Your Chop Suey Nation
The Globe's National Food Reporter Ann Hui visited dozens of Chinese-Canadian restaurants on an 18-day cross-country road trip. The result was Chop Suey Nation: a two-part report on the origins and families behind our unique cuisine. Here, Globe readers share their own memories of bon bon ribs and chicken balls
Jeff Chan, Richmond Hill, Ont.
My friend's text read, "Ur parents should be in this article." They, like many immigrants, were just like the ones you profiled. My dad immigrated here in the early 1970s to Nova Scotia. He learned English and French by watching Hockey Night In Canada. He learned the restaurant trade from my uncle in Truro, N.S., and struck it out on his own in the mid-1970s to Moncton. His first restaurant, Rice Bowl (yeah, he wasn't the most creative!), is still there today. His second restaurant, Chan's House (yeah, again with the creative names), is still there.
The amazing thing is, I went back to Moncton last year, visited Rice Bowl, and it was like a time capsule. The interior and exterior hadn't changed. The guy that bought it from my dad in 1981 kept everything the same.
I walked in and introduced myself as the two-year-old baby that sat on the counter back in 1981. They didn't believe me, so I brought a photo that was taken in 1980.
My dad finally retired last year after 40-plus years in the business, and if you ever want to write a part three, let me know. :)
Randy Lam, Toronto
My parents moved to Thunder Bay in 1977 and took over their uncle's restaurant and ran it for 21 years before finally closing it and moving to Toronto (when I was accepted to Sheridan College).
I was born in 1981 and my entire 19 years was spent at the restaurant. You described different moments of my childhood through the stories you told with each restaurant you visited. I wasn't aware that bon bons were unique to Thunder Bay and I still request my dad make them from time to time.
It was a love/hate situation, though, and I was really glad my parents eventually sold the restaurant because it required so much of them to run it.
The restaurant was called Olympia Restaurant, and it was at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Simpson Street.
Anyhow, thank you for drudging up old memories and congratulations on a fantastic story.
Darlene Bowerman, Owen Sound, Ont.
My family is from the island of Fogo, and while I've always resided in Ontario I have been there many times over the years.
My last trip was in June of 2015 and as always we had a meal from Kwang Tung. I still have many family members in the area and have always had that "conversation." Which conversation? Well the, "How the hell did Fogo Island get a Chinese food restaurant?" conversation.
While I have met the owner on many occasions, due to her limited English I have never been able to find out why she and her restaurant was there. Thank you for solving this puzzle finally.
Although the food is very different from other Chinese cuisine I have sampled, it is a real treat for the islanders.
Many times I have heard, "Anyone want balls and rice for dinner tonight?"
Kevin Fong, Toronto
My dad immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong in 1973 and worked at Fong's Restaurant and Motel in Carbonear, Nfld., not that far from Fogo. That restaurant is owned by a distant "uncle" from Kaiping. They were the first Chinese family in Newfoundland, I later found out. I've always wondered how they got to Carbonear. Your article helped me in understanding that puzzle.
Later, my dad opened his own chop suey place in Toronto, and I worked in it while growing up. It's such a typical Chinese immigrant story. I'm so glad you wrote about it. One day, I'd like to go to Carbonear to see where it started for my dad in Canada.