Tulsans are just now discovering the joys of food offered from street vendors for a fast meal. Yet in countries around the world, some of the best food -- the quintessential dishes a region offers -- is found in a mobile form. Dim sum is a type of 'meals on wheels' that loads a variety of ready-made small dishes onto a special steam cart. The cart then parades around the dining room, delivering these delicious hors d'oueveres to each table, hot and ready to eat. This unique tradition is alive and well in Tulsa and can be enjoyed by adventurous diners at Guang Zhou.
Guang Zhou has two locations now. The first and original location is in a non-descript restaurant space near the Econo-Lodge at 21st and Garnett. The owners have opened a new location on 11th street that has replaced a defunct McDonald's. Their menu is extensive, featuring some of everyone's favorites, like sweet and sour chicken ($7.50) and kung pao beef ($8.50), egg drop soup ($3.75) and Cantonese style spring rolls ($2.50). But these dishes are mainly prepared for American tastes. There are many other dishes that offer a more intimate acquaintance with the Cantonese style of cooking, that include unique spices and ingredients.
We were given a regular menu and a long sheet resembling a sushi order form. There were several sections, one with regular dim sum ($2.75), sweet dim sum ($2.75), special dim sum I ($3.45), special dim sum II ($4.25), and special order ($5.95). Each serving is stored in a small metal dish and is a set price, and your ticket is marked for each item you choose. The waiter asked if we'd be ordering off the menu or if we would be eating off the cart. Dim sum cart service is available on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30am to 3pm. We decided to do a little of both, which proved to be an excellent strategy.
The waiter took our drink orders, and we opted for the hot tea on a chilly day. Dim sum means "going to tea" in Cantonese, so tea is an important element, and Guang Zhou offers several varieties. I ordered a steamy pot of Jasmine and it was a great blend of loose leaf. We decided to order a few things off the menu before the cart was brought around.
The menu lured us first with crab and cream cheese wontons ($2.50 for 6). But hidden among the tried and true, there was the roast duck, only half order for $9.50.
The appetizers came out fresh from the kitchen, with the crab and cream cheese wontons still sizzling. The roast duck came mounded and glistening on a plate, with half a duck breast chopped, bone and all, into serving sizes. The flavors were outstanding, with the skin cooked to a perfect mahogany brown and a crispness that melted in the mouth. The meat underneath was also moist and flavorful. For under ten bucks, it was worth every penny.
The crab wontons had some time to cool and upon the first bite, everyone at the table raved about the freshness of these little guys. Obviously handmade, the cream cheese was a velvety conduit for a light crab taste and scallions added a great kick of flavor.
By the time we were fighting over the last wonton, we heard the cart make its way into the dining room, clinking as it made its way to our table. Now many pay lip service to dumplings on Chinese food menus, but the dumplings on this cart were the real McCoy. Plump dumplings with a variety of fillings, wrapped in delicate dough were revealed as the waiter removed their steamy lids. We chose the steamed pork dumpling and the steamed shrimp dumpling, and then rounded out the first volley with a baked barbecue pork bun.
The steamer dishes contained four dainty dumplings each, with the pork filling overflowing the top of the delicate dumpling wrap. Ground pork was mixed with vegetables and spices into a small meatball, creating a perfect mouthful of flavor. The shrimp dumplings were more like a pouch, with several salad-sized shrimp waiting inside. The shrimp were fresh and had a rich, peppery taste. The barbecue pork bun was another lesson in textures. This time the outer shell was a softer, more bread-like dough, not as gummy as the dumpling dough. Inside a bright red sauce covered bits of pork, with the sweet flavor of the sauce married nicely with the porky goodness. It was a bit too sweet for some at our table, but it's good to keep in mind this is not your typical American barbecue sauce, and instead is more closely related to a sweet and sour sauce.
The surprise star of the table was the square-shaped pouches enveloped in a type of leaf. It's called lo mai gai, and it taught us the first lesson of dim sum: do not judge a food by its container. Inside a very large lotus leaf was a delicious packet of extremely sticky -- or 'glutinous' -- rice. The outer portions are a light brown color that seeped from the leaf during the steaming process. Inside the rice is a layer of flaky chicken. The flavors were perfectly balanced, and the proper moisture and texture was maintained for all elements. One steamer basket contained two packets that were quickly devoured.
The next round for the table included the steamed oyster sauce roll -- another delicious dumpling filled with chicken and mushrooms in a salty oyster sauce; and the Chinese turnip cake -- a pan-fried cake, almost a flan consistency -- that had a pungent first taste and an earthy, almost sweet finish.
So the outlandish soup didn't win any fans today, but how about those chicken feet I mentioned? Well, they were unadulterated, whole chicken feet that were a rusty-red color from the braising sauce. The cooking process made the skin on the feet gelatinous and each little toe (or talon?) yielded very little meat. Each of us gave it the ol' college try, but fell short of finding a new favorite food. A side note here: many diners were gnawing happily on these not-so-happy feet, so who are we to say what is unappetizing when the U.S. of A. gave the world the McRib?
We topped off our culinary expedition with a sweet dim sum, which was a large globe of golden-fried dough, rolled in sesame seeds and filled with a red bean paste. The red bean paste inside was actually very sweet and partnered with the nutty flavor of the sesame seeds. These sesame desserts were a great ending to the meal and a nice morsel to accompany the last of the tea. Another great treat was the bill; only $50 for four guests who experienced so many different kinds of food in one sitting.
Dim sum at Guang Zhou may seem like a very foreign experience. But anyone can appreciate the idea of enjoying the company of your family and friends while experiencing something new. If you are looking for a more traditional dim sum, the original location of Guang Zhou may be the best bet on the weekends. The 11th street location is a bit less formal and focuses more on menu items. By ordering a favorite Chinese dish from the menu and trying what's under lid number one, two or three on the dim sum cart, you can add a little authenticity to your meal. Guang Zhou has great lunch menu prices and serves its entire menu, including dim sum dishes, Monday through Sunday. So rebuke those flimsy mimosas for your next "Sunday fun-day" and allow yourself to be transported to another culture at Guang Zhou's dim sum.
Send all comments and feedback regarding Restaurant to email@example.com
Share this article: