The Gentleman Gourmand

sharing the best food around

Mary Chung’s Magical Land

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:’s
"A major hangout for MIT geeks, and thus the first restaurant with a
Usenet newsgroup,," 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

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?

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

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

1) Unique
2) Cheap
3) Spicy or otherwise uniquely flavored

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.

I informed Mary that
she would be seeing a whole lot more of me in the future, and headed
out to meet up with Chris. After prepping him on just how awesome this
place was (and meeting up with the MIT kids), Cognac got to try some
for himself. I’ll let him comment for himself, if he wishes, but I will
say that it’s probably best not to aspirate the soup.

After the
kitchen shots, we realized that the we needed to re-organize the tables
to accommodate the lights, the cameras, and all the action that was
about to go down. We sat down in the middle of the restaurant, and
began our rather short, strange and hilarious lunch. What you have to
understand, to get a good idea of what our jobs were, is that anytime
we had to stop for any reason, the food had to look the same
afterwards. This means, if you had a bite almost in your mouth, and the
action paused, you had to put the bite back. We also had to make sure
our personal plates stayed relatively similar and that the serving
vessels always appeared full. Another thing? Small bites. TV bites. .
.not. . .big. . .bites. . .so. . .you aren’t stuck chewing for much. .
.too. . .long. Other than that, all we really had to do was completely
ignore the cameras, crew, lights, and just act naturally.

scene went fantastically. Other than a few minor fits and starts, we
generally just had a relaxing lunch with a little bit of dramatic
talking and some amusing food adjustments.

After the shooting
was through, Mary offered to give the crew some goodie bags to take
back to the hotel (which I noticed were thoroughly enjoyed and quickly
devoured). The next day was some B-roll shots, and the crew was off to
the airport. It sounds like they enjoyed (and got some great scenes) in
Atlanta. I know I’m not the only one looking forward to this show
coming out.

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The Hungry Detective


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1 Comment

  1. Land Food

    Story Land is a children\’s theme park in Glen, NH with themed rides

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