Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Explorations Incognito

Traveling to Boston on vacation or as a tourist means you do not necessarily know the best places to visit. No matter how many brochures you consult, how many websites you research, or how many maps you purchase, it can be difficult to see the real Boston. I am just like you; I am not from Boston and not familiar with the area. I had to do some serious exploring. After spending a little time riding the subway and asking locals for their input, I stumbled into Chinatown. Exiting the Orange Line, I immediately spotted the beautifully painted archways and colorful murals. Almost every store is written in Chinese; I learned that Chinatown is the only historically Chinese part of Boston. The coolest part of Chinatown is the shops; you will find genuine articles of clothing or memorabilia for ridiculously cheap.

I discovered the store My Tan Fashion located 693 Washington Street. This place oozes overstocked embellished shoes, crazy coin purses, and bamboo plants. If you have ten dollars, you can walk away with bags of stylish one dollar sunglasses, faux two dollar designer wallets, and bulk makeup. This store makes the Dollar Tree look overpriced and lacking imagination. The salespeople are welcoming and constantly offering deals. This is just one of the countless stores you will find in Chinatown that provides you with diverse goods for little money.

Another store that has stolen my heart is Winmill Fabrics located on 111 Chauncy Street. Recently, I have become a die-hard sewer and find it really exciting to explore new fabric stores. I was like a kid in candy store as soon as I saw the neon colored cotton in one corner and the gorgeous Chinese silk in the other. They carry one-of-a-kind patterns that will make your next quilting project special. They have every texture imaginable from polyester to silk and everything in between. The women who work here are approachable and helpful. They do not follow you around and trying to force a sale down your throat. Their prices are competitive ranging $0.99 to $10. Whether you know how to sew, collect crafts, or just love looking at materials, this is a must on your journey.

In addition to shopping at these exclusive spots, you should check out cool restaurants too! Sure, you could satisfy your hunger on McDonald’s or recognizable foods in Faneuil Hall, but you would be missing out on the “hole in the wall” restaurants that make Boston so unique and kick ass. Sometimes exploring the areas that are not advertised in brochures or online, will beat the hype. Like most places in Chinatown, The Dumpling House is small; you might not immediately recognize that it is a restaurant. If you want authentic, homemade Chinese food on a budget, this is the place to check out.

Looking at the menu might be overwhelming because there are pages of delicious entrees to choose from. How do you decide? My suggestion is to sample their dumplings, scallion pancakes, and rice. They have dumplings filled with anything you want: pork, shrimp, chicken, beef, or vegetables. The portions are massive; one order satisfies two to three people. Each dish comes with an assortment of dipping sauces including sweet and sour, soy, and spicy. Do not be afraid to grab a dumpling and taste each sauce!

Now for an appetizer, you must order the scallion pancakes. I gave my friends the dirtiest looks when they tried to describe to me what the pancakes looked and tasted like. I must add that they are not very good at explaining things to begin with. They described them as “Pancakes that are doughy and sweet. Amy, imagine biting into a crisp, sweet, pancake filled with onions. They are heaven.” Okay people, I know what you are thinking. The image of onions and pancakes combined is enough to make someone want to vomit. I must assure you that they are not like the pancakes we eat for breakfast when we speak of their consistency and texture. When the waiter brought us the platter, they looked a lot like Latka, the Jewish potato pancake. They are fried with onions packed inside. They are crispy and tangy. I could not stop inhaling these damn pancakes; my friends were disappointed because I only left them one each. I suggest ordering more than one plate if you decide you like them and want to have enough for your friends. I recommend adding a side of white rice so you can make a pancake sandwich--you add the rice in between and dip it into the soy sauce. You will have a lot of fun experimenting with the tastes and textures of each item.

The service is quick and the servers are friendly. They give great suggestions if you are a first timer to Chinese food. The only drawback to The Dumpling House is that you have to wait a few minutes to be seated, because the restaurant is so small. If you can stand a five or ten minute wait, you will be rewarded. The Dumpling House is located on 52 Beach St. Whether you are itching to try some new cuisine or shop somewhere entirely different, Chinatown has a lot to offer. You will not have to spend a lot of money, and you will be able to meander peacefully without looking like a tourist.

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