Nom Wah Tea Parlor*
13 Doyers St
(between Bowery & Chatham Sq)
New York, NY 10013
Whenever my Beijing friends want to get together, it seems that we either go to Congee Village, Joe’s Ginger, or Nom Wah. None of these restaurants are particularly fantastic, but they are all very accommodating to large groups, cheap (but not so cheap that you’ll find a leftover pork bone on your seat … another story for another time), and all have decent, somewhat authentic Chinese food. Nom Wah is a dim sum restaurant that serves all the classic dim sum dishes though in a non-classic way. Dim sum is usually served off of push carts where you simply take food off of carts as they roll by. Nom Wah does not have push carts and serves its dim sum like any other restaurant with a menu and waiter/waitress. I would probably go to Jing Fong Restaurant (20 Elizabeth St) if I was taking first-timers but since my friends and I are all seasoned dim sum eaters, the ordering method is preferred because the food is generally fresher. Anyway, I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite dim sum dishes:
Sticky Rice in Bamboo Leaf
Sticky glutinous rice is steamed with chicken and often shiitake mushrooms (though sadly, not at Nom Wah) in a bamboo or lotus leaf. The leaf is supposed to infuse the rice with a fresh fragrant flavor. Nom Wah’s leaves are probably pretty low quality because the rice does not have that extra umami factor. Though, sticky rice is sticky rice and is very tasty with bits of chicken.
Shrimp and Snow Pea Leaf Dumpling / Shrimp in Bean Curd Skin
Steamed dumplings of all varieties exist in the dim sum world. These two are some of my favorites. The shrimp and snow pea dumpling is one I’ve never seen at any other restaurant (could it be a Nom Wah special?). The skin is made with a wheat starch and tapioca, making it beautifully translucent and deliciously chewy. Snow pea leaves are one of my favorite Chinese vegetables because they are leafy, tender and taste just like peas. The combination of steamed shrimp and snow pea leaf remind me of spring… The shrimp and bean curd dumplings on the right are much heartier. The bean curd skin is thinner than the classic tapioca skin and clings to the shrimp filling.
DELICIOUS. This is a dish that no restaurant really ever messes up. The chicken feet are marinated in oyster sauce, sugar, soy sauce, garlic, pepper, and black bean sauce, fried, and then boiled. It may gross some people out but it certainly is a must-try. The texture is like eating tendon…
Rice Roll with Fried Dough I love rice rolls. They are basically long flat rice noodles that are wrapped around either shrimp, roast pork, beef, or fried dough. The fried dough is supposed to be crispy and light, however at Nom Wah, they tasted a bit like they had been sitting out for hours already. The rice rolls are then drizzled with a sweet soy sauce, usually thicker than regular soy sauce.
Turnip Cake with XO Sauce
Turnip cake is made with shredded radish and rice flour that is fried until the exterior is golden and crispy while the interior is soft. They are often just cut into large squares and served with oyster sauce on the side. My favorite way of eating them are with XO sauce, pictured above. They are cut into smaller squares and deep fried with peppers and XO sauce, a seafood sauce usually consisting of dried scallop, chillies, dried shrimp, and garlic.
Fried Sesame Ball with Lotus Paste
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like this, even friends of mine who don’t typically like Asian desserts. Rice flour and sugar are mixed together to create a glutinous dough that is then stuffed with lotus paste, red bean paste, or black sesame paste, and then DEEP fried. You really can’t go wrong.
*I think calling it a “Tea Parlor” is a bit pretentious and weird… you certainly are not served nice tea at Nom Wah. Yes, dim sum did evolve from the “tea tasting” tradition in China… but if you have “tea” in your restaurant name, you should invest in some better teas. Come here for decent dim sum and be prepared for sticky tables and watered down tea.
note – shrimp and snow pea dumpling photo from Yelp. I was too excited to eat and forgot to capture a photo myself!