When craving authentic Chinese food, tourists and New York residents alike often flock to Manhattan’s Chinatown, a primarily Cantonese-speaking enclave dating back to the mid-1800s. Since then, Manhattan Chinatown has maintained much of its history, with some shops and restaurants like Nom Wah Tea Parlor along Doyers Street dating back nearly 100 years. Yet due to high rent and gentrification, many Chinatown residents and recent immigrants moved to Flushing, Queens and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Chinatowns which are often considered more diverse and authentic than Manhattan’s Chinatown.
Yet, what most people don’t know is that New York houses many more obscure mini Chinatowns across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and even Nassau County. These areas have developed significantly fast as Chinese immigration increases year by year. Although many of these areas are not strictly Chinatowns since many other cultures also reside in these areas, they are definitely worth visiting and exploring each one’s food and culture, especially after facing over a year of economic hardship during the pandemic.
1. Manhattan Chinatown
Manhattan’s Chinatown, dating back to the late 1800s, is a tightly-packed yet expansive Chinatown that mixes both traditional Chinese fare with more contemporary and experimental options. One of the most diverse Chinatowns in the United States, Manhattan Chinatown offers food lovers with some of the most authentic and delicious eats anywhere in the city.
Chinatown is so packed with restaurants that it may be difficult to find the best ones, but for a true street food experience, Wah Fung No 1 Fast Food offers a very small and cheap menu consisting of roast BBQ pork, duck, chicken, and fatty pig, all served over rice with cabbage. The very unassuming Fried Dumpling prides itself on its simple yet delicious fried pork dumplings as well as juicy fried pork buns and tangy hot and sour soup. Similarly, China North Dumpling offers chive and pork fried and steamed dumplings and well as sesame pancake and noodles with minced pork. Also popular for street food is Yi Ji Shi Mo Noodle Corp, which specializes in steamed rice rolls accompanied by options like coriander and scallion, curry fish ball, and dried shrimp.
Manhattan Chinatown is filled with dim sum places that feature carts filled with hundreds of steaming hot dim sum options like shrimp dumplings, steamed buns, rice rolls, and chicken feet. Popular options include Golden Unicorn, and Dim Sum Go Go, but also try Sunshine Seafood Restaurant and Downtown Yummy for authentic Cantonese dim sum. Legendary dim sum spot Jing Fong, which closed its expansive dining room earlier this year, will reopen in another space in Chinatown and is currently operating an Upper West Side location as well.
For a taste of Southeast China, Kong Sihk Tong offers a more modern take on Hong Kong cuisine with options like duck egg with jumbo shrimp, baked fried rice with pork chop, and satay beef. The very small House Special restaurant offers an abundance of Cantonese seafood like salt and pepper prawns, scallops in garlic sauce, and buffalo fish with ginger. A very casual spot, S Wan Cafe offers a rather Americanized Hong Kong-style menu with omelettes, macaroni with spam, and pork chop sandwiches.
Also prominent in Manhattan Chinatown are Taiwanese options like May Wah Fast Food, specializing in crispy pork chop, noodle soups, and fried rice cake. Taiwan Bear House takes a more contemporary approach to Taiwanese classics with options like pork chop and night market crispy chicken bento boxes.
For a sweet end to the trip, stop by Kam Boat Bakery, which features many traditional pastries like dried pork bun, pineapple bun, and gooey sesame balls, in addition to rice rolls and baked chicken. One of the most popular in the area, Kam Hing Coffee Shop features fluffy sponge cake and congee. For some sugary bubble tea, Hui Tea, Tiger Sugar, and Macao Imperial Tea will do the trick.