Clarifying Chinatown (Part 1)

This is indirectly a food post.  I’ve realized that I get a lot of my food from Chinatown, but many can’t figure out where to go.

Boston’s Chinatown is relatively small.  Compared to the one at home it’s down right tiny.  People find Chinatown intimidating.  Whether it’s being in a new place, not speaking the predominant language, not knowing what certain things are; it’s just unfamiliar.  So here you are, a guide to navigate Chinatown.

In Boston’s case, the word “Chinatown” is increasingly deceiving.  Chinatown does not consist of just Chinese shops.  Many of the shops and restaurants are Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, or even Thai or Malaysian.  People have called it Chinatown forever, but the popular restaurants in Chinatown aren’t necessarily Chinese.  Predominantly Chinese?  Probably.

Navigating Chinatown isn’t easy.  The words are foreign and hard to pronounce without offending someone.  The Chinese people who bustle by you are not afraid to push you out of there way and shout something at you.  Chinatown’s inherently retains sketchiness and dirtiness.  Basically, unless you speak Chinese, be prepared to be overwhelmed.  The entire Chinatown experience is terrifying.  The way that most people find success in Chinatown is trial and error.  You have to go into new restaurants and shops, look around, and be open.  When in a grocery store or in a restaurant, if you don’t know what something is, try to find out.  If you ask, there’s a good chance whoever is in the door doesn’t speak English.  Look at the pictures, read directions, smell, taste, do whatever you have to do.  You should try to find a good level of comfort wherever you end up in Chinatown.

And just a tip, if you buy groceries from Chinatown, be wary.  The foods are cheaper but they spoil quicker than they normally would from say Shaws or Stop and Shop.  And the meat is sometimes discolored so you really have to study whether you want to chance the meat.  But the meat also comes in lesser known/wanted parts (chicken/pigs’ feet, organs, etc.).  Chinese grocery stores have a lot of items you might not know.  So what you have to do is smell, taste, and look for the familiar.

While you’re navigating Chinatown, you’re sure to notice the people.  They’re everywhere; they’re hard to miss.  If you are in their way, they will not hesitate to bump you out of the way.  Chinese are generally aggressive when they walk.  The fun ones are aggressive and slow moving.  You might have to do some fancy maneuvering that a football player would be proud to do, just to get to the next aisle of the supermarket.  Now, when they talk to you, chances are they will yell.  They might just be saying how much you owe or asking a question their voices are slightly louder.  And as a tip, be courteous, don’t necessarily expect the same type of courtesy but you’re on their turf.  The way to walk through Chinatown is to act like you own the place, but do it reverently.

To be  Continued…

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About akindafoodblog

I'm a picky foodie in training. I can't stop talking about food, so writing about it seems like a normal transition. There are so many foods I don't like, and that's a bit of a problem. I don't really know how to cook but I love to bake. So I'm on a culinary journey and I want to invite everyone to join me.
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