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Chinatown revisited from NY to California

MY mother is the oldest of five siblings, most of whom grew up in New York's Chinatown. They are voracious eaters and bargain hunters, and lifelong visitors to Chinese neighbourhoods everywhere. When we talk about a good Chinatown, we point to certain signs: live fish for sale, dragon eyes in sidewalk produce-displays, smokers, crowds.

A few years ago, I wrote a book about American Chinatowns and my family's history in them. People often ask, "What's your favourite Chinatown?" or "What do you look for?" I wondered if there was a shorthand I could offer, to sum up the best of the best. And so: fish, dragons, smoke, crowds.

Live fish mean that there are enough people buying to make the trouble of...

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