How to Navigate the Dim Sum Cart at Chinatown’s Oldest Restaurant
With servers wheeling fully loaded carts out of the kitchen faster than you can pick up a pair of chopsticks, it helps to know what’s what.
Ahead, a breakdown of the tasty morsels at China Pearl, the neighborhood’s oldest restaurant.
1. TOFU FLOWER
Silky soybean pudding is sweetened here with ginger and honey, typical of Cantonese cuisine. In North China, a savory spin—“tofu brain”—uses soy sauce and black vinegar.
Here, it’s all about the texture: A soft rice noodle is rolled around a crunchy youtiao, or Chinese cruller, that absorbs the umami-packed pool of soy sauce.
3. LIU SHA BAO (EGG-CREAM BAO)
A newish spin on steamed buns, these savory-sweet treats are sometimes decorated like cute animals for celebrations. They’re nicknamed “Golden River” bao for the stream of salted egg yolk inside.
4. CANDIED LOTUS ROOT
This is the only place in Boston you’ll find this dish, inspired by a Hangzhou chef. The flower root is stuffed with sticky rice, candied, and topped with strawberry sauce.
5. CHA SIU BAO
There’s a savory appeal to these quintessential Cantonese buns—baked golden or steamed—with honey-barbecue pork spare ribs inside.
6. SHARK FIN DUMPLINGS
The name nods not to the ocean predator but rather the pinched look of the thin, pastry-like white wonton wrapper. Here it contains pork, shrimp, cilantro, and carrot.
7. CHICKEN CLAWS
More-adventurous eaters appreciate chicken feet, which are time-consuming to make. They’re first fried, then poached and marinated, and finally steamed before serving.
8. SALT-AND-PEPPER SQUID
An accessible entry point for the dim sum novice, this is essentially Chinese calamari: lightly seasoned squid deep-fried in cornstarch and then stir-fried in a wok.
This staple—steamed wonton wrappers stuffed with ground pork and shrimp, here topped with bits of dyed-red egg “crêpe”—is China Pearl’s best dim sum seller.
9 Tyler St., 617-426-4338, chinapearlboston.net.
More Great Spots to Dim Sum
Bubor Cha Cha
This Chinatown hole-in-the-wall with a vaguely beach-hut aesthetic serves made-to-order dim sum such as taro root dumplings and steamed lotus-paste buns. 45 Beach St.,
Hei La Moon
An old-school stalwart on the Leather District border with a banquet-hall vibe, Hei La Moon’s dim sum carts dispense dishes like shrimp har gow—translucent, delicate little dumplings.
88 Beach St., 617-338-8813, heilamoon.com.
Winsor Dim Sum Café
You’ll check off dim sum selections on a slip of paper, hand it to a server, and be rewarded with a feast of mango pudding, Sichuan-style beef stomach, and more.
10 Tyler St., 617-338-1688, winsordimsumcafe.com.
This story is part of The Ultimate Guide to Chinatown, from the February 2019 issue of Boston magazine.