Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New York's Hidden Jewel

New York is hard to describe in a few words, it has a rhythm that is fast paced like a charging bull.  Among all the loud voices of the city crying for one's attention there are hidden jewels among the more well known parts of the city who's voices are softer but no less alluring. 

I can remember as a child staying many stories up at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, "the city that never sleeps" walking up to the window and hearing the honk of taxicabs with constant traffic.   My father would have conference/vacations in large cities on the East Coast often taking the family.

The fact that the city is located on the Hudson River with a natural harbor is part of it's success as a center of trade.  It is also a major world cultural and arts center.  

New York has always integrated people into it's fabric of life; large Jewish, Chinese, and Hispanic communities attest to this fact.  It is believed to have the largest linguistic diversity in the world with over 800 languages being spoken with over 30 percent of its residents foreign born.

Years ago when I was in college I visited New York again on a school trip.  The food was as good in the Mexican basement restaurant right off the sidewalk as it was in the fine French restaurant named "La Mole."   

Big cities usually have better food on the whole than anywhere else and New York is a gourmet mecca.  More recently when I traveled to Palm Beach, FL I ate at a moderately priced Asian restaurant and was pleasantly surprised at the level of quality of the food. 

At about this same time period I and other family members were accompanied by my future brother-in-law's family's Vietnamese house keeper who showed us around China Town.  You would not have known you were in the US but in some foreign Asian city. The language spoken on the street was Chinese. All street signs, newpapers, signage outside and inside stores and restaurants was in Chinese.

New York has the largest population of Chinese outside of China.  I would recommend a trip to New York City to experience it there isn't anything quite like it except maybe San Francisco. 

Growing up and being of Anglo Saxon descent I had always been in the majority where I lived, suddenly on the street in China Town I was not, it was a strange feeling for me and I was glad I was in tow with someone who was Vietnamese and familiar with the area or I would have been lost.  Now I would embrace the chance to experience it although I would recommend knowing where you are going beforehand and plan ahead before you go.  

You don't hear as much about China Town as other popular sights in New York like Times Square or the Meat Market District. I did attend a musical on Broadway on one of my visits but I would have gladly traded it for a night out in China Town.  Before the internet you probably needed to know someone who was Asian who knew China Town in order to take full advantage of what it has to offer.

We passed by the fishmonger with octopus and eels in the front window, the only language you heard spoken on the street was Chinese.  Small  restaurants, hole-in-the-wall size served  ethnic Chinese fare.

I ate food I don't remember the names of.  I remember one restaurant I was served a homemade baked dough with a sweet barbeque filling reminding me of the "Manwhich" barbeque only the bread was homemade and the filling was made homemade.  This is the real deal not Americanized Asian food. Apparently many who come here for a better life were not raised on fast food or convenience foods, everything is cooked from scratch.  

In addition to the all the food I experienced having that homemade quality the prices were inexpensive, the restaurants catering to the locals is a neighborhood restaurant rather than a tourist attraction.

There is a lot of talk about the iconic foods of New York like the hoagie, Coney Island hot dog, bagel, pizza, knishes, White Castle Hamburgers which are very good, there is nothing to compare to them outside of New York and China Town is no different.  China Town is a world unto itself, a jewel in the crown of New York City's many foods and should not be missed.

Have you been to China Town in New York or a China town in another city, what were your experiences, I would love to hear?

Suzanne Powers gallery: