There are several Parisian neighborhoods populated by Asian immigrants. The first post World War
II wave came from South-East Asia during the 1970’s and they settled in the 13 th arrondissement in an area formed by the triangle of Avenue de Choisy, Avenue d’Ivry and the Boulevard Massena in groups of really unsightly high-rise towers. These towers had been built to attract young Parisian managers but they remained empty because the location and architecture were so unattractive. Subsequent waves of immigrants arrived, most recently the Chinese.
I come to this neighborhood whenever I can because I love the ambiance, the smells, the shops selling Asian clothing, tea sets, rice cookers, and all the other Asian specialties you can imagine. I like being someplace that is not French. There are two big supermarkets – Tang Freres and Paristore, which sell a mega-variety of fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood, that are used in Asian cooking. There are all kinds of rice, many types of tofu, and it is a feast for the eyes and the senses.
If you are interested in Chinese art, calligraphy, history and culture, there is a wonderful bookstore called You Feng at 66, rue Baudricourt, Paris 13 (Tel: +33 (0)1 53 82 16 68) http://you-feng.com. where I have spent many happy hours browsing. They also have a selection of art supplies, paper, brushes, inks….Metro: Tolbiac (Line 7).
There are of course many restaurants, large and small. Just as Americans will have a hearty bacon and eggs brunch with all the fixings, the residents of Chinatown come with their families for their version of brunch: a nourishing soup or salad. If you are there in the morning, you can have a pho for breakfast; it is a broth made with rice noodles, meat and vegetables, seasoned with mint and coriander. It will get your day off to a good start. Or, try bo bun, a cold salad of rice vermicelli, meat and vegetables, seasoned with a not too spicy sauce. At any hour of the day, my favorite place to go is a huge restaurant called Tricotin, at 15, avenue de Choisy, Paris 13 (Tel: +33 (0)1 45 84 74 44) Metro: Porte de Choisy (Line 7; Tramway: Porte d’Ivry station).. The entrance on the left is for grilled meat and fish dishes, on the right they serve steamed dishes including all manner of soups and salads combining meat, veggies and rice noodles. People are seated next to each other at long tables, the waiters are efficient but not overly friendly, but that really does not matter. The food is great and cheap. We were there recently on a Sunday morning, seated next to a couple from Boston, who had come directly from the airport to have some breakfast. What a great way to start your trip off!
When you are done eating, stroll up the avenue de Choisy to n°33; if you look down, you’ll see a section of la Petite Ceinture (see n°37) the unused railway where nature is reclaiming its place.