The Chinese Festival of San Gennaro

Navigating New York is not an art that comes naturally to me. I’ve hopped express trains to Queens, Harlem and the Bronx when I was merely trying to get back to Chelsea. I’ve walked the streets of TriBeCa thinking I was in SoHo. I made love to Mayor Bloomberg in Grand Central when I thought I was in Gracie Mansion. The flight of this navigator has yet to leave the ground.

Yet, yesterday was a triumph of the will. My will intended to visit Chinatown for an entry I intended to title: “The Amateur Gourmet Eats Chinatown.”

Things began on a high note. I emerged from the Subway on Canal Street and saw this gigantic clue before me:

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Burger King in Chinese! This must be it.

So I walked. And I walked. Sure, this seemed like Chinatown—hawkers on the street, tourists with cameras. But where were the pushcarts that sell delicious Chinese delicacies like pork buns and turnip cakes?

And then I saw green, white and red. Throngs of people pushed their way through what looked like an ancient Chinese festival of sorts. I pushed my way in:

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Apparently, in New York’s Chinatown, Chinese Americans look like haggard Italians and cook things like sausage on the grille:

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There’s also Chinese gelato and pastries:

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But where was I? What was going on? I looked up and beheld the answer: The 7th Annual Feast of San Gennaro.

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Having seen the movie “Hero,” I know that San Gennaro is the martial arts expert who journeyed through several multi-colored vistas to kill assassins in the name of the king. How wonderful that we were here to celebrate his triumph by eating traditional Chinese food.

I jumped on the bandwagon and ordered a sausage with peppers and onions:

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The Italian-looking Chinese man asked me if I wanted spicy or plain.

“Spicy!” I said. “Hold the duck sauce.”

I continued on my way taking in other sites of Chinese culture:

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How all-embracing are the Chinese? They even purvey Italian music:

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Reaching journey’s end, I took a good look at the street name so I could remember where Chinatown is for next time:

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Before I left, though, I topped things off with a classic Chinese dessert:

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Made me think of my favorite line from The Godfather: “Leave the gun. Keep the dim sum.”

5 comments

  1. Yep, hate to break it to you, but little italy and china town are right next door to each other. Because they are so close there is a little overlap, but there is great chinese food to be had and authentic chinese little old ladies who speak indecipherably in chinese and the vendors and things you mentioned, but you have to actually find true chinatown to get those things. I would tell you where it is myself, but I don’t live in NY (I’m one of your devoted Atlanta readers that read about you in the AJC and got hooked) and therefore don’t remember how I got there, but it’s worth the trip, so good luck finding it next time!

  2. I went last year and it was great fun. A friend and I ate our way through what felt like 20 city blocks. And then we went home for dinner (must have been all that walking…) My friend has since married and moved to London, so I’m happy to have lived vicariously through you. Happy munching.

  3. On your next trip down, go to Pongsri Thai on the corner of Bayard & Baxter. It’s yummy. When you’re done, make a left out the door and walk about two blocks to the little ice cream shop (opposite side of the street, past the Haagen Dazs store if that’s still there. I think it’s where Elizabeth ends but I can’t remember now.) that has great flavors like red bean and green tea. Mmm.

  4. great blog esp. now that you are in new york and covering ny eats. as for china town, i like big wong (67 mott street), which serves the best congee and yummy won tons, noodles and rice dishes. you can eat well for under $10 and you can’t beat the barbecued meats on rice there. also nha trang on baxter (b/w bayard and canal), a cheap vietnamese place which serves pho and the usual suspects. best bets are the barbecued pork chops and salt & pepper shrimp.

  5. I and a fried had a divine (and huge) meal at Pongsri Thai for $35! We couldn’t believe our eyes when we got the bill, because it’s cheaper than eating an equivalent meal in India. Then we walked down Mulberry St. and had coffee and dessert. This post reminded me of fun times and I can’t wait to visit NY again.

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