Today, I want to talk to you about a type of cusine, native to North America, that, though being alive and well, has not been given much publicity in the last two decades.
I am talking about North American chinese cuisine. yes, the one that was developed by the first chinese immigrants who were working in the railway building industries, and who later on opened restaurants who have been a common sight from Los Angeles to Halifax, from Trois-Rivieres to Winnipeg, and from Toronto to Kansas City, with a few variations along the road.
One does not frequent those restaurants in search of authentic chinese fare (which i enjoy as well) or to practice your chopstick skills (they give none, forks and knives are what is used there). No 5 snake soup, geoduck, shark fin or Peking duck (by the way, anyone know where to find the seven course authentic peking duck here, not the cantonized 2-course version that is found in chinatown?)are in sight.
No, the only animals used here are shrimp, lobster, chicken, pork and beef. Such dishes as Lo Mein, Chop Suey, Guy Ding, Egg Rolls and Won Ton Soup dot the menu, most now also offer Szechuan and Hunan inspired fare.
One of the finest examples of this type of cuisine can be found at 2898 Dufferin Street, The Hoo Wah Garden Tavern and restaurant.
As you enter, the dominant colour is red. The decor, is kitschy, with buddha statues and other pseudo-chinese artifacts. The owner and staff are affable, and the place is open until 2 am every night. Also, the bathrooms are very clean, which is to me, a proof of quality.
The first time i went in was on a mOnday around 9h30 PM. I was the only customer.
I settled on the Dai Dop Voey, a delicious mix of different vegetables, pork, shrimp and chicken on a bed of soft Lo Mein noodles. Simple, yet delicious. With an Iced tea, my bill was around 12 dollars for a huge amount of fresh and tasty food that was ready within minutes.
My second visit was last night. There were about 10 customers in all, for a restaurant that sits about 25.
Being very hungry, I ordered a plain friend rice ($4.60) and a Szechuan chicken (around 8 dollars). Oh my God! It could have easily fed 3 people but being a growing boy, I managed to eat it all myself. The chicken was abundant and the vegetables were plenty: celery, mushrooms, broccoli, garlic, onions, carrots, chinese cabbage, green peppers and the sauce was tangy and hot due to the addition of those long bright red, thin szechwan peppers.
With a Labatt Blue, my bill was 18.95, and I gave 21 dollars for the prompt and affable service.
The menu is endless. Hunan Beef, Orange Chicken, Kung Pao Shrimp, General Tso's chicken, are among a long list of simple but healthy and delicious dishes. MSG is not to be found!
So, if you crave something good, simple and cheap and you're in North York, check it out at any time of the day. You will not be disappointed.