Jewish Christmas Dinner Comes of Age

| December 25, 2014

Chinese Food By Jason LamGrowing up Jewish at Christmas time in NYC had its own set of traditions.  Typically Christmas Dinner was eaten at a favorite neighborhood Chinese restaurant or if you were a little more sophisticated, at one of the many restaurants on Mott or Pell Streets in Chinatown.

You may ask; Why Chinese food for Jewish people. As NY Senator Schummer would say, “because those were the only restaurants that were open on Christmas Day.”

Historically, the Jews of NYC have always enjoyed Chinese food on a regular basis.  In our family, Sundays were my mother’s day off from cooking, and so we would either go out for Chinese food or have take-out at home.  This was typical for most of my Jewish friends. The meal would usually consist of barbequed spareribs, egg rolls, chop suey and chicken chow mein — which is a far cry from today’s menus, however I still love well prepared spareribs and a crunchy egg roll.

There is conjecture that the relationship between the Jewish and Chinese communities in New York City is a combination of geography and palate.  Most of the American Jews came to the United States through Ellis Island and wound up living on the lower Eastside of New York, which is adjacent to Chinatown.  They found that Chinese food had some kosher elements as the food rarely combined dairy and meat.  It was also reasonably priced so it became the cuisine of choice when dining out.

Now, with our sophisticated taste buds and our “foodie” mentalities, we have a much broader choice for the traditional “Jewish Christmas Dinner."  Many Pan Asian concepts are open Christmas Day and we are sharing three favorites. 


Tao is one of our favorite restaurants all year long and is an excellent choice for Christmas Day. It has a festive atmosphere reminiscent of a majestic Asian temple watched over by a 16 foot Buddha. Among Tao’s star dishes are the Crispy Tuna Sashimi Roll with Edamame, the Shrimp Tempura with Garlic Chili Sauce and the Lobster Wontons with Shiitake Ginger Broth.  You also must try their Chilean Sea Bass and the Peking duck spring roll with hoisin sauce. It is always a challenge to limit your choices from their outstanding menu.

Pair your meal with a choice from their extensive sake menu—perhaps the Happy Fortune, Semi Dry in honor of the New Year.

Address: 42 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 888-2288



For those of us living on the Upper Eastside, Wa Jeal on Second Ave. between 82nd and 83rd Streets is our Asian neighborhood restaurant of choice. The cuisine is authentic spicy Sichuan Chinese and is consistently delicious. The open casual atmosphere is comfortable and inviting. Wa Jeal’s must haves are: Dan Dan  Noodles, a spicy sesame noodle served with chili minced pork, the Chili Oceanic, Stir Fried Assorted Fresh Mushrooms with Hua Jiao Spice and Wok Roasted Chili. Outstanding for vegetarians are General Tso Tofu and the vegetable Lo Mein.

To have the ultimate experience, order the Chef’s menu and enjoy both the wonderful food and the attentive service. This Upper East Side hidden treasure combines wonderful exciting food, well-trained wait staff and reasonable prices.  Enjoy.

Address: 1588 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Phone: (212) 396-3339



If you are looking for a more sophisticated menu in a kickback environment, head to the Meatpacking district to Fatty Crab, Malaysian inspired cuisine is a bubbly melting pot of different Southeast Asian ingredients and Fatty Crab’s western fusion style adds a unique quality to this vibrant fare.

Fatty Crab’s mantra is fresh, fresh, fresh, by making all their condiments and pastes from scratch and using locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Classic dishes such as the Beef Short Rib Rendang Hash, Crispy Pork and Watermelon Pickle Salad, Fatty Duck and Chili Crab are available year round.

This is also the most casual of the choices and with many small plates to chose from, diners are encouraged to share. This is definitely a unique Christmas experience and worth a try for the holiday.

Address: 643 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 352-3592

Enjoy and Happy Holidays

Charlotte Goldblatt