Family-run businesses in Manhattan Chinatown

When traveling, especially in Asia, I’ve always really enjoyed seeing all the different food vendors in various markets and shops, each specializing in one or two particular dishes or food types, whether it’s tofu, soy milk, a certain noodle dish; it shows the level of craft and learned expertise that goes into specific foods and proves that food truly is an art form. In Manhattan Chinatown, I’ve enjoyed visiting certain vendors that specialize in fresh rice noodles, soy milk, tofu, grass jelly — it’s like a hint of what it’s like being at a bustling market in China or Thailand.

Fong Inn Too recently closed in Manhattan Chinatown, which was so sad; it was a multiple generations owned, family run spot that specialized in tofu, soy milk, and specific steamed Chinese cakes. I’d been there a couple times ages ago and enjoyed my rushed visits of choosing what I wanted, exchanging quick back and forths in Mandarin or Cantonese with a queue of people behind me, and stepping out to enjoy my delicious delights. So it was exciting news when I heard that a grandchild of the owners who retired and shut down their shop was planning to open in a new space and continue the family traditions. The new place is in a different location of Chinatown and is called Fong On. While exploring Chinatown today and noticing all the different shops and street art that have popped up recently, I visited Fong On and purchased three items: sweetened and unsweetened soy milk, as well as freshly made grass jelly. The soy milk was pure and clean (and preservative free, meaning I’d need to consume this within the next couple of days before it goes sour!), and the grass jelly texture was perfect – really firm, but soft and bouncy. It really puts grass jelly in a can to shame.

The prices have gone up, especially since they now take credit card and are trying to lure in more millennials into their shop, but I’m happy to pay an extra 50 cents or a dollar to support this family-run business to continue for as long as possible so that I can keep enjoying their lovingly made products.

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