Friday, January 06, 2012

Chinatown, Flushing Style

As here in DC, much of the Chinese action in New York City has moved out of the center city. We earlier reported on some fantastic Cantonese dim sum we had the chance to savor over Thanksgiving. That was in Brooklyn. Now, once again thanks to Song Wei, we took a jaunt on one of the last days of 2011 out to Flushing, Queens, where a totally different Chinese enclave has spring up over the years.

The Flushing Chinatown, unlike many such communities, is not Cantonese speaking. Rather, it is a place where Mandarin is the dominant language. As a case in point, we overheard a snippet of a conversation in a small merchant stall, where the prospective buyer was speaking very slowly, explaining to the vendor that he does not speak Mandarin very well...Wo...shi...Guangdongren..."I am Cantonese." A classic north-south encounter.

Happy to have the chance to use our own Mandarin, we were in a bakery checking out when I asked if we could use a credit card to pay for our goodies. The young woman behind the counter raised her head, looked at me and said, keyi. "Sure, you can." She then quickly got a confused look on her face, and corrected herself..."No, you can't use a card. It's cash only." After a bit of laughter, she explained that she got flustered when she saw it was an American speaking such didao (authentic) Chinese. I took that as an indicator not of my own ability, but rather of just how few Americans there are, even in the great melting pot of New York City, who have learned Mandarin.

Our final stop was the best of them all. Down a side street, there was a little restaurant that advertised itself as a hot pot joint. Desi, being our resident hot pot fanatic, gave the go-ahead and what followed was two hours of good, old fashioned dipping, boiling, and chowing down on lamb, mushrooms, noodles, sweet potatoes, and lotus root. Desi called it the best hot pot she has had in the United States. Not that there is much hot pot to be had at all over here, but the point is that the place was very good. As Desi put it, there is a certain danger in knowing there is delicious hot pot only a couple of hours away.

Bolt Bus, here we come...



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