Making My Way Through Chinatown

After coming from a country of excess, eating out in London’s Chinatown is a rather different experience. In the United States, many Chinese restaurants automatically bring you a pot of Chinese tea. A bowl of white rice is included with your meal in the Chinese restaurants I’ve been to. In fact, there’s so much rice given to you, it would surprising if you finished all of it. Not so in London.

All the Chinese restaurants I’ve been to so far have charged around £2, give or take 50p, for Chinese tea. Per person. White rice can cost £1-2 depending on where you are. As a customer, I was quite upset that I was being charged for items that I simply could not do without. Yet, as a business-minded person, I completely understand. It doesn’t make much sense to give away something that everyone will want. It’s a tad shocking to go into a restaurant and remember that my love of tea is actually going to cost me this time around.

But this has yet to stop me from eating out. The right restaurants in Chinatown can cost about £10 per person. We recently went to Leong’s Legends continue and I would highly recommend it! The menu is limited but it tasted a bit like home to me. And being able to speak Mandarin was fantastic.

Now that I am living in a different country and have a rather limited choice in spices & sauces when I cook, I crave different flavors that only authentic Chinese food can provide. Soy sauce is fantastic for flavoring on the go but it isn’t quite the same as having a full spice rack and all the vinegars and sauces that my mom has at her fingertips. Luckily, I will never have to venture into Chinatown alone.

In fact, Chinatown has now become my classroom. Sort of. I am usually a tad shocked when people don’t know what red bean paste or bubble tea or dumplings are. I come from an area with a solid Chinese population and regularly venture in to Flushing Queens—a non-tourist filled Chinatown in New York. I have now made it my mission to educate people about popular East Asian food.

Photo from Ehsan Ahmad’s Flickr

I expected to come to London and be the one learning about cultural differences. I have, of course. And yet, I have had the opportunity to teach about my culture as well. I can teach my UK friends how homemade chili should smell and taste. Thank you for letting me live in Texas for seven years, parents! I can order authentic Chinese dishes and expose them to the unknown world of Chinese pastries. A trip will soon be made to sample bubble tea (which is a tad different here in London but still delicious). The list can continue to include snacks, groceries, etc.

My sudden passion for teaching others about my food culture has taken care of any identity crisis I had earlier. I am a Chinese-Taiwanese-American and I am ready to expose you to my food world. Though, I am now questioning whether or not I want to simply remain in London forever with all the fantastic new friends I’ve made. But that question will have to be answered at another time.

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