The Tao of Dim Sum at New Haven’s Great Wall
By Andrew Dominick
Have you had Chinese food lately? No, not from the place up the street that delivers. But real, traditional Chinese dishes?Probably not. Being in Connecticut, we usually have to travel to New York City’s Chinatown for the real stuff. You are in luck, Great Wall of China in New Haven satisfies that need for authentic Chinese food without the frustration of a long drive or multiple train and subway rides.
Restaurants not named the Great Wall have the food we are all used to, the General Tso’s chickens, boneless BBQ ribs, and the beef and broccolis of the world. Great Wall has those American inspired Chinese dishes but they have some that we have never had. A great way to sample the “new to us” cuisine is to visit the restaurant on the weekends for dim sum.
If you are unfamiliar with dim sum, here is a crash course. You go into the restaurant, get a table, and wait for servers to wheel over a push cart. From there, you start pointing to what you want. Do not be afraid to ask questions about items you are unfamiliar with, a little research on dim sum menus beforehand is a great way to get acquainted with the food. A good tip when dining at a dim sum restaurant is to arrive early as they can fill up quickly and patrons are not rushed and some stay to chat with friends. Example: Great Wall opens at 11 a.m. on weekends, get there soon after. A half hour later, customers were standing up waiting for a table to vacate.
Enough chatter. What should you eat at Great Wall?
You can never go wrong with dumplings; shrimp, pork, beef, or chicken. Give a steamed dumpling a shot or go with a potsticker, which is steamed, then pan-fried. Great Wall’s chicken potstickers were a winner, not overcooked, and the filling had a good amount of meat to cabbage ratio, with just enough veggie for a slight crunch.
Let’s move on to something you probably have not tried, lotus leaf rice, or as the restaurant called it, sticky rice. It is a staple at dim sum restaurants and it was pleasing to see it at Great Wall. Sticky rice is just that, sticky, it is glutinous rice with meat, steamed inside of the lotus leaf to give it flavor. Great Wall’s version had beef and some type of pork sausage that made it easy to devour within mere minutes. Try it and thank me later.
Some favorites from this experience were fried lo mein noodles, vegetable spring rolls, and the overall star of the day was the boneless BBQ pork. The pork was served pre-sliced and was tender with a sweet red BBQ glaze. If you have a bunch of people at your table, order a few of some of these dishes since portions are small.
If you tend to be on the adventurous side, try the turnip cake, fried squid, or chicken feet. And if you can find it on a dim sum menu or at Great Wall (I didn’t see it there) but bitter melon stuffed with scallop will be unforgettable in terms of being a risk taker.
Stay for the dessert cart too. Great Walls offers egg tarts, which are basically egg custards baked in puff pastry or a deep fried dough ball with a red bean filling, rolled in sesame seeds.
Great Wall’s prices are great. For 10 items that day, plus a beer, the meal totaled$40. Each dish costs between $3 and $4. If dim sum is not your thing, they offer a buffet where many locals came to snag some takeout. Great Wall is open for Chinese New Year and can host private parties.
For something different, give places like this a chance. Great Wall and their traditional cuisine may be new to your palate, but you are sure to discover some new favorite dishes.
Great Wall of China
67 Whitney Avenue
New Haven, CT 06510
Andrew Dominick is a freelance writer and food blogger living in Norwalk, Connecticut. His articles can be found at andrew-dominick.blogspot.com and his food reviews at food-dudes.blogspot.com.