APAHM: Wilson Tang of Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Photo by Natalie Chitwood
Here, we caught up with Wilson Tang, Founder & CEO of Nom Wah Tea Parlor — the oldest dim sum restaurant
Running the longest-continuously operating restaurant in Chinatown is no easy feat, and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic presented a hurdle which made this operation that much more difficult. However, for Wilson Tang, the owner of Nom Wah Tea Parlor, the pandemic presented an opportunity to innovate while still staying true to the restaurant’s centenarian identity. As the pandemic winds down, Nom Wah Tea Parlor continues to serve the New York City community while showing no signs of slowing down.
On heritage and how you identify.
I'm the son of immigrants—my mom from Hong Kong and my dad from China. I like to think that I am as much American (love Dinty Moore beef stew!) as I am Chinese, so if you're to ask me how I identify, I definitely put the hyphen between these two words: American-Chinese or Chinese-American. I am a product of both cultures, and I don't think you can't separate one from the other for me.
On pivoting during the pandemic.
I think the pandemic really hammered that message home, especially for the hospitality industry where you are, more often than not, focused on selling food in a controlled setting. The big takeaway for me, though, is that a strong team is so crucial. I'm just one person and there's only so much I can accomplish—but when you have a driven group like we do, everything just goes further and better than I can ever imagine.
On lessons in pride for with young Asian-Americans.
Keep talking about it and educate yourselves! There is so much history that people never learned about in school (myself included), and I think we should all do the work of learning and sharing this knowledge.
On changing the world with a push of a button.
That's a lot of power for one button! If I could remove everyone's biases and ignorance, and replace it all with kindness and compassion, that would probably be it. We're all humans at the end of the day—there's no reason anyone should discriminate or hate another because they are "different" on the outside.
On upcoming projects.
So, we had our centennial last year—it was definitely not what I expected for a hundredth birthday. We released a cookbook in 2020 that commemorated our story and those of Chinatown friends and multi-generational businesses, including Fong On, Wing on Wo, Aquabest, and Pearl River Mart. I'm more inclined to say to check it out to read about their histories, because these businesses truly embody the Chinatown community
To learn more about Nom Wah Tea Parlor, check out their cookbook, The Nom Wah Cookbook, visit their website, and follow them on Instagram.
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