Real, authentic Chinese food comes from Chinatown. Sure, you could go to Asia and try what they have over there, but what they make on Canal Street is like nothing else around the world. In high school we took annual trips to Chinatown to explore the temples, sample the dumplings and embrace whatever festivities were going on that week. It’s a bustling part of the city, and if you’re not paying attention you can easily get swept away. I decided to reconnect with a friend from high school over dinner in Chinatown recently and it felt like extreme déjà vu.
We started with a quick stop at a bubble tea shop right outside the Canal St subway stop. No matter where you go in Chinatown, you will probably get really decent bubble tea. The tapioca balls are layered at the bottom of a plastic cup and then a milk tea of your choice submerges the “bubbles”. I recommend a jasmine milk tea if you’re new to bubble tea. It’s sweet and inviting, and something about jasmine feels very refreshing to me.
On our way to the restaurant we browsed the plethora of street markets that sold anything from dragon fruit to Chinese handcuffs to phone accessories. Since it was a Friday night, the streets were very much alive and the air felt as though there was an electric current passing through. It was exactly the kind of Friday night atmosphere I had been craving.
Big Wong is definitely a neighborhood favorite. The menu is very inexpensive, the service is efficient and the food is excellent. Right around the corner is an ice cream place that uses real fruits and cream to make your soft serve. The surface on which they mix the ingredients is so cold that the cream freezes as it’s poured. It’s like Cold Stone meets Hibachi.
Chinatown is a world of its own, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is has to offer. Next time I’m there I’ll be buying bags of freshly made dumplings to cook in my apartment. What secrets have you uncovered below Fulton St?