For many Jews, going out for Chinese food on Christmas is a time-honored ritual — almost as classic as eating matzo on Passover. But as with any tradition, the fun lies in making it your own. Go beyond cookie-cutter Christmas Chinese with our picks in New York and beyond.
Eddie Huang Does Kosher
BaoHaus chef Eddie Huang is serving up a multi-course authentic Chinese kosher dinner at Soho’s new kosher hotspot Jezebel. The meal will draw on Huang’s past Chinese New Year dinners and include a few items from BaoHaus’s menu. Scrooges take note: it’s $88 per person, family-style and first come, first served from 1-10PM on Christmas Day.
We didn’t observe Shabbat. Well, maybe once or twice. Or perhaps I should say, not formally. Yes, we sat down for dinner as a family. Delicious food was served and we talked about our days. But we didn’t light candles. We didn’t say prayers and we didn’t break bread.
Growing up in Long Island’s suburbia, we were the type of family where the kids went to Hebrew school three days a week but we rarely ever went to services. We went to Jewish sleepaway camps and spent weekends on youth group retreats, but religion was not part of home life. Pepper steak, however, was.
It’s rare that food is served with as much ceremony as my paternal Grandmother Millicent Bloomberg’s pepper steak. In old-school style we’d start our meal with a halved grapefruit (carefully pre-sectioned until the serrated edged grapefruit spoon was invented) or slices of cantaloupe before moving onto the flank steak-and-green pepper stew. A portion would be scooped over rice (usually white) and sided with a lettuce-based salad.
On one occasion, Michael Levy just had to say no. While he would try eating dog in China, fried millipedes was just taking it too far. This culinary experience opens the preface to “Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China’s Other Billion,” a book about Levy’s two-year stint living in rural China while serving the Peace Corps. The 35-year-old had traveled deep into the interior of China to teach English and learn first-hand about another culture.
Last month, Levy stood before an audience at BookCourt, an independent book store in Brooklyn, where he spoke about his two-year Chinese sojourn. A history teacher at the local Saint Ann’s School, Levy opened his presentation by handing out a quiz for the audience to test how much they knew about China. The Forward caught up with Levy last week by phone to discuss “real Chinese food” vs. American Chinese food, why he was constantly compared to Karl Marx and learning to play mahjong.