The holiday season really is the most wonderful time of the year. Even as a Jew, I love the twinkling lights, the excuse to eat as many cookies as I want, and the fact that Michael Buble can be heard crooning everywhere from supermarkets to public restrooms.
But perhaps my most favorite tradition is eating Chinese food on Christmas. I don’t know if you know this, but we Jews take tradition very seriously, especially when it comes to food.
This year, I’ve scoured my neighborhood for the best Chinese food you can get on Santa’s big day, regardless of your religiosity. (If you want dumplings, check out our focused tour of Sunset Park.) Get a big group together and make a reservation now. For this particular feast, it’s the more the merrier. In other words, the more people at the table, the more you can order.
Last year, I went to Mile End for Christmas (see the large image up top for a taste). Sure, this place is normally a Canadian deli, slinging hefty latkes, all manner of smoked meats and gravy-smothered poutine. Not on Christmas. On Christmas, these guys offer a special Chinese menu, imbued with some Jewish ingredients. For $65 per head (and $35 for kids under 12), you can enjoy mapo corned beef baogel, chopped liver wonton soup, turnip cakes, Mongolian smoked brisket and even General Tso’s chicken schnitzel.
For something a bit more classic, head to Williamsburg’s Birds of a Feather, a newish Szechuan restaurant from the team behind Cafe China (the only reason you’d ever find me in midtown). Most everything on the menu here has a deep, fiery kick, like the battered and fried soft shell crab with dried pepper, garlic, and cilantro and the peppercorn-laden dan dan noodles. I would also highly suggest the soup baos, if you’re dining in-house, and the mapo tofu; the latter travels extremely well if you choose to order delivery.
Another spot in Williamsburg for a fantastical Chinese Christmas feast is Kings County Imperial. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, they’ll be open until 11 p.m., giving you plenty of time to devour chef Grinker’s holiday specials, like sizzling oxtail biang biang noodles, lamb ribs with dried chilies and crispy duck fried rice. All you need to do is cozy up in a red booth with that classic lazy susan, and get to eating. (And maybe hope that Santa’s sleigh will come to take you home.)
We Jews are always fans of the smorgasbord, and Dekalb Market is a true smorgasbord if I ever saw one. Tucked inside this massive new food hall is Han Dynasty. This Philly import has some of the best Chinese food in the city (and several locations, though Dekalb Market is my favorite because I can go to Trader Joe’s afterward). Come Christmas, you can cozy up to the bar (they have big TVs for sports fans) or tuck into a table for sweet and spicy chili wontons, and the super-hot dry-pot-style pork. Warning to Jews out there, anything marked “10” on the spice level will require a fair amount of postprandial antacids. But if you’re anything like me, you carry them with you wherever you go. No matter what day it is, it’s the more the merrier with those babies, too.