Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dec. 25 is a busy day for Chinese restaurants


ONE OF THE BUSIEST DAYS of the year for Chinese restaurants is over.

The reason why so many Jews eat at Chinese restaurants on Christmas may not be what many people think.

The popular belief is that Jews had very little other options because only Chinese restaurants were opened on Christmas.

This ignores the fact that there are plenty of other eateries open Christmas day ranging from Indian to Thai.

Yet many Chinese restaurant owners say the tradition of Jews gathering at their businesses on Christmas can’t be overstated.

“Big is an understatement, said Wilson Tang. the owner of Nom Wah Tea Parlor in New York City, told Munchies. “It’s huge—easily one of the busiest days of the year.”

Some go as far as stating the tradition is even stronger today than yesteryear when perhaps there were less options.

“Christmas was a busy day, but not like it is now,” said Michael Solomonov, the award-winning chef who used to run Shun Lee in New York. “Now, Christmas in the New York City market, if you’re an upper-scale Chinese restaurant—it’s almost like you’re having the biggest sale of the year.”

Theories of why this tradition remains so popular are as varied as items on a Chinese menu.

Some say Jews who don’t follow strict kosher diets point out the pork in Chinese food is often hidden, chopped up in small pieces amidst a plate full of equally chopped up vegetables.

Others explain Jews appreciate the family style dining at Chinese restaurants. Smaller, but numerous dishes, are shared at the table. Often those dishes are placed on a lazy susan

“Families that felt they wanted to be American, but weren’t highfalutin, loved it. You didn’t have to have great manners—you could share. And Jews have always like sharing food,” explained Joan Nathan, a Jewish culinary expert.

The tradition, it seems, is purely Jewish American. The custom hasn't expanded to other Jewish communities in other parts of the world, Others believe that it started when Jews moved out into the suburbs and out of their urban neighborhoods where kosher food is readily available.

Still others say Jews and Chinese have bonded over that feeling of “otherness,” that feeling that they are not fully accepted in mainstream America. How and why, may be debatable but it has definitely become a tradition that both Jewish and Chinese/Americans look forward to each year.