If you're looking for a quintessentially Canadian dish, you could do a lot worse than Albertan ginger beef or Newfoundland-style chow mein (cabbage, not noodles). Just about every small town from coast to coast boasts at least one thriving Chinese restaurant, and Chinese food has become a culinary backbone of Canadian culture. But in the past month, coronavirus panic has elicited a flurry of fear and discrimination affecting Chinese restaurants. The Globe and Mail reported last week that some Toronto restaurants are seeing drops in business between 30 and 80 percent. In Vancouver, business has declined similarly for some restaurants.
We wanted to know how Halifax's 60-plus Chinese restaurants are faring. We're happy to report none of those we spoke to have noted any decline in sales. We hope it stays that way. So consider this a celebration of the most Canadian cuisine of all. Whether you never outgrew sweet-and-sour chicken, or gravitate to peking duck with steamed pancakes, there's bound to be a nearby restaurant that makes your gastronomic dreams come true. Here are five of Halifax's favourite Chinese-owned restaurants, and why we love them:
213 Bedford Highway
Jane Chen, owner of Chinatown Restaurant, is constantly busy these days thanks to Chinatown's new location, which boasts crystal light fixtures and a seaside view of the Bedford Basin. Yet, perhaps the most breathtaking thing is hidden from sight: "We have so many authentic dishes that aren't on the menu," Chen says. "When people come and they're looking for something more authentic, I have so many recipes in the back of my mind that I can make."
A few of these dishes include XO sauce with seafood, and black pepper beef with king mushroom. Chinatown also provides homemade dim sum, including options otherwise hard to find in Halifax, such as their durian puff, egg yolk cream bun and sesame ball with salted egg yolk.
Fan's Chinese Restaurant
451 Windmill Road
Fan's Chinese Restaurant on Windmill Road has earned plenty of awards over the years. There are many mouth-watering favourites on the menu, including northern dumplings, Dan Dan noodle soup, Ma Po tofu and three-course peking duck. The restaurant also boasts a lengthy dim sum menu, and a sizable gluten-free menu that covers noodle dishes, seafood, beef and pork and chef specials.
On top of the food, Fan's provides a cozy, family-friendly atmosphere filled with dark-wood accents, warm lighting and an aquarium that houses several glorious specimens.
Jean's Chinese Restaurant
5972 Spring Garden Road
Jean's Chinese Restaurant has been downtown 17 years, and owner Kong On Jean has long watched his customers' preferences evolve. "In the past couple years, people seem to like healthier options, vegetables and spicy foods," he says. "A lot of people are looking for gluten-free noodles, so we sell a lot of those every day."
The restaurant also makes homemade hot sauce and soup stock, two ingredients that both pack a flavourful punch. But says Jean, sweet-and-sour chicken remains the bestseller, followed closely by beef and broccoli and fried rice.
Whether customers are searching for something heavy or light, they're in good hands at Jean's.
Multiple locations, see maygarden.ca
May Garden traces its roots back more than 40 years, to a small take-out spot on Beaverbank Road in Lower Sackville. Owner Eric Yeung bought the business from his relatives in the early '90s, turning the tiny take-out experience into a sit-down restaurant. Now there are four May Gardens across HRM, each with an extensive menu including both authentic and Canadian-Chinese food. Yeung prides himself on paying close attention to customer feedback, often incorporating suggestions into the menu. Several options include a crispy and flavourful barbecue-roasted duck (which has to be ordered 24 hours in advance) and siu mai, a dim sum dumpling stuffed with pork and prawns.