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October 13, 2012 / Katie

Chinatown, You’re My Sweetheart

I’ve been standing on Canal and Bowery for what seems like my whole life. I’ve fallen in and out of love on walks through the park, and lead friends on bar-hopping excursions through the snaking midnight streets.

Chinatown was my first home in New York and the years I spent there have been formative in my young adulthood. I heard a song on the radio that reminded me of this. But life is ever-changing and sometimes we outgrow the places that made us. I knew when I started this blog that some day I would have to leave Chinatown behind, Read more…

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August 15, 2012 / Katie

My Chinatown: Craig Nelson

photo by Doug Kim

I first met Craig Nelson, in the way that you can now make “internet friends,” through the twittersphere. Craig has a keen affection for all things Chinatown, and I quickly realized we were buzzing about the same things. What’s even cooler is the fact that he’s created a handy app, Chinatown Chowdown, that gives you the 411 on all the best hole-in-the-wall, (tasty) basement dives in the neighborhood. So how did Chinatown reel Craig in and make him a local expert on hand-pulled noodles and corner street carts? Here’s what he had to say in a recent Q&A.

What do you do? 

I’m a Senior Editor at Zagat helping to create content for new city guides. Before that I worked at Not For Tourists as Managing Editor and that’s where I fell in love with Chinatown. My wife and I also have a blog, Across 106th Street, where we chronicle happenings in Spanish Harlem–my other favorite neighborhood–along with thoughts and photos from our travels, music, urban issues, etc. It’s really whatever we’re thinking about at the moment.

How did you get to know Chinatown so well?

For five years I worked in the heart of the neighborhood on East Broadway thanks to my gig at NFT. At first it was a little overwhelming with packed sidewalks, unique smells (especially in the summer!), and incredible food everywhere you look. Read more…

June 24, 2012 / Katie

Getting Lost in Hong Kong Supermarket

A few weekends ago, after grabbing dim sum with friends in the neighborhood, I stopped by Hong Kong Supermarket on Hester and Elizabeth Streets on my way home. My friends decided to tag along and were immediately spellbound by the crowded supermarket aisles abuzz with weekend shoppers. Apparently, HK Supermarket is one of the best kept secrets in Chinatown.

The store, which sells everything from rice noodles and frozen dumplings to Darlie toothpaste and mahjong sets, belongs to a chain of supermarkets based in Southern California (holla!) that imports goods from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. If you’re searching for an “Asian specialty food,” chances are HK will have it.

Read more…

February 27, 2012 / Katie

If These Streets Could Talk

photo courtesy of Archi-tessica

A jaunt through Little Italy on a brisk winter Saturday, down Mulberry Street and past all the suave Italian restaurant-hawkers, is nothing out of the ordinary for this Chinatown sweetheart. Many a time have I sailed down the street, navigating between tourists, rarely stopping to hear a wistful “Ciao, bella!” shouted at my heels. Last weekend, though, was different. A friend and I decided to make a purposeful excursion through Chinatown and Little Italy on one of Ahoy New York’s food tours. Walking tours are always a great way to get to know the city and this particular tour helped me to see my everyday surroundings in a new light. Sure, I know all about Chinatown, but I never realized how little I knew about our Italian sister just down the block.

We started the tour in the heart of Chinatown outside the New Kam Man grocery store and then made our way down Mulberry. Although this single street is all that remains of the once overcrowded Italian American neighborhood, there is still a thriving community of families who have lived in the neighborhood for generations.

The history of New York is a history of immigrants. The areas we know now as Chinatown and the Lower East Side have long been the first ports of call for “the huddled masses.” Read more…

January 29, 2012 / Katie

China’s Breakfast of Champions

You may be familiar with dim sum, China’s answer to the weekend brunch, but when it comes to the weekday morning or a quiet Sunday spent at home, what’s for breakfast? The classic Chinese breakfast consists of three things: a bowl of rice porridge, a fried cruller, and a tall glass of soy milk.

  1. Congee (粥; zhōu or juk in Chinese) is a type of porridge made by boiling rice in water over the course of several hours. It’s a popular breakfast dish throughout Asia and can be found in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Japan. In China, congee is often topped with salted duck eggs, minced pork, or pickled vegetables–these salty flavors complement the mild, somewhat bland taste of the rice gruel. You might also call congee the “chicken soup” of Chinese cuisine as it goes down easy when you have a sore throat or are feeling under the weather. Read more…
January 20, 2012 / Katie

My Chinatown: Christina Seid

Christina & Phil SeidNo visitor to Chinatown should leave without sampling the Asian-inspired flavors at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. This cheerful little shop has been family-owned and operated since the late 70s when ice cream experienced a renaissance of sorts–Ben & Jerrys and Haagan Dazs started selling scoops around the same time–and since then CICF has become an undeniable neighborhood fixture. A day without a line trailing out the door is rare, even during the winter months. Specialty flavors include green tea, red bean, lychee, black sesame (my personal fave), egg custard tart, almond cookie, taro, zen butter, pandan, durian, and ginger.

I caught up with Christina Seid, who has been helping out at the store since she was 12 and now runs the business full-time, to see what her Chinatown looks like. Read more…

December 21, 2011 / Katie

hapa

hapa [haw-puh]: 1. From the Hawaiian word meaning half, part, fragment; to be partial, less. 2. A person of mixed heritage, usually part Asian or Pacific Islander. 3. Originating from the Hawaiian term hapa haole, which literally means “half white”; a person of mixed blood who is part Hawaiian, part white.

Kip Fulbeck's The Hapa ProjectIdentity is a slippery thing. There are many ways to explain who and what you are, yet words often fail to encompass the entirety of that identity in all its beauty and complexity. I am half Chinese, half Irish. The dictionary might offer up terms like: multiracial, mixed race, mutt, eurasian, amerasian, or 混血 (mixed-blood). I eschew all of them for hapa or, simply, mixed.

Hapa, like most words, has evolved over the years from its original Hawaiian meaning. If you’ve ever been to Hawaii you know that there is an obvious distinction between the locals and the tourists. Back in the day when Hawaiians were still the majority and whites the exception, hapa was most commonly used in the phrase hapa haole or half white. As more Asians have immigrated to the U.S. and become a part of American culture (especially in California where the largest population of Asian Americans resides), hapa has come to mean someone who is part Asian, part white, or more broadly, anyone of mixed heritage.

Read more…