Over the years, one of my favorite “Jewish” traditions has been going out for Chinese food with my family on Christmas – or simply getting some Chinese delivery.
Have you ever wondered, “how did this tradition come about?” Like many Jewish traditions, this one started in the Jewish “homeland”. Nope, not Israel. I’m talking about a tradition that was started in our other homeland – New York’s Lower East Side.
Author of “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles”, Jennifer 8. Lee wrote, “[At the turn of the century], Jews and Chinese were the two largest non-Christian immigrant groups. So, there was a natural bond between these two cultures.” Jennifer goes on to say that going back three or four generations, Jews and Chinese weren’t just united by living next to each other, but Jews were self-conscious about being outsiders. At Chinese restaurants, Jews found an ally in their Chinese neighbors in the form of shared sweet and sour flavors.
This history of our tribe’s love of Chinese food is also associated with the comfortable level of being more kashrut, since after all, Chinese food is also an easier cuisine to separate milk from meat. It gives the illusion of keeping kashrut because Chinese cuisine rarely contains milk.
Here are the top 5 Chinese restaurants in the DMV to enjoy during Christmas. Since I’m vegan, all the Chinese restaurants aren’t only written up by The Washington Post and Washingtonian, but also offer the essential vegan Chinese food – veggie spring rolls! That being said, I brought my non-vegan Mother along with me to nosh on this Jewish/Chinese/Christmas experience.
So, if you decide to go out for Chinese food or snuggle up with some Chinese carry-out and binge watch your favorite movies, these are the top Chinese restaurants to go to on Christmas. ‘Tis the season for spring rolls!
This Hong Kong regional speciality restaurant has been a mainstay on the “Top Cheap Eats” in DC by the Washingtonian since the 1980s for good reason. It’s a great place to frequent, especially on Christmas because the dishes are all family style portions and can be comfortably shared. The atmosphere is set with hot tea, on the tables, dumpling soups sizzling, and signature pan fried noodles full of Asian veggies and seafood. Although Full Key is known for their seafood, their eggplant in garlic sauce is mouth-watering and served in abundance, which is a nice option for those of us keeping kosher. Full Key’s veggie spring rolls feature black bamboo shoots, watercress, and are served hot and crispy. They are definitely worth ordering!
While there are so many amazing East Asian restaurants in Rockville, Xi’an Gourmet is a stand out with its fancy modern Asian decor and gourmet twist on East Asian food that incorporates
cumin and other unique spices. Don’t sleep on the sesame Shaanxi cold steamed noodles, cold cucumbers, and my mother’s favorite – cumin roasted lamb satay, which almost has a Indian/Pakistani like flavor. Xi’an Gourmet also has moderately priced beer and wine selection, which includes my favorite, Coronas. After all, what’s a better mix than Mexican beer and Chinese food? L’chaim!
East Pearl is another gem in Rockville, featuring Hong Kong Cuisine. The restaurant also offers a separate menu with more traditional Chinese dishes. They are known for their “spectacular” Soyed chicken, as noted in the Washingtonian. The staff is also very accommodating to adjust to different dietary restrictions. Their Singapore noodles with shrimp and jalapeno, crispy spring rolls, and peking duck makes for a festive Jewish Christmas in an open restaurant that is tastefully decorated with painted Asian flowers all over the walls.
If your family reminds you of the aunt in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who says, “You don’t eat no meat? I make you lamb,” I probably wouldn’t recommend taking them to Yuan Fu. However, if your family members can get over the shock of an all-vegetarian Chinese restaurant, they will find that this spot has a lot to offer, especially if you keep kosher. Since its very hard to find vegan authentic hot and sour soup, Yuan Fu’s is so amazing! Try the cold sesame noodles. They are super delicious and refreshing! If you are watching your calories, Yuan Fu a good choice since they offer a menu of low oil dishes too. There coconut juice is served in an actual coconut and sipped through a straw, adding to a festive holiday spirit.
New Big Wong is a mainstay in Chinatown for Jews on Christmas. This Cantonese restaurant, located below Rita’s Italian Ice, serves portions that are family style, reasonably priced, and perfect for holiday sharing. Some outstanding dishes include peking duck, moo shu dishes of all sorts, sesame noodles and, of course, my go to favorite veggie spring rolls served with hoisin sauce. New Big Wong offers Spanish and Italian wines. Keep in mind, it’s much cheaper to buy a bottle of wine for a group, instead of ordering by the glass. Dim sum is also served on weekends.
Before you go off and make your Christmas dining plans, I’d be remiss not to mention Ruan Thai. Although not a Chinese restaurant, this Wheaton spot has amazing veggie spring rolls, mango sticky rice, and drunken noodles – and they are open on Christmas.
About the Author: Michele Amira is a nice Jewish girl, DC based journalist, spoken word artist, and vegan. When not writing, she might be found Israeli dancing, listening to hip-hop, and enjoying a l’chaim (toast) with her favorite drink – margaritas on the rocks.
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