An Extended Love Affair With Chinatown

September 30th, 2012 § 0 comments

HG has had a long standing love affair with Manhattan’s Chinatown. It all began when eight-year-old HG and his beloved older sister, the late Beulah Naomi K., would climb the steep steps at Fordham Road in The Bronx and ride the scenic 3rd Avenue Elevated train (fare — 5 cents) all the way to Chatham Square in Chinatown. Little HG was fascinated. The strange language. The exotic (to little HG’s eyes) people. The vast variety of food being sold in shops, outdoor stalls and by itinerant vendors. And, the restaurants. Ducks hanging in the windows. Fish swimming in tanks. Barbecue experts slicing pork. At first, HG and sister were timid eaters — won ton soup, chicken chow mein, almond cookies for dessert. Ridiculously cheap, of course — 20-25 cents. But, the two fledgling gourmands quickly became more adventurous. Shrimp in lobster sauce. Roast pork over rice. Moo Goo Gai Pan and much much more. In his late 20s (some 56 years ago!) HG discovered dim sum. Nom Wah on Doyers Street was the only dim sum restaurant in Chinatown (now there are scores). HG became an addict and every Sunday morning devoured Nom Wah dim sum while reading the hefty Sunday edition of The New York Times. (Blessedly, Nom Wah has been revived by a new generation of the original owners and they have maintained the wonderful charms of the original decor while giving the place a much needed spruce up.The dim sum are as good as ever). HG realizes that Flushing (and maybe even Brooklyn’s Sunset Park) have replaced Chinatown as the great centers of New York Chinese cuisine. HG and BSK have rented a Chinatown apartment for one week this December and there will be a thorough exploration of the current Chinatown food scene. HG relies upon three Chinatown culinary guides: SJ, David Sietsma of the Village Voice and the blog, lauhound.com. HG remembers when Chinatown only had Cantonese cuisine. Now there are many restaurants featuring regional cooking — Chiu chow, Fujianese, Szechuan, etc. Dumpling and noodle restaurants (many strictly hole-in-the wall) have proliferated. There are many Vietnamese restaurants, including an HG favorite, Nam Son. Chinatown has expanded into the Lower East Side and Little Italy. Mission Chinese, an adventurous California/Chinese venture, has a pastrami dish on its menu. Does this represent a challenge to Katz’s?

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