Words and Photos by Emily Wu
It’s another dreary and rainy day in Boston. The gray skies and pelting rain make you want to curl up in your blanket and not leave your dorm.
You decide to…
A.) Stay in your dorm
B.) Be adventurous and brave the rain
If you chose A.) → scroll down to #2b
If you chose B.) → scroll down to #2a
You flip open your laptop and embark on a Google search of places to go to in Boston.
Faneuil Hall? Too touristy. MFA? Too boring. Chinatown? Too crowded.
Just then, your eyes land on Dorchester. A neighborhood in Boston bursting with diversity, Dorchester just so happens to have a large Vietnamese American community. As your mouth drools while staring at the countless images of hot pho and warm banh minh, you decide it’s time to pay Boston’s largest neighborhood a visit.
Dragging your two friends in tow and arming yourself with an umbrella and rainboots, you embark on your food journey to Dorchester. Upon getting off at the Fields Corner stop on the Red Line, you’re immediately in awe of the beauty of the neighborhood. The bright autumn leaves complement well with the aesthetically pleasing street art. Everywhere you look, there are signs written in Vietnamese.
Oops, that’s your stomach. You were so excited to go to Dorchester that you forgot to eat breakfast. There are so many breakfast spots in Dorchester but you can’t seem to choose which one to go to!
You want to eat:
A.) Something hot and filling
B.) Something you can eat on the go
If you chose A.), scroll down to #3
If you chose B.), scroll down to #4a
Walk down a couple blocks on Dorchester Avenue and you’ll see a large restaurant with a crimson signage that reads “Phở Lê.” Just then, you feel a drop on your head. Soon enough, you and your friends are getting drenched by pouring rain. The three of you run towards the restaurant for cover. Shivering and dripping with autumn rain, the three of you are warmly welcomed by a waiter who leads your group to a table. As you walk down the aisle, you catch murmurs of Vietnamese here and there as you watch elderly couples and families slurp up noodles.
Once you all have been seated and get menus, you scan the noodle soup section. You’ve heard of and had pho before. A Vietnamese noodle soup with rice vermicelli enveloped in broth, herbs, and meat, pho is a versatile dish that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You’re having a hard time choosing as all the options sound delicious.
Eventually, you and one of your friends decide to play it safe and order the Special Beef Noodles, which has thin sliced eye round, brisket, tendon and tripe all stuffed in a bowl of pho. Your other friend settles on Bánh Canh Cua Giò Heo, a crab meat noodle soup with pork hock.
While you and your friends wait for the pho, you order a steaming hot cup of Vietnamese coffee. You take a sip and you’re immediately hit with a wave of flavor. The creaminess of the condensed milk and the bitterness of the coffee meld together to create a light yet rich drink. It’s the perfect pick-me-up.
A while later, the waiter comes with three steaming bowls of noodle soup. You break open your bamboo chopsticks and dig in.
“Wow,” you think to yourself, “This is amazing.” The broth is a flavor bomb that is soaked up by the delicious noodles while the tender and soft meat melts in your mouth. Instantly, your body is warmed up and your rainy day blues dissipate as you slurp up the entire bowl.
Feeling warm and fuzzy, you and your friends pay the bill and step outside the restaurant. The pouring rain has reduced to a drizzle now and the weather seems okay for a walk.
You and your friends decide to:
A.) Take a walk to get out of the food coma
B.) Check out a nearby Vietnamese supermarket
If you chose A.), scroll down to #4a
If you chose B.), scroll down to #4b
The three of you walk down Dorchester Ave, admiring the gorgeous autumn scenery and the rainbow of storefronts. Your eyes scan the street and land on an old-fashioned sign with an Eiffel Tower that reads, “Banh Mi Ba Le.” You all decide it’s worth a visit and head inside.
The moment you all step in, your mouth drops open. The tiny shop is bursting with food and life. From brightly colored coconut jellies to warm bread to freshly squeezed cane juice, there is something for everyone. You decide to order the special, ĐẶC BIỆT, which is a sandwich stuffed with pate, ham, head cheese, pork roll, pickled radishes, cilantro, and jalapenos. On your way to the counter, you pick up some bánh da lợn and bánh bò, which are steamed Vietnamese layer cakes and chewy sponge cakes. As you pay for your food, you watch as a worker assembles your sandwich with lightning speed.
Leaving the store with plastic takeout bags stuffed with food, you and your friends walk outside the store to find that the rain has faded away into sunshine. One of your friends suggests grabbing a cup of bubble tea. The other seems more interested in exploring a nearby Vietnamese supermarket.
You decide to:
A.) Grab something to drink
B.) Go explore the supermarket
If you choose A.) scroll down to #5
If you choose B.) scroll down to #4b
The three of you walk over to the Vietnamese supermarket. The automatic doors slide open to reveal a bustling market. You can hear the beep beep at the cash registers and the shouting in Vietnamese. Shelves and shelves full of various food items surround you as you spot fruits you’ve never seen before and different Asian snacks. Here, you can get anything from Vietnamese desserts to ingredients for pho to instant noodles.
Once you’ve finished your adventure at the supermarket, you can’t decide whether to explore more or to go back to your dorm.
You decide to:
A.) Explore a bit more
B.) Head back
If you chose A), scroll down to #5
If you chose B), scroll down to #6
You all walk down Dorchester Ave until you see a minimalistic logo of a bubbling flask. Your friends tell you it’s the logo for Reign Drink Lab, a bubble tea shop. The store may be tiny, but its interior design makes up for the size. A large portrait of a lion on one wall glares at the customers while the other wall is decked out with a cute black bookshelf stacked with memorabilia and books. There’s a large range of drinks to choose from, with options like Purple Reign and the matcha latte. You decide to go simple and get a honey jasmine milk tea. You take a sip and are pleasantly surprised. The tea has just the right amount of sweetness which complements the tea’s floral notes.
Continue to #6
You decide it’s the perfect day to stuff yourself with junk food and binge watch that Netflix show everyone’s talking about. Soon enough, you’re on episode 54. Bored, you open your phone and go on Snapchat. You swipe through your friends’ stories and see their food and fun-filled Stories. Sighing, you toss your phone away on your bed and munch on your 500th chip as you watch the lead girl hesitate to kiss her crush.
“Maybe I should’ve gone out,” you think to yourself gloomily.
After a whole day of eating your way through Dorchester Avenue, the three of you decide to call it a day and head over to the train station. As the train whizzes out of the station, you think about all the good food you’re going to stuff in your dorm fridge and all the good memories you’ve made.