Despite living in NYC for the better part of a decade, one of my least explored food neighborhoods is Chinatown. I find it so crowded (with shops and people). The food is very intersting and intriguing, but I usually don’t find the quality that great.

Chinatown is one of Manhattan’s densest ethnic areas with hundreds of restaurants, tea houses, bakeries and street vendors all within a roughly 50 block area.

So this weekend a group of us booked a private food and culture tour that helped us navigate the neighborhood.

The cost of the private guide split between the eight of us was $20, and we paid for food as we went. That was great so that we weren’t stuck eating a pre-determined meal of something we didn’t want.

We also mainly did street food-type items, so we didn’t have to deal with waiter service, long meals, etc. Foods sampled on the tour included:

  • Roasted/steamed pork buns ($0.90)
  • Spicy cumin lamb burgers ($3) – was my favorite discovery of the tour because it was a surprise and very different from “typical” Chinese cuisine
  • Hot & sour lamb dumpling soup ($6) – same as above, if only they had properly cooked the dumplings …
  • Fried pork and chive (or veggie) dumplings ($1 for 5 dumplings)
  • Bubble tea and herb-jelly fruit juices ($3.75)
  • Crazy chinese-flavored ice cream ($4)
  • Chinese baked goods ($1.10)

Each of these items were easily sharable, so food cost was about $10-$15 per person! In addition to the food places, we stopped by a buddhist temple, saw one of the oldest streets in NYC, and walked by the Chinatown park.

Click here for restaurant stops, photos and commentary about the tour

It was a fun afternoon activity (lasted ~2.5 hours). It was a good introduction to all that Chinatown has to offer. The quality of the food still wasn’t the best, but what do you expect for $12?!

We were all very full after the tour was over. Plus I wasn’t hungry an hour later.

Anyone have Chinatown recommendations?