I love Chinatowns. I really do. I am an egg: white on the outside and yellow on the inside. Some of the best places to discover in our major American cities are their Chinatowns. Chinatowns offer an affordable visit to another culture and country. Taking a stroll down the busy streets offers the sights, sounds, tastes and flavors of the orient. It is not to be missed!
Some of our favorite Chinatowns: Washington DC, Seattle, Vancouver, BC, San Francisco, LA, and Lima, Peru?!
To really enjoy Chinatowns we put together a few helpful hints:
1) Learn some Lingo
2) Check out the Art & Music Scene
3) Bings! (Chinese Dessert)
4) Hang out with the old guys!
5) Gwa-lious! (Our secrets to navigate a Chinese Fruit market)
Learn some lingo:
Learn some Chinese! I can’t tell you how many times, flashing a little of my mandarin skills has gotten me some great authentic grub. At one establishment in DC, I engaged the waiter on the quality of koi fish in the tank at the entry in Mandarin. After seating us in a preferred section of the establishments, I attempted to order a fish dish. My selection was promptly rejected. “Something better for you”. That little clue to what I was presented to eat was an understatement. So good! A little preparation can result in a huge surprise. After engaging waiters and owners of establishments, bills have discreetly disappeared. It is a Chinese tradition.
Some key words to help:
Hello- Ni Hao
Tastes very good- Hen Hao Chur
Thank you– xia,xia
Art and Music
One of the greatest attractions in Chinatown is the art and music scene. The Asian genre of art is 1000s of years in the making. Chinatown festivals include “double ten” day (Oct. 10th), Chinese New Year (early spring), and many, many other regional celebrations. These are great chances to expose yourself to Chinese Music and Art.
Chinese pastorals of falling water, green steeps, and animals are amazing:
Ever wonder what those little square red things are on Chinese paintings? They are the artist signature, as well as his teachers, as well as his teacher’s-teacher. You get the idea. Paintings with many red marks is a really good sign.
Don’t know who Ming was or how he was awarded a dynasty, but they apparently made some really amazing pottery.
Chinese Music started at the dawn of Chinese civilization with documents and artifacts providing evidence of a well-developed musical culture as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC – 256 BC). Today, the music continues a rich traditional heritage in one aspect, while emerging into a more contemporary form at the same time. (Wikipedia)
Take a quick listen to some of the most haunting Chinese Folk music:
Chinatown is a delight to all of the senses! Not just sight and sounds, taste too! We could delve into the many delicant dishs that you only find in Chinatowns…but desserts are rare. With that said, there is one really good exception, “the bing.” Bings are pretty simple: shaved ice, condensed sweetened milk, and some fruit flavors syrups. In the more authentic dojos, you can get real fruit! A passion fruit bing on a hot day is nectar of the gods!
Have your ever tried one?
I really love to talk to old people. I love to chat with stringy bearded, glassy eyed gentlemen. They typically hang out in parks, around a board game, or they surround a small table with an elaborate tea set. Some of most meaningful conversations I have had in my life have been with these wise stewards. Conversation topics have ranged from expected topics: Sino-American relations, contrasting the traditional Chinese method of education. We also covered some remote topics including the healing power of green tea, the long term harm that comes from drink beverages with ice(?????) and a particularly long and involved discussions of the virtues of breast milk. Travel slow. Take a hot afternoon to sit in the shade of a with one of these fellows and the world will be opened to you.
Asian fruit is so good! Some of my faves: yellow watermelon, yu longs, mega grapefruits, passion fruit. Some of these are available at different parts of the world, but there is nothing like an Asian fruit market. While living in Southern Taiwan, every morning we headed to the fruit markets for breakfast. These farmers markets offer fleshy fruits that are difficult to describe. We must offer a warning…fruit markets are usually adjacent to meat markets. These stands are not intended for the faint in heart. If seeing various family pets, snakes, and rodents displayed for purchase in non-living status, this is not the place for you.
Chinatown on Twitter:
@OurChinatown (New York)
What is your favorite Chinatown? What makes it special to you?
Leave us a comment and let us know.