Imagine you just spent well over two weeks confined in the small space of a boat where you were fed what was given.  Imagine before that you spent the better part of 5 months in an isolated and homogeneous northern town.  And imagine before all that all, you were living on a 2 mile wide island whose entire restaurant scene was catered to tourists, providing little in the way of diversity.  Yes, this was not necessarily a good year for my passion for ethnic foods.

So my first objective when I got to New York City: authentic Chinese food.  Outside of going to China itself, I don’t think you’re going to get much closer than the NYC Chinatown.

Getting off the subway into what was supposed to be the Chinatown area was a little bit confusing.  I was in a park with many people of Asian descent and speaking languages other than English (though that goes for a good portion of the populace I encounter in New York anyway).  However, there was nothing overtly Chinatown-esque about where I was.

The Manhattan Bridge Arch near one of the open-air flea markets in Chinatown.

Wandering a few blocks in a randomly chosen direction fixed that, though.  I ended up smack-dab in what was quite evidently Chinatown.  Shops and stands and markets and trinkets.  I really wish I had taken pictures of more of it, as I’m not sure that I can accurately describe the delightful chaos that the neighborhood entails.

But still, my goal was a good Chinatown lunch.  So, walking around with my eyes glued to my UrbanSpoon.com app, I finally came to my winner: Big Wong Restaurant.

The seating scheme was unlike any restaurant I’ve ever been in before.  I was unsure about it at first, but after ten minutes, I loved it!  Everything was communal.  They put you where you fit, on a bench, in a chair, at a counter, in the air.  By the time I ordered, I was somehow surrounded by 2 Australians and an Englishman.

My meal at Big Wong.

Luckily the menu had English translations; otherwise I would have had no idea what I was looking at.  About 2 or 3 different people came by to take different orders. Back home at Chinese restaurants, I usually stick to something similar to General Tso’s Chicken. Figured I’d venture out a bit this time.  I’m still not sure exactly what it was I ordered (even with the English help) but when it came to the table it was absolutely amazing.

A street in Chinatown looking toward the south.

Wandering out, very full, I had no idea what to expect from Chinatown.  My sister had been here a few years before and was a big fan of the “unofficial” brands sold around here.  Shopping has never really been my thing but I couldn’t help but to pop into so many of these shops just to see what was in them.

After a couple hours, I began to gather that I had looped through about as much as I was going to see.  A good deal of day remained, and a whole skyline of some of New York’s tallest buildings loomed over the nearer buildings to the south, calling me toward them.