A fun alternative activity to the normal tourist circuit in New York is getting lost and stuffed in Chinatown and there have been a billowing of food tours to help you test out the best of the best. However, this Concierge loves taking her time and getting distracted and popping into whichever shopfront entices her, especially when it comes to food. So after a little research, I decided to self-tour Manhattan’s Chinatown.
First of all, to show my props, not only am I a foodie travel blogger, I also lived in China for 4 years and I could live on a purely Asian diet. So I have a high bar. Living in Ethiopia, we actually do quite well for Chinese (and Korean) food but LORDY do I miss dimsum. So we 100% had to spend some solid hours in Chinatown, stuffing our faces.
Here’s how you can do the same…
First of all, Mott Street is a great street to situate yourself in Chinatown. There are all sorts of interesting wares being sold and smells invading your nostrils. After a little time perusing, it’s DINNER TIME.
Believe it or not, the main event at Fried Dumpling is… fried dumpling. My research led us here for some good… well, fried dumplings and they were the good stuff. Grab a stool, make sure you get some fresh ones and pour on your soy and sriracha (or some vinegar if you can get it). The wrappers all over Chinatown are not going to be China standard, but the fillings were yum and this place has such low prices, it’s wild.
Mei Li Wah Bakery is a necessary stop for the best pork buns in Chinatown. The BBQ pork is fantastic; melt in the mouth with a delicious sauce. In the steamed version, the dough was a little dense and whilst we were sat, a line of people appeared for the baked version, so I’d recommend the latter. Apparently, this is where Chinatown locals come for their pork buns and that’s recommendation enough for me. (I also loved the Nom Wah version – the pork wasn’t quite as good but the caramelised onion is a nice touch and it was doughy doughy goodness.)
Vanessa’s Dumplings is another Chinatown institution and beloved of all. Whilst it’s a little out of the way, it’s well worth the meander; their dumplings are impressive and there’s a fabulous choice. Try the chicken and basil boiled dumplings, the monthly special and the sesame pancake with Peking Duck.
No Chinatown trip is complete without some soupy dumplings (xiaolong bao), Concierge Husband’s favourite type. Shanghai Cafe Deluxe is a solid pair of hands for some high-level soupy dumplings. There’s a minimum spend, so we took our’s to go and sat in the park, but the menu looked delightful, so consider adding an extra couple of items and parking yourself in one of their booths. Worried about 3rd degree burns from soup spillage? Here’s a failsafe guide to eating your soupy dumplings with at least some dignity.
By this point, you’re probably craving something sweet, Nomads. Golden Fung Wong Bakery has freshly baked fortune cookies and authentic almond cookies. Actually everything looked good, but those are what we tasted. On our visit, we were delighted to spy mooncakes in an abundance of flavours and picked out a pineapple-flavoured beauty.
If you’ve still got space, at Taiyaki my favourite Chinatown snack has got a trendy (and tasty) upgrade. Here the fish-shaped waffle is still partially filled by custard or red bean paste but topped up with a yummy soft serve. Drizzled over my matcha and sesame ice cream, I opted for condensed milk, pop rocks with a stick of mochi in the side. NOM.
However, if you’re looking for whimsy, Chinatown ice cream factory serves up scoops of ice cream in taro, egg custard, red bean, pandan, green tea, black sesame, lychee and many more!
If you’re less concerned with touring and just want great dimsum, Nom Wah Tea Parlor did not disappoint. I’d almost forego the others next time and head straight there. It’s so evocative of the old teahouses in Hong Kong with the big ceiling fans and the fabulous vintage posters and the formica tables. The food made for two elated travellers; yummy soupy dumpling, cheoung fun with a sweet oozing sauce, stuffed tofu skins to die for, moreish shu mai and shrimp dumplings, I mentioned the excellent buns. And the selection of teas, Nomads! It’s the oldest spot in Chinatown and so reknowned that we were worried it would be a tourist trap, but we left floating along the street in a dimsum daydream!
Need more dimsum?
– Jing Fong is a huge dimsum parlour just waiting for you
Need more dumplings?
– Golden Steamer; ignore the name and try the pumpkin or BBQ pork buns
Looking for Chinese dishes?
– Little Alley for great Shanghai food and a HUGE soupy dumpling
7 thoughts on “New York Chinatown – How to DIY a Tour”
Yum yum yum!!!! Wish I was there right now. Adding this to the list of things to do next time I am in NYC!
I’m a huge sucker for ice-cream and these flavours sound amazing. I’m heading to New York at the end of this month, will definitely check some of these out!
Great review of great places in a great city!
The thing I miss the most about NYC is the food. As a small European person, I was totally fascinated with the availability of cuisines and ingredients you can find in a place like NYC. You can literally taste the world there, and everything is the real deal – otherwise the many minorities would never eat that stuff. It was my favourite cultural feature about the place!
Oh my goodness this post is making my mouth water! I love dumplings so much and could eat them all day every day! This is such a great alternative to the usual NYC itinerary. A great idea if it’s not your first time in the Big Apple!