Dessert isn’t usually the first thing that pops into your head when you think “dim sum,” because when a restaurant tempts you to try everything on the menu, it’s hard to remember to save room for sweets. Decades before evolving into one of the most popular dim sum spots in the country, Nom Wah Tea Parlor—the oldest restaurant in New York City’s Chinatown—operated as a bakery famous for mooncakes, red bean paste, and crispy, golden almond cookies. If you haven’t had the good fortune to visit the restaurant in person (or have had to leave cookieless after a few bao too many) you can recreate the almond cookies at home with this recipe from the recently released Nom Wah Cookbook, which is as much a love letter to Chinese-American history as it is to delectable dim sum.
Reprinted with permission from The Nom Wah Cookbook by Wilson Tang with Joshua David Stein
When I was a kid, Uncle Wally used to sneak me freshly baked almond cookies when we visited Nom Wah. Even when they’re just out of the oven, these classic Guangdong treats crumble easily. They all but disappear when dipped into a cup of tea. Years later, when I first heard the expression “That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” I was confused, since I grew up associating cookies crumbling with the secret joys of Saturday visits to Uncle Wally’s. Today, this is one of the few survivors of our days as a bakery, but I keep it on the menu hoping that some future Wilson Tang is forming sweet almond cookie memories at this very moment.
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 egg yolks (place 2 in one bowl and 1 in another bowl)
½ cup melted lard, cooled to room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
18 raw almonds
Sift the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Sift together once more, into another bowl, to make sure the ingredients are well incorporated.
Add the lard to the bowl of 2 egg yolks and beat until combined. Add the almond extract and stir to combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold this mixture into the dry ingredients, then knead with your hands for 3 to 5 minutes to create a dough ball. Don’t overwork the dough or the cookie will lose its flaky texture. Cover and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes.
Beat the remaining egg yolk and set aside.
Divide the dough into 18 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a golf-ball sized ball and transfer to a baking sheet, spacing them at least 2 inches apart.
Brush all sides of the dough balls with beaten egg yolk and let sit for 1 minute. Then brush them once more. Press 1 toasted almond onto the center of each dough ball. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden. Remove, let cool for 15 minutes on a baking tray, then serve.
From The Nom Wah Cookbook by Wilson Tang with Joshua David Stein. Copyright 2020 Wilson Tang. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins.