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Saturday, October 27, 2012

MY DAY IN CHINATOWN

I've been to at least 25 Chinatowns around the world.  Chinatownology lists only 28, but there are a lot more, for New York nor Honolulu is not even mentioned.  These enclaves can be traced as far back as 1594 in Manila (left), and soon after in Nagasaki and central Vietnam.  Wherever trade and labor involved a critical mass of Chinese, a Chinatown was born.  San Francisco might be the most famous: 


However, there are three in New York City and throughout Europe, Africa and rest of the world.  Even towns in China look, smell and sound like these foreign copies.

I live a mile away from the one in Honolulu, so decided to take a walk there for exercise and a little shopping.  Ours began in the late 1700's, but only gained prominence when the sugar industry began importing laborers from China in the 1800's.  In 1900 7,000 residents of the area (56% Chinese) were quarantined because of bubonic plague, and a couple of buildings were set on fire.  Unfortunately, with the Honolulu Fire Department standing by, the winds shifted and most of the neighborhood was destroyed.  Chinatown was rebuilt, and many of the buildings are now more than a century old.  This was the Red Light District during World War II and the years following.  This now is a revitalized artsy site with a fancily restored Hawaii Theater.


Thus, I left my apartment and took photos of the Japanese Consulate and Foster Botanical Park along the way:

Distressingly for me, the early portion of this walk is a path I took several times each day to visit Pearl in Kuakini Hospital, something that cannot truly be forgotten.

Just before I reached Chinatown, I saw:


This is a high end Vietnamese-French restaurant, and, to my surprise, it was open for lunch.  So I peered in and saw no one, but went in anyway.  Alex welcomed me and I proceeded to begin with a small bottle of Prosecco to accompany escargots:


The bread was sourdough, and this start was deliciously fabulous.  Duc came by to say hi:


Duc Nguyen opened this restaurant 17 years ago.  He gave me his life story. You can bring your own wine, but the corkage charge is $20/bottle.

I then had a Caesar's salad and foie gras accompanied by slivers of papaya with a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc:


Instead of an entree, I ended with a creme brulee and double expresso:


What a treat, as my expectation was maybe a manapua or pho for lunch.  This was the best lunch I had since my most memorable lunch ever.

My first scene of Chinatown was Oahu Market, built in 1904:


  I feel a little phobic about this corner because right next to it was the office of my childhood dentist.  Another example of "improvements" to the area:


In the marketplace, sunfish:


This is also known as tilapia. And Dragon Fruit:


It is low in calories and high in Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, antioxidants and fiber, at least as indicated from the link.  I've never had this fruit in my life and should have purchased one, for I'm a dragon.  I did, though, end up taking out chow fun, cold ginger chicken and the world's smallest pork hash (at around 10 o'clock in the second photo below) from Royal Garden:


While watching the USC-Arizona and Florida-Georgia football games, I also had a beer, glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and jigger of Johnny Walker Black Label.  Why?  Because a long time ago, all Chinese banquets placed a full bottle of it on each table.  Also, you will note that the chicken is not chopped into smaller pieces.  I purposely asked them not to do this for fear of some strange disease.  The traditional practice is to wipe the knife and cutting board with a rag...which sometimes looks like it has not been washed for days.

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Hurricane Sandy is still a potential Frankenstorm (scroll down to the next article):


The very latest tracking has Sandy making landfall at the coastline between Philadelphia and New York City.  Just a little more north and the worst could happen.

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