Our first movie will be…
The movie Chinatown takes place in Los Angeles, but it is a great movie and inspired me to want to explore the Chinatowns throughout New York City. The movie stars Jack Nicholson as a detective, Faye Dunaway as Mrs. Mulwray and is directed by Roman Polanski. It won an Oscar for Original Screenplay in 1975.
The most famous of the Chinatowns in NYC is the one in lower Manhattan. It feels like millions of people are there daily from all over the world, but there are other Chinatowns in the city. I went to the 3 most famous of them and will highlight some things to do and eat in all of them over the month. So stay tuned for some great eating, some fun places to shop and tea, lots and lots of teas.
In Brooklyn, the original Chinatown is located in the Sunset Park neighborhood. Many of the residents are from the Fujian Province in China and the area is often referred to it as Little Fuzhou. As the Chinese population has expanded you can also find large Chinese populations in Sheepshead Bay and Bensonhurst. The newer Chinatowns have populations that speak mostly Cantonese and are sometimes called Little Hong Kong or Cantonese Town. Brooklyn is also your best chance of finding someone that speaks Hakka instead of Cantonese or Mandarin Chinese.
There are multiple Chinatowns in the borough of Queens, but the most famous is in Flushing (Mandarin Town). It began as a satellite town for the Manhattan Chinatown, but has come to be known on its own for its amazing food and culture. It has become known as a food mecca for Chinese cuisine. The restaurants and food stalls in Flushing serve Hakka, Taiwanese, Shanghainese, Hunanese, Szechuan, Cantonese, Fujianese, Xinjiang, Zhejiang, and Korean Chinese cuisine and even more obscure Dongbei style of cuisine indigenous to Northeast China, as well as Mongolian cuisine and Uyghur cuisine. Much of the areas population is from Taiwan and is sometimes called Little Taiwan or Little Taipei. You can find both Mandarin and Cantonese speakers here. It is the largest Chinatown by size outside Asia and one of the largest and fastest-growing Chinatowns in the world. There are smaller enclaves in Elmhurst and Corona Queens as well.
The Bronx has a growing population of Chinese speakers, but no Chinatown has emerged. There is a Chinese grocery store in the ParkChester neighborhood, but very little concentration of Chinese businesses yet. Staten Island also does not have an established Chinatown, but does have a slowly growing Chinese population near the Staten Island expressway with easy access to New Jersey.
So, with the largest Chinese population outside of China, let’s explore these NYC Chinatowns over the month.
Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown. – Walsh, from Chinatown (1974)