
Cheddar cheese, grated
Olive oil
How to make

1. In a small bowl, mix allspice, coriander , cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper chili flake, salt and unsweetened cocoa.

2. Drain the kidney beans and rinse.

3. Over the medium-high heat, cook diced onion until it gets transparent.

4. Add ground beef and cook.

5. Add minced garlic and cayenne pepper.

6. Add water, chili mix, canned diced tomato, Worcestershire sauce, and cider vinegar.

7. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low to simmer at least for an hour. I usually let it simmer for about an hour. Be careful not to make it too chunky.
Add some water if the chili got too thick.

8. Add rinsed kidney beans 20 minutes before it is done.

9. Meanwhile grate cheddar cheese and cook spaghetti.
When chili is ready,
pour chili over spaghetti and top with grated cheddar cheese.

If you can get oyster cracker which is served with chili when  you order chili in any Cincinnati chili restaurant, please serve with your chili to make it more authentic. :)
Oyster cracker is an usual saline cracker, but in hexagonal shape. There is no oyster in an oyster cracker!

If you like chili, I'm sure you will love Cincinnati style chili. :)

Cincinnati Chili


  1. I love chili too! Although i've never had the cincinnati chili before, it looks so delicious. When I had my first chili in the states, it was bit of a shock since it was completely different from what I have expected. I guess I was expecting something with lots of red pepper in it, like chlily sauce or salsa. It's sad that there aren't many restaurants that serve chili here in Korea, but now that you've shared your recipe, I think i'll try this sometime.

    As for tennis, I was so excited to see the first picture! I've recently become a tennis fan and federer fanatic, and knowing you from the previous blog, an avid tennis fan, I was hoping to see some updates about Roger's winning streak(although broken by Andy Roddick) these days.

    I'm planning a 2-week-trip to London and Paris over summer break(i'm a sophomore in university) and definitely visiting Wimbledon! Of course, probably the grounds... the center court tickets for the men's final are ridiculously expensive! I really hope RF wins Wimbledon this least one more before he retires :( Do you think he has a shot?

    Thanks again for sharing your recipe!

    1. Hi Julia,
      chili is very easy to make once you have all the ingredients, just like any other stew.

      Fed's loss at Miami was shocking, but well, that happens. :( Hopefully he will be back strong with his mojo in Madrid.

      Two weeks are not enough, but remember that you will have another chance to go back. I learned that it was better to allocate more time to a couple of cities instead of giving a glance to many cities. Hope you have a wonderful trip!