Posted by Tasha on January 28th, 2011 in Restaurants
It’s not every day a picky two-year-old willingly – no, eagerly – eats sticky rice out of a lotus leaf.
But on a Sunday afternoon at Guangzhou, a Chinese restaurant operating out of a former McDonald’s building on 11th Street east of Harvard, during the only dim sum service in Tulsa, it can happen. With fervor and the abandoning of forks.
For awhile now some church pals of ours have been trying to invite us out for a type of meal I thought they were mispronouncing as dim sum.
Turns out they weren’t mispronouncing (and that I need to get out more). What the heck is dim sum, then? Here’s the jist: It’s a type of Chinese food service that features individual-sized portions of food, usually served in small steamer baskets, on a small plate or, in the case of our first dim sum dinner, what looked like the metal bowls that came with this tiffin box my husband brought back from what he likes to call his extended field trip to Kabul, Afghanistan.
When trying dim sum for the first time, remember this: As with other types of cuisine that find their roots in other parts of the world, you don’t always want to make judgements about what the food must be like by the vibe of the building or the atmosphere in which its served.
In other words, if it’s Chinese food on the menu and it’s coming out of a kitchen in the back of a former McDonald’s, you know that nine times out of 10 it’s gonna knock your socks off.
Here’s how dim sum service works: The dim sum cart wheels by your table and you point to what you want. Then, magically, it’s yours. It’s that simple. What’s most fun is to request a variety of things to try, slide them onto the Lazy Susan that’s in the middle of every table at Guangzhou and spin to win.
What’s on the cart? Lots of different types of dumplings – shrimp, pork and more. And these precious little potstickers, crowned with a single pea. And char siu baau, which are these steamed fluffy buns made from wheat flour and filled with Cantonese barbecued pork.
And tasty shrimp and pork fillings wrapped in skins of translucent rice flour, too. Or, as our friends called them, gelatinous deliciousness.
Also on the cart was lo mai gai wrapped in a lotus leaf. Which is, apparently and unbeknownst to me, one of my son’s favorite foods ever.
I loved it, too. While the leaf wasn’t very tasty (for some reason my husband was compelled to give it a try and reported thus), the innards that were steamed inside – a concoction of sticky rice and tender pork and chicken – were the very definition of comfort food: Warm, starchy, meaty, and deeply savory.
And caramely. And sticky. It’s the kind of stuff a girl could eat all evening long while camped out with a bunch of pillows on the couch, in front of yet another home screening of The Notebook.
See those rice-flour skins on the dumplings? Apparently those take time to learn to make to that photo-worthy standard. So when you find some made as well as these, it’s craftsmanship that’s definitely worth noticing. And appreciating.
I would just like to take this opportunity to say that there were no Phoenix talons on the cart at this dim sum dinner.
Phoenix talons are, by the way, deep fried chicken feet.
While we love us some yard bird, I just don’t think that Oklahoma is ready for deep fried chicken feet.
At least, not these Oklahomans. I like to think of myself as adventurous when it comes to all matters culinary, but, well…deep fried chicken feet.
Aren’t our fellow dim summers cute? They’re sweet, too. They helped us decide what to order off the cart. And they’re always so nice to my son.
But then, who out there who’s female isn’t nice to my son?
Not that I’d have any idea why he’d get special treatment or anything.
For dessert there was a variety of pastry. My favorite was the egg tart, a personal-sized, flakey puff pastry filled with egg custard. It, too, was gelatinous. Delicious, too. Like a stripped-down, everyman’s mini quiche.
The ladies’ man’s favorite was the jin deui, or matuan, a chewy-and-sticky-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside ball of dough. It’s filled with red bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds and, you guessed it, deep fried.
Sounds strange. Tastes like lightly sweet, lightly nutty heaven.
“Hmmm. Yes. Sweet. Nutty. Quite.”
The discerning food critic in the family agrees.
Hey, son? You got a little something right there.
OK, got it. Carry on.
Dim sum at Guangzhou starts in the late morning and continues into the afternoon. I’d recommend grabbing a table during what the staff and regulars call magic hour, or the time when the turnover on the cart is the most rapid. According to my observations and the advice of our dim summing friends, it’s between 12:30 and 1:30pm.
As a newbie dim summer myself, here’s my advice: Use a dim sum dinner service at Guangzhou as an easy excuse to expose your kids (and yourself) to a cuisine that, if you’re locked into the stereotypical Okie diet of meat and potatoes, will challenge and surprise you. Who knows, you might find your new favorite food.
Yeah. Judging by the experience of the kid who would eat only grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies the day before he was treated to a dim sum dinner, you just might.
Where: 4003 E. 11th Street
Call: (918) 835-7888
Dim sum hours: Saturday and Sunday, 10:30am-3pm
Other hours: Monday, Wednesday-Sunday, 10:30am-9pm; Closed Tuesdays