“Where can you find one?” you may ask. If you’re in Park Slope, 8th Avenue, no dice. This street is lined with loud Chinese immigrants, fish shops, bakeries, and vegetable markets, nary a hipster in sight.
The smell is pungent, overwhelming, and cars honk madly at bold, over-confident pedestrians. It’s Brooklyn, we drive NYC style, and nobody I know has nine lives.
Though you won’t likely find any hipster hanging around Brooklyn’s emerging Chinatown, the neighborhood has lots to offer. Bakeries provide delicious fresh pastries and coffee every morning, usually for under two bucks.
You don’t want to leave without sampling crisp pineapple buns with origins in Hong Kong. If you’re feeling thirsty, head over to 57th Street and flash that fancy student ID for steep discounts on boba, a delicious milk-tea drink with tapioca balls.
Better yet, grab a friend and sit down for some authentic dim-sum. At the large restaurants, it rolls out on little stove carts pushed by older ladies. If you can’t speak Chinese, just point and order like a champ. They’ll forgive you; most too are foreigners in a distant land.
Hong Kong Supermarket is the best for Asian snacks and treats, and there is no shortage of cheap foods and fresh vegetables. If you are more adventurous, you can look for the tofu man who sells fresh slabs of the bean curd in large, white barrels he pushes around with a shopping cart. When you find him, add on two of those soy sauce tea leaf eggs he peddles; they’re divine.
Outside or inside, don’t expect quiet anywhere. Ready yourself for intense sounds and smells. I’d say pray for a stuffy nose. Bathe yourself in your own fragrance beforehand if you think you can’t handle. Chinatown is not for the faint-hearted, but it certainly rewards the brave.
On a final note, if you decide to buy a live fish, they’ll “prepare” it in front of you. Step back or face a fiery hailstorm of fish scales. And don’t wear flip-flops. The juices run.