Downtown in Chinatown

by Mary Bailey

Everybody said “When T&T opens, that’s the end of Chinatown.” It’s been several years since the über-Asian grocery store came to town yet Chinatown still carries on. Not that it hasn’t changed – fewer herb and medicine shops, more video and dvd outlets, fewer Chinese bric-a-brac and more Vietnamese food.

One thing that remains the same: Chinatown provides a great experience for the thrifty shopper, making a weekend shopping expedition to Chinatown fun on all levels. A meal can be had for under $10 per person, snacks for even less.

The boundary of Edmonton’s Chinatown is elastic. We have what’s called old Chinatown, marked by the lovely ornate Friendship Gate on Harbin Street (102 Avenue) east from 97 Street. Another gate takes us into the more contemporary manifestation of Chinatown, the shops and restaurants of 97 Street.

My favourite haunts are found in both parts, plus in the area west of 97, along 105 and 106 Avenue, up to 101 Street.

Follow my path through Chinatown or develop your own. You’ll save money and have a mini food/culture/travel experience at the same time.

Kim Tuyet Sandwich, 10645 97 Street
Nhon Hoa Sandwich Bar, 9718 106 Avenue

The Vietnamese sandwich called Banh Mi is one of those things that shouldn’t work. Yet, somehow, it does. The combo of pat√©, mayonnaise, daikon radish, pickled carrot, cilantro, fish sauce, and pork, or some sort of variation on the theme, is weirdly delicious.

Ting Lung Soya Products, 10512 98 Street

Wander down to the south end of 98 street, past the Croation Catholic Church and the Marian Centre, to find a small building on the west side. This is Ting Lung, where they make fresh soy products: deliciously light-tasting soy milk; silky tofu; deep fried tofu; and dofu fa, a sweet custard made from soy beans. Peek around the corner to see a few workers in rubber boots. The plant is spotless. Do keep in mind they are a manufacturer and close early.

Barbeque King City, 10606 97 Street

There are three barbecue places in a row on this block; King City is my favourite for barbecue duck and roast Chinese pork. They will kindly chop up the duck for you so all you have to do it eat it with a glass of Beaujolais ‚Äî a great combo. If they have dumplings the day you’re there, buy them and put in the freezer ‚Äî they are excellent.

Noodle Maker, 9653 102 Avenue

The welcome is warm, the room eclectic and the flavours robust. Try the Hong Kong-style stinky tofu, or one of the several different types of noodles, or a very good Indian-style chicken curry. There’s something for all tastes here.

Spicy Garden Restaurant, 9700 105 Avenue

Several years ago, I had an epiphany over deep-fried spinach in this restaurant. I usually point at the next table and say “what are they having?’ That’s one way to discover toothsome salt and pepper pork chops.

Urban China, 10604 101 Street

Visit this contemporary-looking restaurant for excellent dim sum, especially the pork dumplings and stuffed shrimp, light and delicious. A friend tried the tripe and pronounced it fantastic.

Wok King Seafood, 10013 106 Avenue

Tasty black pepper chicken and the fresh crab, when it’s on the menu, is worth the spurge.

Padmanadi Vegetarian Restaurant 10626 97 Street

Everyone’s favourite vegetarian restaurant. Still good, still there. I like the green beans with sesame.

Pagolac, 9642 54 Avenue

Popular for Vietnamese dishes. Their luscious Vietnamese coffee is top notch.

Boualouang Laos & Thai Cuisine 10569 97 Street

Tiny place, sweet people, a fun spot to go with friends.

Italian Bakery & Deli, 10646 97 Street

A fixture in the area. Have coffee and a small sandwich or pick up a dozen amaretti cookies for dessert or snacking.

Lucky 97, 10725 97 Street

Although Lucky 97 seems to carry more non-Asian brands, you’ll still occasionally see someone at the cashier holding a couple of hens by their necks to take home to make chicken soup.

99 Supermarket, 10788 99 Street

This new supermarket is a delight, carrying an extensive selection of housewares and dishes; seasonal vegetables; foods to go; good frozen dumplings made by a Vancouver company and a big selection of Chinese convenience foods, something you don’t see everywhere.

United Grocers Supermarket 9516 102 Avenue

United Grocers is at the eastern end of old Chinatown. It’s bustling and supremely well-stocked, if you can’t find it here, it probably doesn’t exist. Look up for an excellent selection of woks and bamboo steamers in every size imaginable. Choose your fish from live fish tanks at the back of the store. Look over the teas to find one to fix what ails you.