Eating Dim Sum in Providence, RI

I ate out. But it was in Providence, RI, and I’m quite certain there’s no way I’ll ever be able to make my own array of bite-size dumplings and other tasty traditional dim sum dishes just for lunch (ever). So I made good use of a family trip to visit my brother in Providence, where he’s studying for a PhD.

The restaurant we went to [Lucky Garden] was one of those no-frills affairs that doesn’t look much different from a video store on the outside, had the barest essential decorating and really weird/tacky photo albums with images of food to accompany the menu, but happened to serve the freshest, tastiest, most authentic Chinese food in the city. The service was friendly, and surprisingly fast. I could taste the fresh coriander minced inside some of the dumplings, and many of the dishes were larger than I’d ever seen them before. Halfway into our late lunch, the kitchen staff sat down to eat at a table nearby, and then we realized that the cook-to-customer ratio was highly disproportioned, to our benefit.  Overall, it was a refreshing reminder of why my family insists on having dim sum practically every time we’re all together.

Eating dim sum also reminds me of the qualities of eating out. There’s a definite specialty element in going for dim sum–sort of like going out for sushi: you just can’t replicate the experience at home. All those time-consuming intricate variations of dumplings, every single one of them a different combination of fillings and wrapping, and all the little desserts, it’s just insane. One catch about this dim sum restaurant in Providence was that it was too small, or not busy enough, to bother with the push carts, which is how dim sum is usually served–attendants push different steaming carts around the floor, you see a dish in one that you want, and the attendant places it on your table. Since we didn’t have that though, everything that we ordered came out freshly made to order and hot, which isn’t so bad a compromise.

I’m savoring the rare moment with snapshots of some of my favorite dim sum dishes. Maybe some day I’ll brave an attempt to cook one or two of them–there’s a good recipe for zongzi, a bamboo leaf-wrapped sticky rice with any number of fillings which is an integral part of the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, on It’s similar to the lotus leaf one generally served at dim sum, but in both cases, finding the leaves might be the biggest challenge.

Lotus leaf-wrapped steamed sticky rice with meat stuffing. These ones had a lot of Chinese sausage, pork, and chicken.

Clockwise from top left: Shrimp rice dumplings, steamed tripe, Chinese broccoli, chicken feet, crispy fried squid

Front: deep-fried taro root dumplings with pork and mushroom filling; left: turnip cake

Tofu skin wrapped pork dumplings (tofu-pi)

The point-and-order photo album menu

28 Responses

  1. Yvo

    My whole issue with many Asian foods is that it’s so much cheaper to buy it than it is to prepare yourself- the prep time, the chopping, the insane work, plus they make them in huge bulk so it’s much easier to get a variety. For you or I to make it all (unless we had a huge making-whatever party with 20 other people eating as well!)… just isn’t worth it. That’s also why I won’t make sushi at home- honestly, you can’t buy one – five pieces of one kind of sushi and then enough to make five other kinds… you always wind up with about a million rolls. It’s not worth it!

    That does look delicious. You must really miss dim sum in NY, no? BTW, the leaves are procurable in Chinatown, I believe, though I’m not sure I could tell you exactly where. I think Rachel Rey or someone on Food Network has talked about or made tamales or maybe even the Chinese “jhung” with it, and mentioned getting it at specialty stores, so if anything, Whole Foods, Chelsea Market, but almost definitely Chinatown (so my mom says). I don’t have to tell you to take pictures and document the process for us 🙂

  2. Kalyn

    Great photos. I think Providence is a wonderful town. I really enjoyed the Waterfire they have there every summer.

  3. Alice

    Just to make sure, is the first restaurant on the list the restaurant you went to?,-71.422462&spn=0.118874,0.270882&om=1&iwloc=A

  4. cathy

    Yes, it is Lucky Garden, the first on your list. Thanks for checking! Apparently people are saying it’s the best Chinese food in Rhode Island, which, geographically, isn’t much of a leap from the best in Providence.(

  5. Donny B

    Ate dinner at Lucky Garden, and it was not good. The salt-baked squid tasted “Kentucky-fried” — greasy and tasteless. You need to go to Boston to get decent Chinese.

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  7. Mike

    Waterfire is a great way for the city to revive the downtown. Power to Providence!

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