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The coronavirus pandemic has turned the American Dream into a nightmare for many Asian Americans.
In addition to facing a sharp increase in hate crimes, Chinatown districts across the country were also the first to see business drop as much as 80% even before government shutdowns were put in place. One employment disruption study estimated that 28% of Asian American small businesses had closed by the end of April 2020 — compared to 17% of white-owned businesses.
But neighborhood organizations have since stepped up to support Chinatown businesses. In New York City, the Chinatown Partnership has built outdoor dining areas for restaurants, while Welcome to Chinatown has raised more than $245,000 for small businesses. And in September, Send Chinatown Love launched a self-guided food crawl to promote mostly cash-only restaurants without social media presences.
I took a walk through New York’s Chinatown last week and visited some of the businesses on the food crawl to see how they were doing and to sample some of their goods.
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Congee Village got a major business boost last year when it was named one of Michelin’s 2020 Bib Gourmand picks. Now, the normally bustling restaurant relies on takeout.
Things looked grim on the way down through the Bowery.
Many businesses were closed, and for rent signs were plastered over graffiti-covered shutters.
The first sign of life I encountered was Kuih Cafe, which specializes in Malaysian desserts and opened in late February.
Owner Veronica Gan now runs every aspect of her business by herself. Because she’d been in business for less than a month when the pandemic started, she didn’t qualify for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, and had to lay off her three employees.
Gan told me that her dream was to bring Malaysian “kuih,” rice-based desserts, to New York. When she first started out, business was good. Now, she’s tired all the time and can barely afford to cover expenses, let alone pay herself.
“I felt like giving up,” Gan told me. But since things reopened in June, business has been slowly climbing back up.
Gan’s voice broke when she spoke about her desserts. She gave me two pandan coconut kuih to try. They were rich, gooey, delicate bites of sticky rice and brown sugar.
I also had Gan’s nasi lemak: coconut rice topped with fried anchovies, crispy peanuts, sambal (chili paste), and an egg. Gan added on some cuttlefish and acar awak, or pickled vegetables.
Gan’s nasi lemak was a flavor explosion: fishy, salty, sour, sweet, spicy, crunchy, and soft. Gan told me she tries to source her ingredients from Malaysia.
She says Send Chinatown Love has helped send new customers her way. However, Gan says that if another shutdown happens, she …read more
Source:: Business Insider