Vancouver Chinatown Lions' 45 Year old traditional Robbie Burns Dinner

Here's a Vancouver Courier newstory about another famous Chinatown
tradition
, the Chinatown Lion's Club annual Robbie Burns Dinner. 
It has been going on for many many years, since the late 50's.  I
remember the Bamboo Terrace Restaurant in the early 1960's.  We
ate there a lot, as well as at the Marco Polo or Ho Ho
Restaurant.  Auntie Winnie worked reception then, and she always
used to give us a package of gum.  I have fond memories of the old
Chinatown, when all of Vancouver used to come down at night time, and
cruise the streets, for for late night snacks, or to the Marco Polo
Nightclub.

I have never attended the Chinatown Lion's Robbie Burns Day, but those
who have tell me it is much more traditional then the dinner I organize
known as Gung Haggis Fat Choy or Toddish McWong's Robbie Burns Chinese
New Year Dinner.  The Chinatown Lion's dinner more closely follows
the book on the “how-to's” of staging a Burns Dinner.  The Toddish
McWong dinner bends the rules, alters them, transforms them… always
giving the audience a surprise.  I mean… who would ever expect
to sing a chorus of “When Asian Eyes Are Smiling,” or “My Chow Mein
Lies Over the Ocean?”

Hats off to the keepers of the Chinatown Lions Club and their 45 year
traditional Robbie Burns Dinner.  I may just take it in this
year.  If you can't attend Gung Haggis Fat Choy on Sunday, try the
Lions
Club dinner on the Friday.  It's a fundraiser for tsunami relief,
while GHFC is a fundraiser for Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop and the
Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.  About 200 people are
expected and you
still get a 10 course Chinese bangquet + haggis served with sweet and
sour sauce + a pipe band and special guest Vancouver Mayor Larry
Campbell.
Gung Haggis Fat Choy offers up 500+ guests an 12 courses in total
including traditional haggis, haggis won ton, and haggis spring rolls,
+ two bagpipers, (one Scots-Canadian, one Chinese) + two opera singers
(one Scots-Canadian, one Indo-Canadia),  co-host Shelagh
Rogers and Mayor Larry Campbell.

Both dinners are unique in their own ways, and while older one is a
traditional legend, the newer one is becoming a legendary tradition.

Chinatown hosting haggis of a night

By Naoibh O'Connor-Staff writer

Haggis with plum sauce may
seem like an improbable combination, but it's one of the dishes on the
menu when the Vancouver Chinatown Lions Club hosts its 45th annual
Robbie Burns night dinner.

The Friday night
event-which will also raise money for victims of December's tsunami in
southeast Asia-is being held a few days after the official Jan. 25
celebration for convenience sake. It's one of many events organized
across the city honouring the famed poet.

Burns, born in 1759 to a
peasant farmer, was known for his touching poems and songs that are
recognized around the world. He died in 1796, after which friends
initiated an annual dinner in his honour on his birthday.

Although membership of the
Chinatown Lions Club is 90 per cent Chinese, members from Chinese
backgrounds did not always dominate, said past president Chuck Lew.

Charter members of the
group, formed in 1953, included a wide range of ethnicities and
cultures found in Chinatown at the time including Scottish, Chinese,
Irish, Jewish, Italian, Japanese and aboriginal people.

Back in the 1950s, Kenny
Campbell, a Scot from the Outer Hebrides, pitched the idea of holding a
Burns dinner. But George Wong, another original member, and owner of
the Bamboo Terrace where the club met, thought haggis-a dish in which
the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep are mixed with oats and herbs and
stuffed into the stomach of a sheep or cow before cooking-could use
improvement. A wee bit of plum or sweet and sour sauce seemed like the
right touch.

“We still serve it with different types of sauces,” said Lew. “Have you ever had haggis? It's quite dry.”

It's not the only liberty
the group takes with the meal. Rather than cooking up a traditional
Scottish feast, diners enjoy a 10-course Chinese spread. Other customs
are followed, however.

“We'll do [Scottish]
singing, we'll do dancing, Mayor [Larry] Campbell will be there and
we'll do the address 'To a Haggis,'” Lew said, referring to the Burns
poem. “It'll be traditional in every aspect, except for the Chinese
aspect of it.”

The Sir John A. MacDonald Pipe Band will perform and the event will end with “Auld Lang Syne.”

Lew, a graduate of King
Edward high school, is well versed in all things Scottish. “I had a lot
of Scottish friends there,” said the 74-year-old. “They taught me a lot
of songs. They called me McLew back in the '40s.”

The Chinatown Lions Club's
goal is to raise $15,000 for tsunami relief. The event is at the Floata
Seafood Restaurant, 180 Keefer St., Jan. 28. Contact Lew at
604-688-3601 to buy tickets.

posted on 01/26/2005

Here are some recent and archival Vancouver Courier stories about Gung Haggis Fat Choy and “Toddish McWong”:

January 5, 2005 Welcome to the Vancouver Courier – On Line – Entertainment
“Toddish McWong” (R) and cohorts Heather Pawsey and Adrienne
Wong (L) vamp it up at last year's Gung Haggis Fat Choy. Photo-Tim Pawsey.

Welcome to the Vancouver Courier – On Line – Entertainment
Organizer Toddish McWong (aka Todd Wong) led in his first haggis whilst a tour guide at Simon Fraser University some 10 years ago and never looked back.

Welcome to the Vancouver Courier – On Line – News
Todd Wong, who sometimes goes under the alias Toddish McWong, has been hosting
a Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner for four years.


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