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Dec 24, 2010 03:17 PM

Chinese Food In Boston. What's different than elsewhere in the US

Growing up in Brookline, around the corner from Golden Temple, I lived on Cantonese style Chinese food. Since moving out of the area I've missed the lobster sauce, egg rolls and other dishes that are unique to the Boston area.

I'd love to find some recipes for dishes prepared "Boston style", since FedEx deliveries from Golden Temple do get expensive. Does anyone know what other Chinese dishes are prepared differently in Boston than else \where in the country, and where on the web I can get some of these local recipes. Thanks


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  1. Where are you located now?

    I didn't think lobster sauce and eggrolls were unique to (or any different in) Boston, as they are readily available where I came from (MI).

    The only Boston-specific differences I can think of, are in the names - dumplings being called 'Peking Ravioli' and the General being named Gau...

    6 Replies
    1. re: Prav

      I agree. I never thought of Boston Chinese as terroir!

      1. re: Prav

        Actually, the lobster sauce is different in Boston than where I'm from, at least (Long Island). I grew up with a white sauce with egg in it. In Boston, it's brown with meat, or it used to be when I ate meat.

        1. re: Maxinella

          absolutely Wash DC they serve the velvet egg sauce and have no idea about the wonderful brown gravy with minced guess is that Boston restaurants cook mostly mandarin dishes. I was introduced to the brown sauce version in San Francisco when I ordered Cantonese lobster. I fell in love with that sauce. Cant get it down here and I have tried over 50 restaurants.

        2. re: Prav

          I thought olobster sauce was peculiar to boston? egg rolls definitely are not.

          1. re: Prav

            Prav, I know I have a few years on you..:) Peking Ravioli and Gen gau's chicken were introduced to the US in the mid 60s..and Joyce Chen helped popularize them in Boston; but David Keh is generally regarded as the driving force behind these "other" Chinese cuisines besides Cantonese.


            1. re: Prav

              In some parts of the US (such as CA.), the American name for Peking Ravioli is "potstickers." I've heard that Joyce Chen invented the term "Peking Ravioli" to give English speakers an idea of what they were in for.

            2. for recipes, try The CHinese Kitchen by Eileen Lo (don't know whether this is available online or not) whom the NYT called the "Cantonese Julia CHild". If you want to get a bit more adventurous, here's a great little book

              1. Having traveled the country, I can say with some experience that the Americanized versions of Chinese food differ only slightly from region to region. One thing that this region misses is what's usually called "Almond Boneless Chicken," which is breaded breast deep fried, sliced and served with a brown sauce. I've seen it in from the rural South to the northern Midwest. There is also a common version of so-called Lemon Chicken - deep fried with a sweet sauce - that isn't done much here. As for lobster sauce, you can find versions from nearly white to dark brown across the country.

                I walked into a carry out place near my mother's house in Florida, asked where they were from - Fuzhou - and when I asked if they had anything from home was told "They don't like that here."

                6 Replies
                1. re: lergnom

                  > when I asked if they had anything from home was told "They don't like that here."

                  LOL. Did you follow that up with "how's your beef and broccoli?" :-)
                  Sadly true of a lot of surburban places here too...another good clue is not to go into a place called "yum mee chinese food" :-)

                  1. re: lergnom

                    Yes! I remember the almond/lemon chicken concoctions. They were always called 'Almond Ding'. I asked a waiter what the 'ding' meant, he quipped that it's Chinese for when the microwave was done cooking it. ;)

                    1. re: Prav

                      Good one! Ding 丁 or Ding1 means diced, or cubed.

                    2. re: lergnom

                      Lemon Chicken is big in the Upper Midwest. Springfield (Missouri) is home to Cashew Chicken. Isn't the Chow Mein Sandwich from New England and/or Boston?

                      1. re: scoopG

                        I've always thought of it as more of a fall river thing

                        1. re: jgg13

                          Chow mein sandwiches originated in Fall River and are (or used to be) available throughout Southeastern MA and RI. I know Emeril, a Fall River native, has waxed nostalgic about them on one his cooking shows (here's his recipe: ) They were a pretty common school cafeteria lunch dish once upon a time.


                    3. Was happy to hear WGBH-Daily Dish recipe for Chinese dumplings ( get the recipe at Sometimes known as "Peking Ravioli", we eat them with relish at Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown, but will try this recipe!

                      Gourmet Dumpling House
                      52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                      1. Two things that come to mind are Chicken Fingers and Beef Teriyaki. They seem to be unique to New England, or maybe just the East coast. I couldn't find them at any of the restaurants in San Francisco. I would love to find recipes for these things, but for some reason the only thing I can find is people complaining about how Chicken Fingers are different in Boston and impossible to find elsewhere...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sonus

                          The beef dishes are mostly renames of the same thing: slices of beef in a somewhat sweet, salty sauce. It used to be called steak kew and similar names but teriyaki has become more common. Remember that Chinese restaurants, especially the ones you find in strip malls across the USA, get their menus from a handful of places that produce them for this trade. That business has been going on for over 100 years.