By George Abunaw
BU News Service
Will Chen took a 50-minute train ride from Rhode Island Sunday just to eat dumplings.
The 18-year-old Brown University student was one of thousands to attend the sixth annual Cambridge Dumpling Festival held in Central Square, Cambridge. He said he made the trek to honor his Chinese heritage and was not disappointed.
“It’s a way for me to represent my culture,” Chen said.
The Cambridge Dumpling Festival was created to honor Joyce Chen, who was a pioneer of Chinese-American cuisine. After moving to Cambridge from China in 1946, Chen helped popularize Chinese food in America, inventing the Peking ravioli (also known as a potsticker) as well as patenting the wok. Chen also starred in “Joyce Chen Cooks” on PBS, making her the first Asian star of a national television show.
Chen is also credited with beginning multiple trends that are now mainstays in current Chinese restaurants. She was one of the first people to create menus with item names in both Chinese and English, while also numbering the pictures of dishes, making it easier to order. Chen originated serving Chinese food buffet style, which she did to generate business on nights without many customers.
“She was a restauranteur before women had that authority, so we celebrate her by bringing together dumpling vendors from all around Greater Boston,” said Michael Monestime, executive director of the Central Square Business Improvement District that helped organize the event.
Customers lined up in droves to get a taste of various food options from local restaurants and food trucks. The line to get into the event wrapped around a street corner, and some waited up to 15 minutes in certain food lines.
“Today’s the perfect day for it,” said Javon Clark, an employee for Solar Flair, a sunglasses and eyewear pop-up store based in Boston that had a table at the festival. “There’s been nothing but good vibes.”
The dumpling festival is a collaborative effort between Central Square and New England Open Markets, a company that provides venues for small businesses and vendors to sell their products.
While Chinese culture was at the focal point of the event, there were multiple food trucks and restaurant pop-ups from different countries, such as Brazil, India, Greece and Japan.
Wild Fox Pierogi, which serves Polish and Portuguese-inspired American contemporary cuisine, was one of the most popular tables of the day. Wild Fox was sold out of pierogies after only three hours.
“The volume of customers that have come up to the table has been nuts,” said Julie Dziki, a manager at Wild Fox Pierogi. She also gave a nod to the “wonderful dumplings” at the event. There are “great smells coming at me from both sides,” she said.