By Angel Roy email@example.com on February 1, 2011
Each wall in the dining room boasts a bold color — yellow, orange, blue.
Photos of blue sky scattered with clouds line the windows, facing in. A woman greets you by name with a big smile.
Tina Tan and her husband Young Zeng opened Sunshine Oriental on Loudon Road in Concord in June with hopes of introducing the city to the Chinese tradition of dim sum. Tan and Zeng first began offering dim sum — Chinese for “small portions” — only on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, as printed on their paper placemats, but that was before the dishes hit the ground running.
“Rock and roll,” said Mark Beauchesne, New Hampshire Fish and Game advertising and promotions coordinator, when Tan placed a plate of turnip cakes on the round table that he shared with Fish and Game and Department of Transportation staff.
“We would eat here every day — some weeks we do,” said Sandy Falicon, Fish and Game legislative and rules coordinator.
The fluffy square cakes, made with mashed turnip, are also spotted with Chinese sausage and shrimp. Chinese sausage, Beauchesne explained, is not the bright pink colored sausage found in stores, but a dry sausage cured with grain alcohol.
The many plates of dim sum, selected by Beauchesne, who has learned from Tan how to order the dishes in Chinese, fill the table quickly. Beauchesne recently took his mother to the restaurant so she could reminisce about her trips to Chinatown with her father, who was second-generation Chinese.
“There are some things you don’t forget — experiences and food,” Beauchesne said. “Dim sum is like a family thing — it gets loud — that’s the fun part.” Steamed buns, which Beauchesne called a “lovely little gift,” soon arrived at the table. The buns, filled with barbecue pork, are difficult to make, Tan said, as the proper balance between flour and sugar needs to be found for the dough to rise properly.
“If they are too big, you will see the pork,” Tan said. “You have to balance that.”
It is the technical skills involved in creating dim sum dishes that Tan said usually limits the days it is offered by restaurants.
“If you serve it every day you have to prepare it every day — it’s a hard job, but we want to do that,” Tan said.
Many Chinese restaurants choose to offer dim sum only on weekends because people are likely to wait longer for dishes like deep fried sesame balls, steamed pork and shrimp dumplings and the spare ribs with black bean sauce, as all three take a minimum of 15 minutes to prepare and cook.
“You can’t rush the food,” Tan said. “We can’t just prepare it and steam it; we want our food to be more fresh.”
Other popular dim sum dishes include steamed shrimp dumplings, grilled bean curd sheets rolled with shrimp, pork soup with rice noodles and deep fried shrimp taro patties. Traditional sticky rice is served wrapped up in a lotus leaf purse. The only visible difference between the sticky rice, called Nuo Mi, and steamed white rice, Tan said, is that the Nuo Mi grains are longer. The rice is blended with Chinese sausage, chicken, mushroom, pork, shrimp and a special sauce before it is steamed in the leaf, Tan said. Tan would not reveal the ingredients in the restaurant’s special sauce.
“I can’t tell you too much about it because it is a recipe and also because my husband makes it,” she said.
In addition to dim sum and sushi, Sunshine Oriental’s menu boasts other unique offerings created using both family and traditional Chinese recipes. Most of the chef specials are Cantonese-style, Tan said.
Unusual dishes include beef tripe, chicken feet and pork intestines. The tripe (cow stomach) is served either boiled with a special homemade sauce or with pickled mustard greens. The chicken feet are served fried, and the pork intestines with pickled mustard greens.
“We want to introduce them to authentic food, but it takes time,” Tan said.
To better help those unfamiliar with Asian dishes select at meal, photos of the restaurant’s offerings hang above the counter.
“People can order through their eyes,” Tan said.
All dishes at the restaurant are cooked by Zeng and Tan’s father. Zeng, Tan said, dropped out of school at 16 and has been cooking for almost 15 years now.
“He doesn’t like too much about reading, he likes cooking,” Tan said.
When Zeng’s uncle, a well-known chef in China, moved to the United States, Zeng followed him, wanting to learn how to cook Japanese food and make sushi.
Opening a restaurant, Tan said, was has been a dream of Zeng’s. Before the pair married, Tan said, Zeng told her how much he liked to make and serve food. She saw how helpful he was working for other people at their restaurants and that he knew how to make good Chinese and Japanese food.
“Young has worked very, very hard,” Tan said. “It has been his dream for a long time. That is why we have to try our best.”
By Cassie Pappathan / Insider Staff on October 12, 2010
Ordering can be stressful, especially when looking at a large menu. When you’re like me and will eat just about anything, it’s tough to choose. One false move and you’re stuck with a lackluster dish.
As the Food Snob, this scenario rarely happens to me. If ordering were an Olympic sport, I’d win the gold. Yet, there are times when I get food envy. The grass may not taste better on the other side, but occasionally I’m dying to find out.
That’s the beauty of dim sum. Dim sum is a type of Chinese cuisine that involves small individual servings. The portions allow restaurant goers to try multiple dishes.
You can imagine my delight when I caught word that dim sum was being served at the new Sunshine Oriental Restaurant, 121 Loudon Road. Dim sum is hard to find in New Hampshire.
At Sunshine Oriental dim sum is served all day, every day and, like a dim sum plate, the restaurant is small. Readers familiar with dim sum know that plates are brought to the tables on rolling carts. Sunshine Oriental has patrons order off a menu instead.
Our server came to our table with menus and took our drink orders. She asked if we were there to try dim sum. Besides dim sum, Sunshine Oriental has traditional Chinese cuisine and sushi. Our server eagerly offered suggestions.
She immediately recommended the steamed shrimp dumplings ($3.25). “Sure!” we said. I jumped in and asked if we could get the chicken claws ($2.95).
“You want chicken claws?!” she asked, explaining that that although she found the traditional Cantonese dish delectable – it wasn’t for everyone. We were feeling adventurous and stuck with our order.
We also added an order of turnip cakes ($2.95), deep fried sesame balls ($2.95) and the steamed bun sampler which came with our choice of buns ($2.95). Our server suggested the Nai Wong (with a sweet vanilla center), barbeque pork and chicken. And, because we could, we got a sweet potato roll ($4.25) and a spicy salmon roll ($4.55) to get our sushi fix.Our meal came staggered, so we nibbled as it was ready. The sushi was first. The salmon was fresh, and the sweet potato roll was savory and flavorful. After that, plate after plate was placed in front of us, hot from the kitchen.
The chicken claws looked exactly like what I imagined chicken claws would look like, but covered in a reddish-orange sauce that resembled Buffalo chicken. The reason this is worth noting is that the menu said it came in a black bean sauce. This wasn’t a black bean sauce, nor was it buffalo.
Whatever it was, it wasn’t bad. It added a nice moisture to the claws, which can sometimes be rubbery. Sunshine Oriental’s, though, were soft and tender, making the difficult-to-eat food (you have to eat it with your hands) easier to manage.
My companion and I split the soft, doughy buns in half so we could sample all three. With a distinct vanilla-flavored center, the Nai Wong was the most memorable, although not my favorite. If you have a sweet tooth, this bun is for you. Both the chicken and pork buns were good, the chicken being my favorite since the barbecued pork was still a little too sweet for my salt-lovin’ self.
The deep-fried sesame balls were also on the sweet side, but I really liked these. The texture reminded me of a chewy donut, and the center’s lotus nut paste had a nice, subtle flavor.The steamed shrimp dumplings were decent. There wasn’t much to them, but the noodle-like wrapper made them ideal for soaking up soy sauce.
We finished with full stomachs and plenty leftover. Our check came to $27.58 – a great deal if you consider all the things we tried.
If you’re in the mood for something unique, give Sunshine Oriental a shot. Dim sum is a great way to expand your culinary horizons without breaking the bank. They even do takeout, so if you’re too proper to gnaw on a chicken claw in public with your bare hands, you can do it in the privacy of your own home.
For more information about Sunshine Oriental, call 228-0808.
For the Insider on February 1, 2011
We recently chatted with10-year-old Adamson Munyenbabazi, who loves to eat Chinese food and enjoys playing soccer. Here’s a little more about him:
Where did you move here from?
What was your first impression of America?
When our plane landed in New York, we spent the night at a hotel there. I looked down from our room near the top floor, and to me all the people looked like little kids. I remember thinking, "Wow! Little kids can drive cars in America?! This is so great!"
I was disappointed when i learned that was not true.
What do you miss about Tanzania?
I miss all my friends that we left behind.
What do you like about living here instead?
I really love school here. The teachers are nice and I have a lot of friends who really care about me. In Tanzania, I got beaten almost every day at school. That made learning difficult.
What’s your favorite place in Concord?
Sunshine Oriental on Loudon Road. They have the best Chinese food. I love the chicken and rice.
What do you want to do when you are grown up?
I hope to play soccer professionally. I’m pretty good at it.