Happy Chinese New Year

Providence used to have a proper Chinatown — Tong meeting rooms, fan-tan parlors, opium dens — right downtown along Empire Street. Providence historian Florence Simister wrote in “Streets of the City” that among the shops and tenements was the city’s first Chinese drugstore which “sold such ethnic remedies as dried lizards, snakes, and powdered reindeer horn” all of which can still be found at Foo Fest I believe. In 1944 Chinatown came to an end when the buildings were demolished so that Empire Street could be widened. The police had long since put an end to the wild New Year’s celebrations due to the danger of the fireworks. I say we bring it back — Foo Manchu Fest!

I decided to celebrate the Year of the Monkey by finally checking out Yan’s Cuisine on the corner of Benevolent and Brook Streets. Of particular interest was a portion of the menu called “China Tongue” with its pork intestines and chicken gizzards. The restaurant had a reassuring percentage of Asian diners in addition to the students. It was both lively and cozy — a television was quietly tuned to college basketball — and one waitress was taking care of the whole room with amazing efficiency. The heat in the pork kidney with hot chili pepper was perfectly calibrated, a good kick but not overwhelming. Delicious, but bring kleenex.

I had intended to find out more about the whole “China Tongue” thing but the waitress was busy. I will return.

Yan’s Cuisine, 83 Benevolent Street, 401.751.8888, order online for delivery or take-out

pork kidney


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