The many ethnic enclaves in Los Angeles provide a wealth of opportunities for an afternoon that feels just like being in a foreign land.
One moment you’re on the 10 freeway just east of downtown Los Angeles, and then, in a matter of a few city blocks, it seems you’ve just time-traveled into the center of a busy metropolitan city in the middle of China. It’s hard to believe you’re actually in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, home of one of the largest populations of Chinese immigrants in the world.
All the signs are written in Chinese letters — illegible to most Westside visitors — and the streets are lined with markets filled with exotic goods like mysterious herbs, Peking duck and fragrant teas. This Chinatown is not just a neighborhood, it’s an entire “Chinese” city. When you’re there, it’s easy to imagine you’re in Taipei, Shanghai or Hong Kong.
Chinese immigrants formed this “new Chinatown” over that last 40 years, blending the cultures of Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong people until it became the dominant “Chinatown” in the Los Angeles area. Although an older Chinatown still exists on the north side of downtown Los Angeles, it pales in comparison with the bustling liveliness of this new Chinatown in the San Gabriel Valley.
The area started attracting Taiwanese professionals such as doctors and business owners in the 1970s. Later in the 1980s, Mandarin-speaking immigrants from mainland China followed and even more Taiwanese arrived.
Typical of immigrant communities in any country, people with similar customs and a common language feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings, so Chinese businesses burgeoned to serve the locals’ needs.
One of the specialties of this area is the authentic and delicious Chinese cuisine. When you think of how enormous China is, you’ll realize how diverse its cuisine can be — and you can find nearly all of it here. From the traditional Chinese family feast, to Taiwanese street food to Hong Kong-style dim sum — no matter what Chinese taste treat you desire, you’ll find numerous restaurants to satisfy your cravings.
The all-time-favorites are Xiao Long Bao (soup dumpling) and lion’s head (stewed pork meatball with brown sauce). And the sautéed string beans should not be missed. Just be sure to save room for sweets and beverages like the Taiwan-originated boba tea you can get “to-go,” or try sipping a more traditional tea brewed at any of the charming tea houses. It’s the perfect way to relax with friends after eating a big Chinese meal.
Fun activities play an important role in diligent Chinese culture – yes, Chinese are not all work and no play. They enjoy getting together with friends on the weekends for entertainment, sports and games. One of the favorite pastimes is called “sing K” — what they call karaoke — enjoyed immensely for the fun and fantasy of playing pop star in front of their friends.
Like the tea houses, “karaoke boxes” are popular hangout spots for socializing and fun. If you are not in mood for “loud” leisure activity, indulge yourself in soothing foot massage and spa treatment. It’s a great way to find your center in the heart of Chinese culture in Los Angeles.
Copyright © Amber Chen / 2015 Singular Communications, LLC