Foodie Frenzy – Week 6! Canton House Chinese Dim Sum
Flashback 20+ years to recent college graduates, Audra and Patty, who planned an “educational” trip up the California coast with the final destination being San Francisco. On the list of things to-do was find a good dim sum restaurant in famed China Town. Following the advice of either Fodor’s or Let’s Go, which were the travel bibles at the time, we ended up at House of Nan King. I still remember the amazing smells, flavors and tastes accompanied by my desire to know what the heck we were ordering. (Note from Audra…I just found the actual napkin that a local wrote on to tell us directions to House of Nanking and a photo of Patty and me actually dining there!)
Following that trip, I have always wanted to enjoy dim sum again, but with assistance from someone who really knows Chinese cuisine.
Fast forward to today and let me introduce the guest that Audra and I invited to join us for this week’s Foodie Frenzy adventure at Canton House….Nancy Chian Gresham!
Nancy is a friend that I met when our girls were in 1st grade at Austin and I knew she loved celebrating her Chinese heritage. Although I was aware that both of her sweet parents grew up in China, Audra and I learned so much more about her interesting heritage over lunch. Little did we know, but Nancy spent the first 2 years of her life in Taizhong, Taiwan and speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. She even has cuisine royalty in her bloodline. Her dad’s 1st cousin is Joyce Chen, who was influential in bringing Chinese cuisine popularity to the US in the 50’s. You might be hearing more about Joyce Chen since she is about to be featured on a commemorative forever stamp along with the likes of Julia Child, James Beard and others. I say all that to preempt the fact that we obviously relied on Nancy to take over the dim sum ordering today, which she did beautifully and completely all while speaking Mandarin Chinese!
For those who are dim sum newbies like me, here’s how it works. Wait staff comes to your table with a cart full of small plates filled with several different dishes to try. You get to select what to try and how many. Nancy selected about 4 plates of all different authentic dishes for us to try. Because we were running our mouths so much, we only got about one bite down when another cart arrived stocked full of a whole new round to try. Dios mio! I liked where this was headed! Nancy asked the waitress lots of questions (all in fluent Mandarin I remind you) to make sure we were getting the traditional and delicious dishes she grew up with. I’ll do my best to describe what she selected because there was no menu for dim sum.
We had two different types of steamed pork buns. One looked like it was wrapped in white bread and the other one looked like a yeast roll you would find at Matthew’s Cafeteria. Both were filled with pork. We favored the yeast roll one. The wonder bread one was good too, but very sweet. We loved the mounded rice dish that comes out with a dome cover which we assumed is to keep it hot. It reminded me of fried rice that everyone is probably more familiar with. We continued to feast on shrimp dumplings, pork and mushrooms wrapped in rice paper, shrimp lightly fried and topped with coconut served with a delicious sweet and sour tasting sauce, another scrumptious steamed rice wrapped in what looked like grape leaves. You open up the grapes and the steamed rice with all sorts of goodies awaits you.
We had two different types of Taro root…one fried and one with a congealed salad consistency. Out of everything we tried, the Jell-O-like taro root was the only thing that Audra and I did not like. Nancy enjoyed this, so maybe it is an acquired taste. But, not one that I will be acquiring any time soon. They do serve dessert dim sum, and Nancy selected a tasty light pastry topped with yellow custard.
When it comes to dim sum, here are my suggestions: try whatever looks good, eat it while it’s hot because another round is soon to follow and keep trying things until you have to call Uncle!
How they calculate your tab is interesting. Every time you order another plate, they put a hash mark on your check under small, medium or large plate. Small plates are $2.95, Medium $3.95 and Large $4.95.
They have a larger variety on the weekends and more large plates that also elevate in price.
As always, we had leftovers to take home to the troops and I will include their assessments:
- Becca and Alaina (13)- thumbs up to everything but the fried taro root
- Natalie and Nicole (13) –said the pork buns were a 4 out of a 5. They commented that the meat tastes very good but they have eaten buns that were moister and sweeter.
- Sophia (11)-was not interested in playing this round
- Troy (16) and Walt (13)-not fans of dim sum
- Nancy’s comments: “It is about as good as you can get for lunch in ATL. I think weekends are better for dim sum (variety, hotter, fresher) than weekdays.
I think we can all agree that trying new cuisines can be scary! From that stand point, that didn’t happen today, thanks to our local expert. The scary part about our lunch came in when Audra reminisced back to our trip to SF and our outing to Candlestick Park. We had carefully planned attending a game since we both love baseball. And then she laughed when she asked if I remembered how we compensated for the cold and inclement weather. I did not. I was reminded that we stripped the linens off of our budget friendly SF motel to snuggle in, which made me spit the dumpling out of my mouth!
Lessons to be learned for the day: 1) Our standards change as we age 2) We live in an amazing community with diverse cultural backgrounds. 3) Even if you think you really know your friend/neighbor, ask more questions because you will probably love what you hear! I know I did!
4825 Buford Highway
Chamblee, GA 30341
Health rating: 84
Disclaimer: This is not a paid advertisement. The owners of Canton House are unaware of this article at time of publication.