Recently, I gave up watching Food Network and switched to PBS food shows. For a short time, I worked at a PBS station which influenced my decision. PBS is free, and I don’t need to pay for cable.
We are living cable-free.
Now, we watch Lydia’s Kitchen, The Chef and Farmer, and my new favorite, Mike Colameco’s Real Food. Colameco (chef, author, and host) is an unpretentious fellow that is already a celebrity with me. He interviews the chef-owner, and dishes are created before your eyes that will have your tongue hanging out. That’s why the show is titled Real Food, because, “it’s real chefs, in real restaurants, cooking real recipes, in real time!”
When the show comes on, I’m scrambling for pen and paper so I can write down the name of the restaurants he explores. We absolutely love the show, and one in particular show had us drooling. It got my attention: Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Located on 13 Doyers Street, in New York City’s Chinatown, just below Canal street —this is where Chinatown started.
Admittedly, I’m never going to cook Asian food at home.
I’m never going to cook Asian food at home. There has to be one cuisine reserved for dining out. So we did the next best thing — we got on a plane to New York City and went to Nom Wah Tea Parlor. The place was packed, and the hungry crowd was outside on the graffiti, pedestrian-only alley that has a 90-degree curve in the middle. While waiting, I looked at the historical (pre-war) federal buildings that appeared in great shape, at least on the outside, who knows if they are up to code inside.
All of my many trips to Chinatown in New York were eating on Canal Street, not knowing where to go, half the time, I was judging the food by looking in the window. If we saw Peking duck…that’s where we ate.
Now, I was excited to find a restaurant with dim sum as their house specialty.
Before leaving the airport, I had previewed the menu and made notes what to order when we arrived. At each table is a menu sheet to check off the items that you want. I checked off Cilantro & Scallion Rice roll, Steamed spare ribs, pan fried dumpling. House Special Roast BBQ Pork Bun, and the Original Egg Roll.
The restaurant has the same cook for decades and he knows all the secrets, and now has to teach the art to others. It’s impressing to know that 90% of the produce comes from Chinatown.
It was drizzling outside and most of us huddled under a patio umbrella waiting for our number to be called.
Check out the red vinyl booths. tin ceiling, and the tiled floor…
The pan fried dumplings were incredibly tasty.
As I struggled with my chopsticks around the fried spare rib dumpling, my thoughts shifted to the time when we were in Hong Kong and ate authentic dim sum every day…for a week. We now had great anticipation of capturing this long-ago memory of made-to-order delicacies.
Traditional Cantonese Dim sum in Hong Kong restaurants have women with trollies that stroll the aisles with carts of food to serve you, like tapas on wheels. They are bite-size and that makes it fun to order several plates. Now-a-days, it is all à la carte, which allows for on-demand ordering.
The “Original egg roll” on the menu is unusually constructed, but… oh so good, delicious and fresh. It has a thin egg crepe inside, and filled with chicken and vegetables, dipped in a batter, and deep fried – fresh and light tasting.
All the food is well seasoned, and it didn’t need soy sauce…or duck sauce. Only the pork bun disappointed us… not enough pork and onions to satisfy us.
Chrysanthemum flower tea aids digestion and we needed this after each bite. A good idea to sip it between dishes to cleanse the palate.
Tea is served with dim Sum, and it’s linked with “yum cha” which means drinking tea, while dim sum means, “to touch the heart.” My research says they are interchangeable, and the components are tea with small bites. Traditionally, it was just breakfast and lunch.
We purchased White tea at a local shop down the street at Ten Ren Tea Company where we learned how to make and enjoy a good cup of tea. Teas can cost $100 per pound here. Owned by 3rd generation tea producers.
Dim sum, and yum cha, were what weary traveling merchants ate for a roadside respite, day or night over 1,000 years ago. Think of it as brunch any time of the day. Drink a huge pot of tea and nibble on lots of delicious small bites…This could be addictive.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor is the oldest, continuously operated Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown.
Wilson Tang, (inherited the Nom Wah from his uncle) has given it new life, while keeping tradition alive. Hardly much has changed since the 1950’s other than a kitchen renovation. He has generated a huge (cult-like food fanatics) following on social media,
It was a thrill to visit a restaurant that has survived this long. One that outlives the critics. I think his uncle is beaming with pride at honoring their Chinese heritage.