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Boston style Chinese food

Will be in Boston in May. Coming from Florida, I have heard a great deal about great this food is. Particularly the brown lobster. Any opinions on which restaurant prepares this best?

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  1. I've never heard of brown lobster?

      1. By "brown lobster", do you mean "lobster sauce"?

        4 Replies
        1. re: food_lubber

          Yes, I am referring to lobster sauce. Am staying at the Boston Harbor Hotel. I guess we will have a car.

          1. re: rsanders99

            Billy Tse is a short walk from BHH and has good Americanized Chinese.

            1. re: phatchris

              Billy Tse is a sneaky fun place to drink too.

          2. re: food_lubber

            According to my Florida friends lobster sauce there is white with peas.

          3. Where will you be staying and how mobile are you?

            1. First they had a tea party now Bostonians have their own style of Chinese food?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Worldwide Diner

                Yes. NY lobster sauce is white, with peas. Boston style is brown and has ground pork.

              2. You heard how great our Chinese food is?

                Lobster sauce

                Really? Really ?

                1 Reply
                1. Don't forget the dinner rolls and our applesauce-y duck sauce!

                  1. I don't think anyone would come to Boston for our Chinese food. If you want lobster, and it is very good here, you might want to seek out restaurants that do a good job with lobster.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: ptrefler

                      there is plenty of very good chinese food here, especially the fish-in-tank restaurants and sichuanese. I would also mention Gene's. Sure if you live in NYC, Boston is no big deal, but not everyone lives there.

                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                        I have argued in the past that i have had meals at both Szechuan Gourmet AND Red Pepper, both in Framingham are some of the best szechuan food you can get on the East Coast.

                        NYC included.

                      2. re: ptrefler

                        My family would...including me. They're in Florida now, and it's always mentioned when I visit. They found a place that makes egg rolls like they do up here and you'd think they'd hit the lottery!

                        1. re: ptrefler

                          Have you ever had Chinese food in Florida? Trust me, it is absolutely worth coming to Boston for Chinese food in that case.

                          By the way, "restaurants that do a good job with lobster" include Peach Farm and New Jumbo.

                        2. If you want a treat in Chinatown that you probably don't get in Florida, find some soup dumplings.. or a nice bahn mi.

                          1. Lobster sauce: a) is an American-Chinese dish; b) has no lobster in it; and c) is usually kind of gross. Our Chinese cuisine has a lot to recommend it, but that stuff will either be nowhere in sight, or consigned to a corner of the menu for people who don't like traditional Chinese food, along with the crab rangoon, egg rolls, and General Gau's chicken. It's certainly not worth traveling anywhere for.

                            But yeah, I guess ours is brown goo, where it's white goo most other places. Many of our American-Chinese places also serve dinner rolls with little butter packets, for some reason.


                            31 Replies
                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              The fact that it's American-Chinese shouldn't necessary matter. Mission Chinese, in NYC, serves American-Chinese, such as kung pao pastrami, and it's amazing. The fact that lobster sauce is gross, on the other hand, cannot be overcome.

                              1. re: Blumie

                                Not trying to be Chowhound-snobby, but I think the distinction between traditional Chinese and American-Chinese remains an important one. And when Boston gets an American-Chinese restaurant like Mission Chinese, I may get a bit more excited about it.

                                Also, at least one of my chef pals is defending lobster sauce as not-gross, but I've never tasted a version that wasn't disgusting, gluey brown glop, the sort of American-Chinese dish that makes me glad we have plenty of traditional Chinese options here.


                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  Well, this version on Kowloon's website sounds pretty typical. Brings me back to my childhood in the '60's.


                                  1. re: bear

                                    Sounds like you should serve it over biscuits at breakfast

                                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                                    You certainly are coming across as a snob. The OP is requesting - after a little clarification- lobster sauce - not a discourse on why you are not a fan.

                                    It's a unique Boston preparation that I enjoy with shrimp or lobster.

                                    OP, I recommend New Jumbo Seafood in Chinatown.

                                    1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                                      I'll risk the snobbery charge. The idea that brown lobster sauce is somehow representative of "Boston-style Chinese food" is a less-than-funny joke. I think that stuff is nasty, and has zero to do with what's noteworthy and unique about our local Chinese cuisine.


                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        Why criticize the dish that the OP requested? That's what s/he wants - not a bloated discourse on why the dish is terrible.

                                        The truth is when you ask many people about "Boston-style Chinese food"...lobster sauce will be a top response.

                                        1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                                          "I flew up from FL hearing that Boston-style Chinese food is awesome, went to a board frequented by locals who are obsessed with finding great food, and nobody told me that lobster sauce is this bland brown glop that isn't remotely Chinese. Zero stars, Chowhound Boston: zero stars."


                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                            If the opinions expressed so far are representative of general attitude- Boston style lobster sauce seems to be quite popular on this board.

                                            This discussion inspired my lunch today...and it is fantastic!

                                            1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                                              Yep, and there are some people here saying, "Lobster sauce? Really?" As I often say, I'm all for you liking what you like.

                                              In my day job, my customers value my steering them away from mistakes as much as, maybe more than, my steering them toward the best example of a bad idea. I prefer ScotchandSirloin's approach: steer the OP toward a different idea of what's excellent in our local Chinese restaurant scene.

                                              So, where does one go for great examples of lobster sauce? For all the defenses of it, I'm not seeing any recommendations here.


                                              1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                                                What is that? It doesn't look remotely appealing.

                                                1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                  Agreed - I took a terrible picture (I was so hungry).

                                                  Here is a picture of the twin lobster with lobster sauce at New Jumbo Seafood...

                                                  1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                                                    As I understand it, this (the photo above) is why it's called lobster sauce in the first place (despite having no lobster at all, and a just barely any seafood at all in it...oyster sauce in case you wondered), it was used as a condiment for lobsters. I have never had it on a lobster myself, but it's very common to serve it with shrimp.

                                                    And I do believe I see my beloved yellow noodles back there too....mix the noodles and beef with the lobster and sauce and you have something close to Marco Polo's Delight.....just with lobster insted of shrimps. Langosta vs. Langostina!

                                                2. re: CambridgeFoodie

                                                  That's just lobster sauce with rice, correct? Why is it a terrible picture?

                                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                                    No accounting for tastes C. Hamster, I would have loved to have that for lunch instead of my lame-O leftovers!

                                                    1. re: devilham

                                                      I'm eating my leftover chicken marsala that I made last night and it's even better the next day! :-)

                                                3. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  Personally, when I read the phrase "Boston-style," I just assumed the OP was self-consciously referring to American-Chinese food, and making a deliberate distinction... For example, if a traditional Neapolitan pizza place opened in Des Moines, would their pizza be called "Des Moines-style pizza"? In that sense it seems a little unnecessary to critique a "Boston-style" dish for being... "Bostonian."
                                                  On the other hand, I agree with you totally on the need for balance here: it's good to have some diversity of opinion so that the OP doesn't come to Boston under the impression that we all adore brown lobster sauce and consider it the linchpin of our local food scene

                                                  1. re: eatinjeff

                                                    I think it's in reference to the fact that you can only get the brown style lobster sauce in the Boston area (and southern NH I am to understand), and I guess our eggrolls are unique to this area as well, making for a Bostonian style American Chinese food experience.

                                                    As for Slim, I haven't found a place that does killer lobster sauce like I remember it (again, The Aloha, on the south shore, may she rest in peace...or alternately, the deceased KoKo Island in Cohasset), but am always willing to give someplace a shot at the title. I wish my local fresh and tastey Chinese joint in Roslindale (Seven Stars Bistro) would pick up the mantle and give the dish a shot, if it's half as good as his hot and sour soup it would be amazing. Maybe Billy Tse's is close???

                                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                It's like a broken record. How many ways can someone post about how much they hate a dish the OP is seeking out. Just how many versions of this hideous abomination of pork glop have you tried? I LOVE it once in a blue moon. (not a fan of the white glop) I've had some disappointing versions over the past 40 years, that landed in the trash after a few bites, and some versions that were stoner food sublime, with shrimpy shrimp and tender morsels of properly ground pork with no bone bits.

                                                I too would like to hear who makes it well in Boston, as it is a rare occasion I order it.

                                                Hey I've tried a half dozen versions of foie gras and still haven't had one I liked. But I believe I will someday and I'm not going to tell someone seeking it out how much I have not enjoyed it. There's a line between offering an opinion, and pounding that opinion into the ground with multiple posts. That line was clearly crossed a couple of times here.

                                                So please, if it's not too much to ask....who makes a sublime version of dark shrimp and lobster sauce?

                                                1. re: Bellachefa

                                                  I know its blasphemy: Golden Temple makes an excellent lobster sauce.

                                                  1. re: teezeetoo

                                                    I grew up on GT lobster sauce. Have not had it in at least 30 or so years though!

                                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                                          I actually LOVE lobster sauce, kind of a guilty pleasure. In particular in the dish (original poster, take note) Marco Polo's Delight, a very Americanized dish of shrimp, beef, lobster sauce served over noodles.....I loves it. Used to get it on new years when my parents would take us to the Aloha in Hingham (I think it was Hingham, near Queen Anne's Corner, so it could be any number of towns as 3 intersect there), very fond memories. I actually dug up a recipe for Boston style Lobster Sauce from someone on the web who also missed the Boston style chinese food, he had a recipe for Boston style egg rolls as well.

                                          1. re: devilham

                                            Aaaaand just in case your interested...however, when I made this it was a bit too sweet for my tastes, so I would dial back the molasses, other than that, it's the brown glop of my youth!!!

                                            Boston Style Lobster Sauce



                                            • Vegetable oil
                                            • 16 oz. ground pork or ground beef
                                            • 6 cloves minced garlic
                                            • 3 tbs. oyster sauce
                                            • 2 tbs. Hoisin sauce
                                            • 1 tbs. dark soy sauce
                                            • 1 c. water
                                            • 3 tbs. molasses
                                            • Cornstarch to thicken (5 tbs. plus 1/4 cup water mixed together)
                                            • 2 egg scrambled
                                            • 2 chopped green scallion for garnish
                                            • 1 tbs. sesame oil



                                            1.Use enough oil to cover the bottom of a wok or deep frying pan. Heat the oil and stir fry the meat with the garlic. Add the water and then the molasses. Add the oyster sauce and soy sauce. Stir well. Add the cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Blend the eggs into the sauce and continue stir frying until the eggs are set. Stir in the sesame oil. Top with the scallions and serve with rice or noodles. Serves 3 - 4.


                                            1. re: devilham

                                              That actually sounds much more flavorful than the Kowloon recipe.

                                              1. re: devilham

                                                I confess to having fond memories of Shrimp in Lobster Sauce from my youth. Like anything, there can be good versions, though I've not had a good one in so long that I can't steer you anywhere. Like the recipe, though, I may have to try it. It sounds like a sweetened version of the sauce for Ma Po Tofu. Couldn't one use a little more Hoisin and omit the molasses?

                                                1. re: justbeingpolite

                                                  Hoisin sauce is also sweet. I'd take it easy on both of those and maybe increase the oyster sauce a touch.

                                                  This recipe does show one thing that's important to a good lobster sauce - plenty of garlic.

                                                  1. re: Allstonian

                                                    Agreed on the too sweet thing, Next time I make it I am going to omit the molasses, increase the oyster sauce, use regular soy sauce instead of the dark (which is sweet as well...or at least the recipe I had for it was), still add the hoisin, but to half, and that should make it about what I'm looking for. Need to find the nice chinese (yellow) noodles that were used in the dish as well (Marco Polo's Delight).

                                                    1. re: devilham

                                                      Russo's usually has those yellow noodles in the back near the herbs. They just set up a new refrigerator case there on the left.

                                            2. re: MC Slim JB

                                              True.. But it should also be noted that Chinese food in Florida generally stinks and is kind of gross overall. I am sure there are some exceptions but my experiences and those of my friends who have lived in Florida have always been such. I have one good friend who i think moved back up here from Florida mainly because he missed decent Chinese food!

                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                Oooh you watch your mouth. Sometimes nothing hits the spot like crab rangoon and General Gau's! They fill different needs. Sometimes I crave beef and mustard greens in sa cha sauce. Sometimes I crave fried cream cheese filled wontons dipped in mustard-laced duck sauce. To everything there is a season, turn turn turn, yadda yadda yadda.

                                                1. re: Chris VR

                                                  Nice Pete Seeger reference, very topical.

                                              2. I love shrimp with lobster sauce, have since I was a kid. I think many places do a good rendition of it. That being said, I'd probably recommend going to Peach Farm for actual lobsters or Gourmet Dumpling House, Dumpling Cafe, Taiwan Cafe or New Shanghai for super awesome Taiwanese or Szechuan that you likely can't get in Florida.

                                                1. This has become an overly competitive thread. Some people really enjoy lobster sauce, some people think it's pretty disgusting. Points of agreement (I think): (1) it's an American-Chinese dish (if that matters); (2) the Boston version tends to be the thicker brown version, not the lighter, whiter version found elsewhere; and (3) it's not really a distinguishing factor of Boston cuisine, or even Boston Chinese cuisine. Still, if that's what the OP wants, there are places where it can be found.

                                                  1. I've had very good brown lobster sauce at Fuloon in Malden...was truly surprised at how good it was. Probably not worth a special trip if you are coming from FL, unless you are in the area, but a good option for locals who like the dish.

                                                    I haven't had but it seems like a dish that Golden Temple in Brookline would do well.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: 9lives

                                                      Golden Temple: maybe yes, maybe no. I tried them after many recommendations here that they did a good rendition of old-school American Chinese, but I found that pretty much everything I tried was marred by an effort to render the recipes "healthy."

                                                    2. Here's a thread from last year regarding brown lobster sauce: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/921024

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Allstonian

                                                        so THAT's where I got the recipe!!!! Forgot about that thread, thanks Allstonian

                                                      2. I'm going to stay away from the discussion about the virtues of Lobster Sauce itself. It's something I've been known to eat and enjoy when I'm in the mood for Chinese-American food (along with Egg Foo Young and egg rolls).

                                                        The last time I had this dish was about a year ago, and it was a late night visit to Moon Villa in Chinatown. While I wouldn't go to Moon Villa for the best authentic Cantonese food (Peach Farm is my go to for that), Moon Villa makes a classic brown Lobster Sauce, "Boston Style" which would satisfy the OP's request nicely.