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These shrimp "Peking ravioli" (aka dumplings) were featured at the third annual Festival of Dumplings in 2014 — honoring Bostonian and celebrity chef Joyce Chen. Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

These shrimp "Peking ravioli" (aka dumplings) were featured at the third annual Festival of Dumplings in 2014 — honoring Bostonian and celebrity chef Joyce Chen.

Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Chinese food has become ingrained in this country's culinary landscape over the years — giving rise to some uniquely Americanized dishes like General Tsao's chicken, beef and broccoli, and of course, the ubiquitous fortune cookie.

But some of the Chinese food you'll find in and around Boston is something else altogether. Bread often comes as a standard add-on with any takeout order. There's chow mein sandwiches and Peking ravioli (aka dumplings). There's the thick, dark lobster sauce.

Over at WBUR, Merry White, a professor of anthropology at Boston University, and Stephen Chen, the owner of Joyce Chen Foods and son of celebrity chef and Boston restaurateur Joyce Chen, discussed the fascinating history of the city's own spin on Chinese food.

The first thing to know is that Chinese food in Boston is heavily influenced by not just Chinese immigration to the city, but also the large Italian and Irish immigrant population there.

Joyce Chen opened her first Chinese restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., in 1958. Ed Maker/The Denver Post via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Ed Maker/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Back in 1958, when Joyce Chen — the celebrity chef and star of Joyce Chen Cooks on PBS — opened her first restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., she decided to call her dumplings "Peking ravioli" to appeal to her large Italian clientele, her son Stephen Chen tells WBUR's Meghna Chakrabarti. "And the name stuck, " Chen says. "If you're in the Boston area, you'll see the words Peking ravioli on menus."

We non-Bostonians here at The Salt found their discussion thoroughly intriguing. And we wanted to know more, so we called up White and asked her to explain a bit more: What's the deal with Boston Chinese food?



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