I really did not know what to expect when I headed to east Tulsa to dine at Guang Zhou Dim Sum Restaurant. Guang Zhou is not the easiest restaurant to find (the best approach is exiting 11th St. off I-44; Guang Zhou is immediately on the right). Once there, it proved to be one of the more culturally intriguing restaurants in Tulsa.
Walking in on Saturday morning, my friend and I were immediately greeted, welcomed and situated at one of the tables in the small dining room. The atmosphere is one with no frills but a modest, functional style complimenting what the owners are working to accomplish: excellent, authentic food.
While Guang Zhou has a full menu of Chinese favorites, my purpose was to experience the dim sum menu, for I heard Guang Zhou is the only place in Tulsa which offers this cuisine. Our server, who I soon discovered was one of the owners, kindly asked if we had been before, and then proceeded to explain the menu. Literally meaning "to touch your heart," dim sum has the capacity to do just that.
The art of dim sum is considered a Cantonese specialty consisting of a collection of steamed and deep-fried snacks, usually served from mid-morning through the afternoon (a Chinese brunch). Traditionally only served in tea houses, dim sum dining is now available in many Chinese restaurants.
Dim sum includes a wide variety of dishes, such as spring rolls, steamed dumplings filled with meat or shrimp, steamed pork wrapped in noodle dough and fluffy, wheat buns stuffed with sweet roasted meat. Small portions of spicy spare-ribs, battered seafood or steamed wind-dried specialties are commonplace.
These foods are served straight from the bamboo steamers, brought to tables stacked and covered to keep their contents hot; these small dishes are similar to hors d'oeuvres.
For those unaccustomed to dining in this tradition, a good start is to order a pot of hot tea. Although beer and sodas are offered at Guang Zhou, for the complete Chinese experience, hot tea is a must, called "yum cha" or drinking tea.
Teahouses started as a place for weary travelers to rest and be nourished. The story goes that a famous third century Imperial physician once purported that drinking tea with food leads to weight gain, not to mention that it was considered inappropriate to combine food with tea. Later, as it became apparent that tea actually aided in digestion, teahouses began serving a number of snacks with tea, and the art of dim sum heralded a new type of teahouse.
How to order dim sum? My friend and I were uncertain about what we should order, and our server, no doubt, noticed our ignorance. She not only explained the dim sum history to us, she also explained how it worked. A cart was wheeled to the table full of little round steamed pans filled with a variety of delicacies. In fact, there are 48 selections on the menu, including Regular Dim Sum ($2.75), Sweet Dim Sum ($2.75), Special Dim Sum I ($3.45) and Special Dim Sum II ($4.25).
Our server opened many of the pans to show and explain what each was. After sampling a few, we then selected which ones we wanted to try.
Our meal consisted of steamed pork dumpling, shark in dumpling, steamed spare ribs with black bean, steamed oyster sauce roll, steamed shrimp ball with black mushroom and sweet rice wrapped in lotus leaf. She placed the little metal steam plates on our table and from there we began our Chinese brunch.
To the neophyte, this selection was ideal and comes highly recommended. The sticky rice, unwrapped from the large greenish-brown leaf (which comes from the aquatic lotus plant) has little bits of pork and black mushroom and is a must-try. The sticky rice (which, by nature, has some hints of natural sweetness to it) took on the inviting earthy tea scent of the lotus leaf. In Chinese medicine, lotus leaves are considered a neutral herb with the ability to reduce summer's heat, bringing down fevers and aiding in digestion. It is also believed to have curative properties such as healing bruises, reducing muscle spasms and easing dizziness and nausea.
We began with the steamed shrimp ball with black mushroom; its name is self-explanatory. We popped this little bite into our mouths with ease; the mushroom was rich in flavor and the shrimp ball was light and chewy.
Next, we sampled the steamed spare ribs. The meat was tender and bursting with nuanced flavor; they had been marinated in soy sauce, rice wine, fresh ginger, peanut oil, cloves, garlic, chili sauce and fermented black beans. These little bites added a remarkable excitement to the palate.
The steamed pork dumpling and the steamed oyster sauce roll were both rich with their natural flavors. Try some of the hot sauce on the table--some of the hottest in the city.
For dessert, we asked our server for a recommendation and decided upon the sweet coconut custard, fried sesame seed puff and pineapple buns (with egg cream filling), each at $2.75. These were all excellent selections! The fried puff was made to order, hot, creamy and slightly sweet. Sesame seeds coated the sides of the ball and added a pleasant crunchy texture. The pineapple buns were equally delicious. The coconut custard was served in little tart crusts, which were flaky and complemented the smooth coconut center well.
Guang Zhou is as authentic as Chinese gets in Tulsa. You should plan on spending some time here in order to fully enjoy hot tea, dim sum and fine Chinese hospitality.
Guang Zhou Dim Sum Restaurant
11630 E. Skelly Dr. (I44 at 11th)
The only place for dim sum in Tulsa, a Cantonese specialty, this dining consists of a collection of steamed and deep-fried snacks, the little meals which are will "touch the heart." Steamed Pork Dumpling, Shark in Dumpling, Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Bean, Steamed Oyster Sauce Roll, Steamed Shrimp Ball with Black Mushroom and Sweet Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf are recommended--along with the Fried Sesame Seed Puff for dessert.
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