In the heart of Chinatown, in the bustling intersection of Canal and Mott Streets, sits New Kam Man, one of the most beloved cultural institutions in Manhattan’s downtown community.
Established in the early 1970’s, Kam Man Food was the first and largest Asian supermarket in New York City. But it would be inappropriate to call it a supermarket. The ground floor of the establishment houses an array of frozen, dried, and takeout mainstays, including fresh stock meats and produce (Zagat rated). Just a flight of stairs below, the visitor can find an entire floor of porcelain tea sets, loose tea, and kitchen utensils. A third floor is home to all things beauty, including the highly-coveted pore-refining Pearl Cream.
Kam Man was established to provide Asian immigrants with groceries and prepared food from China, but since then has evolved into the bedrock of not only the Chinese community, but the go-to cultural institution for the appreciation of Asian gastronomy in New York City.
King, 58, has been working at Kam Man for over thirty years. “When I first moved to New York, everyone who visited was Asian,” he says of Kam Man’s customers. “Now, I see people from all over!”
After 9/11, with the economic transformation of Chinatown, Kam Man evolved into the destination for all things Asian and began stocking specialty snacks and brand-name gifts and appliances.
Mingzun, a local customer, tells me how the only place he can find fresh rice noodles is Kam Man, and for as little as 85 cents for a pound.