I grew up in northwestern Ohio, where there really wasn't much Chinese food available. At most, we had our share of not-so-authentic Chinese buffets and Chinese take-out joints. In fact, my resourceful mom learned how to make all sorts of Chinese/Taiwanese specialties from scratch at home because she had no access to these dishes locally.
One of my favorite food memories growing up was our road trips to Windsor, Canada. Only an hour's drive away, Windsor was a totally different world. Windsor was filled with Chinese food. Chinese dim sum, Chinese supermarkets, Chinese bakeries. Dim sum was always a treat, and such a fun experience for a kid! Imagine it: waitresses pushing around carts full of delectable steamed buns, shrimp dumplings, and fried taro balls. The excitement of being able to pick what you wanted to eat from the cart. And every single dish being so delicious, so much better than anything we could get in northwestern Ohio. Oh, I loved it. We always finished with a stop to a Chinese grocery store, and of course, the Chinese bakery.
Going to Hei La Moon this weekend totally brought back those memories. You definitely get the authentic experience at Hei La Moon, complete with the big round tables, harried waitresses pushing carts around, and a sea full of Chinese people.
Case in point: if the place is completely packed with Chinese people, odds are that the food is pretty good.
I love being able to pick out my food from carts being wheeled around. It's such a fun experience!
Here is a dish full of fried stuff! One of my favorites is the deep fried sesame mochi ball (lower left corner). Chewy, sweet, and totally satisfying!
We got a bunch of things, and all of them were quite tasty. A lot of dim sum dishes have either shrimp or pork. If you don't eat one or both of these meats, you might have a hard time finding food to eat. One of my favorite dim sum items is Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll shown in the upper left photo (chang-fen). I have always loved the texture of rice noodles and the flavor of the brown sauce, which is like a slightly sweetened soy sauce mixed with oil. Pork and Mushroom Dumplings (shumai) is also a classic (lower left), as are BBQ Pork Buns (char siu bao) shown on the lower right.
Shrimp Dumplings (har gao) are another must-get if you have dim sum. I personally liked the Shrimp and Leek Dumpling (lower right) a lot too. Spareribs (lower left) are another classic.
For the brave, you can try Chicken Feet (left) or Tripe (cow stomach - right). Although I can eat chicken feet, I don't particularly enjoy it. The flavors are great, but I just don't love the texture of stewed chicken skin, which is essentially what you are eating. I do love tripe, and I thought it was very good here.
We got some Pan Fried Vermicelli to balance out all the meat we had. I thought this was only average.
Of course, you have to end with a dim sum classic, Chinese Egg Tarts! I love these, and have even tried making my own, although I must admit that the restaurant ones were much better (probably because they use lard for the crust!)!
Having had Chinese food in both LA and all throughout Asia, Bryan and I both still agree that Boston is not yet up to par as these other places when it comes to Chinese food. Nevertheless, I think the food at Hei La Moon is very good, and it's probably one of the best, if not the best, dim sum place in Boston. The experience is totally authentic. They have the huge round tables (which means you might share a table with strangers), great cart action, really good food, and the festive atmosphere of a true dim sum restaurant. I was surprised that I did not see some dishes that I typically see (e.g., fried taro balls, turnip cake) but I think it's because we arrived a bit later (1:30PM) and dim sum was winding down by then. It's best to go early, like around 11AM, to really see the action!
If you've never had dim sum before, I would highly recommend trying it. It's a really unique and fun experience, and I think Hei La Moon is a great choice!
Prices & Parking
At the beginning of the meal you receive a sheet of paper that waitresses stamps every time they give you food off of the cart. Prices were quite reasonable. I think we paid $12 a person total (including tax and tip) for the meal shown in this post (6 people for all that food). There is parking in a garage right above the building. You pay in full first ($11) and then you pay Hei La Moon $6 to get it validated. You then bring the ticket back to the garage attendant for a full refund. The parking garage is a little confusing. There are a lot of tandem spots. You can park in them as long as you give your car key to the attendant.
There is also a pretty good Chinese supermarket, C-Mart, attached to the same building. It's great to go there after lunch because you have validated parking already!
Hei La Moon
88 Beach St
Boston, MA 02111
Teflon Pan Giveaway
By the way, it's still not too late to enter the Teflon Pan Giveaway. This is a 10-inch Tramontina nonstick pan with Teflon Platinum technology, which can withstand use with metal utensils! Drawing will occur at Thursday, April 22, 2010 at midnight. Good luck!
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