Friday, May 6, 2011

Hometown Tourist - Brooklyn Chinatown

Brooklyn has a Chinatown. Yes, yes, y'all! I finally got to make my way around there last month. If you follow me on Facebook, you'll know that I linked to an article that I wrote for about Brooklyn's Chinatown. That article wasn't my personal observations. I decided to save them for this blog, especially since it was my first time there and therefore perfect for a Hometown Tourist post!

When people think of Brooklyn, they tend not to think of a large Asian American community. Caribbean folks in Flatbush? Yes. Large Orthodox and Hassidic Jewish communities? Yeah. Old school traditional Italian neighborhoods? You bet. A Chinatown? Really? Yep. We got that that too. Some have speculated that the neighbhorhood grew out of Chinese Americans and new Chinese immigrants wanting a little more space and cheaper rents, so they hopped on the N and D subway lines from Manhattan's Chinatown and discovered the already culturally diverse Sunset Park area. Now 8th Avenue in Brooklyn between 45th and 62nd Street is most definitely a Chinatown. The easiest and best way to get to the heart of BK Chinatown quickly is to take the N line to the 8th Avenue stop.

A view down 8th Avenue towards the Verrazano Bridge

Can I say something else? I often feel a little out of place even in the Manhattan Chinatown, so I made a point of coming here by myself as a means of getting myself out of my comfort zone. Why uncomfortable? Well, I'm obviously not Asian and don't always know the best thing to order. Also I've had some "interesting" interactions with shopkeepers in Manhattan's Chinatown ("You don't want to sell me that fish? Why not?"), so I was not sure what to expect. My fellow Brooklynites in Chinatown were super cool (except in one instance), so maybe I should just attribute all that 'tude to "Manhattan-ness" (Just kidding!)? ;)

You all have to know that I was going to go look for some food. Hello! There was waaay too much super cheap and tasty looking eats around, and it would probably take someone months to eat it all (anyone want to do an experiment?). I stopped off first at Kai Feng Du Dumpling House. Let's be honest. This is NOT the place to go for atmosphere and decor, but you should definitely go for the dumplings.

I probably should have ordered less but at $2 for an order of 8, it was hard to say no. The dumplings were not too doughy, seasoned very well and chewy in a good way. Most of the dumplings have some variation of pork, but there are veggie options, too. If you don't mind the extra wait, get the steamed dumplings like I did.

I also had a bigger than expected scallion pancake, which was really bread.

In the makeshift dining area, I struck up a conversation with this really nice man. When he ran outside, I took a pic of his noodle soup with beef.

After lots more walking, I wanted a little more refreshment than water and stumbled onto Kung Fu Tea. I totally liked the modern interor and young vibe inside the shop. I do like bubble tea, but I wasn't sure what to get. I found the younger women who worked there to be pretty helpful. I settled on the passion fruit black tea with tapioca pearls, their most popular tea. It was delicious, so I understand the popularity.

Next time, I am going to get really adventurous and get their Red Wow milk tea: it's condensed milk, black tea, red beans and tapioca pearls. The taste of red beans is surprisingly nice, so I think this will be a nice treat.

I know that many enjoy Chinatowns everywhere for the shopping opportunities, and Brooklyn's seemed to have everything you could want.

Durian. I still haven't tried durian!

Some distinctive looking pastries. Next time I will be brave enough and not rushed so that I can buy some.

Most Brooklyn Chinatown stores are pretty small, but if you want more of a supermarket experience, I would head for Hong Kong supermarket for one-stop shopping.

There are things there that you can find in other shops on 8th Avenue, but I got super happy in the sauce aisle. There are so many things that I have wanted to have at home for certain home cooking that I do, and now I know where I can find them more easily in Brooklyn.

While Brooklyn Chinatown is a hub for eating and shopping, it's also a place for building a greater sense of community among the Chinese who live there. I happened to pass by this poster board that had a small crowd gathered in front of it. Since I don't read Chinese, I'm not sure what's on it. Advertisements? Job listings? News from home? Can anyone see anything and translate for me?

I passed by the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association and decided to research some more about them. In addition to providing social services for the area's elders and children, they coordinate the Brooklyn Chinese New Year Parade. That's got to go on my calendar for next year.

I was very appreciative of the really warm welcome I received at the Xi Fang Temple, a Buddhist temple right on 8th Avenue that was renovated for the community in 2007.

The temple's altar is beautiful, and I snapped this shot even though I was a little timid about taking pictures. The monk on duty (I think he was a monk? Am I getting this right?) was very nice, and we had a great conversation about the temple and its activities.

While this part of 8th Avenue's businesses are overwhelmingly Chinese, there are other cultures repping.
Ecuadorean food. I'm intrigued....I've never had Ecuadorean food.

Fabulous pho at Pho Cho Lon

I hope that this post and my article have piqued your interest in exploring this part of Brooklyn. I know I'll be looking to discover more of it. For addresses and more information than I've included here, check out my article about Brooklyn Chinatown on Brooklyn Exposed.

Happy Weekend!


Chizzy D said...

i saw Durian when i was in hong kong and i was afriad to try it because of its smell.

erin said...

I want to try the Red Wow! I love all those drinks - tell me how it is.

Try Anything Once Terri said...

@ Chizzy D - These durian (or is it durians?) weren't so bad smelling. I think it's bad when you open it up, right?

@Erin - I'll definitely let you know. :)

BigAppleNosh said...

I've encountered rude shopkeepers in Chinatown too (as well as perfectly civil ones) when by myself vs. with my mom, so you're not alone. I think they just pick up on the "newbies" vs. those in the know, even though I'm Chinese ;)

The Red Wow sounds right up my alley!

Shamis said...

It's actually called "durian". It is said the smell is not "bad" but smells "too good". As strong as it smells, it taste good. In Philippines there are chocolates made with durian.


Try Anything Once All rights reserved © 2010
I am a HowJoyful Design