Our 5 ways to support your local Chinatown this holiday season include everything from doing your Christmas gift shopping and buying Christmas meal ingredients in Chinatown to holding your end-of-year celebrations and even enjoying festive meals in Chinatown. Or you could just show your local Chinatown some love.
If you’re missing Asia and dreaming of your future culinary adventures in China, East Asia, Southeast Asia and beyond, then get to your nearest Chinatown, gorge yourself on dim sum or feast on a banquet, load yourself up with Asian ingredients and cooking supplies, do your Christmas shopping, make some restaurant bookings, and share it all on social media to show your support.
Few communities have been as heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 as Chinatowns around the world, everywhere from New York to Paris, both of which felt the pain in the early days. Soon after the news came out of Wuhan, people started staying away from Chinatowns everywhere, restaurants and other small businesses shuttered and locals suffered – not only from lost income but a rise in xenophobia, especially in the USA where Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus”.
If you’ve also found yourself staying away from your favourite Chinatown dumpling joint, tea house or food court, if you’ve ran out of your favourite Asian condiments, or you’ve ran out of ideas as to what to buy your food-loving friends and family for Christmas, then – if you’re not currently in lockdown, of course – do yourself a favour and make your way to your nearest Chinatown.
When you get there, here are 5 ways to support your local Chinatown this holiday season:
5 Ways to Support Your Local Chinatown This Holiday Season
Do Your Christmas Gift Shopping in Chinatown
One of the best ways to support your local Chinatown this holiday season is to do your Christmas gift shopping in Chinatown. If you have family members and friends who love to cook and eat Asian food, shopping for them is a cinch in Chinatown. For the home cooks, a carbon steel wok, rice cooker, dumpling steamers, and cutting boards all make thoughtful Christmas gifts. You’ll generally find professional kitchen supply shops in Chinatown – Singapore has a particularly good one – which have long-lasting appliances and utensils, but good Asian supermarkets will also bargain-priced kitchen gear that makes for fantastic stocking stuffers, such as Chinese spoons, a cleaver or a mesh spider for noodles. Also slip into small ‘mom and pop’ type shops for traditional ceramic bowls, retro enamelware, Chinese tea sets, and vintage thermoses and tiffin boxes. Chinatowns are also home to specialist shops that sell a wide range of one particular thing, such as chopsticks or tea-pots, which is where you’ll find a special something for your connoisseur or collector friend. A basket full of Asian condiments – premium fish sauce, Himalayan salt, Korean kimchee, quality oyster sauce – will always be welcome by avid cooks, while Asian snack lovers will have a blast with a bag brimming with Japanese Kit Kats, White Rabbit creamy candy, durian popcorn, seaweed crisps, and the like. Then you have those charming, old-fashioned pharmacies and shops selling soaps in retro packaging, Tiger Balm, fold-ups fans, embroidered slippers, and satin pyjamas.
Buy Your Christmas Cooking Ingredients in Chinatown
Back home in Australia we used to go to Sydney’s Chinatown several times a week, whether to pick up some Chinese buns, slurp a bowl of laksa between work and uni classes, or to do our weekend shopping at Paddy’s Markets. Wherever we’ve settled in for a while around the world, from Bangkok to Buenos Aires, Milan to Melbourne, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in the city’s Chinatown simply for the fact that it’s typically home to a wet market with fantastic fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit, and terrific seafood, pork and poultry. Buying your Christmas cooking ingredients and ordering prepared food ahead are another couple of ways to support your local Chinatown. Not only will the produce in your Chinatown be more affordable, there will generally be a far greater variety than you’ll find at your local supermarket. Chinatown is the place to pick up exotic tropical fruits for your pavlova or fruit pie or grab those hard-to-find fresh herbs, spices and vegetable to give your roast chicken or lamb an Asian twist. It’s also where you’ll find ingredients such as dried chillies, Kampot peppercorns and XO sauce. Or you could let someone else do the cooking, especially if you’re celebrating Christmas in the southern hemisphere where it’s set to be another scorching summer. Order a roast duck, roast leg of ham or a whole suckling pig and sides if you’re feeding a big family or group of friends. If you’re living in a city currently in lockdown, check if your favourite Chinatown grocery stores or fruit and vegetable shops are doing home delivery. Many have been offering gourmet produce boxes during the pandemic.
Enjoy Your Seasonal Celebrations and Christmas Meals in Chinatown
Holding your seasonal celebrations and even forgoing cooking completely and enjoying your Christmas meals in Chinatown are another couple of ways to support your local Chinatown this holiday season. In the lead-up to Christmas, book your end-of-year office celebrations or drinks and dinners with colleagues or friends at that little Japanese sushi joint or Thai restaurant you love and book the whole place out for your bubble. For Christmas brunch, you could opt for a long leisurely yum cha, and for Christmas lunch or dinner go for a lavish seafood-focused banquet at one of those big old-school Chinese restaurants where you get to point out the lobster and crabs you want from an aquarium before the chef plucks them out to prepare for your feast. And don’t forget to share images on social media! Worried about dining indoors? Then order out and have a Christmas picnic lunch in a nearby park or choose dishes that can be eaten cold, pack the boot of the car with a portable cooler or two (for our Australian readers, I’m talking about an esky) and after pick-up make a beeline for the nearest beach, river or lake. Chinatown restaurants like so many restaurants around the world have pivoted during the pandemic, so you may just find that your favourite Asian diner is now doing catering or sending chefs out to cook private at-home feasts – a win-win as you can support your local Chinatown businesses in the safety and comfort of your own home or backyard.
Plan a Post-Holiday City Staycation in Chinatown
If you’ve already done your Christmas gift shopping and locked in your seasonal celebrations in the lead-up to Christmas and on the big day, then another one of the great ways to support your local Chinatown this holiday season is to book a post-Christmas/New Year staycation during what is usually a quiet period for city central businesses. The Chinatowns, and their surrounding neighbourhoods, in cities such as Bangkok, Singapore, Sydney, New York, and Paris have become cool destinations in recent years and are now home to some of the hippest hotels, coolest bars and hottest restaurants. In New York’s Chinatown, Hotel 50 Bowery has an inspired design that celebrates Chinatown’s spirit and history, while the COQ Hotel Paris by designers Delphine Sauvaget and Pauline d’Hoop is near Chinatown Paris. Plan a Chinatown-focused staycation filled with mornings spent slurping bowls of breakfast congee or tucking into kaya toast, leisurely lunches rolling Peking duck pancakes or grazing at hawker centres, afternoons nibbling on dim sum at a tea-house, and dinner at a buzzy izakaya or in a private room at a Chinese restaurant. In between, make appointments for a Thai massage or a sauna at a traditional Korean bathhouse, take your favourite dress or suit to be copied at a Chinese tailor shop, or do a tai chi or yoga class. And don’t forget to post pics on Instagram and tell your friends all about your Chinatown staycation.
Just Show Your Local Chinatown Some Love in Simple Ways
One of the easiest ways to support your local Chinatown this holiday season is to just show your local Chinatown some love. If you live near a Chinatown make more of an effort to wander through rather than detour around the neighbourhood, call into a Chinatown café for some bubble tea, dry by a Chinese bakery for pork buns or pop into a Chinatown food court from a bowl of noodle soup. Visit a Buddhist pagoda or Chinese temple and light some incense and have your fortune told, and don’t forget to make a donation. Take your time to stroll the colourful streets and alleyways or kick back in the local gardens or park. From New York to Sydney, Buenos Aires to Bangkok, you can always find something interesting to do in Chinatown, from signing up for some calligraphy lessons or an acupuncture course to watching Chinese opera, ballroom dancing or games of mahjong. Whatever you do, be generous with your smiles and greetings, and show your support to a community that hasn’t been treated so well this year.
If you’re currently in lockdown, make some restaurant bookings for the future and find out if your favourite Chinatown businesses to do home delivery or offer gift certificates. If you have any other ideas as to ways to support your local Chinatown this Christmas holiday season, we’d love to hear from you.
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