Two Countries


Burning butane and brewing pu’er tea.

These are a couple of aromas I usually encountered in tandem from my childhood. I had a chance to smell these two together again on a trip to this place:

Jin Fong Restaurant in NYC/Manhattan’s Chinatown is not of any significant culinary or cultural importance, but it served as another reminder of two cultures that I have spent a lifetime (albeit a short lifetime) trying to reconcile.

However, on this most recent trip I had realized something else about the two cultures I have tried making play nice. The hustle and bustle of a Chinese teahouse in modern day America parallels that of the everyday happenings of the Concrete Jungle. 

The seemingly endless chatter of diners. The never ceasing stream of city noises. The various smells of dim sum strolling by in food carts. The pleasant and not so pleasant odors emanating from food vendors and random street corners and alleys. The buzz of restaurant staff busily doing this or that. The lively chaos of commuters and traffic racing about. All of these sights and sensations overwhelm the senses at first, but like the steady ticking of an analog clock it slowly becomes part of one’s background noise when encountering such a place. 

The immeasurable energy of both places, one being a quintessential part of southern Chinese culture and the other a northern U.S. metropolis that exemplifies the funky melting pot that is America, is one of many missing pieces I have been seeking to make sense ofthese two very different, yet very similar countries. All in one place.