Chinatown is so important to me. I've always gone here when I'm homesick for Hong Kong; for when I need Asian ingredients; and of course to celebrate Lunar New Year, weekend dim sum, to celebrate special occasions. or even just for a bowl of comforting noodles. The past two years going to work in an office located in Chinatown has made me love this neighborhood and community even more.
It's been so upsetting to see people react so negatively and classify the virus into a race. Xenophobia and racism surprisingly runs deep even today. Not all Chinese/Asian people have the virus, nor are they the only ones who will get it. And you can't get the coronavirus from eating Chinese food. Foot traffic in Chinatown has dropped considerably ever since news of the outbreak in Asia started making the headlines. These restaurants and shops, often family-owned, offer affordable meals, and are only able to survive by serving lots of customers. I will continue to #supportchinatown for as long as I can. UPDATE: 3/22/20 Many restaurants are temporarily closed due to the mandate to stem the spread of Covid-19. Some are open for take-out/pick-up only, for the latest updates on which restaurants are open go to Explore Chinatown's guide. There have been a lot of lay offs and these small businesses are struggling to take care of their staff. Consider purchasing gift cards at your favorite restaurants to support them during this time.
These shops and restaurants will always have a place in my heart (even though they aren't necessarily vegan or plastic-free.) Shops
🥢 Pearl River Mart (395 Broadway) – Founded in 1971, this family-owned iconic emporium has everything from ceramicware, cookware, and food to decor, plants, toys, and clothing. They celebrate Asia through merchandise, local artists, and community.
🥢 Fong On (81 Division St) - Having closed its doors for a few years, this family-run business which originally opened in 1933 makes the best housemade tofu, silken tofu desserts, rice cakes and soy milk. I get my tofu and the occasional sweet treat using my own glass jars and containers. 🥢 Bangkok Center Grocery (104 Mosco St) – A tiny shop, on a tiny street, filled with essential Thai ingredients from fresh produce like makrut lime leaves, galangal as well as my go to for sticky rice and rice berry. Occasionally if you get the timing right, and they are packing the bulk items into bags, the owner will happily pack it into your reusable containers. 🥢 New Kam Man Supermarket (200 Canal St) – This is my go-to for Asian sauces and other pantry items. Upstairs they have a kawaii stationery section as well as personal care products, and downstairs they have tableware, cookware, appliances and a great loose leaf tea selection. 🥢 Wing On Wo & Co (26 Mott St) Chinatown's oldest store, is a family-owned gem that sells unique porcelain ware, jewelry and more. 🥢 The fruit vendor on Mulberry and Canal (SE corner) – Dragonfruit, passion fruit, rambutans, papayas, and clementines, this outdoor fruit caravan offers seasonal favorites. They also have discounted fruits for items that are bruised, or need using up.
Restaurants, in no particular order, include: 🥢 Jing Fong (20 Elizabeth St) – This 800-seat dim sum restaurant is a true Hong Kong experience with the ladies pushing trolleys laden with steamer baskets of hot dim sum. It's instant gratification and a perfect shared brunch experience. Only a few vegan options, but still a fun experience. 🥢 Dim Sum Go Go (5 East Broadway) – Handmade dim sum and classic Cantonese fare with a staff that has been a part of the Dim Sum Go Go family for the 20 years that I've been going there, it's a restaurant that really feels like home. 🥢 Nom Wah Tea Parlor (13 Doyers St) – Tucked away on one of Chinatown's coziest streets, Nom Was is an iconic cha chan tang (tea parlor) that is celebrating it's 100th year 🥢 Xi'an Famous Foods (45 Bayard St) – Hand-pulled biang biang noodles (pictured below) and a numbingly addictive, piquant spicy sauce that is made from over 30 ingredients, this family run business has 14 locations throughout the city. They also happily oblige to serve your meal in your own container. 🥢 Hwa Yuan (42 East Broadway) One of Chinatown's more upscale restaurants, the Sichuan dishes are as delicious as the ambient settings. I love their legendary Sesame Noodles as well as the Mapo Tofu. They are also famous for their Beijing roast duck. 🥢 Kopitiam (151 East Broadway) Nyonya cuisine is a delicious fusion of Malay and Chinese flavors. This casual coffee shop is a James Beard Award semi-finalist as well as a low-key neighborhood favorite that prides itself on supporting the community. My fave here is the Criss Cross 'Shroom (pictured above) with woodear mushrooms, curry leaves and coconut rice. 🥢 Buddha Bodhi (77 Mulberry St) and the Original Buddha Bodai (5 Mott St) Both restaurants are Kosher Vegetarian vegan and some GF). 🥢 Golden Unicorn (18 E Broadway) More classic Cantonese dim sum in a multi-story banquet space. They also make cute custard buns that look like little piggies. 🥢 Noodle Village (13 Mott St) With only a handful of vegan-friendly dishes there is still something for everyone in this cozy restaurant. You can also buy their housemade chili oil, which is amazing. 🥢 Alimama (89A Bayard St) Wonderful mochi donuts make from sweet rice flour which is naturally gluten-free. Their vegan Matcha Munchkins, prepared fresh while you wait, are morsels of deliciousness.
Outside of Chinatown, some of my favorite Asian restaurants include:
🥢 Khe Yo (157 Duane St) – Laotian fare that starts dinner off with Sticky Rice and Bang Bang and Eggplant Sauces which will knock your socks off. Very little in terms of vegan options, but you can still enjoy a great meal
🥢 Fish Cheeks (55 Bond St) – A bustling NoHo restaurant with authentic Thai comfort food where you won't find a Pad Thai, but you will enjoy all the flavors of Thailand accompanied with great cocktails!
🥢 Hao Noodle (343 West 14th St) – One of Madame Zhu's NYC outposts is a a sanctuary in the city with a beautiful atrium, great portion sizes, and a number of vegetarian options. I dream about their Smoked Bamboo Shoots.
🥢 Pinch Chinese (177 Prince St) – A 2020 Michelin Bib Gourmand selection with Executive Chef formerly at Taiwan's famous Din Tai Fung, this modern Soho is a perfect brunch spot with spicy Bloody Mary's. Love their mushroom dumplings.
🥢 Saigon Social (172 Orchard St) – We're all waiting for the highly-anticipated opening of Chef Helen Nguyen's first restaurant in the LES. Her passion is recognized through her food and her sold out pop-ups.
🥢 Very Fresh Noodles (425 W 15th St) – Set in the ever-changing, bustling Chelsea Market, chewy and fresh (obviously) hand-pulled noodles with lots of vegan options.
Reading Thursday's Food & Wine's article "Chinatown Needs Your Love More Than Ever Right Now" by Grace Young was an important reminder to not get caught up in the media-inducing paranoia and #supportchinatown and any small business that is in your neighborhood. Do you have a favorite family-run shop or restaurant?