Recently I had the incredible pleasure of doing a close-to-home foodie day, which included this amazing Boston Chinatown food tour from Bites of Boston. I found out about this tour through Instagram, and upon further research I realized it would be the absolute easiest tour for me to do, since I take the bus into South Station when I go to Boston. Turns out, you can literally see the Chinatown arch from the entrance to the bus station, if you exit and look straight down Beach St. It’s a very short walk to the meeting point of the tour.
This 3 hour “Chinatown Culture & Cuisine Tour” is an absolutely fascinating look into Boston’s Chinese heritage and how the Chinatown area came to be (including why exactly there are so many Chinese restaurants!). As promised, the tour delivered traditional Chinese cuisine paired with historically Americanized versions, along with modern fusion takes and everything in between.
First stop was Taiwan Cafe on Oxford St. I love food tours because this is not a place that I would have normally thought to pop into, but I was so glad we did! It was lovely and the food was delicious. We sampled soup dumplings (the traditional Chinese offering) and General Gao’s chicken (the Americanized dish). While I have eaten General Gao’s so much in my lifetime, just about 100% of that was in a takeout form, so it was lovely to experience it in a freshly prepared, never-touched-styrofoam restaurant setting, which was the whole point of this tasting. I should do that more often! The big circular table for 12 had a lazy susan in the middle that allowed all of us to serve ourselves from the dishes that came spinning around. Only chopsticks here! The soup dumplings were pretty much the most difficult thing to transfer and eat that I’ve experienced in my whole life, but I enjoyed the challenge.
Walking through Chinatown to the next location, we saw many restaurants and sights that I couldn’t help taking photos of everything.It was such an interesting blend of Chinese influence tucked right into the edge of the modern Boston financial district, with skyscrapers looming all around.
Double Chin HK Cafe
We arrived at the next stop, Double Chin HK Cafe, which was more like 2 stops in one since the adjacent Bao Bao Bakery is from the same owners but equally enticing. The genius of Double Chin is that they indicate Instagram-worthy menu items with a little camera icon on the menu–what incredible marketing! Why more places don’t do this, I will never know. We sampled the Double Chinwhich described as “Scallion Pancake, Char Siu (roast bbq pork), cucumber, house slaw, parsley & honey Hoisin sauce.” I freaking love scallion pancake, so to eat a sandwich made from it was genius. We also sampled the Spam & Taro fries, served with Sriracha aioli and kewpie mayo. Spam?? This reflects the sisters’ American and not always strictly Chinese upbringing. Very creative menu!
Our next stop was just to a lovely little side street, barely more than a small parking lot, but it was a micro public area with a lovely Chinese mural on the adjacent building.
Here our guide passed out a treat she picked up from Ho Yuen Bakery right before the tour started: a lovely traditional rice pudding which many Chinese kids would remember from childhood as a simple treat their grandmothers may have made for them. It was almost gelatinous, and tasted reminiscent of the rice cereal I fed my babies as their first solid food at about 5 months, except with more sugar. (Theirs was gross, by the way) Still, it was a simple homey sweet treat and I loved learning about its roots as a comfort food (below, left).
Stopping by the Rose Kennedy Greenway, we sat along the pathway, and also sampled a traditional sesame wife cake which was also lovely and surprisingly filling (above, right).
Moving on to the next stop, the China Pearl! This was such an amazing discovery for me, as I had no idea such a fabulous place existed in Boston (I should have known!) I really enjoyed every minute and every bite at this amazing dim sum restaurant.
The China Pearl is a big, flamboyant Chinese restaurant that aims to impress! We sampled tea, and 4 items of dim sum including veggie spring roll, shrimp dumpling, bbq pork steam bun, and another thing which I can’t remember now. All of it was incredible! I loved seeing the carts buzzing around and realizing you could order off of any of them. Such a great restaurant experience. We also had a great pot of tea here.
Our next stop was not far at all: just downstairs! We walked down, exited the door, and went right in the next door to Shojo Boston, a a very small restaurant and bar downstairs from China Pearl. With an endless stream of kung fu movies on the tv, and hand painted murals of the events of the past year, this bar certainly has its own personality. I loved finishing up the tour with a “cold tea for two” which is a throwback to the days of an old (slightly illegal) after-hours Chinatown tradition where they would disguise pots of beer as tea. In this case, its definitely not tea but oolong-infused vodka. It was the perfect end to such a fun Chinatown tour.
Definitely hit up Alyssa and her incredible Chinatown tour! I am so glad I took the time. If you’re in New Hampshire like me, it’s such an easy day to take the Boston Express bus right into South Station and it’s a super quick walk to Chinatown from the bus station. Literally nothing to it!!!