Time Out’s subject this week is Chinatown. So I thought why not go to Chinatown for a stroll and some Dim Sum. To get there – to get anywhere this weekend– was not so easy, because my G train stop at Greenpoint Avenue was out of Service, due to asbest removal, and will be for the next 12 weekends. The G ends at Nassau Avenue, the southern Greenpoint stop and is not running to Queens. So I walked down all the way to Nassau in the brightest noon heat. When I looked at the map I realized that I didn’t need the L train at all but the J that goes over Williamsburg Bridge into the Lower East Side. So it would have been much more convenient to take the bus down to the Marcy Avenue JMZ stop. Ok, I blamed the heat for that mistake.
I got off the train at Bowery and walked into Little Italy first, where all the restaurants have waiters outside to catch people for having lunch. There is not much more than restaurants left in Little Italy. Some food shops, but that’s it. The rest is souvenir shops run by Chinese. Chinatown has largely grown into Little Italy and is no longer just south of Canal Street. But the old Chinatown is there, on Mott, Pell, Bayard and Doyers Streets. On Doyers, a narrow alleyway, the oldest restaurant in Chinatown is still alive, Nom Wah Tea Parlor, and that’s where I went for lunch.
It was founded in 1920 and although it has recently undergone some renovations it still shows an old-fashioned charm. On one side there are booths with old red leather banquettes, on the other side there is a bar and in the middle there are tables for two to six people. It was pretty busy when I arrived. Most guests were not Chinese however, but at least some. It is not a place where Dim Sums are taken through the restaurants on carts and you have to point to whatever you want – without really knowing what it is. You choose your dishes from a menu. I had the house special, a bun filled with roast pork and caramelized onions– absolutely filling -, shrimp and snow pea leaf dumplings and cilantro and scallion rice rolls. With my food I had a pot of Chrysanthemum Tea. The menu says: “Well-known for its cooling properties; helps to decrease body heat from fever, sore throat and other heat-related illnesses”. So as I did suffer from the outside heat I thought that is my tea. It was really good – as was the food – and as I told the waiter that I liked the tea, he told me that is was not really a tea but more a medicine.
I strolled through Chinatown after lunch, looking at dried fish, dried seafood, dried mushrooms and roots I never heard of.
Chinese people must be pretty vain. There are lots of hair salons and beauty parlors. You can get foot rubs and back rubs. You can buy tea and herbs, and all the Chinese stuff you get everywhere around the globe.
Lots of restaurants specialize on a regional cuisine or on particular dishes like Peking Duck or Dim Sum.
I went into a big supermarket and was surprised to find not only Asian products there but as well for example cereals and even dairies. You can get living lobsters, whole fish or fish heads as well as dried fish. Squash and several sorts of Pak Choi as well as common potatoes. In the tea and herb section I found Chrysanthemum Tea. I did not buy it however because there were many different brands and sizes and I could just not decide what to buy. Maybe it is better to get it from a herb shop. If this does not work out (because I don’t speak any Chinese or so) I can still get back to the supermarket. But I am sure I need that stuff. Googling it at home, Wikipedia told me it is as well cleaning the liver!
Being not so far away from the Lower East Side I decided to have a look at the new Tenement Museum. It is amazing. They offer much more tours now than when I took one all those years ago. The tenement house now has its own tour for each of the five levels, each one telling the story of one or two immigrant families from different countries and with different backgrounds. You can as well book a discussion afterwards and several neighborhood walks. The museum is as well a great bookstore. I – of course – found the 97 Orchard book there. It is a very tempting place. So this visit set my plans for tomorrow. I will get back to the Lower East Side, check out the Sunday Market on Orchard Street and take a tour at the Tenement Museum.
I took a bus running along Avenue C, through the Eastern part of the East Village up to 14th Street, where I could catch the L train to get home. From the Greenpoint Deli Market on Manhattan Avenue I bought a bottle of the Aloe Coconut Drink, the guy at the cash desk had recommended to me. It is good as well, but I think I like pure Aloe better.
What I learned today: Drink Chrysanthemum Tea