New York City has the largest Chinese population outside of Asia, and Manhattan's Chinatown is one of the oldest population centres in the West. It's tucked up right alongside the shiny buildings Financial District, but it's full of far eastern flavour, complete with hanzi signs, aging tenement buildings, outside wall staircases, and markets stuffed with Chinese goods and food. Chinese people abound, kids playing basketball, old men smoking at intersections, mother and son eating lunch on a bench. And of course there are plenty of Chinese restaurants.
The Chinatown in Manhattan is actually not the only one in New York City - there are two others in Brooklyn and Queens. The one in Manhattan, with a population of about 90,000-100,000 is one of the biggest in the world. Many of the immigrants here came from southern China, with Cantonese are the predominant dialect.
Chinatown is a great place to sample authentic Chinese - more specifically Cantonese - food. A friend brought me to a very good Chinese restaurant said to be Martha Stewart's favorite (see restaurant tips). For Asians, it is also a place to go to when you yearn for something more of the familiar sights, smells and taste. Actually, Chinatown is a bit of a misnomer as other Asian nationalities are well represented - Thai, Malaysians, Vietnamese, and Filipinos are quite very visible here.
Chinatown is of my favourite parts of Manhattan, especially during the day for some food shopping and local restaurants. If you manage to ignore and avoid those who offer you fake watches or any other kind of stuff you surely not need then you can easily stroll around and find the things you might be interesting in.
To truly experience Chinatown, you have to eat at Dim Sum Restaurant. Order any of the following to enjoy true Chinese cuisine (and not the black gooey soy sauce laden Chinese restaurant crap they throw at you!):
"Har gow" ( shrimp dumplings), "siew mai" (pork dumplings), "lor bak go" (turnip cake), "char siew bao" (steamed roast pork buns), "dahn taht" (egg custard, much like creme brulee but baked pastry) and "jook" (congee/porridge with variety of meat and scallions).
Chinatown is my personal favorite area to shop and eat in , in NYC. It's a little like being in China I would imagine. At least it is as close to China you can get without leaving the U.S.
I love all the little stores and all of the great Chinese restaurants.
We enjoy walking down Canal Street, Mott Street. The markets, shops, restaurants and people watching are just great.
The Pearl River Shop on 477 Broadway is filled with Chinese inspired clothing, giftware & kitchen items at very reasonable prices. The streets are filled with knockoff bags and watches and plastic toys made in China.
We love the many reasonably priced restaurants. As a child & student we lined up on the side walk to get inside Wo Hop at 17 Mott St. The restaurant is clean, service is very fast and the typical Cantonese food is good and very reasonably priced. The portions are huge we always have too much left over. The Excellent Dumpling House 111 Lafayette St. between Canal & Walker has the wonderful Chinese Dim Sum & the women pushing it by in the carts. You point to what you like and they write the price on the ticket. For a few dollars you can really have a fresh & wonderful meal. The Sun Hop Shing Tea House on 21 Mott has all of the wonderful bubble teas is just wonderful. I don't think you could go wrong with good & reasonable food in Chinatown. The restaurants cater to tourists and are very reasonable and helpful.
New York has 3 Chinatowns. One in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn.
The one in Manhattan has the most to offer to a tourist though. Some of the best Chinese food is served in Manhattan. What they serve in the Queens Chinatown is the food that most of us Americans consider exotic.
For one week in February Manhattan Chinatown celebrates the Chinese New Year where there are parades and festivals galore no matter the temperature. There is a museum of Chinese Americans, beautiful temples, Chinese ornaments, fountains, furniture, Chinese teas, and Chinese herbs. Early in the morning in Christopher Park and some other open spaces you will find people doing Tai Chi. It is free to join them. On Mott street you will find many accupressurist charging $10 for 10 minutes. Accupressure is like a medical massage or sports massage/physical therapy. Some of these folks are licensed in China just not in the US. ****Make sure you disclose all of your problems before you let them start to work on you. ***
Chinatown in Manhattan (there's one in Brooklyn and one in Queens) is one of the many vibrant and colorful neighborhoods you will find in New York.
This is one of the largest Chinese communities outside of Asia and where I started to appreciate the diversity that is New York City (and the US for that matter), with the colorful houses, the constant (and sometimes rushed) movement and the food =) On a normal Saturday early afternoon, it was a little crowded and I can only imagine how it is when they celebrate their holidays.
I was reminded of Beijing in the sense that I saw a lot of hairdressers one after the other hehehe.
We happened upon China town purely by accident. This place is mental! so busy and buzzing but I have to say rather overwhelming for me as I couldn't make rhyme nor reason of the streets around here (maybe I had a rubbish map, or maybe my map reading skills are not up to scratch!)
This place has a large chinese community and there are many restaurants and stores selling supplies. you have to go as it is so different to other parts of new york - but next time I go I will be getting a guide who knows their way around!
The best way to see and experience Chinatown is with a local and lifelong resident. Blue Panda Tours ( www.bluepandatours.com ) has a guide whose family has three generations of history in Chinatown, a rarity since most of Chinatown composes of immigrants from the past 40 years. The guide will take you on a personal guided tour around Chinatown for a full 2 hours and change. It ends with a dim sum lunch that's included with the tour package. Blue Panda tours also have other New York city walking tours. But this one is probably the most fun!
June 6, 2009 - We just finished walking the Brooklyn Bridge going from east to west and saw the City Hall of New York, and the map said Chinatown was nearby...I asked 2 Chinese ladies on a bench the direction and they said just follow "Central St".
True enough, my DNA relatives (I am partly Chinese myself) did not lie...before me were several Chinese restaurants and bargain stores after a short walk. Shirts were being sold for just $3, and great caps for 3 for $10 -- but I came here for the food! It was notable that there were also lots other Asian restaurants, like Vietnamese.
But this Chinatown is supposedly the biggest Chinese enclave in the USA --- bordered by Chambers Street to the South, East River to the East, Broadway to the West, and Canal Street to the North....that's a huge area. And I saw many more restaurants that iwanted to check out in the next few days!
There's really not much Chinese architecture as in other Chinatowns -- maybe there is a Chinese pagoda somewhere that I missed? Well, I just like walking around Chinatowns because of my heritage....
And if you do get lost, not to worry --- subway entrances are accessibly situated...
Usually the district of the Chinese community outside of China is called Chinatown wherever it is, in Europe, the United States etc and works as the actual working community for them. Believe it or not more than 200.000 people from china live at this district of NY! Because of some Hollywood kung fu films I saw as a kid I wanted to see the area that some of the actors play at!
All the stores here target to Chinese people as customers, the newspaper are in Chinese etc Of course, the area isn’t just an ethnic ghetto and it is very popular among the tourists too, at least the central part along Canal street where you can find many souvenir shops and a lot of seafood markets (pic 1) where old Chinese ladies go to shop some weird sea creatures that smell bad! :). There are also many markets that sell traditional herbal medicines (no I didn’t try any…) and a lot of street vendors everywhere with some strange exotic fruits. Try to avoid the imitation sunglasses, perfumes and handbags. You’ll find then at the Chinatown of your city too :)
I walked for a while in the small streets and I barely met with any other than Chinese people, we drunk something at Hon Café where nobody couldn’t understand in English that I just wanted a milkshake so I drunk something else!
Then we returned back to the small alleys and visited the central park of the area which is the Columbus Park. The Chinese community gather there for socializing. I noticed many ladies under their colorful umbrellas chatting and playing cards (pic 3) and the men in different tables playing an unknown to me domino game (pic 4). Some interesting points to see here are the two Buddhist temples I saw, probably there are more but those are the ones I already had info for.
The first one is the Eastern States Buddhist Temple (pic 2) located at.64 Mott street. It was full of visitors looking strange at the dozen of small Buddhas. The second temple is the Mahayanna Buddhist temple located at 133 Canal Street. It’s the largest one and it has a 5m tall golden Buddha in the main hall (pic 5) and a souvenir store. There’s no entrance fee and I enjoyed more because there wasn’t any other visitor inside.
Some streets have a lot of Vietnamese restaurants in case you know the difference between them (I don’t! I was confused with so many hanging ducks around!). It’s the first time in my life I see so many people eat with chopsticks and I also noticed a lot of Karaoke bars that probably will be full of people in the night.
Great New York Noodle Town, at the corner of Bayard St and Bowery, 1 block south of Canal St at the Manhattan Bridge. I like the salt baked chicken, where the skin is baked off, leaving a low-fat dinner. I take an order of white rice on the side, and, if I'm with people, I get a side of pea pods. You get a matter-of-fact, no-frills Chinatown experience here. The salt baked chicken and rice come in at around $8, as of July 2008. Glass of tea and/or water are free, of course!
If you want to feel the excitment of shopping at a cheap price make sure you bring cash and do not bring big bills to China Town. The biggest mistake is to take anything there for the price they give you, bargain the price lower and do not pull out all your bills! Also if you see a bag you really want test the pockets and zippers you dont' want to be disappoited later on when you take home.
DON"T BRING A CREDIT CARD! $1 AND $5 AND $10 ARE BEST
ALSO GO DURING THE WEEK IF YOU CAN BECAUSE ON THE WEEKEND THE AREA IS JAM PACKED.
TAKE YOUR TIME AND ENJOY THE AREA SO GO EARLY AROUND 11:00 AM OR SO.
Chinatown is a great place to spend a few hours wandering the streets. You can get a great feeling of the Asian community if you just walk around. If you are looking for that special Asian item, you will find it here. If you love to cook, you can find every single item under the sun for that great Chinese meal.
I love walking around and visiting their many restaurants and shops.
PLEASE NOTE: Do not come to Chinatown to purchase any of those "knock-off" items. It is illegal and if you are caught you may be fined.