Travel is one of my greatest passions – I love going places! Whether it’s a trip to a nearby city, another state, or a trip to another country, I relish the new sights, experiences, and cuisines that often await me. Unfortunately, I’m not able to travel as often as I like and have to be creative in order to placate my raging wanderlust.
As previously shared here on my blog, I believe that going to places like Little India or an ethnic market can add some foreign flavor to your life without having to pack – provided those aren’t your usual stomping grounds, that is!
Long before my passport was stamped in Ireland and Peru, I got a little taste of Chinese culture by visiting Chinatown. I hope to make it to China some day, and know it will be quite different than my experiences in the Chinatowns of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. That said, I appreciate the sneak peeks I’ve had into how it might be.
Dragons Soaring in the Shadows of Skyscrapers
I live about an hour away from downtown Los Angeles, though actual drive time depends on traffic. L.A.’s Chinatown is startlingly close to the skyscrapers of downtown, which makes for an interesting contrast. The Los Angeles version of Chinatown is where I’ve visited the most – I first went about nine years ago on a buying trip for my then-employer. I was trying to find joss paper, which would be sold as an art supply and I had a wonderful time making my way in and out of the shops.
I feasted on the sights: herbs galore, stored in lovely glass jars. Dried, fresh, and live seafood. Red and gold, parasols, paper lanterns, and bamboo plants.
The smells were enticing. The musk of incense burning in some of the stores, cooking food, the tang of fresh herbs in the small markets, and the light, sweet aroma wafting out of the bakeries.
Experiencing the bustle of the shops, hearing the rapidly-spoken Cantonese and Mandarin languages, and towering above many of the other patrons in the stores were all interesting sensations. I was still in my home state, but I was a bit out of my comfort zone. Hurray!
I also reveled in a fantastic lunchtime-experience: DIM SUM! Per Wikipedia, dim sum is a Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. Going for dim sum is usually known in Cantonese as going to “drink tea”.
Seated in a noisy dining room, I drank tea and watched the parade of women with food carts as they passed my table. Not always sure just what I was ordering, I smiled, pointed and enjoyed the culinary adventure. Round, metal containers of food found a home on my table – their contents then landed in my tummy. I instantly fell in love with dim sum – the experience and the food are both delicious. Some of my favorite dim sum selections include Fried Shrimp Balls, Steamed BBQ Pork Buns, and Vegetable Dumplings. For dessert? Baked egg custards. Yum!
It’s time for another trip to Chinatown …
I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos, and a small glimpse into my trips to Chinatown. I haven’t been to Chinatown in a while – it’s been at least a year – and after reflecting on my experiences there, seeing photos, and talking about the yummy dim sum, I realize it’s time to head back. If you’re a Southern California reader, and are interested in going on a field trip to Chinatown some Saturday afternoon, please send me a message via my website’s contact page. It would be great to gather a group and take in the sights – and some great food – together…