Every year, the week before Christmas, a certain photo gets passed around the internet. It’s a photo of a sign in a Chinese restaurant, thanking Jewish customers for their patronage on December 25. Every year, people think it’s new and novel. So allow us to begin by stating it has been around since at least 2010. Probably earlier.
But we suspect that people tend to get pretty amped up about that photo because Jews in America get very amped up about eating Chinese food on Christmas. Rightfully so. Like glow stick necklaces that get handed out at Bar Mitzvahs, heading out for noodles or dim sum on Christmas Day is one of the great, time-honored American Jewish traditions.
If you’re in New York, you could certainly accomplish this at your neighborhood Spicy Wok II, that place you sometimes order Seamless from, but you hopefully have the day off, and you likely have little to do – we say, hop on the 6 to Canal Street and do it right. In Chinatown. As long as some combination of noodles, dumplings, and hoisin sauce are involved, there are no wrong ways to celebrate Christmas in Chinatown. Here, we’re keeping things simple: one recommended spot for some major categories. Have at it.
We love Nom Wah for a few reasons: it’s less hectic than places like Jing Fong or Golden Unicorn, it’s been around since 1920 and looks sort of like an old Italian restaurant inside, and the food is very good. Have a roast pork bun.
If scallion pancakes and chicken and beef dishes are what you’re looking for, 456 is at the very top of the game.
Sheng Wang serves incredible noodles, for very little money. The noodles (get the wider, fried version) are “knife-cut” so they have rough edges. They taste like a brighter, lighter version of Thai pad see yew. The basement space isn’t the kind of place you’ll want to hang out all afternoon, but, bonus trivia point: the first Eastern European synagogue in New York City, which was beautifully restored and turned into a museum a couple years ago, is right across the street.
The soups here are big and satisfying, and the noodles are super fresh, which makes sense considering you can see them being made a few feet away.
In addition to the many Chinese options, Manhattan’s Chinatown also has some good, simple Vietnamese spots. Our favorite for a bowl of pho is the excellent Pho Bang on Mott Street. This cash-only spot has about as much charm as the DMV, but there’s no better pho in Chinatown.