One of the things I love to do during my visits to New York City is go to Chinatown. My best friend loves to share her Chinese roots and this has been a go to place for her since she was a little girl. During my trips home from college with her until now, I let her be my personal guide as I wander through the restaurants as Jaime speaks Cantonese to the servers and we get items off the menu. This last trip to New York City, she gave me a personal tour of her Chinatown, eating at the places she loves. Having spent some two years working and traveling throughout Asia, I love how Chinatown transports me to that part of the world with its energy, neon lights, people, and most importantly food, lots of it!
|My BFF/Chinatown Expert, Jaime|
My Chinatown weekend food extravaganza all started with a snack. By snack I mean pork buns. I love the sweet exterior, soft center, and the savory pork on the inside. Aside from visiting my best friend, this is my second highlight of traveling to Chinatown! This time, she took me to one of her favorite places for chinese style buns, Mei Li Wah. You can also get dim sum and rolls there but the most popular item among the locals are the baked buns. My favorite: the steam roast pork bun. Tip: for the freshest buns, make sure to go early in the morning (they go fast as people buy them by the dozens).
|Mango Mango Slush-O & Pork Baked Bun|
We washed the buns down across the street with a Mango Slush-O at Mango Mango. Mango Mango is a Hong Kong inspired dessert shop, where it has found a cult following. Now it’s in NYC in the heart of Chinatown where it offers fruit based desserts with its star being Mango (hence the name). The Slush-O is a smoothie of fresh mango topped with chunks of freshly chopped fruit. Love that the chunks of mangoes had the perfect sweetness.
|Shrimp Shumai at Nom Wah|
The following day, we went for dim sum. As Jaime explained, dim sum is a daytime activity where families get together and share food, but we were thrilled that Nom Wah serves dim sum in the evening as well. Nom Wah is an institution, one of the oldest dim sum parlors in Chinatown. The space is small and unpretentious and like some NYC institutions, you can see the framed and autographed head shots of celebrities on its walls (hello, Connie Chung). This is my third time at Nom Wah and I can’t get enough of their dim sum. My favorite is the shrimp shumai. Tip: After dinner, head over to Apotheke Bar, an intimate bar tucked into Chinatown. The carefully concocted drinks make the perfect after dinner drink.
|Soy Sauce Pan Fried Noodles at Xo Kitchen|
After our post dinner drink we decided there was still room for a some noodles. We headed to Xo Kitchen to satisfy the craving. Warning: the menu is huge! Jaime & Mike (my Chinatown friends/guides) love this place particularly for its noodle dishes. We shared some chicken noodle soup and soy sauce pan fried noodles (these noodles are not typically served with meat, but the Dutchman wanted chicken and they hooked him up). The service was fast and the noodles satisfied the craving with the perfectly seasoned broth and generous serving of meat. Tip: bring cash, many Chinatown restaurants are cash only.
|Mantou (Chinese Doughnuts with Condensed Milk) at Xo Kitchen|
Happy Ending: After a full belly, we resisted the temptation to go back to our hotel, Dream Downtown and pass out with a food coma. Rather, the four of us went for a foot massage at 11:30pm on a Saturday night at Renew Day Spa. The foot massages are amazingly cheap ($15 for 30 minutes) and the best way to unwind after such gluttony. If you love food, Chinatown is a must go place in NYC to visit. Not only is it a cultural and culinary experience, but very budget friendly compared to other culinary offerings in the city.