Most large cities boast Chinatowns, enclaves of Chinese culture, trade and cuisine. Although none of them were necessarily planned or used according to a template, they all shared a fascinating story and rewarded interesting travelers with their rugged architecture, bonfire festivals and good food.
Each of these eight Chinatowns – a testament to the cosmopolitan spirit of their founding cultures – is a worthy place to relax. But give your visit an Epicurean dimension, and you will appreciate the wisdom of the revered Chinese saying, “for a ruler, people are heaven; for people, food is heaven.”
In a city obsessed with food, Singapore’s Chinatown is stormy, smoky. Even though the past of opium dens and triads has been cited, you can still understand the layers of history and modern life that exist here as you wander the shaft of low-rise buildings that hide time-worn temples erected against street-lit urban art and lively bars and restaurants that combine fashion disadvantages with traditional architecture.
Immerse yourself in its fascinating history at the Chinatown Heritage Center before heading to Chinatown, where you will find Hong Kong soy sauce with chicken rice and noodles, a hawk stall so good that it has earned a Michelin star. Mr. Chan Hong Meng’s owner serves bronze chicken with soy sauce and crispy sweet pork to a number of kebab lovers who begin to form long before the shutter is rolled up.
San Francisco, USA
San Francisco is home to the largest, oldest, and most shallow Chinatown in the United States. The California Gold Rush of 1848 drew hundreds of thousands to a once tiny Pacific settlement, including Chinese gatekeepers who flowed through the seas to submerge the legendary Golden Mountain.
In the grid of streets behind the famous Dragon Gate (donated by Taiwan in 1970) you will find crowded alleys filled with dumplings, clinker bricks that survived the devastating fire of 1906, and large cultural reserves such as the Museum of the Chinese Historical Society.
Melbourne owes its deep-rooted Chinatown a wealth of land, with the first Chinese immigrants arriving in the young city after the discovery of gold in 1850. Thus, Melbourne’s Chinatown is one of the oldest in the southern hemisphere and is enriched by the city’s cultural diversity; with Indonesian, Korean, Malaysian, Thai and other Southeast Asian canteens now flooding the area.
Of course, connections with the homeland remain vital, and they can be seen through the glass windows of the Hu Tong dumpling bar, where experienced ex-chefs do their magic. It is impossible to walk past Xiao Long Bao without stopping for a snack; gnaw on top of one of these silky bags of steamed pork, suck out the juice and imagine yourself in the alleys of Old Shanghai.
The Binondo area of Manila is recognized as the oldest Chinatown in the world, and the pedigree goes beyond the official establishment of the Spanish colonists in 1594. It is also one of the largest in the world – a turbulent center of business, culture and, of course, food. Mostly descendants of southern Hokkien, its Filipino-Chinese people love seafood, mushrooms and dishes seasoned with restraint, where fresh ingredients allow themselves to speak for themselves.
The Quik snack on Carvajal Street (also known as Amah Pilar, or Grandma Pilar) is a great place to see how Hokkien’s brackets have been given Filipino and even Spanish accents. Try ku-tsai-ah (Chinese empanadas) or misua guisado (fried vermicelli, fried with pork, vegetables or fish).
The historic heart of Peru’s 1.5 million ethnic Chinese diaspora, the largest in Latin America, is Barry Chino in Lima. Its numerous chiefs (Chinese restaurants) are crowded with the descendants of some 100,000 Cantonese immigrants who came to the country to take over the mining and sugar plantations that remained vacant when slavery was abolished in 1854.
Chifa classics include Peruvian Chinese dishes such as lomo saltado (beef roast) and pollo tipikai (sweet and sour chicken). Important portions like the 16-page menu, Wa Lok is one of Barrio Chino’s best chefs; try pap-son, minced pigeons in the style of tacos in a salad, requested by Inca Cola with the taste of lemon-verbena.
Although the oldest and largest Parisian district of Chinoi, in the southeast of the 13th arrondissement, dates back to the 1920s, a large number of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian descendants date back to France’s broader colonial ties with Indochina as early as the 1800s.
La Chine Masséna Restaurant serves fine chichou from eastern Guangdong. Easy to season, guided by the freshness and taste of its ingredients, this style of Chinese cuisine is natural for French taste and does not require too much adaptation to local tastes. Try turbot, a pearly white flatfish native to the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic, steamed with ginger and green onions.
There are several Chinese enclaves in Toronto, but it is at the junction of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street that you will find the largest, oldest and liveliest. Definitely worth looking for Mother’s dumplings, a small redoubt of food bliss from Shenyang in northeast China.
Chef Zhen’s mother, from whom she learned the weakened art of dough stretching, comes from this boiled heart. Try lamb shui-mai – wrinkled dumplings in the shape of a flower, minced mutton, which reflects their Mongolian origins, as well as the affection of Canadian predators.
Yokohama Chinatown gathers more than 600 Chinese shops and restaurants in a small area marked by 10 beautifully decorated gates and centered around the impressive Kantei Bai Temple, dedicated to the god of business.
The deep roots of the community are demonstrated by the Manchinrō Honten Palace, a Cantonese-style restaurant that serves southern Chinese dishes, expertly adapted to local tastes, since 1892. Simple fried dishes, such as scallops with leeks or beef with asparagus, shine with purity. and freshness, which is appreciated by Japanese food lovers.