Several Central Square establishments will offer food samplings Saturday at the Festival of Dumplings to honor Joyce Chen's birthday between 1 and 3 p.m.
The chef, author, and television cooking personality opened her first restaurant in Central Square in 1958, introducing Greater Boston residents to Mandarin and Szechuan cuisine. She passed away in 1994.Thelonious Monkfish, Moksa Restaurant, All Asia Cafe, Pu Pu HotPot, The Middle East, Dosa Factory, Zuzu's, and The Asgard are among some of the participating restaurants along Massachusetts Avenue, according to a Facebook post.
Chen moved to Cambridge after leaving Shanghai in 1949 at the end of the Chinese Revolution. After the success of her first take-out restaurant in Central Square, Chen opened up several other Chinese restaurants across Cambridge.
She taught Chinese cooking at the Cambridge adult education centers and published a cookbook in 1962. Chen had her own cooking show on PBS -- set and filmed at the same kitchen used by Julia Child for her show.
There are several variations of dumplings from China.
In the Northern province, dumplings are doughy crescents filled with ground pork or lam, cabbage and Chinese chives, then pan-fried to a crusty brown. In the southeast area, dumplings are softer-- stuffed with pork or crabmeat along with a fragrant broth in a thin edible wrapper and steamed over pine needles. In the south, dumplings come in many shapes, stuffed with pork, shrimp, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and fried, boiled or steamed.
"When I opened my first restaurant in Cambridge, I wanted to serve fried dumplings," Chen explained in a Globe interview in 1985. "But I was afraid that Americans wouldn't understand what they were. I thought that there was a similarity between the Chinese pot stickers and ravioli, with the dough and the filling. Everybody knew what ravioli was, and it gave people a good idea of what to expect."