Don’t want to cook? Eat Chinese!
Jews have traditionally dined at Chinese restaurants on Christmas Eve and Day. According to the documentary, “The Search for General Tso,” the tradition started early in the 20th century when the two biggest immigrant groups in America were first generation Eastern European Jews who came to America to escape persecution, and second generation Chinese-Americans whose parents who were brought over as cheap labor to help build the railroads.
Neither community celebrated Christmas, but it was more the fact that the Chinese restaurants were open on Christmas that led the Jewish immigrants to their doors. In most large cities the two ethnic neighborhoods tended to be in close proximity to each other. Another, and some say the major attraction for the immigrant Jews, is that traditional Chinese recipes don’t use dairy. At that time most Jews in America kept Kosher, and of the major Kosher dietary restrictions is the prohibition from serving meat and dairy together, or even using the same plates or cooking utensils. The two groups were linked not only by proximity, but by “otherness.” Jewish affinity for Chinese food, "reveals a lot about immigration history and what it's like to be outsiders," according to the documentary.
The Night Before Christmas
It’s the night before Christmas, and in every town
Jews will order their Chinese with nary a frown.
The menus are scanned for plates we can share,
With egg rolls, chop suey and similar fare.
While Christians are gathered in churches and homes,
We Jews greet each other with hearty Shaloms
My Bubbie and my Zaydie will each have an app,
Spring rolls, won-tons or a nice chicken wrap
Or maybe we’ll all share a giant pu-pu platter,
And also some shrimp in a nice crispy batter.
Then on to the entrees; they arrive in a flash,
As past meals we’ve enjoyed, we all must rehash.
During which we feast on dumplings of dough,
And two orders of Peking duck in a row.
Then what to our widening eyes does appear
Crab Rangoon with a Chinese mustard schmear.
The little old waiter, so crabby and dour.
Serves me my soup, I ordered hot and sour
Then faster and faster, the courses they came
As the waiters brought them, they listed dishes by name
Here’s chow mein and lo mein, some mu shu with fixings,
The pancakes and roast pork and sauces for mixing.
As the plates across the lazy susan do scrawl,
I knew that I shouldn’t, but I ate it all.
I sat and I groaned and rubbed my full belly,
I’d eaten more food than you’d find in a deli.
As I digested, I was handed my fortune cookie,
I cracked it open and gave it a lookie.
I laughed out loud at the message written there.
“For Jews, Chinese food on Christmas is Bashert!”
Here are a few Chinese restaurant options for Christmas Eve. As always, call ahead to check that they will be open and make reservations when you can. If you haven’t “done Chinese” before on Christmas Eve, you’ll be surprised how packed these places can get.
Christina Wan’s Mandarin House - 664 N, Federal 754-703-7359, ChristinaWans.com
Rainbow Palace - 2787 E. Oakland Park Blvd., 954-565-5652, RainbowPalace.com
Pink Buddha - 5949 S. University Dr., 954-680-3388, Pink-Buddha.com
Lotus - 1434 NE 26th St., 954-566-5565
*** For those of you who want to dine out on Christmas Eve, but are either not Jewish or prefer something other than Chinese, another option is to find someplace serving the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” an Italian tradition. The multi-course affair is delightful. This year the dinner is being offered by Mojo, 4140 N. Federal in Fort Lauderdale. Mojo’s version will include a choice of stuffed baked clams or frutti di mare (calamari, shrimp, clams and scallops) or lobster bisque for first course. A second course of lobster and burrata ravioli or linguini aglio olio with anchovies. Entrée choices include; Parmesan crusted sautéed sole, lobster tail or shrimp scampi. A dessert menu will be offered. The meal is $65 per person with the final seating at 9 p.m. Call 954-568 4443 or go to www.mojofl.com for more information.