Chinatown / Japantown / Koreatown in South America

One thing that you learn very quickly when you travel is that thanks to global mobility and immigration, Asians are everywhere. My friends are often surprised when I tell them that Asians are in South America, but in fact there are so many of them that there are Chinatowns / Japantowns / Koreatowns in many of the larger cities. People think it’s weird that I love visiting the Asian communities in every country I visit, but to me it’s a must-do because these people have so much in common with you in background yet grew up so differently. I love seeing how we are similar yet very different, and it is one of my guilty pleasures to imagine myself growing up in South America. Here is a list of the Asian communities that I’ve found (with a special interest in Taiwanese communities) and where to find them (Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Ciudad del Este).

São Paulo, Brasil

Location: Liberdade (Liberdade metro stop), Bom Retiro (Luz metro stop), Aclimação (Vergueiro metro stop)

The famous Liberdade neighborhood is the traditional neighborhood where the Japanese immigrants set up their community many decades ago. Now, it is a neighborhood full of oriental flavor, with Japanese, Chinese, and Taiwanese descendents.
Things to do, food to eat:
– Browse all the Japanese supermarkets on Rua Galvão Bueno, eat Japanese food, go to Japanese bakeries, check out the Japanese garden, and go to Japanese karaoke
– On the weekends, Praça da Liberdade (the plaza right outside the Liberdade metro stop) is filled with Japanese food stands and artisanal stalls
– My Brazilian-born Taiwanese friend Filipe’s bubble tea shop, Tea Station, is there (very authentic and super recommended).
– Other two Taiwanese restaurants that I frequent are Sweet Heart (great beef noodle soup) and YongHe (great scallion pancakes, and for the brave or Taiwanese, ask for the 大腸麵線 pork intestine noodles) In addition there are Chinese and Japanese restaurants.
– A Chinese restaurant that is famous and delicious is Rong He. You can even find Japanese or Chinese karaoke bars here.
– Buy Asian language newspapers in the newspaper stands (with news on Brazil, news about the Asian community, and news from home) – Japanese, Chinese, and even a Taiwanese newspaper..

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Koreans are in Bom Retiro (they call Bom Retiro the Liberdade of Koreans) and Alimação neighborhoods, where many of them are in the clothing retail business and others run restaurants. In Bom Retiro, you can find streets filled with clothing stores opened by Koreans along the Rua José Paulino. A Korean restaurant that I really like in Sao Paulo is Bicol, in Alimação.

Also check out my post about Asian nightclubs in Sao Paulo.

Clockwise from top left: Liberdade neighborhood (source: skyscrappercity.com), beef noodle soup and Taiwanese appetizers at Sweet Heart, Korean snacks found in an Oriental market, Chinese soup dumplings from Rong He, and Taiwanese newspaper "Jornal Chines Americana"
Clockwise from top left: Liberdade neighborhood (source: skyscrappercity.com), beef noodle soup and Taiwanese appetizers at Sweet Heart, Korean snacks found in an Oriental market, Chinese soup dumplings from Rong He, and Taiwanese newspaper “Jornal Chines Americana”

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Location: By the Belgrano train stop

When I was in Buenos Aires, my Couchsurfing host was Enrique, who was Taiwanese-Argentinian, born and raised in Buenos Aires by Taiwanese parents. His parents own a supermarket right downstairs of their apartment, like many other Asians living in Buenos Aires. Before I knew that the Asians/Chinese hold a large number of Chinese supermarkets in Buenos Aires, I was pretty shocked when I went into a market and heard Jay Chou (the most famous Taiwanese signer) playing throughout the store. Chinese people also have cheap Chinese buffets throughout the city; for example by my hostel on Avenida de Mayo, there were 2 Chinese buffets that charged by weight. One meal costed me about 20-30 pesos (less than 3 dollars, by the blue market rate!).

The official Chinatown in Buenos Aires is in the Belgrano neighborhood, right by the Belgrano metro stop. It’s a cluster of 3-4 blocks filled with Asian restaurants, Asian supermarkets, and trinket stores. I asked for a Taiwanese restaurant at a Chinese store, and unsurprisingly the middle aged owner grumpily told me a name. I ate at a Taiwanese restaurant Resto Apu and I had a beef noodle soup there. There was a Taiwanese flag next to an Argentinean flag there. Taiwanese pride!! 😀 After my meal, I found a Taiwanese bubble tea stand. Unfortunately, the young man told me that they stopped selling bubbles due to problems with its cancerous ingredients (which is a news item that comes and goes in Taiwan every once in awhile), so I just got a milk tea. I wandered around and found the Taiwawnese Association of BsAs. Very cool! Unfortunately I lost my cellphone a couple days ago so the photos I am sharing here are film (yes, very old school) from my disposable camera.

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Old school "PicStitch" due to stolen cellphone. Clockwise from top left: The Taiwanese Association of BsAs, Beef Noodle Soup at Resto Apu, the Chinatown Gate, Selfie with Taiwanese Milk Tea, and a tablet celebrating the Chinese community in Buenos Aires.
Old school “PicStitch” due to stolen cellphone. Clockwise from top left: The Taiwanese Association of BsAs, Beef Noodle Soup at Resto Apu, the Chinatown Gate, Selfie with Taiwanese Milk Tea, and a tablet celebrating the Chinese community in Buenos Aires.

Santiago, Chile

Location: Recoleta neighborhood, around the Patronato metro stop

The first things I saw when I got out of the metro at Patronato was the large mall, China City (Ciudad China/ 中國商城). It was a mall selling electronics and clothing, ran by mostly Asians in the stalls.

In the neighboring streets (I walked down Sta Filomena and its neighboring sidestreets), it is an area bustling with a lot of commerce, with every shop selling every type of clothing. I actually found quite a few things that I liked. Not all the stalls are owned by Asians, but I did notice that in Santiago, many Asians seem to be in the clothing business.

I turned onto the street Antonia Lopez de Bello, where there are a lot of Korean restaurants and Korean supermarkets. I had Korean food at Sukine, Antonia Lopez de Bello, 244, and I thought their Kimchi Jjigae was quite delicious.

Clockwise from top left: Korean food, China Tower, and posters on the street for Korean soju
Clockwise from top left: Korean food at Sukine, China City, and posters on the street for Korean soju

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay

I had written a separate post about the Asian presence in Ciudad del Este. In summary, the whole commercial area of the city is full of Asian (largely Chinese & Taiwanese) malls, stores, and restaurants. My friend who is Taiwanese and lives in Ciudad del Este took me to Restaurante Gugus, a Taiwanese restaurant. I had bubble tea and beef noodle soup. While not the best Taiwanese food that I’ve had, it definitely scratched my itch 😉

Clockwise from top left: Pigging out at Gugu's, With my friend Jennifer at her trinket shop, With Wellen at the Taiwanese supermarket, "I love Paraguay", Lai Lai Mall, Taiwanese beef noodle soup and bubble tea at Gugu's
Clockwise from top left: Pigging out at Gugu’s, With my friend Jennifer at her trinket shop, With Wellen at the Taiwanese supermarket, “I love Paraguay”, Lai Lai Mall, Taiwanese beef noodle soup and bubble tea at Gugu’s

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  1. […] Asian food craving while in Brazil and other South American countries? Here is the rundown of where the Asian neighborhoods are. […]

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