Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dumplings 101 in Chinatown

In my freshman year at Bentley I had to take an Intercultural Communication class of some sort before I was allowed to study abroad. One of our assignments was to go to Chinatown, by ourselves - walk around, make observations and for extra credit, go out to eat for dim sum. Luckily, I had 4 friends in the class and as you can guess, none of us went to Chinatown by ourselves.

Seven years later I don't need a homework assignment to get me to go to Chinatown! Probably a year ago a work friend suggested we go for a girls dinner night at this highly recommended dumpling restaurant. I love dumplings, so this restaurant was such a fun find. You go here for dumplings - and while I've seen other people in the restaurant order other things, I'm not sure why they aren't ordering the dumplings! When this group of old work friends was getting together again last week, we ended up at this dumpling restaurant again - so what follows here is my guide to the Gourmet Dumpling House in Boston's Chinatown! You don't just have to believe me either - Yelp fans love it too!

Gourmet Dumpling House
52 Beach Street, Boston's Chinatown Neighborhood

There's just one warning here - it's very busy and crowded. This is not somewhere to go for a relaxing, quiet meal but I'm not sure anywhere in Chinatown would fit that bill. They move people through pretty quickly, so our group didn't have to wait long either times we went. The menu is also a bit overwhelming. A piece of advice - maybe look at their menu online ahead of time to get an idea of what looks intriguing. An even bigger piece of advice, order dumplings, and lots of 'em!

Pork and Leeks Steamed Dumplings ($6.25)
There's a section of the menu entitled, "Dumplings/Buns All Kinds." Start there. The portions are pretty good and the best way to eat here is family style - order a few different things to share with your group so that everyone can taste a few different things. They offer the option of steamed or pan fried dumplings - I usually opt for the steamed and pretend they're a little healthier. This time around we ordered the Pork and Leeks Steamed Dumplings (at the left), and there were so many of them. The leeks added a great flavor! This is probably the most typical of their dumplings. They also have something called "mini juicy dumplings" which have, you guessed it, a juicy sauce inside with the other fillings, so when you bite into it, it's a little messy and you will probably end up slurping it up. This past time I observed an Asian couple that seemed to really know what they were doing, and with their juicy dumplings they used a small chinese spoon/ladle to eat them, rather than the chopsticks.
Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings ($5.95)
The other dumplings we ordered were the Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings, also delicious and accommodated our vegetarian friends. They were served in a more traditional steaming pan and had a sort of glass noodle and green filling that tasted a bit like scallions (which might've contributed to the green color). Also delicious, and also a large portion. They bring plenty of dipping sauces to the table as well - with fresh green scallions floating on top of a sort of soy sauce base. My friend also ordered the Steamed Vegetable Buns, which are much bigger and bit more doughy, which is why they come 2 to an order, rather than 8 or 10, like the other dumplings.
Sauteed Chinese Watercress with Garlic ($9.95)
In addition to the dumplings we ordered two of the dishes we remembered ordering, and more importantly, loving, last time. In the Vegetables section of the menu the very first item on the menu is Sauteed Chinese Watercress with Garlic, and that's just what you should order. It comes highly recommended on Yelp too. It's not a vegetable I know or have ever seen on other menus, but it has a unique flavor and lots of garlic. One of my dining companions had this to say - "I woke up in the middle of the night because the garlic was overcoming my taste buds, and I'm afraid I reek of it today still. Delicious dinner but it should come with a warning label." Well, there's your warning. This isn't a first date meal.
Scallion Pancakes ($4.25)
Last, but not least, we made our way to the Appetizer section of the menu. The Scallion Pancakes were something we also ordered last time and really enjoyed. I've tried ordering this appetizer at other Asian restaurants with no luck so this was the first order we put in after our drinks. They're flaky, not too oily, crunchy, and have scallions throughout! Our vegetarian friends also thought to try out the Crispy Fried Tofu which came last after we had already eaten so much food that we almost forgot we had ordered that final dish. I was too full to try, but I noticed it was a really soft tofu, almost looked like melted cheese when the other girls broke into a piece of the little bite-size fried tofu. For those looking for heartier meals they have other menu sections for things like noodle soups, rice dishes, entrees (with lots of seafood options). You can also be realllly adventurous here if you want - with things like Dry Fungus Soup and Braised Sea Cucumbers on the menu, the sky's the limit here! I'm always up for a trip here, so let me know if you need a dumpling dining buddy or if you have other Chinatown hidden gems you like!

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