Las Hermanas Wang: Manhattan's Chinatown Map
“In America, ‘Chinese food’ is lumped together as a monolithic entity, but the term Chinese Food encompasses many different types of regional cooking that most native Chinese, or Chinese Food enthusiasts would find dissimilar. Each regional cuisine uses different techniques, local ingredients, and takes inspiration from their neighboring Asian countries.” The introduction to All-You-Can-Eat Press’s handheld map of Manhattan's Chinatown, created by sisters Tiffany Wang and Charlene Wang, sets the tone for what you’ll find in the old school fold-out map, complete with a map of China to guide you around NYC’s tastiest neighborhood.
Tiffany has been working as a nurse practitioner in New York City for 10 years and her sister, Charlene, moved there to begin a career as a set decorator. She previously worked for the State Department after starting a tea business in China. But Las Hermanas Wang, as they refer to themselves, were born and raised in Southern California, with parents who made regular outings in search of regional specialties that often reminded them of home. And home meant something different for both parents.
In 1970, their mom moved from Hong Kong to Boston with their great grandfather, who was from Toi San, a county in southwestern Guangdong, China. After moving to Weymouth, Mass., he opened a restaurant and laundromat serving Chinese American standards based on Cantonese food for an American audience.
Tiffany and Charlene’s paternal grandparents, both accountants, are from Shanghai and Nanjing, though they had to live in Taiwan during the war. In 1970, their family came to New York City and lived on the Upper West Side, eventually settling in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
When Tiffany worked in a hospital, she often asked patients about where to find the best version of their home food in the city. She still has the name of a Greek restaurant in Astoria written on a gauze package from one of those conversations. Patients would ask her the same thing, and she’d tell them about the best places to go in Chinatown, since she lived close by and ate there often. At some point, Tiffany started a handwritten list that was Xeroxed and often sent home with patients in their discharge instructions. Colleagues caught wind of the list and started asking for it, too.
When Charlene, who Tiffany lovingly describes as a “natural hustler,” saw the list she thought they could work together to make it into something more legit. She contacted Yuki Matsuo, the editor and founder of All-You-Can-Eat-Press to set the wheels in motion to create a map of the best restaurants in Chinatown. The Xerox copy was a good start, but Las Hermanas Wang would leave no stone unturned. They reached out to friends and their families who lived in Chinatown for suggestions and methodically ate their way through the neighborhood.
Yuki says she had been thinking about creating a map of Chinatown for a while, but wasn’t really sure where to start. So when Charlene pitched the idea of a map made by Las Hermanas Wang, Yuki knew this would be the way to go. They met up for dim sum at Sunshine 27, where Charlene introduced Yuki to specialties she had never tried before by ordering items that weren’t on the cart.
The collaboration between Yuki and the Wang Sisters resulted in a list of restaurants that corresponds with a map of Chinatown and a map of China, so anyone using it can see where specialties are served and how those dishes connect back to regions in China. The map, published in 2016, is divided into five categories: breakfast, lunch, dim sum, dinner, and snack. “Manhattans Chinatown” represents a deep love for Chinese food, and a better way to understand and enjoy it. You won’t find anything like it on the internet.
Click here to view Mack's photo essay on Hop Shing. It's on the map, and they serve the best baked Cha Siu Bao in town, according to Las Hermanas Wang.