• Sarah Ballan

Chow down on Chinese this Christmas

Updated: Dec 26, 2018

Baking cookies with friends and attending holiday party after holiday party are just a couple of the season’s festivities that I look forward to at the end of every year. I love celebrating the different cultural traditions I am exposed to at these events, but for me and many other American Jews, chowing down on Chinese food come Christmas Eve/Day is a fun and satisfying experience. We repeat this with great success every December 24th and 25th when most other restaurants are closed for the occasion. Even though I am a Fitness Instructor at Flywheel Sports, don’t be mistaken; I too, indulge in some of my favorites like Chicken Fried Rice, Veggie Spring Rolls, and Shrimp Lo Mein! If you’re in New York City in late December, here are some Chinese food spots to check out on Christmas. Stuff your face then spin it off with me later (link: https://www.flywheelsports.com/instructor/90655628)


Xi’an Famous Foods


If you haven’t been to Xi’an Famous Foods, you are missing out. The original Xi’an Famous Foods shop started in the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing, Queens. It was a family business that soon expanded throughout New York City. There are currently 14 locations in 3 out of the 5 boroughs, so look up which location is near you. Its specialty is creative and rare, combining Chinese and Middle Eastern Flavors. According to food influencer Jeremy Jacobowitz (@Brunchboys), the best thing on the menu is the Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodles. Hand-ripped Noodles are slightly thicker and flatter than Chow Fun Noodles. Chewier, too. Also, the sour lamb dumplings are BOMB. Most Chinese spots in NYC are chicken and beef focused, so why not switch up your order?


Wo Hop


There are two Wo Hop storefronts, at 15 and 17 Mott Street in Chinatown, but the real deal is the divey-looking place downstairs. It’s cash only and open LATE; 21 hours a day to be exact! Wo Hop’s been around forever (80 years!). I’ve been going with my family for years to enjoy their heavily Americanized Cantonese cuisine. You cannot go wrong with ordering your typical sesame chicken or beef with broccoli, family style dishes. Wo Hop’s fried dumplings are among my favorite ever. The hot and sour soup is awesome, too. You’ll be surprised at the quantity of delicious food you can order for a fair price.


Chinese Tuxedo


This chic spot is never open before dinner time, but they’re open especially on Christmas Eve and Day! On Doyer street, next to Nom Wah, in Chinatown, Chinese Tuxedo is inspired by Cantonese food, and pulls flavors from all over Asia. For example, try their twist on Mi Gorang, a noodle dish with fried egg, typically served as street food in Thailand. This sexy, fancy, upscale restaurant is often packed with celebrities, so dress to impress and get ready for some prime people watching. Definitely make a reservation in advance. Also, Peachy’s, their bar downstairs, offers a select menu and is a great spot for after-dinner dancing and fun.  


Red Farm


Red Farm is a farm-to-table-style Chinese Restaurant that focuses on green market stability. There are two locations in New York City: Upper West Side and West Village. The village vibe is mostly large, communal tables, while the UWS location has more individual table-style seating. On Christmas Eve, both locations will remain open during regular hours (5pm-11:45pm), and on Christmas Day, they will be open from 12pm-9pm.The dishes are untraditional, but fun. Definitely try the Katz’s Pastrami Egg Roll...that’s gotta be kosher, right? P.S. the “Pac Man” Shrimp dumplings are highly instagrammable.


Ping’s


Pig out at Ping’s with your family or friends. They offer large, round tables, complete with a ‘lazy Susan’ in the center, making it perfect for sharing. Spin the Susan round and round so you can taste everything on the table without having to reach. Order different dishes and dine as they would in Hong Kong. Ping’s specialty is seafood, and they have tankfulls of fish in the entry, from which they select and prepare. Super fresh. This place is right across the street from Wo Hop, at 22 Mott.


Tim Ho Wan


Tim Ho Wan is a branch of an acclaimed Hong Kong-based chain, which serves dim sum. Order small plates to share. They have familiar dishes such as steamed or fried dumplings, and they also serve chicken feet. The pork buns have a hint of cinnamon and sugar, making them savory and sweet. Because Tim Ho Wan is part of a well known international chain, there is usually a long line. They are open 364 days a year, only closing to observe the Chinese New Year ie: they are definitely open for business on Christmas. Tim Ho Wan’s hours are consistently Mon-Fri 10am-10pm, and Sat & Sun 10am-11pm, although the last call for the kitchen is around 10:40pm. The restaurant does not take reservations, so try going during an “off” time, perhaps for a late lunch or early dinner.


Golden Unicorn


Golden Unicorn is a traditional Cantonese Dim Sum spot in the heart of Chinatown. You literally cannot miss it on the street: it greets its customers and passersby with bright red and gold lights in the shape of a Unicorn, year round. The inside: decadently decorated in gold. Crowded, but quickly moving, Golden Unicorn is a favorite for families. In 1996, it made Food and Wine Magazine’s list as one of NYC’s Five Best Restaurants! It’s the only Chinese restaurant to have had this honor. If you wish to enjoy a dim sum experience - carts and all - try to get there on the earlier side. They only serve Dim Sum style food from 10am-4pm daily. To beat the crowds, try showing up early.  


Spicy Village


This place in the Lower East Side is small and super famous. Come here for the spicy big tray chicken dish, a platter of aromatic chicken with insane texture. Expect an explosion of flavor because this chicken is smothered in chili oil and cilantro. Order with a side of the thick, wide, stretchy noodles for only $1 more! Another food influencer favorite, this dish is one of Emily Fedner’s (@Foodloversdiary) top picks and she is the self-proclaimed noodle QUEEN. Also, it’s BYOB.


If you’re feeling in the mood for something cozy to chow down on, why not go for Soup Dumplings? You can’t go wrong with one of these: Joe’s Shanghai, Shanghai Asian Manor, or Noodle Village, all located in Chinatown.

Chinese place chock full of Jews on Christmas. Called it!


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© Sarah Ballan 2018

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