Jews and Chinese food

Posted by: on Jul 22, 2010 | 10 Comments

There’s an old joke about Jews and Chinese food: “If it’s 5770 on the Jewish calendar and 4707 on the Chinese calendar, the difference is 1063 years or the amount of time that Jews lived without Chinese food” or something along those lines. I’m sure you get the point.

I have my own Jews and Chinese food line. My parents live in Hunters Run, a country club community in Palm Beach County Florida. There are 1600 family units. I break them down like this:  1596 Jewish units and 4 Chinese units to make dinner for everyone on Sunday night.

I wonder…where did the tradition of Jews eating Chinese food for dinner on Sunday night come from? Growing up, it seemed like every Sunday we went to August Moon in the Americana Shopping Center on Northern Blvd., at least until we discovered Bruce Ho’s, also on Northern Blvd., just closer to home. And we’d always see people we knew when we went there. If we didn’t go out, we’d bring in from Tea Village on Middle Neck Road, which always had a good crowd waiting for take out on Sundays. I hope all my GN friends are having serious Chinese food flashbacks right about now.

From 1987 thru 1992, Linda and I (and eventually Allie) lived on the upper west side of Manhattan. On Broadway between 96th and 104th were several really good Chinese food restaurants. My kingdom for Beef with 4 Flavors from Hunan Garden. During these years, Chinese food was a regular part of my diet, just not necessarily on Sundays.

However, all good things must come to an end and end they did when we moved to NJ. Yes, there are Chinese food restaurants in NJ and some of them are good but they do not reach the level of NYC Chinese food dining in quality or the quantity of quality restaurants.

I was reading the paper earlier today. Thursday is the day the Star Ledger publishes recent house sales. There were probably 8 – 10 houses sold in the Millburn/Short Hills area, at least half of those were sold to families with Asian sounding names. You’d think with the way things are going, they’d find some way to increase the quality of Chinese food dining in the area or am I reading this all wrong. Are Chinese people moving to where the Jews live just to be closer to corned beef on rye with spicey brown mustard, potato latkes and a Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry soda? If tradition dictates that Jews ate Chinese food on Sunday nights, what were the Chinese people eating? Hebrew National hot dogs with sauer kraut, a potato knish and Celray soda or an egg cream (which has no eggs or cream so don’t get me started on that one). If we like wonton soup do they like matzoh ball soup? Do Chinese people use chopsticks when eating kasha varnishkes? That’s a stupid question but I just wanted to throw kasha varnishkes in there because the name always makes me giggle.

Anyway, all this talk of food has made me hungry so I’m going to stop now. To any of my new neighbors who happen to be Chinese, just let me say I’m usually free for dinner on Sunday nights. I’ll even bring some rugelach for dessert.


  1. Melinda
    July 22, 2010

    Okay…we used to go Chinese or to the Kosher deli, too! The Chinese restaurant we went to was called Hunan Garden on Route 59 in Monsey, NY. I think it’s still there. The front was very traditional Chinese, unlike most storefront Chinese restaurants now that are typically named, “No. 1 Chinese Restaurant” or some variation thereof.

  2. DONNA
    July 22, 2010

    Ira, you are piece of work, I can’t stop laughing……………………

  3. Helen Berkowitz
    July 22, 2010

    Ira dearie– the reason everyone went to the Chinese restaurants or for that matter, every other restaurant, was because it was maid’s day off so who was going to cook? Not Mama- she was too tired from playing cards or sshopping every day(and I do not mean marketing) On the other hand I was working, so when Dorothy was off we went out to doinner. Kapisch?

  4. Larry B.
    July 22, 2010

    Great Neck Jews were not the only Jews who made the great migration to Chinese restaurants on Sunday. Roslynites also made the trip to Bruce Ho’s and August Moon. There was nothing better than arriving at Bruce Ho’s and having our usual waiter, Richard, greet the family in his incredibly friendly manner. He watched our family grow up over won ton soup, spare ribs and chicken chow mein. We went there so much that Richard was able to put his daughters through college. Who knew those FORTUNE cookies really had another purpose.

  5. Carla Murasko
    July 22, 2010

    Another great blog Ira…..thank you!

  6. Melinda
    July 22, 2010

    Actually, I remember “columns A and B.” I think the “B” column was to force you to select something that they could not sell enough of on it’s own. Like, “shrimp toast.” Totally unidentifiable. Anyone have any thoughts on what it is? I’ve noticed Chinese take-outs no longer offer it.

  7. Bill Reinhard
    July 23, 2010

    I think they called it “shrimp toast” because it was physically smaller than regular toast. Which begs the question; how come there’s no such thing as “jumbo toast”?

    Ira, just so you know, we Presbyterians eat Chinese food on Friday nights. That gives us the whole weekend to digest it.

    -Billy R

  8. Ina
    July 23, 2010

    To continue the Chinese theme, Mah Jong is a favorite pastime (whether we eat Chinese food or not)……..

  9. Geri Lewis
    July 24, 2010

    Italian/American Catholic here. On Sundays we ate lasagna and our Jewish friends came for dinner. They also came for dinner on Wednesday (spaghetti night) and Fridays (fish of course). They hardly had any time to go for Chinese. If every Jewish person had an Italian friend your entire thesis would be incorrect. LOL.

  10. Dan Ehrlich
    July 25, 2010

    Hunan Palace and Bruce Ho’s..children, children!! The original Chinese restaurant in Great Neck was Shantung’s just to the right of the big post office in Thomaston. I think that is Welwyn Street. The waiter NEVER wrote down your order. That was part of the cache in those early eateries. Now to a child growing up in Great Neck in the 50s, the fact that I could hardly remember my phone number- and back then it was only 4 digits- this man, not even born here, could remember the appetizers and entries of a family of 6, was quite amazing. Little did I know then that 50 years later they would be remembering how much money they were lending us and at what rate.
    When I reached high school, we knew that we could drink there even if though we were underage- their business was failing and they needed the money I assume. What I recall more vividly than anything about the early days of chinese food was something that today would be , most likely, against a couple of laws…..the plastic packets of mustard had a Chinese man on the front and this written underneath him:
    “VELLY HOT”. How come the horseradish we put on our gefilte fish didn’t say..”OY!!!”?