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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Intimate Look at NYC: Chinatown

My last post where I mentioned some hidden gems of Chinatown in NYC I decided to go out and take photos of the neighborhood. This will be the first of my Intimate Look series that I'll continue highlighting a different part of the place I know and love. Today we'll focus on Mott Street mostly the pictures will be on the markets of the street. Above is a picture of Mott st between Grand st. and Hester st. which is where most of the markets are concentrated and be warned it is usually very very very crowded. Few tourists groups go though here because of the human traffic but there is always people with cameras taking photos like me =p. Here's one of the many vegetable stands on this part of Mott st. everything is in boxes and shelves and you can find assorted varieties of vegetables and fruits that you may not be able to get elsewhere. Though they specialize in Asian veggies and fruits. Everything from the names (which are usually Chinese characters and may or may not have the correct English names) are on cardboard along with how much per pound or bundles. One thing is according to the season they have different vegetables and fruit but if you've never tried it before you should have a look out for durian: a rather spiky and pungent fruit (you're either going to hate it or love it), lychee (sweet small red spiky fruits: very sweet), longon (small round brown fruits that you peel off also very sweet), young coconut (very popular drink- mild coconut milk watery taste) and sometimes they have these weird fruits like starfruit (sweet and sometimes sour), sugar apples (does not look anything like an apple but the taste is sweet and sort of gritty) and hybrids.

Most of the time the stands consist of the inside goods and those displayed outside. Usually you can and have to pick your own veggies and fruits and give it to them to pound it. Most of the time they throw some more in or take some out to get it to the pound. Though sometimes they're nice and don't charge you if you get an extra couple of grapes or something. That's usually towards the closing time around 7pm-9pm when they want to get rid of the stock.

On veggie stands the boxes are usually transported from large buildings on the fringe of Chinatown at around 4-5am in the morning and trucked over or sometimes brought over by carts to the store fronts. I use to live next to one of these warehouses so it was quite annoying every single day >_>

If you notice an odor coming from the crowded streets its probably from the fish markets. They usually change the water and spill the water on the streets so watch out. Usually there are flopping live fish on the front so beware of fish water getting on you. There's tons of fish in the back and they scale it to you too or leave it alone. You basically point and sometimes they would put the fish on the front or show it closer to you in the net/bag to see it wriggling. That shows this fish was fresh and strong i.e. more fish meat to eat!

They also have other delicacies like eels and usually frogs. Though it may sound kind of nasty to eat frogs they're pretty common and does really taste like a lean chicken to me. When it's in season they have crabs and sometimes there's one or two feisty crabs that would get out of the bin and start running amok on the street until someone catches it.
Those are the two main types of stores on this small stretch of street but they also have dried goods stores. Like the one above most of the items are imported and consists of many dried goods. They can range from dried bean curd skin, scallops, dried fish, dried sea sponge, sea cucumbers various herbs and what not. You may also see dried hooves of animals, bones, cartilage and once I saw a dried armadillo. These are commonly used in the various soups that people make. Similar to how chicken soup is good for colds, there is a soup for everything in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). For example boiling fish bones along with the head and especially the eyes with whole bunch of tiny red beans is suppose to help with the health of the eyes or so that is what my family says.

Sometimes there's a TCM doctor there and they can give you info on the qualities and ideals behind the different dried goods. I'm not sure if there is a TCM doctor license but most of the remedies are passed down generations and part of medicinal traditions of the people. My grandfather is one of those "medicinal" advisers and is well versed in what does what so there's always a lot of dried goods at my home and pots of soup to boot. As for the actual medicinal value of all this ... I don't know =D
One thing people notice are the hanging ducks and chickens in front of many restaurants and "cold cut" (the meat is usually not cold but its hard to translate certain things. "Cold cuts" is normally the way I hear it being referred to) places. There are a lot of reviews on where to get the best what in NYC so I won't address that here. I mentioned it because when I was taking a picture of it, a person came up to me and said "it's only hanging ducks." I said "yeah I know." In fact going around with a camera taking pictures I notice people looking at me because they assume I was a tourist.

Here's a little rundown on what's on that particular area. I'll continue with some Intimate Look at NYC. If you stop by NYC don't stick to the beaten path and look for the small gems =D Hope you enjoyed this post because I enjoyed sharing this part of the world with you =)

Until next time... don't be afraid to explore!

NYC Chinatown Site dedicated to Awareness and Promotion of Business in the Area
Chinatown-online - sort of yellow pages for Chinatown NYC


Pili said...

I sure will be checking this out in a lot more detail when I finally manage to visit NYC!

gamakun said...

Interesting, it looks like 8th ave!!! lol

Littleclouds said...

I can't remember if I liked the taste of Duriun but it is so smelly !
In Singapore they are banned in certain places like the underground stations because of it and I only know this because I saw the signs ha!

Rosebud Collection said...

What a happy trip you took me on..Our last name is Mott and we are both born in NY. Never did trace if hubby is related,ha,ha...Took our youngest daughter down there years ago and bought some beautiful dishes..We had a great time and went down side streets. Wonderful, happy and interesting place.Will be watching where you take us next..Have a great weekend..xooxRosebud

Morrgan said...

*imagines crabs on a rampage through the streets*

A very interesting read! Thanks for sharing views and stories from your part of the world. :)

La Alicia said...

oooh, I wish I lived closer so I could check it out this weekend with my mom!