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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

CHOP SUEY NATION; the Legion Cafe and other stories from Canada's Chinese restaurants (Douglas & McIntyre)

CHOP SUEY NATION; the Legion Cafe and other stories from Canada's Chinese restaurants (Douglas & McIntyre, 2019, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-77162-222-6 $24.95 CAD French flaps gatefold paperbound) is by Ann Hui, the Globe and Mail's National Food Writer since 2015 and a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award. It's an augmented version of a long piece she did for the June 21, 2016 issue of the Globe and Mail. Notable log rollers include Mark Bittman, Chris Nuttall-Smith, and Lucy Waverman. Her book, in addition to being an 18-day discovery voyage of small town Chinese restaurants in Canada, also is a vivid memoir of her family, her Dad, and their own restaurant the Legion Cafe. The scope is nation-wide, from the Don Mee Seafood Restaurant in Victoria, BC to the Kwang Tung Restaurant on Fogo Island, NL – with stops along the way to several places in Alberta and Prairies through to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. She explores the Canadian version of “chop suey” [mixed small bits – shap sui in Cantonese] and “chow mein” (which substitutes sliced cabbage for noodles in Newfoundland), both using local ingredients that can be adapted and turned into such plates as “bon bon ribs” or “ginger beef”. The memoir portions are skillfully interwoven with the visited restaurants. 
Audience and level of use: those interested in Chinese food and Canadian cultural history, lovers of memoirs.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: it was only after the article was published when Ann found out that own family could have been included – her parents had run a Chinese restaurant before she was born! And indeed, many of the owner families came from the same region, Toisan (“First home of the Overseas Chinese”).
The downside to this book: no index is provided – one might have been useful to co-relate the various dishes on offer nationwide.
The upside to this book: compelling reading.
Quality/Price Rating: 93.


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