The Calgary Chinese Food Guide
Everything you needed to know about Chinese food in Calgary, from the stories behind different Chinese cuisines to where to eat it.
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Lu. Yue. Chuan. Huaiyang. Those are the names of the four major cuisines in China, representing Shandong in the north, Guangdong (formerly Canton) in the south, Sichuan (formerly Szechuan) in the west and Jiangsu in the east. In Calgary, we arguably have four major Chinese cuisines of our own: Canadian-Chinese, Cantonese, Not-Cantonese and Urban-Modern. Here are their stories and directions on where to get them.
(Click on the words below to learn more about each type of Chinese cuisine.)
photograph by jared sych
Ginger beef from Golden Central.
After the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, job opportunities for Chinese men who had immigrated to Canada to work on the railroad were few and far between. Many who stayed decided to open cafés in small prairie towns. At the time, restaurants weren’t frequented often, as most people ate at home, but as owners expanded their menus to include Chinese food, they became more popular because Chinese cuisine was seen as a novelty.
While many of the menu items had Chinese roots — for example, sweet-and-sour pork is based on a Cantonese dish, while General Tao chicken has loose ties to Hunan cuisine — they bore scant resemblance to dishes one would find in China. It was likely a combination of ingredient availability and a desire to appeal to local palates that led to the creation of the deep-fried, saucy and strongly flavoured dishes that we are familiar with today.
One made-in-Calgary example is ginger beef. Widely accepted to be the creation of George Wong, husband of one of the original owners of Silver Inn, ginger beef is based on a northern Chinese recipe that Wong brought with him to England, where he used to cook in pubs. Wong decided to try coating the beef in batter and deep-frying it before tossing it in a sweet and spicy sauce loaded with ginger and garlic. “Deep fried shredded beef in chili sauce” was thus born, which guests eventually started referring to as ginger beef.
Silver Inn and Golden Central
Silver Inn is credited with inventing ginger beef, but the place that does it best is actually Golden Central. Here, the lightly battered ginger beef is served hot and crispy with a sticky, sweet and spicy sauce that does not overwhelm the beef’s natural flavour.
Silver Inn, 2702 Centre St. N., 403-276-6711, silverinnrestaurant.com; Golden Central, 5016 Centre St. N.E., 403-731-9199
Next up: Cantonese