Growing up in Poughkeepsie, New York—a suburban area a little north of NYC—meant very little diversity in supermarkets and grocery shops. My mom, who grew up in Chinatown, would take me and my sister to the city at least once a month to do a little food shopping in Chinatown. She considers it her home.
Now that I live in the big city for school, I feel like it's my second home, too. I actually used to dislike Chinatown as a kid: it was crowded, its streets were a little on the dirty side, and I never knew where I was. But now I go at least 3 times a week, whether it's for work, to eat, or to do my own grocery shopping.
Mostly, I go with my mom when she visits me, for our tradition of getting dessert in Chinatown. When we go, I feel closer to her and to my culture—not to mention I can't resist any opportunity to eat sweets.
In no particular order, here are our 10 favorite Chinatown dessert joints everyone should try.
1. Taiyaki NYC
I'll start off with my (and my mother's!) current favorite Chinatown dessert shop: Taiyaki NYC on Baxter Street! Ever since I discovered taiyaki (a fish-shaped cake with a sweet filling, usually red bean or custard) in mangas, I was obsessed with finding them in the US. This recently-opened shop fulfilled my fishy cravings. I don't know if I can ever go back to just eating a plain taiyaki!
2. The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
One of the oldest businesses in Chinatown that is still thriving today is the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on Bayard Street. I remember my mom bringing me there after every orthodontist appointment to cheer me up. She also told me stories of how she worked there as a teenager with her friends when it first opened. One of the great things about this ice cream shop is their range of flavors, from classic American like vanilla and chocolate chip to interesting Asian flavors like green tea and durian. My current favorite is pandan, a Malaysian leaf that is often used in Malaysian and Vietnamese desserts.
3. 10Below Ice Cream
We can't have a Chinatown desserts article without mentioning the very successful 10Below Ice Cream. The original is located on Mott Street. It's been about 2 years since this store came to be, and they now have 4 locations in NYC. Plus, the line and the hype for it are still insane! There's something about watching your food get made right in front of you that makes it taste better. It's Snapchat-friendly!
4. Juicy Spot Cafe
If you don't feel like waiting on line for 10Below, Juicy Spot is a great alternative for Thai-inspired ice cream rolls and it's just around the corner on Pell Street. Their ice cream rolls are just as Insta-friendly and delicious as 10Below, but they have a better customization option.
5. Hong Kong-Style Waffle Carts
Every time I walk past these carts, it reminds me of my childhood. My mom used to buy me these egg waffles all the time when we came to Chinatown. It's a light, sweet, warm treat that only costs about $1.25. What more can you ask for in Chinatown desserts?
If you love these Hong-Kong style egg waffles, then you probably will enjoy Eggloo on Mulberry Street! Eggloo took the traditional Hong Kong snack and gave it a twist by adding ice cream to it, creating an ice-cream-cone/sundae treat. They also offer different egg waffle flavors like green tea and chocolate. Unfortunately, these babies run around $7-8, but they are definitely much more filling—and make prettier models for your Insta!
7. Ice & Vice
This ice cream shop located on East Broadway takes flavors to a whole new level. One of their best sellers is Milk Money (toasted milk, sea salt, chocolate ganache). If that is one of their basics, then I don't mind being basic in this case. They also have an array of artisanal waffle cones from blue corn honey to birthday cake. My go-to is the 9AM (french roast coffee, chicory, saigon cinnamon, condensed milk, donut truffle) on the chai cone.
8. Kam Hing Coffee Shop
As some of you may know, Chinatown is filled with bakeries, and one of my favorite treats at these bakeries is the sponge cake. It's simple, not too sweet, soft and fluffy, and makes a great snack. This coffee shop makes really good sponge cakes. My parents used to buy boxes of them to take home if they didn't sell out. Now that they have expanded, they also offer more flavors like green tea and chocolate chip.
Raise your hands if you know what Dole Whip is! Dole Whip is basically a pineapple-flavored soft serve ice cream created by Dole the fruit company. I recently discovered it last year at Disneyland. Unfortunately, I was told it was only served at Disney parks, and I have been dreaming about it since. Suddenly a few months ago, while Yelping, I stumbled upon a poké shop located on Canal Street that had pictures of Dole Whip. Never have I been so excited about fruit ice cream. My dreams came true thanks to Chikarashi (but please don't ask me about their poké bowls because I don't eat raw fish).
10. Cha Cha Matcha
Like every other Asian girl, I am a matcha-holic. If I see anything matcha flavor, I have to try it. Luckily for me, the wonderful green tea powder is spreading thanks to hipsters, becoming more and more common. One day I was walking around Chinatown and I saw this new pink shop on Broome Street. My eyes were instantly drawn to the word "matcha." I sped across the street as fast as I could without getting hit. They had everything from matcha lattes to matcha lemonade to matcha soft serve. But beware: since it is a hipster spot, you need to sweeten your own drinks!