A First-Timer's Guide to Tai Pan Bakery

Whenever I'm in New York City's Chinatown, I can't resist stopping by Tai Pan Bakery for one of their soft and sweet raisin twist breads. The bakery is easy to find, right on Canal Street between Mulberry and Mott, with purple lettering in the window and a constantly shifting sea of people inside. Don't be intimidated by the crowds - they are a good assurance that turnover is high and what you're getting is fresh. With nimble determination, weave your way  to the bread section in the back, being sure to check out the pastries in the counter along the way. Once you've reached the plastic bins along the back wall, stare hungrily at the piles of pork buns, raisin twists, and coconut buns, and one of the employees with metal tongs will approach to ask you what you want.

They will place your bread selections on a tray and set it on the end of the pastry counter. Keep your eye on this tray from now on until you pay, as it will move down the counter seemingly of its own accord if your gaze wanders for even an instant. If possible, stand directly in front of your tray and follow it as it makes its way towards the cash register at the far end. It may seem not to move for a while, but have faith, and it will get there eventually. As you wait, you may become distracted by sponge cakes or savory puff pastries behind the glass in the counter. This is the perfect time to practice checking out the goodies with one eye while keeping the other glued to your tray. It's a subtle art, but one worth perfecting. At any point between the time the person with tongs asks you what you want and the time you pay, either the initial employee or a different one behind the counter will ask you if you want anything else. They will only ask you this once, and if you want anything else in the bakery - including the pastries behind the glass - now is the time to say so.

Once your tray is loaded with everything you want, you can hang out by the register while your tray makes it way to you. This gives other patrons the opportunity to view the counter items and minimizes the chance you will get squashed. Pay with cash, escape the crush, and enjoy your bakery treats!