Dimsum Brunch

The atmosphere seems hectic, but everyone is in a jovial mood. There are long lines waiting outside for brunch, people bundled up and laughing, soaking in the unmistakable Chinatown air. Inside, tables are filled with hungry patrons – some are gesturing to catch the attention of the cart ladies, some are quickly downing the bite-size goodies with chopsticks. You hear loud conversations, the ting of metal carts, the plop of wooden steamer baskets. More laughter, more orders, more food.

Welcome to dimsum brunch in Chinatown.

Have you ever had dimsum? Dimsum is a Chinese dish involving small portions of food – usually dumplings, steamed dishes, and other savory items. They’re little bites meant for sharing, tapas-style, served in little baskets or little plates. In Chinatown cities across the America, dimsum is most often served during the weekends, from 8 am to 2 pm, thus becoming dimsum brunch. And while I’ve never been to China myself, I do know that in Asia, Chinese dimsum is served throughout the day.

But we're nowhere near Asia - we're in Boston's Chinatown!

Specifically, we're in Hei La Moon Restaurant

Hei La Moon is one of the top three restaurants I always hear about from my dimsum-expert friends (and by dimsum-experts, I mean fellow Asians and one uber-authentic source, my Chinese friend John). The other two restaurants are China Pearl and Chau Chow City. Now remember, we’re in Chinatown so don’t expect any hoity toity service or even you know, clean bathrooms. But I digress.

Once you’re in the restaurant, expect organized chaos. You’ll quickly be ushered to your table, and then the fun begins.

if you see a lot of Asians in your Chinatown restaurant, chances are it's a really good place

The cart ladies will come whizzing by with delicious offerings, and when they come to your table they will explain what they have in their carts. Unfortunately they mostly explain things in Chinese. You should just pretend to understand, ask some basic questions if you like (“Pork? Chicken? Shrimp? Sweet? Spicy?”) but my recommendation is to go with your gut and salivating mouth and just point to whatever dish you want to try. They then stamp your little ticket, plop down your order, and proceed to the next table.

you may order some steamed buns...

... filled with soft barbeque pork

In the Philippines, these are called siopao and the filling is called asado, which is tender pork cubes in a sweetish barbeque-like sauce (made with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and other secret ingredients). My favorite kind of steamed bun is the one filled with a meatball – in the Philippines it is called bola bola – but I don’t know if Hei La Moon had it because I couldn’t quite express myself to the cart lady (“Pork? Ball? Meatball?”).

you may also order some fried things...

(But note that they offer the fried savory dishes with the fried/baked desserts, such as the egg tart in the corner above)

... this is a shrimp and vegetable roll drizzled with "special sauce"

you may try some exotic items, like chicken feet and tripe...

... we ordered beef ribs (not so exotic), shrimp and mushroom dumplings (kinda exotic) and tripe in ginger sauce (really exotic)

the steamed dumpling cart is one of the most popular carts

the shrimp and pork dumplings were our table's favorites

It’s best to go to dimsum brunch with a bigger group of friends (there were five of us last weekend); that way you can try a lot of different dishes! The only problem is that you might go a little a crazy and order too many small plates (but is that really a problem?) and then you’ll hardly have room for dessert…

Fortunately, I ALWAYS have room for dessert:

what are those fried golden balls covered in sesame seeds?

I looked it up on the interwebs and it is called jin deui, but I know it as buchi (from the Philippines, of course).

it is a ball of fried chewy dough rolled in sesame seeds...

... filled with red bean paste. Yum.

I usually don’t like warm desserts, but I almost alienated my friends by hogging this whole plate. It was so very, very good.

Dimsum brunch was a success (and by success I mean happy bellies, tighter pants). We enjoyed the bustling pace, the multitude of choices, and the fun, rambunctious appeal of Chinatown. It was also great that the dimsum brought back so many memories of home for me. It felt like a special adventure, and one I would like to do again soon. Now if only I can understand Chinese.

Do you have any particular favorites in your Chinatown?

Hei la Moon on Urbanspoon


14 Responses to “Dimsum Brunch”

  1. #
    Beth aka Sailing Foodie posted March 30, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Oh my gosh that looks delicious!! I have always wanted to explore China Town more… perhaps we will have to do a little post-race exploration this spring/summer.

    See you Sunday!!

  2. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted March 30, 2011 at 8:42 am

    You captured the essence of dim sum in Chinatown really well here! I find it a bit hectic but it’s a fun experience. I so wish I was a fan of those sesame covered balls… but I’m just not. On the flip side, I thoroughly enjoyed all the fried goodies!

  3. #
    Scott posted March 30, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Ah, dim sum! I love it for brunch or for lunch. I used to work downtown and would have lunch at Chau Chow at least every other week. I’ve brunched at China Pearl and lunched at Hei La Moon. My favorites are cha siu bau (baked pork bun), lo bak go (daikon radish cake) and cheong fun (rice noodle rolls filled with shrimp.) I think I’m due for a trip to Chinatown!

  4. #
    MelissaNibbles posted March 30, 2011 at 9:03 am

    I’ve never had Chinese food for brunch. Never would’ve even thought of it. It looks amazing!

  5. #
    Michelle Collins posted March 30, 2011 at 9:25 am

    I adore Dim Sum, but haven’t had it in years. Your post has inspired me to change that, stat!

  6. #
    Daisy posted March 30, 2011 at 9:57 am

    I don’t get to our chinatown nearly enough. This looks like quite the experience !! I love how you associate the offerings with dishes from home. and i love how knowledgeable you are when it comes to dimsum!

  7. #
    Elizabeth posted March 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Shockingly I have never had dim sum. I really need to get to Chinatown and try it.

  8. #
    Megan posted March 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I’ve never had dimsum before. I feel like you need to organize something (hint, hint)!

  9. #
    Michelle posted March 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I adore dim sum and second Megan’s hint that you organize a group dim sum outing!

  10. #
    Meghan@travelwinedine posted March 30, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I love dim sum! This looks like a lot of fun!

  11. #
    Jasmine Navarro posted March 31, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Huds! You forgot the TAHO!!!!! I miss Boston na (already! haha)!!!!

  12. #
    Lauren at Keep It Sweet posted March 31, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    That food looks so good! I love steamed buns…. could really go for some now!

  13. #
    MegSmith @ Cooking.In.College posted April 1, 2011 at 1:13 am

    I have never had dimsum but it looks amazing. This is quite the dining experience, how much fun!!!

    I hope you get to make the eggs sometime soon :-)

  14. #
    Jorel posted April 12, 2011 at 9:47 am

    you definitely have to hit up Emperor Garden at washington street.

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