Good Taste: Getting back to Cantonese roots

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Steamed shrimp and snow pea leaf dumplings from the new Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown. ( Craig LaBan / Staff )

There's ironic turnabout in the recent arrival of New York City's Cantonese dim sum classic, Nom Wah Tea Parlor, in a former hardware space on 13th Street.

Philly's Chinatown, founded in 1880, was dominated by Cantonese flavors until just the last decade, when menus began veering toward a more diverse menu of regional flavors from Sichuan, Xi'an, and Shanghai, whose "soup dumplings" (xiao long bao) are all the rage at Dim Sum Garden and elsewhere.

Now Wilson Tang of Nom Wah hopes to sway local diners back to those Cantonese roots: "I want to get peoples' minds away from xiao long baos." Nom Wah's own lackluster soup dumplings (thick-skinned yet frustratingly fragile) may be a sign of that ambivalence.

But "lost" Cantonese dishes, like the egg roll wrapped inside a skin made from actual egg crepe or the grated turnip cake filled with funky dried seafood, are worth checking out. My favorites, though, were the satchel-shaped dumplings. Their open-topped har gow skins reveal a stuffing of shrimp and pea leaves, whose vibrant green makes the fresh seafood's sweetness pop.

- Craig LaBan
Shrimp and pea leaf dumplings, $4.50, Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 218 N. 13th St., 267-519-2889; nomwah.com