Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Asians in Philly

Hand drawn noodles with roasted duck from Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House in Philadelphia.

Moving from a predominately Asian neighborhood in California to one in Philadelphia with much fewer Asians was one of my greatest concerns in my recent relocation. The reason isn't so much because of the change in demographics but because of the availability of authentic cuisine. There was never a scarcity of good Korean BBQ, Chinese dim sum, great pho, Thai curry or Japanese sushi bars in Orange County. I had the luxury of being able to go out at 3a and grab some spicy Korean soft tofu and green tea boba.

So when searching for all you can sushi on yelp left only a handful of results in a city as densely populated as Philadelphia, I really wasn't expecting much. The search results for Korean BBQ or pho weren't very promising either. It seems like the best reviewed Chinese place in the city was P.F. Chang's China Bistro.

This lead to an expeditionary journey through the neighborhoods of Philly to see if such a thing as authentic Asian food actually existed. This process began somewhat dismally. I engaged in an entertaining game of counting to see how many Asians I could spot while walking around the city. It was exciting to see if I could attain a higher score each day and when I reached double digits in my count I gained a sense of hope.

I was advised that all the really good Asian food was concentrated in the city's Chinatown and along Washington Ave. in South Philadelphia. In walking around the blocks of Chinatown my count quickly crossed into the triple digits and was soon overwhelmed by the density of Asians in this place. There was a well reviewed noodle house nearby and eating there made me forget I was in the middle of the capital for cheese steaks and hoagies. The dense, savory flavor of the duck broth I ordered  was greatly welcomed and I consciously paced myself to slowly enjoy the hot duck broth in the chilly Philadelphia evening I ate it in. 

Since then, I've found decent Vietnamese food and Asian markets. My search for sushi, Thai and Korean BBQ still continues, though my original pessimism has greatly abated. It turns out, my original theory that good Asian food can only be found in densely populated Asian neighborhoods is mostly true and fortunately there are some in Philadelphia.

Also there's a Morimoto down the street, maybe I can get a table for next month.