By Felicia Ho ’19
Feeling cranky after oversleeping on a beautiful Sunday morning? Looking for a great place to unwind and chat with friends and family? Tired of waiting as the minutes slowly tick by for only a bite-sized meal? Look no further than the dim sum at Chengdu 1 Palace in Green Brook Township.
When I first moved to Warren a couple of years ago and saw the sprawling lawns and open land, I was worried that there would be no spark of life in a town sheltered by towering trees. What’s more, I worried that there would be very few authentic Chinese restaurants in an area without a large Chinese community. Soon, however, I discovered the yellow brick road — Route 22 — and its emerald castle — Chengdu 1 Palace.
My family no longer had to drive forty minutes or more to Edison or Parsippany, where Asian communities have cultivated several landmark restaurants, to experience the hustle of dim sum. Having tasted traditional dim sum in China, my family had high expectations for Chengdu 1 Palace. Dim sum needs to be an experience. You have to feel the rush of the moment as carts rustle past, loaded with plate upon plate of dumplings and rice noodles and servers advertising their cargo with competing cries. You have to be bold to try all kinds of food, and, yes, that includes the chicken feet and beef tripe. Only when your table is full of plates and awash with the scent of freshly steamed buns and porridge can you truly appreciate the majestic quality of dim sum as a satisfying meal.
Chengdu 1 Palace passed these expectations with flying colors. My personal favorite, the jiu cai bao, or chive dumplings, had the right amount of crunch and texture along with a strong scent of chives that filled the air. My little brother could not get enough of the tangy sauce covering the pai gu, or steamed ribs, and my parents loved the wide selection of foods to choose from, covering not only the traditional Hong Kong-style foods associated with dim sum but also other regional specialties like ma la liang fen, cold and spicy jelly cubes. Although the boba tea was not the best, the bulk of the meal, whether it be the tender cheong fan rolled rice noodles with shrimp or the sweet red bean filled zhi ma qiu, or sesame balls, was outstanding.
What’s more, Chengdu 1 Palace is operated by a great staff who is always ready to help. While there are few vegetarian options for dim sum, you also have the opportunity to order off of the dinner menu.
Whether you have yet to be introduced to the wonders of dim sum or are already a seasoned foodie, having dim sum at Chengdu 1 Palace is a great experience, especially considering that it is local and truly delivers an authentic dim sum meal. Indeed, dim sum may help you reach new frontiers in your connoisseur career of culinary excellence as you nibble on the stomach of a cow, or it will satisfy your sweet tooth with light, airy desserts. Either way, the servers and waiters are eager to help you embark on your journey, and maybe even help you learn a little bit about Chinese culture along the way.
In a world populated with takeout boxes of orange chicken and fried rice from Panda Express, Chengdu 1 Palace offers a haven for traditional Chinese cuisine to continue to thrive in the modern suburbia. The next time you feel lost, follow Route 22 and open the gates to the Chengdu 1 Palace for a culinary experience of a lifetime.