Try Dim Sum at the Historic Nom Wah Tea Parlor

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Photo Courtesy of: An Rong Xu
Nom Wah Tea Parlor Exterior, 2011.
All photos: Courtesy of An Rong Xu

Since opening in 1920, Nom Wah Tea Parlor has been a Chinatown staple. The tea parlor offers fresh Chinese pastries, delicious dim sum dishes along with every traditional tea on the spectrum.

After buying the restaurant from the Choy family in 1974, Wally Tang has kept Nom Wah a family business with his nephew, Wilson Tang, who now manages the parlor.

“My Uncle Wally started working here in the 50’s and just worked his way up through the ranks to eventually owning it,” Wilson Tang said. “Now I inherited it from him and he’s been using the place as his hang out.”

Dim Sum, translating directly to ‘a little bit of heart’, is meant to be shared with numerous people at once but in small portions. This custom originated in China hundreds of years ago when teahouses started popping up along the famous Silk Road to re-energize travelers.

At the time, it was considered to be inappropriate to drink tea while eating food. However, the Cantonese people in southern China disregarded this and made teahouses into an eating experience as well.

One of Nom Wah’s most popular dim sum dishes is its Original Egg Roll, which Wally Tang created back in the 1950’s. “It’s one item that I really pride us on because we make it this labor intensive thing,” Tang said. “Its dairy, its fresh and it has real eggs in it. It’s different from any other egg roll.”

Walking into Nom Wah, customers are transported to the 1950s with its vintage style and old antiques scattered around the restaurant. Besides getting a redone kitchen in 2010 along with a few technologic upgrades, Nom Wah has kept to its roots. The tea parlor isn’t just popular amongst locals, but the joint has been featured in several movies over the years as well.

“The flooring is a tile that you don’t see anymore these days and our feel is really mid century. It’s got this really old diner feel and were on a really cool street, its one of the first streets in Chinatown,” Wilson said.

Serving teas, such as the Chrysanthemum, which is well known for its cooling properties; Shui Hisen from the Mount Wuyl area of China and Tie Guanyin also known as ‘Iron Buddha Tea’ that has a flowery aroma; Nom Wah provides a truly authentic experience. Nom Wah’s traditional dim sum dishes include the Shrimp and Snow Pea Leaf Dumpling, Rice Roll with Fried Dough and the House Special Dumpling in Soup.

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Tang has always been able to call downtown Manhattan his home. Growing up in Chinatown, he feels this area provides him with everything he needs and that is why he has chosen to live within walking distance of his work.

If you’re looking for some authentic dim sum cuisine, look no further than Nom Wah Tea Parlor on the historic Doyers street at number 11-13. To learn more about Nom Wah or dim sum, please visit their website. 

– by Kelsey Maloney