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Dolphin Bay Restaurant Review

Emmalie Vanderpool

The Greater Boston Area is a hub of unique and traditional restaurants from a variety of cultures. Dolphin Bay, an unassuming Taiwanese restaurant in Allston, harbors an array of deliciously authentic specialties. The decor is ocean-themed, with a large wooden boat protruding from the rear of the restaurant and serving as a countertop for the host and workers. Painted with tropical murals of palm trees, seagulls, and dolphins, the restaurant provides a strange but amusing atmosphere in the wintertime. Visiting Dolphin Bay is an experience, and well worth it for the food. Alongside its cuisine, the restaurant offers an array of specialty teas, slushes, juices, and flavored milk. During our visit, my family favored the strawberry slush drink and the Thai iced tea, which presented two different–but equally refreshing–flavors. 

I coerced my family into trying out the restaurant with me, so I could order all of the dishes that interested me. For appetizers, we got spicy wontons, small fried chicken pieces tossed in a spice mix, and takoyaki. The wontons were similar to dumplings but with a softer wrapper; I loved their silky texture and meat-filled center, paired with the hot oil drizzled overtop. The fried chicken pieces are the restaurant’s specialty and can be ordered as mild, medium or hot. They were perfectly crispy, and came in a fairly large and well-seasoned portion. Takoyaki consists of a small piece of squid surrounded by a fried dough ball, which is then drizzled with sauces and bonito flakes. They are incredible, despite sounding a little bizarre. One round down, and we still wanted to try a lot more!

After the appetizers, we chose a few meals to split. We ordered sesame noodles, a pork belly rice plate, beef noodle soup, and stir fried udon noodles with chicken. The noodle and rice dishes had a perfect balance of flavors which were gentle and light, not overpowering. Each plate had a portion of meat, starch, and veggies, working together in fresh and healthy combinations. The sesame noodles had a delicious peanut and sesame sauce coating, paired with some bok choy and chunks of ground pork. I prefer Udon noodles, which are thicker, but this sauce made a difference. It was subtle and contained carrots, onions, and more bok choy with greens. The pork belly was moist, flavorful, and oily; perfect for over the rice, and for pairing with the gravy and vegetables on the side (we chose to mix them with everything else). Collectively, our favorite dish was the beef noodle soup, which was rich and savory. The noodles, strips of beef, and greens were plentiful and cooked perfectly, absorbing the broth and taking on some of its flavor. The notes of beef were deep and complex, making the soup fairly addicting and therefore hard to share. We all fought for our turn with the large bowl.

For dessert, we ordered shaved ice with mango, condensed milk, and red bean to split. Toppings are optional, and there are a variety of options to choose from in order to suit any palette. The dessert was enormous–between the six of us we only finished half–but it was very refreshing. Red bean and condensed milk are both common dessert items in Asian cuisine, and we loved sampling the new flavor profiles and textures they presented. Mango added a burst of fresh sweetness, which elevated the experience even further. We left incredibly full and incredibly happy– I would recommend Dolphin Bay to anyone who is trying to expand their palette while seeking restaurants in the Greater Boston area. 

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Harvest Sweet Potato Recipe

Emmalie Vanderpool

My favorite meals in fall and winter are colorful, warm dishes that brighten my mood and heat me up from the inside-out. Hearty, meatless meals can sometimes be difficult to think up, but my Harvest Sweet Potato recipe is vegan, simple, and delicious during the colder months. Fill up your baked sweet potato with the vegan filling for a side dish, or scoop out the soft inside of the potato and add beans, a crumbled veggie burger, and/or chopped up chicken-apple sausage to make it a bowl! 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash a sweet potato with water and pat dry. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and place the sweet potato on the tinfoil, using a knife to cut a few small slits into the potato. Bake the sweet potato for 45-60 minutes depending on its size. While the potato is cooking, chop up half of an apple, a cup of mushrooms, and a quarter of a white onion. When there are 10-15 minutes of baking time left, begin sauteeing the fruit and veggie mixture. Place the apple and onion in the pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the mushroom. Season the mixture with a teaspoon of thyme, a pinch of garlic powder, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon and a squirt of lemon juice. Taste for seasoning preference. Remove the sweet potato from the oven and cut open, using a fork to remove the soft sweet potato from the peel. Add a pat of butter to the potato and top with a few scoops of filling. Use sriracha or hot sauce for spice and enjoy! 

Photo from Delish: “Perfect Baked Sweet Potato”

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Anti-Social Dining

William Batchelor

I never used to like eating alone in public. It made me self-conscious and uncomfortable. I was embarrassed that I didn’t have anyone to eat with. In many ways, dining out felt as though it was more about social interaction than the food itself. I think my fear came from those cliché high school movies where the new student sits alone at lunch and all the mean kids make fun of him. 

In my freshman year at Boston College, I never sat down to a meal at Mac if I didn’t have someone to sit with. Instead, I would walk timidly through the dining hall, grab food, and make my way back to Upper campus so I could eat in my dorm room. My food was usually cold by the time I returned, but it was better than the thought of sitting by myself.

This phobia lasted many years, but all it took was one meal to change my outlook on dining solo. I was in Hong Kong with my mum at the time, and she left me to explore the city while she caught up with friends. That afternoon, I found myself wandering the streets of Hong Kong’s trendy fashion district, Causeway Bay. After indulging in some retail therapy, I began to crave a hearty meal to warm me up on that chilly winter afternoon. I initially thought about grabbing something from a café, but then decided to go look for some traditional Cantonese dim sum. 

As I walked along the grungy streets of Causeway Bay, I noticed a sizable crowd gathering outside what appeared to be a Japanese restaurant. I followed suit; if people were waiting outside in the cold, the food was bound to be good. 

When I got to the front of the line, the hostess asked, “How many?” 

I sheepishly replied, “Just for one.” 

She nodded, and gestured for me to follow her as she walked through the restaurant. Since the signage was all in Japanese, I had no idea what I was about to eat. But as soon as I walked in, the aroma of pork-steeped ramen broth was unmistakable. To my surprise, however, there were no tables inside the space… only personal booths.  

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had stumbled into one of Japan’s most famous ramen chains, Ichiran. Renowned for its rich tonkotsu pork broth and thin handmaid noodles, Ichiran serves some of the best ramen you can find outside of Japan. Rather than having guests gather at tables together, diners sit at individual “flavour concentration booths” to fully appreciate the quality of the soup. 

There is very little human interaction once you get to your seat. I was isolated from all other customers, thanks to the dividers placed on either side of me. In front of my chair, a little window covered by a bamboo screen concealed the inside of the kitchen. At Ichiran, there is no menu. Instead, waiting for me at my booth was an order sheet that let me curate my perfect bowl of ramen. Firm noodles, extra spicy, with sliced pork, ultra rich broth and a soft boiled egg. I pressed the “service” button and seconds later, the bamboo screen was lifted, and two hands appeared. They retrieved my written order, and then the bamboo partition was lowered. 

Just minutes later, the screen rose once more, revealing my steaming bowl of ramen. The broth was opaque and cloudy with the noodles neatly arranged on top. A dollop of fiery red chilli paste sat in the middle of the bowl as mounds of scallions, sliced pork shoulder, and a perfectly runny boiled egg completed the dish. 

I grabbed my chopsticks and soup-spoon and began mixing the dish together, fusing the brightly-colored chilli paste into the pale broth. Then I began to build the perfect bite: a bit of broth, a little pork, a few noodles, and a chunk of egg. It was pure magic. The soup was silky with just the right amount of spice. The noodles were perfectly al dente with the right amount of chew. The pork was tender and the egg was perfectly cooked. I had never tasted ramen like this before. It was the perfect bowl. 

Before I knew it, I had eaten all the noodles and barely made a dent in the broth. Luckily, at Ichiran you can order more of anything as you go. I filled out another order sheet, requesting more noodles, and a second egg. I pressed the “service” button and had a new bowl of noodles and an egg at my table in a matter of seconds. 

Prior to dining at Ichiran, I had never seen the bottom of a ramen bowl. I could never finish my servings because they were always too rich or filling. But the ramen there is perfectly balanced, and for the first time, I reached the bowl’s ceramic floor. I even debated ordering another round, but decided on the green tea ice cream for dessert instead.

Throughout my entire dining experience at Ichiran, I never felt uncomfortable or embarrassed. The anti-social dining concept took away the shame I felt from eating alone. With self-pity removed, I was able to focus my attention entirely toward what I was eating, as opposed to wondering what other people were thinking of me. By eliminating all social interaction, there were no distractions when I sat down for my meal. The only focus was the bowl in front of me. I tasted flavours I wouldn’t normally notice, and appreciated the quality of the ingredients. Throughout the meal I refrained from using my phone, just so I could sit with my thoughts and reflect. 

Although the social aspect of dining out is still what appeals to me most, my experience at Ichiran allowed me to embrace the idea of eating out alone. I realized I shouldn’t be concerned with how other people regard me in this setting. I now have no issue sitting alone on campus and eating lunch. I almost think of it as a meditative experience. I put in my headphones, listen to music, and enjoy my meal. It helps me clear my mind and reset for the day ahead. 

Photo by Eater NY

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The Best Breakfast Sandwich Recipe

Emmalie Vanderpool

It’s easy to get stuck in a routine with breakfast foods and grow tired of simple eggs, oatmeal, or yogurt. This breakfast sandwich recipe is balanced enough to satisfy a craving for sweet or savory, and can be tweaked to fit individual flavor preferences. Switch out different meats, veggies, hot sauces, and jellies to guarantee a different and delicious sandwich every time.

(Makes one breakfast sandwich)

Put a frying pan on medium heat and cook two slices of bacon to your desired crispness. While it’s cooking, chop up ⅕ of a green pepper and ¼ of a small white onion into small cubes. Once the bacon is done, let rest on a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up excess oil. After removing most–but not all–of the grease from the pan, throw in the veggies and cook on medium heat for around five minutes. Next, turn down the heat to medium-low and crack two eggs over the pan, letting them cook for a few seconds as they are. Add shredded cheese and begin stirring the mixture until the eggs are scrambled and cooked through, but still appear to have a little moisture left (this takes about one minute). Remove the frying pan from the burner and season the eggs with a pinch of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Toast a bagel and spread jam on one side, hot sauce on the other (my favorite combination is raspberry jam with peach and vidalia onion flavored hot sauce). Construct your final product by layering the bacon and egg mixture on top, and sandwiching it between both ends of the toasted bagel. Then enjoy your delicious breakfast!

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24 Hours in Portland, Maine

Chloe McAllaster

As the leaves turn to brown, crimson, and orange, misty mornings and crisp days call for bundling up in chunky sweaters and sipping steamy mugs of hot cider. With the advent of autumn comes a craving for warm comfort food that nourishes the body and soul. If you plan on heading out of the city to experience the best of New England’s foliage and fall festivities, I recommend a quick trip to Portland, Maine. A coastal hub that embodies quintessential New England—from historic lighthouses to nautical-themed seaside restaurants—Portland has come to be known for its bustling food scene. On a recent overnight trip to Maine’s largest city, a quick survey of Yelp revealed dozens of top-rated restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. With only 24 hours to explore the city’s winding cobblestone streets, I certainly did not leave every stone unturned in Portland. I can, however, confidently attest that nowhere else does fall comfort food like this town.

Breakfast: Local 188

A visit to Local 188 feels like weekend brunch at your neighbor’s house—if your neighbor is a talented Spanish chef. The atmosphere is undeniably cozy: a couch and chairs welcome those waiting to be seated, while tables lining the walls are made extra-comfortable with colorful throw pillows. Coffee is served in mismatched mugs just like those you would find in your grandma’s kitchen, and live plants line the windows. The weekend brunch offerings feature something for everyone; classic eggs with homefries, seasonal scrambles, breakfast paella, huevos rancheros, and breakfast sandwiches, to name just a few. Though the menu consists of staple breakfast foods, Local 188 crafts them to perfection and pays attention to presentation. You may feel as though you could be in your own living room, and yet the food is far from amateur.

Lunch: The Highroller Lobster Co

No trip to Maine would be complete without indulging in some lobster. At first glance, Highroller looks like a retro diner: a red and white color palette, a simple menu in a tidy font, and a striped awning all combine to create a timeless look. Graffiti on the back patio and trendy neon signs add a contemporary twist. As a lobster novice, I opted for the lobster roll and shared “Lobby Pops”—think corn dog, but with lobster—as an appetizer. I wouldn’t call this meal a win for my health, but it certainly did not disappoint my taste buds. 

Afternoon Snack: Tandem Coffee + Bakery

Don’t let the line down the block for Tandem Coffee on Congress Street intimidate you—it’s well worth the wait. A converted old-school gas station, Tandem is the mid-century modern coffeehouse of my dreams. The minimalist design allows the coffee and baked goods to truly shine, while providing ample indoor and outdoor space to catch up with friends. The best part of Tandem, however, has to be the friendly staff who go above and beyond to serve their customers. Even amidst the Sunday morning rush, the server asked the family behind me which colored plate their three-year-old daughter would like for her muffin. My heart melted. 

Dinner: East Ender

By the time dinner rolled around, I had caught on to a common theme among Portland’s restaurants. They all possess an intimate ambience that makes you want to curl up in a blanket right in the middle of the main course. This quaint and warm environment certainly extends to East Ender, a new American restaurant that capitalizes on Portland’s historic charm. The two-floor restaurant features unimposing wooden tables and tufted booths, with antique curios and photos adorning the walls. A dark wooden bar and scattered chandeliers complete the homey look. I opted for the classic fish and chips as my main course, and I would do so again in a heartbeat.

Dessert: Bar of Chocolate

I wrapped up my whirlwind Portland food tour at a dessert bar tucked away on Wharf Street. Unlike the famed Chocolate Bar of BC (as my friends and I accidentally referred to it), Bar of Chocolate serves up specialty martinis, ports, and dessert wines alongside sweet indulgences like cheesecake and chocolate torte. The dark mood lighting and soft music made for the perfect setting to end the trip and fill up on some truly decadent drinks and desserts. I might even venture to say that we saved the best spot for last.

Photo: Visit Portland

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Camping the Right Way

Emmalie Vanderpool

Fall in New Hampshire is a magical thing. It transforms the landscape to its greatest form as the leaves transition from green to gold, burgundy, and sunset orange. This year, my roommates and I planned a fall break trip to Lake Winnipesaukee, to stay at our friend’s cozy lakeside vacation home located in central New Hampshire. As we left Boston and its sea of industrial skyscrapers, the highway roads became flanked with tall trees and the wilderness marked our passage from the hustle and bustle of the city to the relaxed nature of lake living. The scenery was picturesque; the sun glinted off of the lake, the leaves rustled and fell around us, and the sight of stars and sounds of nature were almost startling after living next to the city for so long. We celebrated our first night with a dinner of cheese, crackers, and wine, and afterward roasted marshmallows in the wood-burning fireplace. Storybooks were never so close to coming to life as they were during our weekend away. 

Planning many little excursions, we got to shop in homegrown country stores, give ourselves heart attacks in a haunted corn maze, trek up a mountain to capture the perfect viewpoint of the lake, and end the trip with a group dinner at a restaurant called Camp. Nestled beside a candy store and small flowing waterfall, Camp fit right into the New Hampshire ambiance. 

The restaurant was themed to reflect classic summer camp, right down to the menu items and comfort foods, and it did not disappoint. We came equipped for the log cabin vibe and dressed mostly in oversized warm sweaters, ready to cover up the inevitable food babies that we were determined to leave with. Inside, the restaurant was reminiscent of a lodge. There were long wooden tables with names carved into them, red gingham curtains, wood-panelled walls, and a few stuffed animal heads which we avoided eye contact with as we ate our meal. It was warm, rustic, and loud with chattering patrons and happy diners. 

This was a celebratory event, bringing our girls’ trip to an end, so we splurged on drinks and appetizers. Our eyes lit up upon spotting the cheese-and-gravy fries, and the “Camp Crackers,” which consisted of a sliced cheesy flatbread with garlic and scallions–simple choices, but covered in enough cheese to satisfy everyone. The fries were served in a hot skillet; they were extra crispy but softened upon contact with the thick chicken gravy and melted cheese sauce. The crackers were salty and gooey, topped with a mixture of gorgonzola and cheddar cheese which worked quite well when dipped in the remnants of the fries’ gravy. The most memorable themed drinks consisted of a Honey Bourbon cocktail, a Boozy Hot Chocolate, and a Dirty Shirley Temple… all of which equally satisfied our childhood nostalgia and recently-turned-21 needs. After we collectively drained these, our waiter surprised us with homemade biscuits and whipped butter for the table. Of course we had no other option but to consume those as well. It was truly a glorious feast–and our main dishes were yet to arrive. 

The ordering process took some time due to the multitude of delicious choices; the menu was so perfectly crafted that it felt cruel to make us decide. Highlights from our final selection included the lobster mac and cheese, tempura chicken BBQ sandwich, veggie burger with curry aioli and pineapple salsa, bourbon-marinated steak tips, clam chowder, and falafel on naan bread. As our meals came out from the oven, we realized what a daunting task we laid out for ourselves; our stomachs whimpered in protest but we forged on. Uttering groans of dissent (which we silenced with more mouthfuls of food),we stuffed ourselves to fullest capacity on the piping hot and seemingly home-cooked meals. Everything was buttery, savory, and balanced, but certainly indulgent. My clam chowder was fresh and homemade, creamy and well-seasoned but not too thick. The biscuits were the perfect companion to the soup, allowing me to soak up every drop of the New England specialty. However, our night of eating still wasn’t complete. In celebration of our friend’s 22nd birthday, we received a complimentary order of Fireside S’mores. Held in a hot pan, the dessert was more of a dip, with a melted chocolate layer on the bottom and a toasted marshmallow layer on top. Strips of graham crackers were used to scoop it up. Full enough to burst, we knew by the end that we had made the very most of our camping trip. 

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Elevating the Ramen Experience

Emmalie Vanderpool

As assignment due dates grow closer and Uber prices continue to rise, I find myself less and less inclined to trek to the grocery store and continue to buy fresh foods. With the arrival of the autumnal season, cozy, warm meals become so enticing–as long as I don’t have to spend the time and money to consume them. Repeatedly, and embarrassingly, I find myself making ramen packets because of how cheap, easy, and delicious they are. As a beginner, I gravitated towards the chicken-flavored, Maruchan-brand ramen. This version is classic, an oily soup with a light poultry taste. I soon grew tired of the monotony of what was basically a salted noodle soup, though, and began to test out the spicier ramen packets in the international food aisle. 

As a rule of thumb, the best ramen packets are generally those with Asian lettering, as they often have a deeper flavor profile with more authentic soup bases and spice mixes. I am personally fond of the flavors which require you to drink two glasses of milk while eating them, so as not to burn your taste buds off. Most grocery chains carry the Shin Ramyun brand, which includes both a soup base and multiple spice packets to create a fuller, more complex broth for the ramen noodles. Liquid flavoring works to thicken the soup and gives it a strong beef taste, which complements the chewy ramen noodles by coating them in umami-goodness while they cook. The dry flavor packet is composed of spices and dehydrated green onion, mushroom, and carrot, which round out the soup with subtleties to cut through the beef. Vegetables add both flavor and a slight texture to each mouthful of noodles. The level of spice produced by using the entirety of the liquid packet and the spice packet together is not for the faint of heart, but it is easy to adjust to a less volcanic burst of flavor by portioning the packets as desired and not adding them all at once. 

Elevating the ramen experience by purchasing higher quality brands is one step towards ramen transcendence, but there are many other little tricks to crafting a dinner-worthy ramen noodle soup. The polished, Kylie Jenner-route would be to add butter, garlic powder, and a scrambled egg–but we can do better than that. I believe garlic is an herb passed down by cosmic entities to grace the food of humanity, so I’ll give Kylie that one. Rather than adding butter and a scrambled egg, though, I would suggest a form of egg that has a runny yolk, perhaps soft-boiled or  sunny-side-up. The yolk of the egg thickens the soup, makes it creamier, and flavors the ramen noodles, while the white of the egg adds texture and protein so that you can pretend it is a nutritious meal. Other protein sources like tofu or pork are traditionally put in Japanese ramen, and work very well with noodles and broth. Adding soup-friendly fresh or frozen veggies like mushrooms, white onions, green onions, or jalapenos can add more of a bite to your soup and make it a well-balanced meal (though, is health what ramen is really about?). Flavoring the soup with bonus spices like hot chili oil or chili flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder, cumin, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sriracha, or even a dash of maple syrup can help cater to individual flavor preference. 

I am a firm believer in eliminating ramen shame, and I encourage anyone looking for a quick, hot, and inexpensive meal during the colder months to explore this college-friendly food. Little adjustments can make ramen more substantial, and the soup is a great base for adding in meat, veggies, and spices, according to taste. To my fellow Maruchan-beginners: you can do better!

Photo: New York Times, Slow Cooker Chicken Ramen with Bok Choy and Miso

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Find Yourself in SoWa Market for its Final Month of the Year

Chloe McAllaster

People flock to food. Whether it’s Thai street cuisine or free Costco samples, food exists at the nexus of human interaction, culture, and pure survival instinct. This explains why people of all ages, nationalities, and creeds seek out organized eating experiences, from food festivals to Thanksgiving reunions.

For sixteen seasons, the SoWa Open Market has been fostering community largely through food. Its name is a tribute to the market’s location, south of Washington Street in Boston. Artisan beverages, fresh produce, and homemade baked goods are sold on the streets around SoWa’s vintage market, local shops, and art studios every Sunday from May to October. If you were to attend every week over that period, you would still find something new to sample on your last day. This is the core of what makes open markets like SoWa so refreshing and appealing: they’re dynamic. Many people tout the importance of shopping local for sustainability reasons, or to support the local economy. While these are undoubtedly important considerations, the real appeal of SoWa is in its sense of community and energy. 

It’s impossible to leave SoWa having only had a conversation with the people you came with, as the entire concept all but requires you to involve yourself with other visitors and vendors. The long, communal tables, reminiscent of cafeteria lunches, encourage visitors to bond over the ritual of eating, one of the few universal human experiences. Furthermore, there’s something special about purchasing food from the same person who harvested, cooked, or artfully arranged it in a booth. SoWa exudes this kind of pride from all angles. Not only are the vendors proud of the products they are offering, but the shoppers are proud to be a part of it—to be participating in their community.  While at first glance you may be attracted to SoWa for its warm apple cider donuts, homemade pesto, or craft beer garden, the reason you’ll return for the next sixteen years is because it is participatory in a way many restaurants and groceries can only attempt. In essence, go for the delicious food, but stay for the community.

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Get ‘Em Some Dim Sum

Emmalie Vanderpool

Boston’s Chinatown has always held a level of mystique for me. Growing up around Boston, I passed its landmark white-and-green arches many times, and wondered about the cultural icon that seemed so unique among the other tall, industrial buildings. Peering through my car window over the years, I noted the brightly colored signs, flapping flags, and swaying paper lanterns that gave the area a vibrancy begging to be explored. As I grew older and began to expand my food palate, Asian food became my cuisinal addiction. While I had eaten the Americanized Chinese food classics at a local restaurant where my family regularly ordered takeout, I had never explored authentic Asian spices and sauces. They were so different from the Western and European flavors that I was used to. 

Deep within the Youtube food world, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a genre of videos depicting Youtube travel vloggers who visited different countries and indulged in their cultural cuisine. I virtually devoured foods that I never could have conceived of–Japanese takoyaki, Korean tteokbokki, Thai mango sticky rice, and many other combinations and flavors that were incredibly foreign to me. One of my favorite eating experiences to watch was Chinese dim sum, a meal composed of many small plates of varying items–the Chinese version of Spanish tapas. My favorite Youtubers would order stacks of steaming bamboo boxes, full of buns, dumplings, sticky rice, chicken feet, bao, and hundreds of other variations of traditional Chinese cuisine. Because there were only a few small items per plate, each table was able to try 10-15 different dishes. This style of eating was very very enticing to me. 

Knowing that I had built up dim sum to a Michelin-star level of foodie heaven, I was committed to visiting a high-quality dim sum restaurant to ensure that the meal lived up to my high expectations. Researching dim sum in the Boston area, I found that the Winsor Dim Sum Cafe in Chinatown kept popping up as the “Best Rated.” My family and boyfriend were planning on visiting, so I thought that would be the best opportunity to plan an excursion to Winsor and order as many different things as possible. Without really giving them a choice, I told everyone our dinner destination and immediately began to plan everything that I was going to order by stalking the online menu. Modern technology has really fueled my addiction. 

My family and my boyfriend, Dan, came to visit on a Saturday, so we were forced to take the T rather than try our luck parking in Boston. The 45-minute ride tested us all, and by the time we got off at Boylston station we were fairly hangry and ready to indulge ourselves in a big meal. Even though we rushed through Chinatown in our haste to eat, I still noticed the stark differences between the shops there versus the rest of Boston. Most of the storefronts were tiny restaurants, and brightly colored advertisements paired with scrumptious scents beckoned us to enter every doorway. Compared to the reserved cityscape of the financial district–to which I had grown accustomed while working over the summer–Chinatown was not cold and professional, but brilliantly colored and compact. The area was bustling, so we meandered our way through the busy area with the help of trusty Google maps and quickly found our way to the yellow awning that declared the entrance to Winsor Dim Sum Cafe. The restaurant was unassuming from the outside, but I would soon be privy to the savory wonderland waiting within. 

Our party of six crowded into the small, packed restaurant, which housed only a few tables. Even though it was four o’clock, an in-between time for meals, we had to wait a few minutes before being seated at a round table equipped with a pot of tea, vinegar, soy sauce, hot chili oil, and salt and pepper. Our waitress was an angry old Chinese woman who refused to get us cups of water and who yelled at customers who sat down at dirty tables or tried to put their order in before the servers were ready. While my mother was flabbergasted, I took it in stride as part of the experience. 

Due to my rigorous research before we had arrived, I already knew what to order. Given some small white sheets with the numbered menu items, I checked off the boxes next to steamed pork buns, egg custard buns, steamed beef rice noodles, stuffed sticky rice in a lotus leaf, shrimp and beef sui mai, pan fried pork dumplings, scallion pancakes, crab rangoon, steamed crab dumplings, and fried sesame balls. Starting off our dim sum experience, this was a welcome mix of familiar and novel dishes.

 The food was all made to order, and dishes came out as soon as they were prepared, allowing for a distributed eating experience as the plates arrived at different times. Our table became a flurry of grabbing hands, pouring sauces, and food-claiming yells as each item was divided and dispersed among the group. As a lover of heat and spice, I doused all of my food items in hot chili oil while most of the others went for the classic soy sauce. Personally, I enjoyed everything apart from the stuffed sticky rice in the lotus leaf. The rice could hardly be removed from its wrapper because of how sticky and glutinous it had become, and the inner filling was flavored with licorice root which, for me, was off-putting and seemed out of place (though other members of my party enjoyed it).  

The dumplings, scallion pancakes, and crab rangoons were all items that I had tried iterations of before, but never had they tasted this flavorful. The dumplings had a thin wrapping which was steamed perfectly to make a chewy outer layer, hiding a juicy and umami-rich filling of either pork, beef, or shrimp. The dough concealed boiling hot centers from which we all risked being burned, as we impatiently sampled from the plate. Both the scallion pancake and the crab rangoons were perfectly crisp but not oil-heavy, resulting in a light and crunchy coating of fried, doughy texture with a soft interior. 

These dishes can sometimes be bland, or rely more on their fried nature than on the seasonings and flavors within, but that was not the case for the Winsor-prepared versions. A family favorite for us was the steamed pork bun, something that was new for all of us. The bun itself was unique, a pillowy hybrid of a dumpling wrapper and Wonderbread. After splitting the bun in half, a deep burgundy filling of barbecued pork chunks and tangy sauce oozed from within the steamed morsel. The balance of the soft bun with the smaller chunks of flavored pork inside the sweet-and-savory sauce made for the perfect bite, elevated by the bite of the hot chili oil which cut through the sweetness for an additional layer of flavor. 

Unbeknownst to us, the custard bun and fried sesame balls were more on the sweet side and could be considered dessert items. The egg custard within the bun was deeply yellow and slightly congealed, not runny but creamy and lightly sweetened. The fried sesame balls had a crisp outer layer and were made with rice flour, creating a chewy mochi-like texture on the inside that was slightly melted when fresh. The interior of the sesame balls had a red bean filling made by boiling beans and mashing them into a paste which was then sweetened with sugar. While “dessert beans” might seem bizarre compared to our Western conception of food, the flavor was reminiscent of sweet potato filling which is often prepared in the US both as a dessert and a savory delicacy. Saving these sweeter options for last, our taste buds were presented with a variety of flavor profiles. 

When we got the bill we were alarmed at how cheap it was–all of the plates totaled to be less than $50 worth of food! We left with full pockets and happy stomachs, filled to the brim with a delicious (and affordable) meal. Though I had declared dim sum to be at the highest of cuisinal standards before even trying it, I still left feeling satisfied and excited to return and try more unique dishes. Next time I’ll just have to find someone brave enough to order chicken feet with me.

Header image: Top Row (from left): shrimp and beef sui mai, crab dumpling, fried sesame ball; Bottom Row: egg custard bun, cup of tea

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Chaotic Cooking

Olivia Mosholt

Everything was at stake.

I looked down at my phone, then back up. Over and over I played the steps through my head. I had one chance, and I couldn’t mess this up. Otherwise, $14 were down the drain, and two dinners. To a college student on a budget, this was gold. 

Besides the monetary value, there was something more. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to bite into that first ball of tender, slightly crisp goodness, and feel it melt in my mouth. The way that they do when you buy them at a restaurant for $30, and you savor every bite of the four pieces on the plate. My roommates had to cook their dinners, too, and I had a meeting to attend. I knew it was time to start the scallops.

I got the sauce ready ahead of time. I chopped up a few garlic cloves, poured a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and squeezed a full lemon into a bowl (then proceeded to dip my hand in it to pick out the seeds). Of course I had a cut on my finger where the lemon juice stung–but warriors don’t cry. I put the mixture aside, and continued with my mission. 

I washed the scallops and patted them dry. I peeled off the little white flaps on their sides. Then, I said goodbye to the squishy, white, saltwater clams before me, and turned up the heat. To the pan, I added a couple more tablespoons of olive oil. I waited, and placed a droplet of water on its surface. The oil jumped a bit, so I put the scallops on. It was crowded, much like Disney World during spring break. In a panic, I picked up a scallop with my finger seconds after it hit the pan, and moved it to a plate. There was more room, but it was still too crowded. I followed this pattern two more times, all in a matter of seconds. 

“Salt and pepper!” The part of my mind responsible for remembering the steps was panicked. 

I almost forgot. Frantically, I ground up the two simple spices which make all the difference. Phew. I caught my breath while the scallops sizzled on the pan; the three I temporarily saved from the flame were watching idly by. They wouldn’t be safe for very long.

How was I supposed to know when scallops were ready to flip? Different Internet sources said anywhere from one to four minutes, or when the scallops didn’t stick to the pan. I waited until the bottoms were a light golden brown. Using a spatula, I poked at the creatures a few times, testing their mobility. I finally felt one move smoothly across the pan. I didn’t watch the clock, but trusted my instincts. I flipped them all. Waiting another several minutes, I finished cooking the batch and moved them to a deep plate. I poured some more oil on the pan, and added the remaining three squishy whites.

This round, I didn’t waste any time. I ground salt and pepper like it was my duty. I was getting nervous; it wasn’t over. I still had the lemon garlic sauce. I was to remove the scallops, and pour my mixture over the flame while scraping up any remaining pieces in the pan. Then I was to add a quarter-cup of vegetable broth (I wasn’t going to use white wine; I’m a student and that’s a highly valued commodity), then let the mixture simmer. 

I looked down. The three remaining scallops on the pan were nearly ready. It was time. Suddenly my ears were ringing.

“You should always turn the fan on while cooking! Open the window! Shake a towel under the alarm!”  My roommate was yelling.

This would happen to me. 

Little did my roommate know there was no way in hell I was going to abandon my scallops in attempt to make the fire alarm turn off. I had already come so far.

“One second!” I shouted back.

I removed the remaining scallops from the pan, opened the window, poured in my concoction, and turned the fan on. Still, there was beeping chaos. I added the vegetable broth and moved the dial to simmer. Then, grabbing the dirty blue dish towel next to me, I ran to the alarm, and started waving my hand around. After what felt like an hour–in reality it was actually fifteen seconds–the alarm stopped. I darted back to my pan.

I was ready for this process to be over. I turned off the flame and combined the scallops with the pan’s contents. I tossed them around so they could soak up the garlicy, lemony, oily goodness. I placed the farrow and sauteed spinach (which I’d been simultaneously preparing) in a bowl, topping them with the scallops and lemon sauce so that the hulled wheat and veggies could soak up the flavor as well. I pierced my fork into a scallop. 

The scallops may have been evil for the trouble they put me through, but at that moment I didn’t care. I didn’t care that I was late for my meeting, or that my roommates were annoyed with me. A tired smile took over my face; it was delicious. I even had my roommate (a fellow foodie) try a bite. She didn’t mind the alarm after that. 

“Wow, this is better than scallops I’ve had in restaurants where you get three for thirty bucks.” 
Then I started beaming, because I didn’t have just three restaurant-level scallops. I had eleven. I planned to separate them into two meals, only putting five on my plate for dinner. Instead, I ate seven scallops, and after my meeting (for which I ran late) I came home and ate the remaining four. I couldn’t get them out of my mind. Slightly crispy on the outside, and tender, buttery goodness on the inside. I was rich.