Most people don't think of China when they think of ice cream. However, there is a good chance that the Chinese were the first to eat a frozen dairy treat back around 200 BC. So it's not so surprising to find a Chinese ice cream shop in the middle of Chinatown.
The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is the hard work and brainchild of Phillip Seid whose grandfather immigrated to New York from China in the early 1900's. Phillip had noticed the success of a nearby Carvel and thought an ice cream shop with Chinese-inspired flavors might be a success. He opened the store in 1978 and dedicated his life to it.
After working in the shop throughout her childhood and college, Philip's daughter Christina became a co-owner and now manages the shop. It's rare that a younger generation of Chinese Americans want to take over the family business in Chinatown. Many move away and go into more professional fields. But after earning degrees in Psychology and Education, she realized she wanted to help grow the family business and introduce the shop to a new generation.
A bright yellow flag with an ice cream-eating green dragon welcomes you to the ice cream factory. All the ice cream (and cakes) are made on premises. We see the flag on the route of our Tenements Tour as we walk up Mott Street and learn about Chinatown and the journey of the many Chinese immigrants who came through New York.
Don't expect your usual American ice cream flavors here. This is the kind of ice cream shop where the Regular Flavors are things like Red Bean, Green Tea, Lychee, and Durian (the stinky Asian fruit). And then the Exotic flavors are the very strange Vanilla, Chocolate, and Rocky Road. They have something for everyone here - you just might have to change your way of thinking.
Our favorite flavors are the Black Sesame which is not to dissimilar to cookies and cream and the original Zen Butter (peanut butter ice cream with white sesame pieces).
As the Chinatown neighborhood begins to gentrify and younger Chinese Americans move out, we think it's important to support a small family business that has worked very hard to get to where it is and keeps the tradition of the neighborhood alive. Also, it gets hot on summer days along Mott Street and while Haagen Dazs is on the corner, we'd much rather cool off with a tasty treat from the local family run business.
The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory,
65 Bayard Street
New York, New York 10013