Whether you have lived in NYC all your life, are visiting for the first time, or are a local looking for a fun and unique activity to entertain out of town guests, I can’t think of more worthwhile daytime activity than going on a Foods of New York Tours’ Gourmet Chinatown Food and Culture Walking Tour — which I took a couple weekends ago and had the best time ever!
The Gourmet Chinatown Food and Culture Tour is NYC’s only walking tour that includes multiple sit-down food tastings as well as an unequaled opportunity to learn so many fascinating things about the Chinese people and the amazing heritage they bring to New York City (which is home to the largest Chinatown in the US)! During this tour, you get to taste a diverse selection of dishes from three acclaimed Chinatown restaurants and one of Chinatown’s favorite bakeries, so you will enjoy several varieties of Chinese cuisines. You also get to celebrate the tradition and etiquette of this rich culture by searching out historical and cultural landmarks of the area on your way from tasting to tasting. Let me share a little bit about my experience of the tour.
You’ll start your tour by meeting up with your group and guide at Dim Sum GoGo (located at 5 East Broadway near Chatham Square), and this where you’ll have your first tasting. Our host and tour guide was a super friendly and knowledgeable guy named Raheem, and he was just fantastic. Dim Sum GoGo served us a selection of five different Hong Kong style dumplings over the course of about 45 minutes, during which time Raheem told us all about the history of Dim Sum, which was fascinating.
Unlike the Ballroom Dum Sum places, where servers wheeling carts of readymade dumplings and other dishes will circulate around the dining room, all dishes at Dim Sum GoGo are made fresh to order. Raheem described the ingredients of each dumpling as we ate it. I appreciated the food vibe, which made each bite taste special!
It was nice that everybody in the group had a chance to chat and get to know each other as we ate.
Soon it was time to bundle up and head out to our next food tasting destination. On the way, we made a stop in Chatham Square, where Raheem told us a little bit about the history of the area, including the background of this statue of Lin Zexu, a Chinese Scholar who lived from 1785 to 1850 and was considered to be a pioneer in the Wars On Drugs. Raheem called him the Nancy Reagan of his time!
We also passed by Nom Wah Tea Parlor on Doyers Street, which opened in 1920 and is the oldest Dum Sum establishment in Chinatown.
Many movies and TV shows film on Doyers Street to capture its authentic look and cool shops!
We had fun stopping in for a few minutes at Aji Ichiban Sweet Shop, located at 37 Mott Street.
Aji Ichiban sells packaged Asian sweets and also hundreds of different kinds of preserved fruits and spiced delicacies, including preserved, candied Rose Petal, which is delicious. Each bin has a small bowl on top for sampling.
Everyone was excited to arrive at the Peking Duck House, where we were served whole, authentic Peking Duck with all the fixings. Raheem emphasized that not all places that claim to serve Peking Duck are truly authentic and he related the fascinating history of how the duck is prepared, including why only white ducks (with all white feathers) are used in preparation, and so much more.
The Peking Duck is sliced and served table-side, wrapped inside Chinese crepes with fresh cucumber and traditional Hoisin sauce (see photo below). From the tender and flavorful meat to the crispy skin that melted in your mouth, this was the best duck I ever ate.
I think I will have to make a return trip to the Peking Duck House on another occasion — and bring some friends!
En route to our next tasting we passed through Columbus Park (67 Mulberry Street), where you can find people performing traditional Chinese music, playing chess, and just enjoying the day, even when it is very cold outside!
We made an unofficial stop at Fried Dumpling, located at 106 Mosco Street, because Raheem said this is his favorite place to get Dumplings in the entire city. Fried Dumpling sells six dumplings for just $1. Although this was not included on the tour, Raheem encouraged anyone interested to buy some of these dumplings and taste for themselves how awesome they were. And at just $1, how could you go wrong? (Note: they were excellent). They also sell bags of frozen dumplings to go! Fried Dumpling!
This elaborate model house and sports car (below) are examples of Joss Paper offerings, which are burned in various Asian funerals, to ensure that the Spirit of the deceased has lots of good things in the Afterlife!
Having burned a few of the day’s calories with our brisk walk, we arrived at West New Malaysian Restaurant (46-48 Bowery, tucked inside the Chinatown Arcade at #28), for a taste of Malaysian Roti Canai.
If you’ve had Roti before at an Indian restaurant, you know that this an exceptionally flaky, pleasantly chewy flat bread. Raheem gave us the lowdown on how they get it so flaky. The Roti is served with a cup of mild curry that has pieces of potato and chicken in it. You dip the Roti in the curry and it is just heaven. This was my favorite thing we ate all day.
After a fun and filling three hours, we came to our final stop at the Golden Manna Bakery (16 Bowery) for a light dessert of the best Egg Custard Tart in Chinatown.
Above, you can see Raheem holding the tray of these mildly sweet and luscious desserts, still warm from the oven. The custard is just the right texture of creaminess and the pastry was the flakiest pastry you can imagine. So good!
Golden Manna features so many tempting treats, you might want to pick up some pastries to take home with you!
A Few Things to Know Before You Go:
The ticket price of $65 reflects the Chinatown tour’s unique features: three sit down restaurant tastings, and larger portion sizes than you’ll experience on other walking tours. All tastings (except where noted in this review) are included in your ticket purchase. Be sure to come hungry! Unfortunately, due to the nature of the experience, no food substitutions can be made.
You will be served tea and water at every food stop except the bakery. Alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine, which were offered at the Peking Duck House, are not included, but run about $6 plus tax and tip, if you’re interested. Tour guide gratuities are also not included in the cost of your ticket, and you absolutely should tip your guide. Raheem was really excellent and added great value to our experience. We tipped him $10 (each), which I would say is a ballpark appropriate amount. And yes, there are multiple clean restroom stops along the way!
Find a Tour and Buy Tickets at This Link! Enjoy!