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What to order at Mary Chung's?

Meeting a group of old friends at Mary Chung's. It's been ages since I've been there. Other than the Suan - which I will definitely be getting - what would people recommend ordering?

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Mary Chung Restaurant
460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

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  1. You're generally best off by sticking to the specials on the front of the menu. I know that's generally held to be a true statement, but it's very true at Mary Chung. My personal favorite item, not including the ubiquitous suan & dun dun noodles, are the (paraphrasing, forget exact name) fried chicken with seasoned salt & yu xiang sauce. Mary Chung is also one of the few places I don't bat an eyelash at ordering The General, they do a good job with it.

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    Mary Chung Restaurant
    460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

    1 Reply
    1. re: jgg13

      Agreed about the specials. They're pretty much all delicious. My current favorite is the chinese eggplant with shredded chicken. It was a bit spicy and came with basil. Very tasty!

    2. We love the crispy tofu with dun dun sauce, the hot stuffed eggplant, sesame beef, and Peking ravioli. The green beans are always good. I like the moo shi.

      1. I've enjoyed the scallion pancakes for an appetizer. And their salted prawns w/head (I can't remember the correct name) is good. Not as good as Peach Farm, but still good.

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        Peach Farm
        4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

        1. Suan la chow show (a pork dumpling dish, but they have a shrimp version now, too), dun dun noodles with shredded chicken, grandma's pie (usually a daily special, a scallion pancake stuffed with choy), yu-shiang pork, hung shao pig's feet.

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          3 Replies
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            I think the pigs feet is only on the weekend brunch menu

            1. re: jgg13

              the pig feet are also on the specials menu

          2. Good thoughts all. Also, pickled cabbage noodle soup with pork. And a friend who likes his Chinese food Americanized swears by their Mongolian Beef, should you need to go down that right.

            1. I have a serious fetish for the szechuan spicy chicken velvet, which is minced chicken meat and egg white blended together in hot oil, then quick fried. It's light, yet greasy. spicy, yet smooth ... can't say specifically why I'm a freak for it, but give me a suan la chow show and spicy chicken velvet any day, any time. Mmmmm.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                Went for lunch today at MC and went way outside my comfort zone with the Lion''s Head Meatball. I'm damned glad I did. The oversized (largest I've ever seen) orb featured a firm, meaty mix of ginger-infused pork with a strong sesame flavor and a hint of something sweeter (rice wine? sugar? sherry?). It came in a bowl filled with a nice, beefy flavored broth. Great lunch, especially for a place that specializes in szechuan do a great job with a traditional Shanghai dish.

                1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                  bob, this was coated in sticky rice, yes? i love them as small hors d'oeuvre size.easy to make.

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    you're probably thinking of pearl meatballs (small steamed pork meatballs coated in sticky rice). they're on the weekend dim sum menu at mary chung's. lion's head meatballs are much larger, braised in a brown soy-based sauce, and served over wilted choy

                    1. re: galangatron

                      hmmm,i thought that the lion's head was just a mound of said meatballs, and the sticky rice coating was the lion's mane. Not?

                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                        I believe the lion's mane is the leaves/greens that are cooked in the sauce with the meatballs. My friend's mother always used napa cabbage, but according to galangatron choy is also used.

                    2. re: opinionatedchef

                      No sticky rice, as Galangatron noted, one large ball served over bok choy with the soy broth that somehow, happily, delivered a beef-flavored kick.

                  2. re: Bob MacAdoo

                    I tried the szechuan spicy chicken velvet recently, remembering your rec, and it was pretty good. The heat is not outrageous but it buzzes along in the low frequencies. Overall it seems a mix of bland and spicy, definitely an unusual combination of flavours and not at all bad, though I'm not a big fan of eggy stuff so might not order it again unless sharing. The waitress revealed it was her favourite.

                  3. Thanks for all the replies! I'll go in well prepared...

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Ladycale

                      Please report back! I also like the hot pickled shredded cabbage.

                      1. re: Ladycale

                        ladycale, 2 suggestions.
                        --if you're going for wkend dimsum, the ginger fried tofu is just amazing and you'll not find it elsewhere. Big triangles of crispy-outside fried tofu topped w/ a gaggle of julienned ginger, in a slightly sweet sour sauce. i am addicted.
                        -- do NOT order the lemon chicken. fried to total leather; should have sent it back.

                        Here is one past thread:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/727764

                        Plse let us know the details!

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          Late to this review, but I think you caught the lemon chicken on a bad day. I'll admit I haven't had it in quite some time, but I used to order it semi-regularly and it was always *perfectly* fried and delicate.

                          1. re: dtremit

                            aw darn!, well, if i dare it again, i'll return it this time if it's leather again!

                      2. suan la chow show
                        hung shao pig feet
                        steamed rice pearls
                        yu hsiang eggplant
                        grandma's pie

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: galangatron

                          What in the world is 'grandma's pie'? Enquiring minds must know.

                          1. re: kobuta

                            Look up (in the thread) and ye shall find...

                            1. re: Gabatta

                              Missed that, thanks. Still not quite sure..choy could be a number of greens.

                              1. re: kobuta

                                I referred to it as choy because i don't know the specific variety. If you can tell two apart once they're chopped, sauteed, sauced, and stuffed into scallion pancakes, I will be impressed!

                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                        2. Went the other day and had a good time.

                          The Suan was as good as I remember. My son, the pasta-tarian, had chicken lo mein which he liked. My husband and I got the spicy velvet chicken - which we both enjoyed, the baby bok choy - which is hard to mess up, and the mongolian beef - which was OK but a bit overcooked. I'll have to come back for dim sum sometime...

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Ladycale

                            I hear you about yr son, the "pasta-tarian"! If he likes mild curry flavor, I can recommend the Singapore noodles dish, which also has chicken.

                            1. re: Ladycale

                              that is CUTE; thank you for the laugh!

                            2. I cannot thank you Chowhounders enough for pointing this place out to me. It has become a weekend staple in our family. Favorite dishes: suan la chow show (sometimes 2 orders), Grandma's pie, the pork and chive dumpling special, lion's head meatball, fried Peking ravioli (I love the spicy sauce they come with). Last time we got cheng du tofu with chicken that was very spicy, reminding me a lot of ma po tofu- addictive. My kids are crazy for the sweet soy bean milk, which is served warm.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: DrMag

                                I'm so glad you brought this up because I just went for the first time the other night! I was only in for a light bite so I got hot and sour soup and some spicy pickled cabbage. I think my expectations were a little too high for the rather bland and gloppy hot and sour soup, BUT the cabbage pickle was wonderful, dark and tangy and spicy and not like any other cold Chinese slaw-like/pickle preparation I've had. It is a nice, cheap salad-y side to tack on to their heavier dishes. Also loved the old-school atmosphere and staff. Can't wait to try the rest of your recommendations!

                                1. re: melon

                                  melon, not the same but related tidbit: the sour cabbage dish at Fulloon is tremendous. Vinegar sour and stock and hot peppers. I'm a big acid fan so i love it. Silky and crunchy and tangy and fiery all at once. Also, their pork and green noodle dish is a vinegary one.

                              2. I confess a soft-spot for Mary Chung's, despite the dated and mostly Americanized menu. It occupies the same niche as the Hong Kong at Harvard University, but with slightly better food but not as late into the night (and no scorpion bowls, I suppose!). That said, I do enjoy their "dun dun noodles" and their scallion pie --- the latter is served with a very spicy sauce.

                                If you like their suan la chow show, you have to try the "Wonton with Special Hot Sauce" (hong2 you2 chao1 shou3) at Fuloon in Malden. It's easy to overlook because it is hidden on the "Mandarin Dim Sum" section of the menu at the very back , but is always available (i.e. not just on weekends).

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                                Mary Chung Restaurant
                                460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: lipoff

                                  The fact that it's been around over 30 years (and I've been eating there almost for that long) makes it a bit of a classic and a walk down memory lane for many former and current Cambridge denizens. It's more than the food, I guess.

                                2. our "go to" place, almost everything is great, 15 + years now. dundun noodles,fried bean curd with either sauce,two sided crispy noodles,small steamer buns, grandma pie (what the hell is in those? so good that i probably dont want to know), ....chive pie, even the most pedestrian sounding stuff is a notch above, asparagus with chicken, chicken wings, peking ravs, all great. dry cooked sliced beef, bean curd with broccolli, ...

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: rich patina

                                    +1 , rich patina. Uncle Yabai, it's the food.

                                    1. re: rich patina

                                      Grandma's Pie is basically scallion pancake stuffed with pork and bok choy. It is really good.

                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          the pork i believe but if theres bok choy in there it has been reduced to some carmelized ghost of its former self. my best guess was pork-mushroom-tofu-something. it is really good.

                                          1. re: rich patina

                                            Mushroom was also my initial guess, but your take on the bok choy being cooked somehow is the correct one. There are no mushrooms in there.

                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                              1. re: rich patina

                                                If you do please get the recipe for the sauce for the suan la chow show. My dumplings are fine but I can't get the sauce right. Also where do they get those amazing bean sprouts???

                                                1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                                  Don't know the proportions, but I believe it's soy sauce, fresh ginger, raw garlic, and chili.

                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                  1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                                    I could have sworn that I once saw something that was billed as a very close facsimile to the sauce online, but now I can't find it. There's this 20 year old post that I'm sure you've seen before, but it's not the one I was thinking of:
                                                    https://groups.google.com/group/rec.f...

                                                    1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                                      agm, mary is awfully nice if you get her over to your table. she's been successful so long, i bet she'd happily give you a rough approximation of the sauce recipe.

                                                      aside:there is a particularly dynamite dipping sauce at myers+chang and I was thrilled that, when i asked about it, the waitress wrote down for me all the ingredients.

                                          2. fresh cooked green beans, tzarchung mein and a couple ice cold tzingtao's. oh baby that was good.

                                            1. I got the XLB again recently ("mini steamer buns") from the weekend dim sum menu. Eight, medium-sized, tender but not translucent skins, tasty pork filling, served on squares of napa in a bamboo steamer. Dip was not the expected black vinegar with fresh ginger, more like a vinegary soy sauce. Decent, but not great, and on the dry side for soup dumplings. They at least appeared to be made in-house, not factory-made.

                                              Very good, nearly softball-sized lion's head meatball, plus our usual favorites. I sliced the leftover meatball and ate it on a toasted bulkie the next day.

                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                              1. We uncharacteristically found ourselves in Central Square at dinnertime after Brave Combo's happy-hour show next door at the Middle East Up and decided to hit some old faves.

                                                Suan la chow show, plain dun dun noodles, refreshing bean sprouts, hot stuffed eggplant were all typically excellent. Which is nice since the last time we got the suan, they were atypically utterly fiery hot, so much so that Allstonian couldn't even eat them, and I had some trouble myself. This time, they were right where they should be, as was everything else. We should try to be in the neighborhood more often.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                  We're regulars there. As you say, "typically excellent". If you like tofu, I recommend the tofu with dan dan sauce.

                                                  1. re: CookieLee

                                                    I came close to ordering the fried tofu on top of the dan dan noodles, but I decided I just wanted the plain noodles.

                                                  2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                    I always found there to be a fair amount of variation in heat levels in the suans. There was a time when I went there a *lot* and felt that it tracked with days of the week, not sure if it involved different cooks or something like that.

                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                      The joke we used to use when the colonel was in the kitchen (not sure he's in the kitchen that much any more, but he's certainly hanging out at the FOH) was that the heat level of the suans and the dun dun noodles depended on how cranky he was that day.