THERE are probably more Chinese in Los Angeles than in any metropolitan area outside of China. (The same very likely could be said of Mexicans, Iranians, Koreans, Japanese and more, which is what makes Los Angeles the best international eating city in the world.) Fifty years ago, most Chinese immigrants were concentrated in a typical downtown Chinatown, which still exists, but more as a relic than a vibrant community.
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Eric Grigorian for The New York Times
Marinated steamed squid at Mission 261.
In the last few decades, in typical Southern California fashion, the Chinese have claimed a freeway. It is the portion of I-10 known as the San Bernardino Freeway. This road runs through the San Gabriel Valley, straight east from downtown, all the way to Jacksonville, Fla. (to the west, it runs only 10 miles, to Santa Monica). And for its first 50 miles or so, from Los Angeles to San Bernardino, it is a modern-day Chinatown, a string of multiethnic communities that all have a large, dynamic Chinese population. There is strong evidence of this in the chains of Chinese supermarkets, the likes of which exist nowhere else in the country. (In these stores, announcements are made first in Mandarin, then in Korean, then Vietnamese; then Spanish, and last English.