A Food and Cultural Tour in New York City’s Chinatown

A Food and Cultural Tour in New York City’s Chinatown

Until recently, New York City’s Chinatown was not a neighborhood that I was well-acquainted with. I had been there a few times, mostly in high school to buy knock-off bags, but my loyalty always went to Little Italy, the neighborhood right next door. It was not that Chinatown didn’t interest me, it did, but I never really had the chance to explore it.

Which is why, when I suddenly had the opportunity to get to know a bit more about the neighborhood, I could not turn it down. The tour itself was further proof that I had only previously grazed the surface of this energetic and bustling community.

New York City's Chinatown

New York City’s Chinatown

A few weeks ago, while browsing the web, I stumbled upon the website Xperience Days, a company that offers the chance to give experiences as presents instead of material objects. They offer everything from cooking classes to flight lessons, spa treatments to jewelry making classes, and so much more.

Immediately, the Chinatown Food and Cultural tour caught my eye. Not only am I interested in food, but I am also interested in culture, especially the culture of a neighborhood in my favorite city. I was sold, and Xperience Days set up the tour for me.

Market

Market

At 10:30am on Saturday morning, I met Bert, my Foods of New York tour guide, at Dim Sum Go Go, in an area of Chinatown that I had never been before. As soon as I got there, I was taken far from New York City, and that’s exactly the feeling I like getting. Having never been on a food tour, I had no idea what to expect, except I knew to come hungry and I’m glad I did.

After arriving at Dim Sum Go Go, we all congregated upstairs in a room we had all to ourselves, giving us the chance to go over introductions over tea. Then Bert gave us an overview of where we’d be heading and what we’d be eating over the course of the next three hours.

Then came the best part, sampling several varieties of dumplings. There were three sauces to use with our dumplings and the first three we were served were steamed – vegetable, chicken, and pork, then a fried duck dumpling, and a roast pork bun. While all were tasty, my two favorites were the vegetable, known as the Jade, and the roast pork bun. I could have stayed at Dim Sum Go Go for the rest of the day, but there were other places for us to go.

Doyers Street

Doyers Street

After dumplings, we headed over to the square across the street to learn a bit of history about New York City’s Chinatown, and eventually headed over to Doyers Street, for some bar and restaurant suggestions. Even though we couldn’t eat at every place, it was nice to have some ideas of where to visit on my next trip back to Chinatown. We walked a bit further and reached our next stop: Peking Duck House.

Here, we watched our chef carve our peking duck and assemble our pancakes. It was my first time eating peking duck, and I was not disappointed. Everyone else around me agreed, as there was little talking around the table and lots of eating.

Preparing the duck

Preparing the duck

From here, we went down the street to a shop that sold teapots, tea, and herbal remedies. Even though I didn’t buy anything, it was still fun to shop around and browse at what was for sale.

Tea

Tea

Then we made our way over to the Columbus Park, which I had never visited, but it was an instant favorite of mine. As Bert said, if you’ve come to Chinatown and haven’t been in the park, you haven’t really been to Chinatown. There were Chinese musicians playing music, and men and women playing cards throughout the park. If you just focused on the park itself, it was easy to imagine yourself far away from New York City.

A quiet corner in the park

A quiet corner in the park

I could have stayed in the park all afternoon, but again, food was calling our names. From here, we walked to ABC Chinese Restaurant for a Cantonese meal of Chinese eggplant and golden fried rice. Both dishes not only smelled delicious, but were so fresh tasting and unlike any Chinese dishes I had previously tasted. I was starting to get full, but the food just kept getting better.

Eggplant, golden fried rice, and tea

Eggplant, golden fried rice, and tea

Finally, we ended the tour with dessert. Bert told us that it had been a difficult choice to pick a dessert for the tour that was both traditional, but that people on the tour would like. The dessert, from Golden Manna Bakery, was an egg custard tart that was creamy with a flaky crust; it was the perfect last treat of the day.

We all stood on the street corner gobbling up our dessert, and realizing how quickly three hours had passed by; I wasn’t ready for the tour to end. But, we parted ways, some numbers were exchanged, and we all somehow found our respective ways home, food comas and all.

An awesome guide!

An awesome guide!

After this tour, it is hard for me to believe that I had never before taken a food tour anywhere in the world. It was the perfect way to try something new, discover a new restaurant or two, make new friends, and learn a little history about a city neighborhood in just three hours.

Whether you are visiting New York City or any other city that offers a food tour, I highly suggest booking one and seeing where your taste buds land you. I’d also highly recommend Foods of New York Tours, not only were the restaurant selections satisfying, but the tour guides are some of the best around.

What to know:
Price: $65 for tastings at four locations
Tour Length: 3 – 3 1/2 hours
Attire: Comfortable shoes and layers, as you will be walking around and going inside of restaurants

A special thanks to Xperience Days for setting up the tour and to Foods of New York for hosting my tour. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Comments (25)

  1. Anita Mac

    Sounds so tasty! I love going to Chinatown in my hometown, but we tend to always go to our favourites and not really go outside the box. A tour sounds like a great way to get out and learn more about Chinatown. That would have come in handy as I wandered around China Town in San Fran – it was so big and overwhelming, I had no idea!

    1. The World Wanderer

      Chinatown can be so overwhelming, that’s why I loved this idea! I always seem to go to those old, familiar places too, that’s why food tours are so wonderful. I will definitely be going on more! 🙂

      1. Anita Mac

        Agreed – I see more food tours on my radar. Did an awesome cooking class in Spain but missed the tour….will be looking out for them on my travels. Thanks for the NY tip – will be keeping it in mind for my next trip!

  2. D.J. - The World of Deej

    What an awesome day. I’ve only been through Chinatown once and it was just a fast walk through. Loved the way you were able to really explore the area. Also, pretty cool idea to give an experience as a gift instead of a lousy gift card, etc

    1. The World Wanderer

      Yes, I absolutely love the idea behind Xperience Days. I usually try to give experiences, but it isn’t always easy to give, Xperience Days makes it so much easier. 🙂

  3. Erik

    Nice! We live in Queens and love all the ethnic food available here. The Chinatown tour sounds fun (and delicious). Thanks for the recommendation – we will check it out!

    1. The World Wanderer

      Queens has the best ethnic food! My parents grew up there, so we often head back and check out all the new places. But, we love the old ones too – Bohemian Hall and there’s a Croatian place we always head to too.

  4. Kieu ~ GQ trippin

    We’ve done two different food tours in NYC already.. both were great! So much to eat in that city.. I’d do another.

    1. The World Wanderer

      There are so many great places to eat in NYC, a food tour is the perfect way to experience them all! 🙂

  5. Matt Bernarducci

    Hey Erin…It’s your MAS colleague Matt. Love reading about your adventures. When you were on the Chinatown tour did they mention anything about the history of the neighborhood? What’s now Chinatown was historically an Irish ghetto for poor immigrants fleeing the potato famine. The streets that are depicted in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Streets of New York’ are actually in and around what is now Columbus Park. Just FYI!

    1. The World Wanderer

      Hi Matt! Yes, they did talk about that! The history aspect was so interesting. He also told us that Canal Street was actually a canal and Wall Street was actually where a wall was placed to keep out the Native Americans. It’s amazing how much a neighborhood can change over time!

  6. Lola DiMarco

    A whole tour dedicated to food? Sounds like a good time to me! What a great way to explore a city and find those hidden gems!

    1. The World Wanderer

      I know, it was amazing! I bet they have some up by you!

  7. Pola (@jettingaround)

    What a fun experience! I love dim sum… 🙂 Would definitely consider this when I (finally) make it back to NYC.

    1. The World Wanderer

      Yes, you really should, as it was such a great way to see, and eat through, the city. I’m sure they have some great ones in Chicago too!

  8. Tawny of Captain and Clark

    Um, you had us at “food tour.” Looks like you had one delicious experience. I just wish I would have eaten before reading this. I’m starving now!

    1. The World Wanderer

      I know, I can hardly look at the photos without reliving the experience. SO YUMMY! Next time you come to NYC, we’ll do one together. 🙂

  9. Traveling Ted

    I am the same way with Chicago’s Chinatown. I have hardly ever been, and this post has motivated me to visit my local Chinatown neighborhood.

    1. The World Wanderer

      I wonder if they have food tours there – if so, definitely do one. Then come visit me in NYC and we’ll do one here too! And a pub crawl, for obvious reasons…

  10. Leah Travels

    This looks totally awesome! I’m so doing this when I return to NYC.

  11. the lazy travelers

    we joined foods of new york on their classic greenwich village tour and LOVED it. one of the best “touristy” things we’ve ever done in new york. chinatown = nomnomnom.

    1. The World Wanderer

      Ohh, I will definitely have to check that one out too!

  12. @mrsoaroundworld

    An area I have yet to explore properly in NYC!! Maybe on my upcoming visit!!

    1. The World Wanderer

      That would be wonderful! It’s such a cool part of town. 🙂

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