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Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants

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In 2016, Globe and Mail reporter Ann Hui drove across Canada to answer two questions: Why is there a Chinese restaurant in every small town? And who are the families who run them? It was only after the story was published that she discovered her own family could have been included — her parents had run their own Chinese restaurant, The Legion Cafe, before she was born. Thi In 2016, Globe and Mail reporter Ann Hui drove across Canada to answer two questions: Why is there a Chinese restaurant in every small town? And who are the families who run them? It was only after the story was published that she discovered her own family could have been included — her parents had run their own Chinese restaurant, The Legion Cafe, before she was born. This discovery set her on a time-sensitive mission: to understand how her own family had somehow wound up in Canada. Chop Suey Nation weaves together Hui’s own family history with those dozens of Chinese restaurant owners from coast to coast. Along her trip, she meets a Chinese-restaurant owner/small-town mayor, the owner of a Chinese restaurant in a Thunder Bay curling rink, and the woman who runs a restaurant alone on the very remote Fogo Island. Hui also explores the fascinating history behind “chop suey” cuisine, detailing the invention of classics like “ginger beef” and “Newfoundland chow mein,” and other uniquely Canadian fare like the “Chinese pierogi” of Alberta. Hui, who grew up in authenticity-obsessed Vancouver, starts out her journey with a dim view of “fake" small-town Chinese food. But along the way she comes to understand the values that drive these restaurants — perseverance, entrepreneurialism and deep love for family. Using her own family’s story as a touchstone, she reveals the importance of these restaurants to this country’s history and makes the case for why chop suey cuisine is quintessentially Canadian.


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In 2016, Globe and Mail reporter Ann Hui drove across Canada to answer two questions: Why is there a Chinese restaurant in every small town? And who are the families who run them? It was only after the story was published that she discovered her own family could have been included — her parents had run their own Chinese restaurant, The Legion Cafe, before she was born. Thi In 2016, Globe and Mail reporter Ann Hui drove across Canada to answer two questions: Why is there a Chinese restaurant in every small town? And who are the families who run them? It was only after the story was published that she discovered her own family could have been included — her parents had run their own Chinese restaurant, The Legion Cafe, before she was born. This discovery set her on a time-sensitive mission: to understand how her own family had somehow wound up in Canada. Chop Suey Nation weaves together Hui’s own family history with those dozens of Chinese restaurant owners from coast to coast. Along her trip, she meets a Chinese-restaurant owner/small-town mayor, the owner of a Chinese restaurant in a Thunder Bay curling rink, and the woman who runs a restaurant alone on the very remote Fogo Island. Hui also explores the fascinating history behind “chop suey” cuisine, detailing the invention of classics like “ginger beef” and “Newfoundland chow mein,” and other uniquely Canadian fare like the “Chinese pierogi” of Alberta. Hui, who grew up in authenticity-obsessed Vancouver, starts out her journey with a dim view of “fake" small-town Chinese food. But along the way she comes to understand the values that drive these restaurants — perseverance, entrepreneurialism and deep love for family. Using her own family’s story as a touchstone, she reveals the importance of these restaurants to this country’s history and makes the case for why chop suey cuisine is quintessentially Canadian.

30 review for Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants

  1. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    I was stunned. Never before had I heard about the Legion serving Chinese food. Never before had I known my parents had run a Chinese restaurant. All those years growing up, my dad would turn up his nose at chop suey-type Chinese restaurants. “This is fake Chinese,” he would say. Even when I'd gone on my cross-country road trip, he had seemed puzzled that I should travel all that way just to write about chop suey restaurants. Neither he nor Mom mentioned that they'd owned one. In the spring of I was stunned. Never before had I heard about the Legion serving Chinese food. Never before had I known my parents had run a Chinese restaurant. All those years growing up, my dad would turn up his nose at chop suey-type Chinese restaurants. “This is fake Chinese,” he would say. Even when I'd gone on my cross-country road trip, he had seemed puzzled that I should travel all that way just to write about chop suey restaurants. Neither he nor Mom mentioned that they'd owned one. In the spring of 2016, Chinese-Canadian journalist Ann Hui flew to the west coast of Canada to begin an epic road trip: She wanted to visit small towns all across the country in order to meet and interview the owners of Chinese restaurants – which all seem to offer the same chop suey and deep fried chicken balls in sweet red sauce, all with the same red vinyl booths and paper menus written in the same “won ton” font, all run by first or second generation Chinese immigrants – and ask them: How did you wind up here? What brought you here? It wasn't until after her trip (which Hui wrote up as  an article for The Globe and Mail) that Hui learned her own parents (who had been notoriously tight-lipped about their personal histories) had owned and operated two “chop suey-style” Chinese restaurants before she was born. No longer willing to have her personal questions dismissed, Hui spent the next several months “interviewing” her father in the same way she had all those other restaurant owners, and along the way, the two of them uncovered family secrets and histories that were surprising to them both. The book that Hui ultimately made with the addition of this further material, Chop Suey Nation, is one that alternates tales from her road trip with the history of her own family going back a few generations, and ultimately, each half of the story illuminates the other; the personal information suggests the common pressures that forced so many destitute Chinese immigrants to seek a better life for their families by travelling to “Gold Mountain”, and the common experiences of the restaurant owners taught Hui about the hardships that her parents were reluctant to admit to. Part memoir, part travelogue, part sociological exploration, this is a type of book that I find very interesting; as for Chop Suey Nation's execution, I was a little underwhelmed. Still, basically interesting. To begin with, I don't know if I completely accept the basic premise: Hui knew that her parents had been restaurant owners – her dad worked as a chef (along with other part-time work) his entire career – but she didn't know that their restaurant had served “chop suey” cuisine? Or that learning that fact would rock her world and force Hui to reexamine everything she thought she knew about her family? The premise works for the book's format, but it seems a stretch. (I also found it hard to believe that Hui had zero clue as to why the town of Vulcan, Alberta would promote tourism by making ties with Star Trek [her husband had to explain who Spock is??], and while I know Hui wants us to understand that she grew up eating “real Chinese food” like sliced jellyfish and fish bladders, would she really not know the difference between spring rolls and egg rolls, which she apparently ordered in many of the restaurants across the country, never figuring out which was which?) And I wish Chop Suey Nation had been edited better: Near the beginning, Hui and her husband are having dinner with her family in Vancouver, on Canada's west coast, the night before the road trip was to officially begin, and she notes that they were chatting about “our plan to drive west for eleven hours straight the next day”; good luck with that. In the photo credits, one restaurant is described as being in Deer Lake, NS – and I thought to myself, There's a Deer Lake in Nova Scotia?, but of course in the text of the book that follows, Deer Lake is properly set in Newfoundland. And at one point Hui writes, “Dad would wash the dishes, rinsing out coffee mugs and toast crumbs.”: I'm sure he wasn't rinsing out his toast crumbs. (And I know this might read as pedantry, but these are just illustrative examples – I was jarred by mistakes and clumsy writing throughout.) As for the meat of the book: The stories of the restaurant owners started to blur together a bit – Hui hadn't set up any interviews beforehand, so there were plenty of stories of people who were too busy to speak with her and people who could only speak briefly in between customers – but she was able to find and record a few particularly interesting histories along the way. By sharing the details of her own family, Hui recounts the historical events that forced Chinese immigrants to seek a better life in Canada (poverty, famine, the Cultural Revolution), and by noting the systemic racism that these early immigrants faced (the Head Tax, the Immigration Act that eventually closed Canada's borders to Chinese immigration, the harassment and prejudice from the rank and file that forced Chinese men to take “women's work” in laundromats and restaurants), Hui is able to answer her own questions of how these chop suey-style Chinese restaurants spread from coast to coast, with budding entrepreneurs taking a successful business plan (and purloined recipes that meet Canadian tastes) as they moved ever eastward, rising from restaurant employees to restaurant owners. Just weeks earlier, I had been so dismissive of this food as “fake Chinese”. Now I realized I had been completely wrong. This ad-hoc cuisine, and the families behind it, were quintessentially Chinese. It was pure entrepreneurialism. Out of cabbage, they'd made noodles. Out of a bucket and water, they'd grown bean sprouts. They had created a cuisine that was a testament to creativity, perseverance and resourcefulness. This chop suey cuisine wasn't fake – but instead, the most Chinese of all. A common experience (for Hui's parents and the later Chinese immigrants that she interviewed) seems to have been an early immigrant in the family who did the impossible: Borrowing heavily to make the move to the mysterious Gold Mountain alone, and after many years of back-breaking labour, a man could then hope bring the rest of his family over. Opening a restaurant, this family works for eighteen hours a day, the children enlisted in helping out, but as hard as it is, something is being built for the future. This second generation is then pressured to take over the restaurant – the impossible has already been accomplished, they are only being asked to do what is hard – and these people take over the eighteen hour days, their own children doing their homework at a back table until needed to bus tables or fetch ingredients. But when these Canadian-born children grow up, the last thing their parents want is for them to take over the family restaurant: this third generation is encouraged to become accountants and physiotherapists, even journalists, and do what they love instead of being tied to what is hard; “The bitter before the sweet” wasn't meant for the Canadian-born. It was also interesting to note the change in demographics of Chinese immigrants (from the poorest of the poor to the Hong Kong millionaires that we love to blame for driving up the price of Vancouver real estate) and that with the rise of the Chinese middle-class and the availability of more convenience and luxury goods in their home country, the idea of moving to far away Canada and facing racism and back-breaking labour isn't nearly as enticing to the modern day resident of China (and also explains why so many of the remote chop suey-style restaurants are now run by immigrants from Korea and Vietnam). I did enjoy all of the historical and sociological information, and particularly the details of what Hui uncovered about her own family; these deeply researched and heartfelt personal sections were much more interesting to me than the stories Hui was able to glean through brief interviews with the overworked restaurant owners who hadn't known she was coming to interview them. For a cross-country road trip, I thought that there would be more travel writing – giant statues of a pierogie, a lobster, and an axe aside, not much is said of the changing landscape – but I did appreciate that every time Hui stepped into one of these restaurants, she was recognising the same footprint over and over: the narrative is more about what is the same from coast to coast than what is different. And overall, quibbles aside, Hui's narrative held my interest and answered the questions she laid out at the beginning.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David

    Chop Suey refers to the uniquely Western take on traditional Chinese food born out of necessity, a paucity of authentic ingredients, and narrow local taste palates. It's General Tso chicken, Egg Foo Young and Ginger Beef. It's what I've always referred to as fake Chinese or "Average Asian" - a guilty, delicious pleasure finished off with a fortune cookie. In Chop Suey Nation Ann Hui, the Globe and Mail's national food reporter, along with her husband embark on an 18 day trek across Canada from V Chop Suey refers to the uniquely Western take on traditional Chinese food born out of necessity, a paucity of authentic ingredients, and narrow local taste palates. It's General Tso chicken, Egg Foo Young and Ginger Beef. It's what I've always referred to as fake Chinese or "Average Asian" - a guilty, delicious pleasure finished off with a fortune cookie. In Chop Suey Nation Ann Hui, the Globe and Mail's national food reporter, along with her husband embark on an 18 day trek across Canada from Victoria BC to Fogo Island Newfoundland. Their mission? To sample small town Chinese restaurants across the country and discover the hidden DNA of these MSG-laden establishments. With Anti-Chinese laws preventing the earliest Canadian immigrants from working in anything other than laundries and restaurants the stage was set for the proliferation of Chinese restaurants. Then the Chinese Exclusion outright banned Chinese from coming to Canada at all. When doors eventually reopened, the restaurant business was still seen as a viable way to make a living in Canada. Immigrants learned from owners and carried that knowledge to the next city - taking into consideration what worked (Chop Suey Chinese) and what didn't (traditional Chinese fare). In this way, repeated from town to town and immigrant to immigrant, did this brand of Western Chinese food take root. This works as a great long form piece that ran in the Globe and Mail but I wished for more in book form. Still it's a warm look at the long and surprisingly Canadian tradition of Chop Suey Chinese.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alex Mulligan

    Chop Suey nation is one of those special books where the author manages to weave in a personal story with the primary focus of the book. In fact Hui’s story of her own fathers arrival in Canada serves as an excellent anecdote to the story of “Chinese” restaurants, their faux-Chinese cuisine, and why they are scattered across the nation. The narrative moves masterfully between time and location and focuses on the owners of these restaurants as a means to explain the rise of Chinese restaurants in Chop Suey nation is one of those special books where the author manages to weave in a personal story with the primary focus of the book. In fact Hui’s story of her own fathers arrival in Canada serves as an excellent anecdote to the story of “Chinese” restaurants, their faux-Chinese cuisine, and why they are scattered across the nation. The narrative moves masterfully between time and location and focuses on the owners of these restaurants as a means to explain the rise of Chinese restaurants in small town Canada. While Hui’s narrative includes important historical facts about Chinese immigration to Canada, she avoids citing historical studies or common tropisms and uses restaurant owners personal narratives to elaborate on Chinese immigration history. Hui’s cross Canada road trip answered many of the questions she set out to answer, while generating new questions she didn’t think of. Not only does the reader get a taste of all the restaurants she visited, one feels as if they are going along on the adventure. The conclusions Ann Hui reaches in chapter 19 and 21 are nothing short of powerful, and beautifully well written! Overall this is an excellent book that sheds light on a unique aspect of Canada and our food scene, while illuminating many aspects of Canadian and Chinese history. It’s a entertaining, surprising, personal and gorgeous read!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jill S

    What a wonderful, delightful book. Not only is this a study in Canadian Chinese food, it's also a love letter from the author to her parents. I loved the story of her grandfather and father's journey to Canada, and I loved meeting all the restaurant owners and hearing briefly their own stories of coming to and working in Canada. A really pleasant read. What a wonderful, delightful book. Not only is this a study in Canadian Chinese food, it's also a love letter from the author to her parents. I loved the story of her grandfather and father's journey to Canada, and I loved meeting all the restaurant owners and hearing briefly their own stories of coming to and working in Canada. A really pleasant read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    Wonderful story about Ann Hui’s parents’ start in Canada, and the many, long hard hours they spent making a life for themselves and their family. And running two restaurants, which is the news that starts Ann Hui on her dive into the history of Chinese restaurants in Canada, and the ubiquitous chop suey dish found all over North America. I remember eating, after studying all day at university, the Canadianized Chinese food at the family-run restaurant owned by a friend’s parents. And hearing abou Wonderful story about Ann Hui’s parents’ start in Canada, and the many, long hard hours they spent making a life for themselves and their family. And running two restaurants, which is the news that starts Ann Hui on her dive into the history of Chinese restaurants in Canada, and the ubiquitous chop suey dish found all over North America. I remember eating, after studying all day at university, the Canadianized Chinese food at the family-run restaurant owned by a friend’s parents. And hearing about the incredibly long hours put in by her parents and eventually older brothers and sisters and her. And finding similar food years later at a restaurant in a northern Ontario town. When I ate there with a Chinese friend, I got to eat what the cooks ate, which was worlds tastier than the Canadianized fare. This book reminded me of these eating experiences, and of the years of hard work and dedication, and scrimping and saving by my friend’s parents, and countless other restaurant owners. I also learned some interesting things about Canadian history I hadn’t known before, in how Chinese immigrants moved eastwards, establishing restaurants as they went. What I particularly liked in this book is Ann Hui’s story of her father’s childhood and immigration, and experiences setting up and running the family’s restaurants. That it was as hard as it was to get details from him of his life doesn’t surprise me. His story, and Hui’s travel across the country by car (that’s one hell of a long drive!) to talk to different owners of Chinese restaurants of their experiences formed a fascinating narrative. And made me crave steamed vegetables on rice.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dna

    I really enjoyed the first quarter of the book, but got to about 50% and stalled. I didn’t feel compelled to continue reading whenever I’d set the book down for a while, and I think it’s because the alternating chapters started to feel too repetitive. I carefully read the remaining chapters where Anna delves into her family history, but mostly ignored the rest of the stops she made at Chinese restaurants across Canada. The visits were mostly shallow, simple, revealing nothing complex or intrigui I really enjoyed the first quarter of the book, but got to about 50% and stalled. I didn’t feel compelled to continue reading whenever I’d set the book down for a while, and I think it’s because the alternating chapters started to feel too repetitive. I carefully read the remaining chapters where Anna delves into her family history, but mostly ignored the rest of the stops she made at Chinese restaurants across Canada. The visits were mostly shallow, simple, revealing nothing complex or intriguing about the owners she met...what’s the point? She describes a couple of facial expressions of of a woman who’s shop she stops at and then...nothing. OK. No delving of any kind into the resistance she faces from some Chinese Canadians. She just notes these interactions rather shallowly and moves on. It’s so boring. And the book is getting tons of buzz, but it’s not the sparkly adventure across Canada you think it’s going to be. It feels like a National Post weekend article that’s been padded and bloated to fit the size of a publishable book. I feel like I wasted three weeks trying to crawl through this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I cried... so much... if you know, you know.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    Lovely shorter chapters, but heavy with impact. Yes it's about food, but a larger story is being told about family, culture, identity, and the lengths people will go to make a better life for their loved ones. Lovely shorter chapters, but heavy with impact. Yes it's about food, but a larger story is being told about family, culture, identity, and the lengths people will go to make a better life for their loved ones.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This was fantastic! A really thoughtful and engaging look at the past and present of Chinese restaurants across Canada.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Great non-fiction book with a compelling structure and lots of heart. The book's structure alternates between a road trip that journalist Ann Hui undertakes to attempt to discover the origin of Canadian "chop suey" style Chinese restaurants and her own efforts at getting her parents to talk about their immigrant experience. Both parts are equally engaging, and full of surprises for both Hui and the reader. A really fun and illuminating read! Great non-fiction book with a compelling structure and lots of heart. The book's structure alternates between a road trip that journalist Ann Hui undertakes to attempt to discover the origin of Canadian "chop suey" style Chinese restaurants and her own efforts at getting her parents to talk about their immigrant experience. Both parts are equally engaging, and full of surprises for both Hui and the reader. A really fun and illuminating read!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Luke Spooner

    I really enjoyed this. The way she structured it between her family's story and that of the restaurant owners was very effective. I think we are all familiar with these restaurants but have probably never thought much about the story of those who run them. I'm glad the author used her platform to tell some. In the last chapter she did allude to restaurant owners who struggled and struggled, but their businesses still go under. I think I also would have liked to hear more about them, but overall I really enjoyed this. The way she structured it between her family's story and that of the restaurant owners was very effective. I think we are all familiar with these restaurants but have probably never thought much about the story of those who run them. I'm glad the author used her platform to tell some. In the last chapter she did allude to restaurant owners who struggled and struggled, but their businesses still go under. I think I also would have liked to hear more about them, but overall I think this is really cool book highlighting an important part of the Canadian mosaic.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Filipe

    This was a light, easy, and enjoyable read. The concept of the book alone made me want to read it, as I'd never thought to ask myself why there were Chinese restaurants in every city. I've lately been a sucker for any immigrant-based story, and I particularly enjoyed reading about her dad's past. Sometimes, the book felt a bit repetitive with many of the restaurant visits hitting the same notes. That being said, I liked some of Ann Hui's conclusions she drew at the end regarding how Canadian-Chi This was a light, easy, and enjoyable read. The concept of the book alone made me want to read it, as I'd never thought to ask myself why there were Chinese restaurants in every city. I've lately been a sucker for any immigrant-based story, and I particularly enjoyed reading about her dad's past. Sometimes, the book felt a bit repetitive with many of the restaurant visits hitting the same notes. That being said, I liked some of Ann Hui's conclusions she drew at the end regarding how Canadian-Chinese food has been shaped by its geographic areas and the sacrifices immigrant parents make for their children.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Simone

    Completely charming. As much about Chinese-Canadian food as it is about the perils and adventure of immigration, the determination people find to make a new life for themselves and their families, the love for family and friends, all the hope and heart and food that bring people together and that sometimes tear them apart. Canada has made some mistakes, out of racism and xenophobia and fear. We’re still making those mistakes. Stories like the ones in this book give me hope that we’re learning fro Completely charming. As much about Chinese-Canadian food as it is about the perils and adventure of immigration, the determination people find to make a new life for themselves and their families, the love for family and friends, all the hope and heart and food that bring people together and that sometimes tear them apart. Canada has made some mistakes, out of racism and xenophobia and fear. We’re still making those mistakes. Stories like the ones in this book give me hope that we’re learning from these mistakes and getting better. Now I’m craving sweet & sour pork ...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kara Passey

    wow!! LOVED this! such a perfect blend of a touching exploration of a family history and an investigation of chop suey cuisine and Chinese food restaurants across Canada. I always derive great joy from cancon and this baby delivered on its promises!! loved the chapters set in alberta, it was so funny to hear about Vulcan from an outsider perspective bc I literally only ever went there to play sports in high school. it also made me think about the Chinese restaurants (yes we somehow have 2) in my wow!! LOVED this! such a perfect blend of a touching exploration of a family history and an investigation of chop suey cuisine and Chinese food restaurants across Canada. I always derive great joy from cancon and this baby delivered on its promises!! loved the chapters set in alberta, it was so funny to hear about Vulcan from an outsider perspective bc I literally only ever went there to play sports in high school. it also made me think about the Chinese restaurants (yes we somehow have 2) in my hometown and how I don’t actually know the owners or the story behind them. I think this book will be most fun for Canadians, as I had a good laugh abt the idea of driving a fiat over the coq and then across the country. and a lot of little things like that that I think probably just hit better if you know what’s up. but if you’re not canadian I think you would probably still enjoy learning about how many Chinese immigrants ended up in the restaurant business and how many of the chop suey style dishes were created or modified for the different regions. I think everyone would also enjoy how the author blended in her journey across the country to different restaurants with her personal exploration of her family’s history with their own moves to Canada and experience with the restaurants they owned and operated. I found her quest to get to know her father and his story very emotional. This book also gets into Canada’s shameful immigration laws that discriminated against Chinese people and how that affected the author’s family personally. lots of learning and thinking in here, some of it fun, some of it sad, all of it good. and of course I was thrilled to learn that ginger beef was invented in alberta and I am so excited for the next time I get to eat ginger beef.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike Smith

    Ann Hui is a Canadian-born Chinese. Her parents emigrated to Canada, her father from China and her mother from Hong Kong, in the 1970s. Hui had wondered from an early age why there were so many Chinese restaurants in Vancouver, where she grew up, and why the food they served was nothing like what her parents served at home. The sweet and sour staples of Canadian Chinese restaurants were only distantly related to the tastes and textures with which she was familiar. As an adult journalist for the G Ann Hui is a Canadian-born Chinese. Her parents emigrated to Canada, her father from China and her mother from Hong Kong, in the 1970s. Hui had wondered from an early age why there were so many Chinese restaurants in Vancouver, where she grew up, and why the food they served was nothing like what her parents served at home. The sweet and sour staples of Canadian Chinese restaurants were only distantly related to the tastes and textures with which she was familiar. As an adult journalist for the Globe & Mail in Toronto, Hui set out on a cross-country car trip with her husband to visit Chinese restaurants in small towns across Canada and try to learn why they were so like each other (even to the fonts used on their menus) and why there were so many of them. In between chapters detailing that adventure, Hui recounts how this project allowed her to learn more about her parents' backgrounds, including the fact that they had owned and operated a Chinese restaurant before she was born and that her father's father had come to Canada some twenty years before her father emigrated. Why had her father been left behind in China for so long? Eventually, Hui found common threads among the many restaurant owners she interviewed, including her parents. I won't spoil her conclusions here, but, as often happens on such journeys, what Hui found was not what she had expected. The reasons were simpler and more straightforward that she had thought, and yet each story had its unique and uncommon twists and turns. Hui also learned a great deal about her own family, and some things that even her parents didn't know (or hadn't taken the time to explore). Hui's writing is clear and direct, but it doesn't draw you in. She has a light tone with some observational humour. Some scenes toward the end of the book are poignant, but overall I found the style a bit ordinary. In the ebook version that I read, there are photos at the end of the book. I wish they had been located in the sections to which they related or were at least accessible by hyperlinks in those sections. If you have an interest in Canadian Chinese restaurants and the stories of the immigrant families who run them, you should find this appealing, although the analysis and insight are perhaps a bit light.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    For more of my book content check out instagram.com/bookalong • This book has been longlisted for the Toronto Book Award!🎉 • So in 2016 Ann Hui a Globe and Mail journalist drove across Canada writing about Chinese-Canadian restaurants. She drove coast to coast talking to restaurant owners, meeting people and hearing their stories. She delves into the interesting history of chop suey cuisine which is not traditional chinese food and shares about other faux Canadian invented chinese cuisines. Through For more of my book content check out instagram.com/bookalong • This book has been longlisted for the Toronto Book Award!🎉 • So in 2016 Ann Hui a Globe and Mail journalist drove across Canada writing about Chinese-Canadian restaurants. She drove coast to coast talking to restaurant owners, meeting people and hearing their stories. She delves into the interesting history of chop suey cuisine which is not traditional chinese food and shares about other faux Canadian invented chinese cuisines. Throughout her journey she discovered that her own family history could be apart of these stories. Her parents owned their own Chinese Restaurant before she was born to the deeper reasoning of why they immigrated to Canada in the first place. • This book is so good because Hui does such a wonderful job intertwining her own history into the main focus of the book. She flawlessly changes the narrative between location and time. And brilliantly uses the opprotunity to tell of Chinese immigration in Canada through the restaurant owners personal histories. Her storytelling abilities are so compelling! This is such an interesting look at Chinese-Canadian restaurant history in Canada. But also the perils and determination of people facing immigration. I tried to make this book last as long as I could but it is too readable. So much about food but the bigger picture of family, and culture. A truly facinating and poignant read! • Thank You so much to the publisher for #gifting me this wonderful book!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Au

    Informative and enjoyable read about chop suey. Ann did a wonderful job exploring small-town Canada’s chop suey restaurants. Sharing her own family story in the mix added a personality... Great read. Highly recommend.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I loved this book because I felt such a personal connection to the author's story and to varying degrees, the owners of these restaurants as well. My parents didn't own a restaurant, but they did the other entrepreneurial thing Chinese immigrants of the 70s and 80s did: open a convenience store. Like my parents, I always regarded chop suey cuisine as not "authentic" Chinese food. After reading this book, I agree with the author that chop suey is Chinese food – the people who created it were Chine I loved this book because I felt such a personal connection to the author's story and to varying degrees, the owners of these restaurants as well. My parents didn't own a restaurant, but they did the other entrepreneurial thing Chinese immigrants of the 70s and 80s did: open a convenience store. Like my parents, I always regarded chop suey cuisine as not "authentic" Chinese food. After reading this book, I agree with the author that chop suey is Chinese food – the people who created it were Chinese and the people who continue to cook it are Chinese. It is the story of bravery and resilience, of learning and adapting. It's what my ancestors did and what new immigrants continue to do, and I am proud of that heritage. I recommend this book to any child of immigrants, but especially to those of Chinese ethnicity. Learn your parents' stories – and learn your ancestors' stories as well. And next time you find a seemingly out-of-place restaurant anywhere in Canada, talk to the owners and ask for their stories too.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    Most Canadians, no matter how large or small their hometown is, remember the local Chinese restaurant. For people of my generation, it was usually the only exotic food they knew well into young adulthood. For that reason, I loved the premise behind this book. How did this phenomena start? Why is it still so ubiquitous? Ann Hui’s book explains this in such a personal way that I will never take these establishments for granted again. Interweaving her family’s own private story with the stories of o Most Canadians, no matter how large or small their hometown is, remember the local Chinese restaurant. For people of my generation, it was usually the only exotic food they knew well into young adulthood. For that reason, I loved the premise behind this book. How did this phenomena start? Why is it still so ubiquitous? Ann Hui’s book explains this in such a personal way that I will never take these establishments for granted again. Interweaving her family’s own private story with the stories of other families she meets across Canada, she tells us about the journeys, hopes and sometimes disappointments these entrepreneurs face as they work gruelling hours to keep their restaurants open. In almost all the stories, the aim is simple: to provide the best future possible for their children, no matter the personal cost. It really is inspiring. But don’t get me wrong. This book is at times humorous and paints a fun picture of Canada in all its variety. I loved every page of it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    A good creative non-fiction journalism/memoir about Chinese restaurants. The author talks about her own father's journey from China to Canada to open restaurants. She also explores Chinese restaurants from coast to coast, interviewing many restaurant owners of "chop suey" Chinese restaurants along the way. She spends a lot of time in small towns. She delves into some signature Chinese-Canadian dishes such as ginger beef, which was created in Calgary. Apparently in Quebec, they serve some sort of A good creative non-fiction journalism/memoir about Chinese restaurants. The author talks about her own father's journey from China to Canada to open restaurants. She also explores Chinese restaurants from coast to coast, interviewing many restaurant owners of "chop suey" Chinese restaurants along the way. She spends a lot of time in small towns. She delves into some signature Chinese-Canadian dishes such as ginger beef, which was created in Calgary. Apparently in Quebec, they serve some sort of deep fried pasta dish at "chop suey" Chinese restaurants. I really enjoyed this book and learned a few things. My only quibble with this book is that she did not really spend a lot of time in Saskatchewan or Quebec. I'm the granddaughter of a Chinese restaurant owner from Saskatchewan. I would have liked to hear a Saskatchewan story. :)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    How many of us have driven through a small town and glanced out a window to see a cafe offering Chinese and Canadian food? How many stop there for a meal? Probably not many. Visitors to an area will keep driving to the nearest larger town or city to find a chain fast food place or restaurant that looks "more interesting". Few of us wonder what keeps those places in business or how they got there in the first place. Ann Hui did wonder when she found out that her parents had operated a small town How many of us have driven through a small town and glanced out a window to see a cafe offering Chinese and Canadian food? How many stop there for a meal? Probably not many. Visitors to an area will keep driving to the nearest larger town or city to find a chain fast food place or restaurant that looks "more interesting". Few of us wonder what keeps those places in business or how they got there in the first place. Ann Hui did wonder when she found out that her parents had operated a small town Chinese cafe. While she delves into her personal connection to this piece of Canadian history, she and her husband drive across Canada to visit these cafes and talk to the owners. She learns the stories of determination, hard work, and sacrifice which motivates people to leave their homeland and settle in a small town to operate a cafe. In her research, Hui makes surprising discoveries about the cuisine served in those little refuges. She also learns about how they are part of the fabric of their communities. Along the way, she also makes surprising discoveries about her own family's history. Although easy to read, Chop Suey Nation is not lightweight. It leaves the reader with a great deal to think about - history, community, family, acceptance, and innovation.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amber Dunleavy

    I was so excited for this book! I thought it was going to teach me so much about an area of Canadiana I've always wanted to learn more about but this fell short for me. Hearing her family's backstory was interesting but the alternating chapter format seemed really choppy to read. As well, I feel like the chapters about the small town restaurants had more information about their rental car, the food her boyfriend chose to eat and road conditions than actual stories about the local Chinese place a I was so excited for this book! I thought it was going to teach me so much about an area of Canadiana I've always wanted to learn more about but this fell short for me. Hearing her family's backstory was interesting but the alternating chapter format seemed really choppy to read. As well, I feel like the chapters about the small town restaurants had more information about their rental car, the food her boyfriend chose to eat and road conditions than actual stories about the local Chinese place and the people who started these restaurants. 18 days for a road trip from Vancouver to Fogo Island is going to make for a rushed trip and this rushed, unplanned feeling came across in the text. I think if the author had the chance to spend more time with the people along the way and had the chance to see how these restaurants operate in small towns, she would've been able to get more than surface answers and gotten more backstory from some of these folks, which is what I was hoping for.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    If you love what those of us without any Chinese heritage call 'Chinese Food', then pick up this book! Ann Hui tells the story of her family's history and the stories of other Chinese-Canadians in this delightful and inquisitive book. What started as a journal piece for The Globe and Mail about the history of Chinese Food in Canada turned into a full length piece about Hui and her husband's road trip across Canada. Hui was seeking to learn about where 'Chop Suey' cuisine came from, and her ques If you love what those of us without any Chinese heritage call 'Chinese Food', then pick up this book! Ann Hui tells the story of her family's history and the stories of other Chinese-Canadians in this delightful and inquisitive book. What started as a journal piece for The Globe and Mail about the history of Chinese Food in Canada turned into a full length piece about Hui and her husband's road trip across Canada. Hui was seeking to learn about where 'Chop Suey' cuisine came from, and her questions were answered in full! I loved learning about Hui's own parents and their experience as restaurant owners, and I loved meeting all of the restaurant owners across the country. I loved the road trip aspect of this book, and it made it really fun to see what small-town Hui would be stopping in next! The history of this food was fascinating, and knowing the Canadian spin on various dishes brings me joy as a Canadian reader. A wonderful and informative read!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mack Flavelle

    This was the perfect book for me. Three reasons: 1. For years I've wondered about the ubiquitous small town Chinese restaurants I have always assumed are across Canada, they certainly are anywhere I've been. 2. The book is about the Chinese Canadian experience. Obviously I know nothing of this first hand, but my time in Chinese church schools as a kid made a bunch of what she talks about feel if not familiar at least faintly familiar. It also adds a bunch of context I didn't understand about Chines This was the perfect book for me. Three reasons: 1. For years I've wondered about the ubiquitous small town Chinese restaurants I have always assumed are across Canada, they certainly are anywhere I've been. 2. The book is about the Chinese Canadian experience. Obviously I know nothing of this first hand, but my time in Chinese church schools as a kid made a bunch of what she talks about feel if not familiar at least faintly familiar. It also adds a bunch of context I didn't understand about Chinese immigration here. 3. It talks about Abbotsford! The author's family opened a restaurant here and she describes the town I now call home and I REALLY don't think many books have chapters named after this place and it was fun in the same way seeing your city in a movie is fun. Great book, easy to read but rewarding as it unfolds.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Winnie La

    On the surface, Chop Suey Nation is a journalist’s journey across Canada to explore the history of “fake” Chinese food. But Ann adds a personal touch by including her own family’s history. In the end, you realize that this story is actually a common one told by many immigrants of that time. It becomes especially relatable as it explores the relationship between traditional parents and “westernized” children. As I read about Ann’s father, I reflect on how similar my own father is. While the writi On the surface, Chop Suey Nation is a journalist’s journey across Canada to explore the history of “fake” Chinese food. But Ann adds a personal touch by including her own family’s history. In the end, you realize that this story is actually a common one told by many immigrants of that time. It becomes especially relatable as it explores the relationship between traditional parents and “westernized” children. As I read about Ann’s father, I reflect on how similar my own father is. While the writing is simple and the set up of sub stories often blur together, I thoroughly enjoyed this (maybe because of how close to home it hits) and would definitely recommend it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Meyrink

    To write this book Ann Hui drove across Canada visiting Chinese chop suey style restaurants and interviewing their owners. Interspersed with her cross country travels Hui interviews her own father, learning about his immigration to Canada and the two Chinese restaurants her parents owned when she was a baby. This book seeks to look at how chop suey style Chinese food spread across Canada but gives the reader more- both a broad and deeply personal look at immigration and how hard Chinese immigrant To write this book Ann Hui drove across Canada visiting Chinese chop suey style restaurants and interviewing their owners. Interspersed with her cross country travels Hui interviews her own father, learning about his immigration to Canada and the two Chinese restaurants her parents owned when she was a baby. This book seeks to look at how chop suey style Chinese food spread across Canada but gives the reader more- both a broad and deeply personal look at immigration and how hard Chinese immigrants work for the benefit of their children. I can’t recommend this enough, especially if you are Canadian.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dessa

    Man. Such an interesting look at Chinese food, both authentic dishes and the dishes that sprang up from Chinese immigrants trying to please North American / colonial palates, including the dearth of “Chop Suey” restaurants, named for a dish that just means “cut up pieces of whatever’s around”. In some ways this Canadianized Chinese food is just pre-fusion fusion food. You know?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Janet Hutchinson

    The story of Chinese immigration, told through a daughter's eyes. The struggle to start over, in a new land, where the language, customs and food are unknown, and where there is racism in the unspoken. The threads of the small-town restaurants all had things in common, and tied together with the story of Ann's father's journey to Canada made this a really interesting read. The story of Chinese immigration, told through a daughter's eyes. The struggle to start over, in a new land, where the language, customs and food are unknown, and where there is racism in the unspoken. The threads of the small-town restaurants all had things in common, and tied together with the story of Ann's father's journey to Canada made this a really interesting read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bushra Boblai

    The emotions that this book has made me feel we’re entirely unexpected. By telling her father’s story and the immigrant experience at large, Hui has managed to build that connecting string of understanding all immigrant kids wait their whole lives for. Thank you.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Hui

    I loved reading this book. So relatable.

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