Mary Chung's - December 15, 2006
The location that I was on-screen for was the segment filmed at Mary Chung’s. Now, let me tell you an interesting tidbit about Mary Chung’s: it seems that it was the very first restaurant in the world to be on the internet. If this is accurate: https://boston.openguides.org/?Mary_Chung's "A major hangout for MIT geeks, and thus the first restaurant with a Usenet newsgroup, alt.fan.mary-chungs," then Mary Chung's was most likely the first dining establishment in cyberspace.
Mary Chung, the proprietor (not pictured) is an amazing woman. In one of my recent visits, I was so overcome with elation by the food, I stopped her as she was walking by. I told her, "Mary, your food is so good..." (I was at a loss for words, and looked her right in the eyes). "...so good." She stopped and gave me her full attention (something a restaurant owner/server/hostess/chef rarely gives), and said softly and almost bashfully, "I know... I know. Thank you." She gave me one last look, and whisked off to take care of a ringing phone.
Let me give you a little background. I had never heard of Mary Chung's restaurant before the filming of this show, and I'm kind of glad I hadn't. I say this because I was able to start my addiction late in the game. What addiction? Well, let me just say that Suan La Chow Show is without a doubt the best new dish I have had in months. Since the shoot, I have been there approximately 15 times. . .sometimes twice a day. Right now, they are closed (Mary's on vacation), and I'm going into some serious withdrawal.
So you don't know what Suan La Chow Show is, eh? Well let’s check wikipedia -- I'm sure they've got something on it.
Well now, what do we have here? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suan_La_Chow_Show
"Suan La Chow Show (suānlà chǎoshǒu) is a dish of Sichuan Cuisine that consists of a spicy garlicky peanut sauce over floppy steamed meat-filled dumplings similar to wontons. The name means sour hot wonton.
A popular restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts named Mary Chung's serves a dish called Suan La Chow Show, which are dumplings with a spicy soy ginger sauce on a bed of raw mung bean sprouts. This popular dish is slightly different from the authentic Suan La Chow Show."
Let me see if I can describe the dish to you, just in case that description doesn't work. Have you ever read about orlotan? The tiny bird, considered such a deviant delicacy that diners are encouraged to devour whole while wearing a blindfold to avoid being ashamed? Well, for those who can’t afford the outrageously expensive and seemingly cruel orlotan, I believe that Suan La Chow Show is the closest thing you can get to it. Listed under soups, the spicy, salty, sesame-y sauce in the bottom could easily be scrumptious orlotan “juice.” The fresh bean sprouts – the avian bones. Lastly, the tender, moist, perfectly cooked meaty morsels that are the dumplings obviously correlate to our favorite feathered friend.
Does this description discourage you? How about this one: these are the best dumplings in America. I challenge you to find better.
Like I was saying, I had my doubts about a Chinese restaurant outside of Chinatown from the moment Sean (the producer) mentioned it to me. When I arrived on the day of the shoot, I found an unassuming, 60 seat family-style, sparsely decorated dining room, and a fairly large packed and active kitchen. Mary immediately introduced herself, and offered me a beverage of choice.
After learning that I would be waiting for a while (and after five different customers had recommended it to me), Mary brought me a bowl of their world famous appetizer. I took one bite, and knew immediately that I was hooked. I get the same feeling every time I come across a dish that meets a few of my criteria for serious food addiction:
3) Spicy or otherwise uniquely flavored
At just under $4 for a bowl, with a slow exponential heat and its hailstorm of flavor and texture, Suan La Chow Show is on the forefront of my mind nearly every time I get hungry.
Other favorites of mine include General Gau's Chicken, Dun Dun Noodles, Small Steamer Buns (Sat/Sun only), Crab Rangoon, Egg Rolls, and Scallion Pie. If you don't know what to get, don't even open the menu -- just order from the front specials list.