Excellent | Worth a Detour
Mee Sum Restaurant | Amazing Chow Mein Sandwich
Review by: Michael Stern
Birth of a Sandwich
Regina Mark, who runs Mee Sum Restaurant and Lounge with her husband, Kenny, tells this story: “In New Bedford long ago, a customer came in and ordered chow mein to take home. But he wasn’t feeling too well. So he asked for bread to go with it. The chef had no bread, so he gave the customer some hamburger buns. The customer returned the next day, feeling well, and happy to say that the buns and the chow mein had made an excellent sandwich.” So was born Fall River’s amazing chow mein sandwich.
Unique Local Specialty
If you haven’t eaten your way along the south coast of Massachusetts, the idea of a chow mein sandwich probably sounds wrong. For people who live around here, it’s everyday eats. You’ll find it served at home, in school lunchrooms, in Chinese restaurants, and at drive-ins. Many locals don’t fully appreciate its uniqueness until they move away. Then, they realize how much they miss it.
It’s All About the Noodles
Mee Sum chow mein, a soft brown gravy laced with celery and onion (and, if you wish, meat) exemplifies the Cantonese dish. But noodles make it special. They’ve been made since 1926 by Fall River’s Oriental Chow Mein Company. They are thin, crisp, and more addictive than peanuts or potato chips. Ladle chow mein atop the bottom half of a burger bun. Then strew it with an abundance of those fine noodles. Finally, cap the whole thing with the bun’s top. Now you have a true Fall River chow mein sandwich.
How to Eat a Chow Mein Sandwich
Most of us need a knife and fork to eat it. But Mee Sum waitress Sue said that she has veteran chow mein sandwich eaters who get theirs wrapped and eat the whole thing. They don’t want utensils. Maybe just a pile of napkins. Sue explained that when the sandwich is securely enclosed in wax paper for even a few minutes the gravy begins to bind it together. The tight wrapper causes the chow mein noodles to steam soft. They return to a state that is something like al dente lo mein. It is mischievously delicious this way, completely different from the textural drama of the plated version. It sets a high-water mark of culturally incorrect Cantonese cuisine. Mere dilettantes, we had no luck holding it together for more than a couple of bites.
Beyond Fall River’s amazing chow mein sandwich, the kitchen also offers an egg foo yung sandwich and a chop suey sandwich. Neither is compelling. Other than curious sandwiches, the Mee Sum menu is familiar Cantonese-American fare. Note: One other Roadfood-recommended place to find a chow mein sandwich is Evelyn’s Drive-In of Tiverton, Rhode Island.
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|