Monthly Archives: August 2005

How I discover a distant family member, Janice Wong, who has just written a Chinese Canadian cookbook called “Chow From China to Canada: Memories of Food and Family”

Funny how things happen… discovering distant family members you never
knew you had.  In 2000, we planned a family reunion for the
descendents of Rev. Chan Yu Tan, my great-great-grandfather who came to
Canada in 1896.  We discovered the descendents of his elder
brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai who had arrived in 1888, and their younger
sister Naomi – both whom had moved the United States.

Janice Wong introduced herself on e-mail to me last month, as the niece of my grandmother's cousin in Victoria.  She is a visual artist
and shares with me a deep interest in Chinese Canadian history. And…
she has written a cook book based on family stories and recipies. 
I can hardly wait to see the book… and to meet her too… of course!

Book launch will be October 12th at Sylvia Hotel, Vancouver BC.
For book details contact
or try the publisher Whitecap Books
Here's a link to find the book distributed in UK, USA, France, Germany or Canada

A cookbook and a fascinating glimpse into Canadian history.

Born a two-pound preemie in 1917, Dennis Wong may have begun his love
of food after spending the first months of his life keeping warm in his
mother's cooking oven.

Miraculously surviving his tenuous beginning, Dennis went on to
pursue an ambitious culinary career, opening two Chinese-Canadian cafés
in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, to introduce countless adventurous
Canadian diners to Chinese food.

In Chow, Dennis's daughter Janice Wong tells her father's tale through heart-rending stories and traditional Chinese village recipes.

A collection of more than 50 simple family fare dishes, Chow
contains early photographs, immigration documents, 1940s restaurant
menus, and handwritten recipes that trace the history of some of
Canada's first ethnic restaurants. Written with refreshing sincerity, Chow is both a terrific cookbook and a detailed record of an intriguing chapter in Canadian history.

It includes recipes for:

  • Dungeness Crab with Black Bean Sauce
  • Steamed Chicken with Rice, Sausage and Mushrooms
  • Asparagus, Mushrooms and Pork
  • Chinese Barbecue Duck
  • Peking Doilies
  • Wong's Chocolate Chip Cookies.

About The Author: 

Janice Wong is a visual artist whose work has received numerous
awards. The daughter of a restaurateur, she was born in Prince Albert,
Saskatchewan. She now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Chinese Canadian Culture alive in Vancouver: Chinatown Festival + Dennis Law's latest “action-musical” – Heartbeat

Vancouver is one of North America's centres for Chinese Canadian
culture.  Despite Chinese being in Canada since the mid 1800's,
Andy Yan's demographic study shows that our recent Chinese immigrants
greatly outnumber our Canadian born chinese. 

How does this impact Chinese Canadian culture?  Does it support
it's Canadian-ness as more immigrants seek to integrate and
assimilate?  Or is the opposite true, as more and more new
immigrants try to hold onto their Chinese-ness?

This weekend saw the opening of the 6th annual Chinatown Festival. featuring an opening performance from Heartbeat,
many multicultural performances, folk art demonstrations, a youth
talent show, a BMX demonstration.  Vancouver's historic Chinatown
has struggled commercially and developmentally with competition
commercial Chinese development in Richmond, Burnaby and more recently
Port Coquitlam.  But Vancouver Chinatown has always been
innovative starting up the first night markets, and also the Chinatown
Festival which will feature many attractions for tourists and
Vancouverites alike.

Dennis Law, a Chinese-American from Denver – but born in Hong Kong… brings his 4th action-musical to Vancouver.  Heartbeat follows this year's Senses,
last year's Terracotta Warriors, and the previous Heaven and
Earth.  These are exciting shows that combine Chinese acrobatics,
dance, music and martial arts with a kind of Cirque du Soleil magic and
sensibility.  I have enjoyed each of the shows so far and am
amazed at what I continue to learn about Chinese culture – old and
new.  Definitely looking forward to seeing Heartbeat after its
original opening was delayed due to the trucker strike in Vancouver.

When I grew up in Vancouver during the 1960's and 1970's, Chinese
immigration was still restricted to family sponsorship, after being
almost completely banned from 1922 to 1947 during the implementation of
the Chinese “Exclusion” Act.  It was still a time when my parents
and all our contemporaries still sought to assimilate into Canadian
culture – often at the expense of forsaking anything Chinese that was a
reminder of being treated
as a second class citizen due to the racial discrimination that many Chinese continued to suffer in Canada.

Today, being Chinese in Canada benefits from the many multicultural
festivals, and the fact that many of the new immigrants never knew the
negative identity that many Chinese Canadians had to face. 
Chinese Canadian history and community leaders are being accepted as
Canadian history and as Canadian leaders, who just happen to be of
Chinese ancestry.

Japanese-Canadian Cultural Fair and Joy Kogawa at Vancouver Public Library

Joy Kogawa was a featured reader at the Japanese Canadian cultural fair
at the Vancouver Public Library on Saturday, August 6th – which also
marked the 60th Anniversary of Hiroshima. 

We had a lovely quick catch up chat, and Joy shared with me her concern
about the Japanese Chinese national tensions and wondered what we could
do.  We reply is to emphasize that we are Canadians first while we
embrace and recognize our Japanese or Chinese heritage.  Many of
my friends are of mixed Chinese and Japanese heritage – and we all
emphasize being Canadian or American.  Maybe it's time for an
anthology of Asian Canadian writing exploring the similar experiences
and issues of Japanese Canadian and Chinese Canadian writers.

Along the peace theme…. Joy introduced me to her friend Ellen Hayakawa
who is a real peace advocate.  She has come to my Church groups to
speak about her mission, and a few years ago organized a peace forum
and conference in Vancouver.

There were many displays from the Japanese Canadian Heritage Museum, a
demonstration of Ikebana, volunteers from Japanese volunteer society
Tonari-Gumi, Vancouver Opera had a display for their upcoming
production of Naomi's Road…. 

But what really caught my attention was  a display by Jeff Chiba Stearns,
who has created a short animated feature called “What Are You
Anyways?”  This is so cool!  Jeff explores his cultural
backgrounds growing up a mix of Japanese and Caucasion in a small
white-bred Canadian city (Kelowna).  Jeff created the character
“Super Nip” to deal with the racism he experienced growing up, and has
an epic showdown against the monster truck drivin' redneck crew. 
Included is his discovery of his girlfriend who is also half-Japanese,
as they embrace their Hapa-ness hapiness.

“What Are You Anyways” will be shown on CBC TV August 12th, Friday, 7pm.

It was a real pleasure to meet both Jeff and his real-life girlfriend
Jenni Kato.  They were both excited to hear about my experience of the
Gung Haggis Fat Choy CBC TV performance special.  Hopefully we can
have them as guests/presenters for the next GHFC dinner in 2006.

Michael Tora Spier is a visual artist with a grand vision.  He
created “Hapa Board” – a gigantic skate board that features pull-out
boxes with address different aspects of being Hapa.  Hapa being…
the Hawaiian word for mixed race.  Michael believes that we are
ALL Hapa in some form or another, and invited me to make a Gung Haggis
Fat Choy contribution to the Hapa Board.  Definitely exciting and
eye-catching, Hapa Board got lots of attention from passer bys,
especially children, and a wedding party!

Pictures to follow soon!

Gung Haggis dragon boat team Sunday practice with Taiwanese Dragon boat

Good practice on Sunday afternoon with the Taiwanese Dragon Boat. 
We had special guests Andrew Yan and Linda Chiu, race organizers for the San Francisco Dragon Boat Races, who
were in town for a wedding and were interested in taking a look at
these ornately carved dragon boats – especially built for flag-grabbing
finishes.  Andrew and Linda revealed that Taipei is a sister city
for San Francisco, so I encouraged them to approach the Taiwanese
consulate for dragon boat donations, since the Taiwanese govt has so
far donated 6 boats to the City of Vancouver, at a value of $30,000 each.

We started off with a warm up and race piece, with Andrew as a guest
steersperson – giving him a chance to experience the Taiwanese boats
and get a real feel for them.  Next we headed up offshore to David
Lam Park and demonstrated our 180 degree barrel racing turns.  We
did four turns!  Natalie and I were lead strokes, and we put in
Dave Samis as our steers – thankfully relieving Andrew as he did not
know what we were getting him into.

After this, Dave took us into Alder Bay behind Granville Island to the
dock used by False Creek Racing Canoe Club.  We saw a number of
outrigger canoes out on the water, both solo and 6 person canoes. 
We stretched our legs for a short walkabout, went to the water
fountain, the FCRCC outrigger shed, then checked out a contemporary
totem pole carved by our friend Eric Neighbour who guided our dragon
boat head carving experience.

We did another race piece back to the Cambie St. Bridge before taking
the boat back to the DBA dock.  Good debrief, the team is a pretty
happy group and pleased with their performance.   Linda
excitedly phoned her SF Dragon Warrior friends about the Taiwanese
dragon boat practice, and I talked with both Jeannie and Leslie who had
both really enjoyed the paddler's party that we hosted after the Alcan
db races.  Then I took Andrew and Linda to Mario's Gelato for a
special treat.  Peggy, our occaisional lead stroke and Bear Kilts
sponsor rep joined us.

Tattoos are multicultural, intercultural etc. Vince Hemingson featured last night on CBC's The National

Tattoos are multicultural, intercultural etc.  Vince Hemingson featured last night on CBC's The National

Imagine my surprise when I was watching CBC TV's The National, and
there was a familiar face from Kilts Night socials at Doolin's Irish
Pub.  Vince Hemingson – tattoo maven and connessieur expert, was
being interviewed for The National.

Vince explained how tattoos used to belong to the realm of royalty in
many Renaissance cultures before they fell into the subcultures of the
20th Century.  Now flaunted by Hollywood actors, rock and hip hop
artists, Vince identifies them as our “new royalty.”

Vince also travelled to Borneo on a tattoo exploration adventure for the
documentary “The Vanishing Tattoo” described as a modern Indiana Jones

Check out Vince's web site

Eric Neighbour's Carved wooden Heron “Jabuka” in Killarney Park, Vancouver

Here is a message from my friend Eric Neighbour – wood carving artist
extraordinaire.  It is through Eric's Vision that Bob Brinson and myself created the
Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat head and tail wood carvings.


photo below was shot at 1pm, Wednesday afternoon,  August 3rd, nine months after Jabuka was finished, with the help of 450
Details of the project may be seen at: