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Explore Boston: Chinatown and Dim Sum

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, May 28, 2019


Like all neighborhoods in Boston, Chinatown has a fascinating history built on the foundations of hard working immigrants and fervent culture. The South Cove, where Boston Chinatown now resides, was originally built in the 1840s on top of a landfill to establish railroads and row houses. Close to the industrial sector, the neighborhood became a hotspot for new immigrants such as the Irish, the Germans, and the Jews. However, by 1870, there was a flood of young male Chinese immigrants. The majority of Chinese immigrants set up laundry shops and lived in their workplace alone. As a result of the Chinese Exclusion Act, families of the workers were unable to come to America. Thus the men would work all day and send their earnings back home to China to support their families there. As more and more Chinese immigrants continued to flood into the community, the neighborhood was officially recognized as Chinatown by the 1880s.



The community continued to grow into the beginnings of the 20th century. Laundry shops were still the most common workplace, followed by restaurants, nightclubs, and the opium trade. Many Chinese-Americans volunteered and fueled the war efforts, eventually resulting in the abolition of the Chinese Exclusion Act. By the mid-20th century, spirits were high as Chinatown began to fill with women, children, and families. In 1965, the Immigration Reform Act was put into place which eradicated previous immigration quotas. Once again Chinatown experienced more growth as more Chinese came, including families and university-educated intellectuals from cities like Hong Kong. During this influx of residents, social organizations such as the Chinese American Civic Association and the South Cove Community Health Center were established and expanded to serve the growing population.



By the 1990s, many young Chinese scholars took refuge in the neighborhood under the Chinese Student Protection Act following the Tiananmen Square massacre. Most educated individuals end up in high tech industries while working class individuals often work in the Chinatown restaurant industries forming the backbone foundation of the local economy. Today, Chinatown is one of the must see neighborhoods in Boston with its delicious food, infamous festivals, and vibrant culture.



If you are able to visit Chinatown in 2019, make sure to leave time in your schedule for a Dim Sum meal! Literally translated to mean “touch the heart,” Dim Sum is a traditional Chinese meal of made of small plates of savory or sweet treats, tea, and shared with close company. Traditional dishes include varieties of tea and often steamed buns such as roasted pork buns, steamed rice dumplings, beef noodle rolls, or fried sesame balls. Each dish is served in portions meant for 3-4 people. It is recommended you order many different dishes to split amongst the table! Dim Sum has recently become popularized in the United States and other western cultures, but the best spots are still found in your local Chinatown. Here are some of the best restaurants in Boston to try Dim Sum! You will find that Dim Sum served here is similar to Chinese cuisine for brunch, while the traditional cultures in Hong Kong and the Guangdong Province may serve the meal at any time throughout the day.



Although Americanized Dim Sum is different from the traditional meal in China, there are many customs that still the same. When eating Dim Sum, here are a few tips to remember! First, make sure to take small bites and eat slowly in order to maximize the delectable homemade flavors. Similarly, in Dim Sum, the less soy sauce you use, the better, as it masks the true flavor of the dish. Second, make sure to keep your chopsticks to yourself. Although serving others may be well-intended, it is most polite to keep your own utensils to yourself to minimize germs. However, there is one exception: when receiving the kettle for tea, make sure to serve others around you before yourself! Click here to learn more Do’s and Don’ts of Dim Sum!


As always, we want to see your favorite Chinatown and Dim Sum experiences in Boston! Share with us @globalimmersions or by using #HomestayBoston.


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