Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chung Shin Yuan, Newton

I love unexpected food. That can mean when a student gives me a taste of her Korean crackers that are simultaneously sweet and salty. It can be when a friend orders a dish that has spicy punch that I didn’t anticipate. Or it can be when I order a food that sounds so mundane, and what arrives instead is so different. I have driven by Chung Shin Yuan more times than I can count, especially since I grew up just a few miles from it. From the outside, honestly, it looks like a fairly dumpy little hole in the wall. But I had been told that their Taiwanese style Dim Sum brunch was so good that lines often snaked down the street. And while I continue to be hesitant in taking my peanut allergic son to dim sum, a morning on my own provided a perfect opportunity to brave the crowds and try out the food.

I have always enjoyed solitary dining, and, in fact, dim sum was the perfect forum for being alone. I used this chance to get recommendations from the other people who were waiting (read: squished) while waiting. Even better, neighboring dinners actually offered me tastes of their dishes, so I was able to meet some new people and try many new dishes.

I began with a beef noodle soup. It was redolent of star anise and was full of thick noodles. Sitting in the broth was meat that had fat clinging to the edges, making it rich and filling. Even better, though, was the suggestion of a customer that I dip the “Chinese Fried Dough” in there. The dough was actually more like a whispy cruller than the heavy saucers that you can get at a carnival. The sticks absorbed the broth creating a crouton of sorts.

I also dipped the cruller in one of my favorite treats: hot soy milk. This warming dish is simply sweetened fresh soy milk that is a cross between a beverage and a dessert. But it isn’t rich and is something I am coming to crave more and more. The steamed pork buns were very good. The wrappers were chewy, while the pork was moist. What made the dish, though, was a new twist: slivers of ginger that added a sharpness to each meaty bite.

The chive pies (pictured at the top of this post) consisted of little half moons. The pastry was flaky, resembling a more traditional turnover. But inside was a subtle mixture of chives, bean threads, tofu and garlic. They begged for a bit of soy sauce, but overall were tasty.

The most surprising dihs of my meal was listed as “spareribs and chitlins.” I expected to see traditional spareribs and fried chiltins (intestines) What arrived instead was an huge dish of…meat. On top were chunks of ribs, as well as earthy smelling pig intestines. While the chitlins were more of an acquired taste (and smell!), I loved the bed of roasted sweet potatoes that were smothered in garlic and tasted of pork.

I was simply too full to eat any more. But I will be back for two other dishes that people recommended: the “peking noodle” and tofu jelly with peanuts.

While Chung Shin Yuan would never be categorized as a relaxing experience, if your kids don’t mind waiting to enjoy a good meal, it is a great place for children.

Chung Shin Yuan, Newton, 183 California Street, 617-964-0111


  1. My husband and I used to go to this place years ago before we were married. It's nice to know the place is still around, and it's still good. I used to live for that fried dough. :)

  2. We keep meaning to try this place, b/c like you, we go by all the time and have heard great things . . . this makes me want to go now!

  3. Cindy: I had also heard about it for years, and if the long lines are an indicator, it is still very popular.

    Sarah: I also recommend Green Tea on Route 9. It is another nice dim-sum alternative to driving (and looking for parking in) Chinatown. Let me know what you think.

  4. We love Green Tea. It's totally dive-y but delicious. We're suckers for authentic Chinese. Our kids haven't quite gotten into dim sum yet, but we're working on them.