Chinese Canadian historian Larry Wong reminisced about favorite Chinatown restaurant dishes he had while growing up in Vancouver in his blog, "Ask Larry."

Cho San

As can be expected, in the 40s and 50s, no matter where you go in Chinatown, the cuisine was Cantonese. And the meals were cheap. My older brother used to tell me lunch was twenty-five cents when he was growing up. Lunch was a bowl of rice, soup and some meat and vegetable.

In a 1950s issue of the Chinatown News, there was an advertisement for a four course lunch at one dollar!

Wonton houses were popular at one time. You can get a small bowl of six wonton for 35 cents or for 15 cents more, you get ten.

Chicken was a popular dish. As were crabs. You can get a plate of curried crab at the On On Tea Garden for five dollars. Then there was the deep fried rock cod with sweet and sour sauce. Oh that was such a heavenly dish as were the steamed rock cod or even the steamed sturgeon. Presently these fish are in short supply or even unavailable.

Other popular dishes were steamed egg custard, egg foo yung, chicken with corn soup and prawns with Chinese greens.

The King Hong restaurant at 218 East Pender ran for 56 years and had two dishes different from the rest. They served the vegetarian soy sauce mein which were darker and tastier than regular noodles. Another favorite was the deep fried breaded riblets. Again this was not found anywhere in Chinatown nor for that matter anywhere else in the country. It made for a wonderful snack for sui yeh.

The best place for noodle dishes was the Ho Inn which was at 83 East Pender. They made great chow mein and best chow fun. One summer, I took the car and drove my way to Los Angeles. At every stop I made, I dropped into a Chinese restaurant and ordered chow fun. The result was that each place had their own unique recipes. For example the Ho Inn served their chow fun dry while some I visited were covered in sauce. Others had different kind of noodles other than rice. None matched the Ho Inn.

For banquets it was difficult to beat the W.K. Gardens, the oldest restaurant at 63 years in 1985. Every family and benevolent associations, wedding parties, red egg banquets all had their celebration there. Their menu was lavish with shark fin soup, Hong Kong style steak, vegetables with giant Chinese mushrooms, cracked crabs or lobsters and other banquet treasures.