Monthly Archives: January 2013

Videos of Gung Haggis Fat Choy – through the years….

Gung Haggis Fat Choy has grown and expanded over the years, since the humble origins of 16 people in a townhouse living room in 1998.   My friend Sid Tan has just posted a video of the 2003 dinner, and is making me feel nostalgic for these earlier simpler dinner events.  For 1999, we hosted 40 people in the New Grandview Szechwan Restaurant (now torn down) on Broadway and Manitoba.  In 2002, we hosted 200 people at the Spicy Court Restaurant at Oak and 40th Ave.  In 2003 we moved to the Flamingo Restaurant on Fraser St. to host 400 people.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy Year (year unknown)

2003 at the Fraser Flamingo Restaurant. GUNG HAGGIS FAT CHOY ROBBIE BURNS CH


2003 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner – from the archives – filmed by Sid Tan. featuring bagpiper Joe McDonald, tabla player Neelamjit Dhillon, Burns aficionado Neil Gray speaking about poet Robert Burns, Asian-Canadian literary leader Jim Wong-Chu. Also featured on stage was poet Fiona Tin-Wei Lam, Ian C MacLeod – then president of Clan Macleod of Canada.

2003 -CBC Television regional director Rae Hull called me and suggested it was time for Gung Haggis Fat Choy to take it up a notch.  She called in television producer/director Moyra Roger to create a 30 minute television performance special titled… what else but…  “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.”  The result was broadcast throughout BC in 2004 and 2005, and was nominated for 2 Leo Awards: Best Music, Comedy or Variety Program or Series + Best Direction in a Music, Comedy or Variety Program or Series.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy

View Clip
Chinese New Year. Robbie Burns Supper. Gung Haggis Fat Choy fuses the two unique cultural events in a celebration of music, dance and tradition. Featuring performances by The Paperboys and Silk Road Music.
A CBC Television production.
In 2005 we moved to the Floata Restaurant in Vancouver Chinatown.  It is a larger restaurant with a raised stage of good size that vastly improved our stage show.  2007 saw the use of digital camera proliferate – I even got one for my birthday that year!  But people started bringing them to the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner – and then city councilor Anne Roberts who also taught media at VCC, filmed this version of us performing the renowned poem of Address to a Haggis – as a rap song.  I am still self-consciously holding the words in my hand…

Gung Haggis Fat Choy celebration in Vancouver, BC

2009 – Joe McDonald and I were getting pretty good at the rap version, and the audience was beginning to expect it.  But we still have to change up things each year.  This is a great video created by my friend, and they really captured a lot of what goes on at the dinner – a fine mix of poetry, song and food – all with cultural fusion flair.  Watch this video for a surprise appearance of hip hop artist Ndidi Cascade, Silk Road Music ensemble, opera soprano Heather Pawsey, and entertainment media journalist Catherine Barr + the inaugural appearance of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pipes & Drums, led by Bob Wilkins.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2009


    In 2011, we moved away from the rap recitation for the Address for the Haggis to a more traditional but still culturally vibrant and entertaining version.  We featured our performers each taking a verse: actor Patrick Gallagher, city poet laureate Brad Cran, and let the haggis be but by Dr. Leith Davis – director of the Centre for Scottish Studes Simon Fraser University.  Then veteran Gung Haggis-ite Joe McDonald steps in.

In 2011, the Black Bear Rebels celtic ceilidh group was featured.  Bagpiper Allan McMordie and I met on the Robbie Burns Day in 2008 at the Rock 101 Studio, and we have since become great friends.  He invited me to join the little ceilidh music ensemble that plays for scotch and friendship… and it was time to feature these friends onstage.  This video was made by photographer friend Patrick Tam, and he wonderfully captures the evening finale, as hundreds of guests form a huge circle and clasp hands for the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

Sir James Douglas, founder of British Columbia will be celebrated at 2013 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner

Sunday January 27, 2013

Celebrating BC Scottish and Chinese pioneer culture, history

– in music, poetry and culinary fusion

Special Tribute to Sir James Douglas,

founding governor of British Columbia

and celebrating that Chinese New Year is in Black History Month for 2013

Sir James Douglas (Old Square Toes) was born in Guyana to a Scottish father and a Creole mother, and his wife Amelia was Métis. He had a vision that British Columbia could be a home to people from all over the world… whatever their place of origin.  Just like in the Burns poem:

“That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,

Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.

For a’ that, an’ a’ that, It’s comin yet for a’ that

That man to man, the world o’er,

Shall brithers be for a’ that.”

– Robert Burns (A Man’s A Man For All That and All That)

Hosted by Constance Barnes & Toddish McWong

Renee Saklikar – poet
David Wong – author
Jocelyn Pettit Band
Joe McDonald – bagpipe
Black Bear Rebels Celtic Ceilidh Music
Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pipes & Drums
+ lots of special guests

+ Raffle Prizes with theatre shows and books + more

+ Scotch tasting of Auchentoshan single malt whisky

Reception: 5:00 pm
Dinner: 6:00 pm – 9:15 pm
Floata Seafood Restaurant (#400 – 180 Keefer St, Chinatown Vancouver)
Ticket:  $65/each.
Table of 10: $625
Student: $55/each.
Children (under 13  years old) $35/each.

You can purchase ticket online or over the phone with a credit card,

please call Kristin Cheung at Ricepaper magazine at 604-872-3464.

History of Gung Haggis:
In 1998, “Toddish McWong” held a small private dinner for 16 friends with food, haggis, poetry and songs – from both Scottish and Chinese cultures and thus was born – Gung Haggis Fat Choy –  Now it is a dinner for 400 people!More than  a traditional dinner with music and poetry.  Gung Haggis Fat Choy re-imagines a traditional Robert Burns Dinner format, within a BC or Canadian historical context that puts Scottish-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian pioneers on an inclusive and equal platform, while acknowledging historical racism and how we move beyond it. This event has grown to also  celebrate contemporary Scottish-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian artists and poets and their innovations to create something uniquely Canadian.
16 Years of Highlights for Gung Haggis Fat Choy (GHFC) & Toddish McWong:
1998 – 1st Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner for 16 people in a living room.
2003 – 1st Creation of deep-fried haggis wonton
2004 – CBC television performance special “Gung Haggis Fat Choy”– nominated for 2 Leo Awards
2005 – SFU GHFC Festival with dragon cart racing + human curling
2006 – GHFC photo included in Paul Yee book Saltwater City
2007 – “Address to the Haggis” rap version performed by Todd Wong & Joe McDonald
2007 – GHFC featured in CBC documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy
2008 –  Toddish McWong photo in BC Canada Pavillion during  Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics.
2008 – Photo of Toddish McWong in the Royal BC Museum exhibit “The Party”
2009 – GHFC written about in Charles Demers’ book Vancouver Special
2009 – Toddish McWong featured speaker at Centre for Scottish Studies SFU conference “Burns in Trans-Atlantic context”
2009 – Toddish McWong photo featured at Scottish Parliament in the exhibit “This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.”
2011 – GHFC dinner inspired Hapa-Palooza Festival for Vancouver 125 Celebrations

Photo by Deb Martin
Previous artist and writers included:
Writers: Joy Kogawa, Fred Wah, Brad Cran, Larissa Lai, Rita Wong, George McWhirter, Jim Wong-Chu, Lensey Namioka, Fiona Tinwei Lam.
Musicians: Silk Road Music, Heather Pawsey soprano, Lan Tung, and Blackthorn
Film makers:  Jeff Chiba Stearns, Ann-Marie Fleming and Moyra Rodger.
Menu Highlights include:
Deep-fried haggis wonton + haggis pork dumpling (su-mei) and appetizer courses.
“Neeps” served Chinese style in the form of pan-fried turnip cake, dim sum style.
Traditional haggis is served with Chinese lettuce wrap.
And we always feature fun sing-alongs such as Loch Lomand, My Chow Mein (Bonny) Lies Over the Ocean, and When Asian Eyes Are Smiling.
Lots of surprises… such as new for 2012 – a revamped version of Robbie Burns lyrics set to Johnny Cash or Elvis Presley music.
For Media Inquires Contact:
Todd Wong

Fiddler Jocelyn Pettit returns to Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner!

We are very pleased that the Jocelyn Pettit Band is returning to the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner for 2013 on January 27th. She is an exceptional performer and has a mature presence beyond her young age of only 18 years.  Everybody that listens to her 2010 cd is amazed.  This British Columbian Celtic fiddler is an artist that deserves to be heard. Her debut CD of Irish, Scottish and Cape Breton tunes impresses both for the lovely tone she induces from her instrument, and its unhurried pacing. Pettit has an intuitive command and understanding of the material that would honor a musician of any age; for one who is just 15, it’s astonishing. – Sing Out! Magazine (Summer 2010)

Jocelyn is very busy and will be performing upcoming concerts at the St. James Hall on January 18th for The Rogue Folk Club, and on February 2, at the Brackendale Art Gallery, near her home of Squamish.  Check her web page here:


Fiddler Jocelyn Pettit with her French-Celtic-Canadian father and the Chinese-Canadian mother – the Jocelyn Pettit Band at the 2011 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner. – photo Lydia Nagai

It was a special dinner for which almost all our featured performers and co-hosts such as actor Patrick Gallagher, CBC radio personality Jenna Chow, film maker Jeff Chiba Stearns and Jocelyn are all of Mixed Asian ethnicity.  We nicknamed it the Gung Hapa Fat Choy dinner, as “Hapa” is a Hawaiian word that describes people of mixed race.

It has been amazing to watch Jocelyn’s young musical career grow in leaps and bounds.  I first met her at the 2010 BC Highland Games in Coquitlam… when she and her mother Siew came to check out the Gung Haggis Fat Choy tent display.

This past October, Jocelyn played with famed celtic musicians, The Chieftains, at the River Rock Casino.  It was a wonderful show that highlighted local talent for the show’s grand finale.  Check out my video of the finale that featured Celtic dancers who had grabbed audience members and brought them down to the stage.  Jocelyn is standing closest to The Chieftains, and is clearly having a great time.

Click here to see video
The Chieftains with Jocelyn Pettit – video by Todd Wong

This past summer we caught up with Jocelyn performing at the West Vancouver Harmony Arts Festival.  Her father Joel is on bodhran and her mother Siew is on second fiddle.  Jocelyn has become one of my favorite performing artists as well as a friend.  In 2012, I saw her perform 3 times, February, August and October (with the Chieftains)… and yet I still missed her performance at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden as part of the Enchanted Evenings concert series ( for which I had a background role to help set up by introducing parties to meet).

And….  Check out today’s Province paper… Jocelyn Pettit is one of my favorite fiddlers… and she is coming to the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner next week… but this Friday – check out her concert at the St. James Hall in Vancouver.

For tickets for 2013 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner

Call Kristin Cheung of Ricepaper Magazine

or order tickets online here:

Auchentoshan single malts whisky will be available for tastings at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner

We will have tastings of scotch whisky coming to the 2013 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner.  Auchentoshan Three Wood is one of my favorites single malt whiskies.  Fortunately, the representatives of Auchentoshan will be bringing 3 whiskies: Classic, 12 Year + Three Wood.  The Auchentoshan distillery is just outside of Glasgow, on the North side toward Loch Lomand.

The first day of my visit to Scotland… I went to a Ceilidh dance at The Hub in Edinburgh, for the finale weekend celebrations of the Year of Homecoming Scotland.  I asked the bartender to recommend a whisky for me, and he picked up a bottle of Auchentoshan Three Wood. It was very nice.

The second time I had Auchentoshan was when I bought a bottle of Three Wood for my bagpiper friend Allan McMordie’s 55th Birthday.  I had remembered that I liked it in Scotland, and it was on sale at the LCB store.  Good choice.  We both liked it.

We have had free scotch tastings at Gung Haggis dinners before.  Last year, we had tastings of a blended whisky called Kuch Nai – it is marketed for India and is a value blended whiskey that is designed to compete with Johnny Walker Red Label and Famous Grouse.

In 2008, Johnny Walker was tasted from bottles of Black, Green and Gold Label brands.  In 2009, we tasted Famous Grouse blend, as well as Macallan and Highland Park single malts which are what is used in the Famouse Grouse.

Back in May I went to the Grand Lifford Tasting and met people from both the Auchentoshan and Bowmore distilleries.  Cara actually grew up on the Island of Islay, and now works at the Bowmore Distillery.  She is holding up a bottle of the 15 year old Sherry cask Bowmore Darkest  In 2010, my brother gave this bottle to me for my birthday.  Yum…

Here we are with three people from Edgemont Wines and Spirts: John, Crystal and Tony.  The representative from Auchentoshan/Bowmore holds a bottle of Three Wood.  Don Harder is my friend and I named him the official Gung Haggis Fat Choy whisky ambassador, because 1) he loves good whisky and 2) he was going to Scotland this past summer, and planning to visit lots of distilleries.

Tony is the fellow third from left.  He poured the scotch tastings last year and gave quick talks about it.  He’ll be doing the same again for this year.

And if you can believe it – the representative for Lifford Wine & Spirits is Chinese Canadian.  Her last name is Lau, and she told me she had always been interested in coming to Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner.  Welcome Irene.. and thank you for bringing the single malt whisky!

Tickets for the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner
can be purchased ticket online or over the phone with a credit card, please call Kristin Cheung at Ricepaper magazine at 604-872-3464.

Click here for online purchase RSVP TODAY

50 Pounds of Haggis now ordered…

– photo T. Wong

I just ordered 55 pounds of haggis for the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns dinner.  I always talk to Peter Black & Sons in early January.  I have been using their haggis since about 1990.   They are the largest distributor of haggis in Western Canada.  The Blacks have a special family recipe that is different from a traditional lard recipe.  I admit that the first time I tried haggis, I gagged.  I don’t like the lard recipe.   There are many different recipes with varying quantities of suet, oatmeal, spices and meats.  Some recipes don’t even have organs other than liver.  I describe this mixture to being like a nice liver pate with oatmeal.  I have used Black’s haggis for haggis chili, stir-fried haggis with rice, haggis hash with scrambled eggs…. but my favorite is Chinese style with lettuce wrap – which we also serve at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.

– photo T. Wong
This is what the haggis looks like after the Chinese chefs at Floata restaurant prepare our haggis.  We have our own secret recipe for mixing the haggis with other Chinese spices and ingredients.  Many of our event patrons say they have never seen people eat up their haggis so quickly.  Yum Yum!
I first created haggis won ton in 2003, when I presented a gift of food to CBC radio host Shelagh Rogers, when her show “Sounds Like Canada” was moved to Vancouver from Toronto.  I felt that the culinary fusion of Scottish and Chinese traditional foods represented the new generation of Canadians that is descended from BC’s original Scottish and Chinese pioneers.
– photo T. Wong
This is Adam Black, son of Peter Black, at the store in Park Royal South.  The store is located in the “Market Place” section near the Extra Foods large grocery store.  Adam has always been very helpful when I drop by and ask questions.  The store always features great selections of meats, and I have always been happy with the products whether it is blood sausage, chicken cordon-bleu, or various cuts of beef steaks.
– photo T. Wong

And today… I also bought 6 of the Scottish Beef Sausages.  I asked Peter how they are different from regular beef sausages, and he said it was a family recipe.

For tickets to the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Dinner

– please purchase through Ricepaper Magazine

For more information about the dinner – click here:

Idle No More: a report on the rally at Peace Arch Park by my First Nations cousin

Idle No More rally at Peach Arch Park, Surrey – photo by Shelley Ferguson

What is Idle No More, and why does it affect Canadians? and my family?

For the past few weeks there have been lots of postings about Idle No More on the Facebook pages of mostly my First Nations friends.  But when my cousin Shelley attended the rally at Peace Arch Park on Saturday January 5th 2013, I asked her to write a posting for this blog.  I wanted her to write about her personal experience.  Her resulting story is very poignant and underlies the importance of the Idle No More movement, and what it means to the new generations of First Nations Canadians.

Shelley’s mother Rhonda Larrabee and my mother are cousins.  We both share the same great-grandparents. Our great-grandmother Kate Lee was the daughter of Rev. Chan Yu Tan, who came to Canada in 1896.  Shelley’s maternal grandmother Marie Lee Bandura, was the last First Nations child to live on the Indian Reservations of the Qayqayt Band, that have long since been taken over by the sprawl of the City of New Westminster.  By 1913, when the Federal government seized most of the remaining Band’s reserve lands, most of the area’s First Nations and Chinese people had already been forced out of New Westminster, due to racism.  In 1994, Rhonda Larrabee single-handedly re-established the Qayqayt First Nations. There have been two films made about Rhonda Larrabee’s efforts to reestablish Qayqayt First Nations.  Tribe of One is made by the National Film Board of Canada in 2003. One Woman Tribe aired on the CTV television network in 2008.

Please read my cousin Shelley’s story:

“Idle No More… is also about discovering the richness and beauty of my heritage”


Shelley Ferguson holds up “Idle No More” signs – photo courtesy of Shelly Ferguson

Powerful!  That is the best way I could express my involvement of the Idle No More protest at the Peace Arch Provincial Park in Surrey today.  I am Shelley Ferguson from the Qayqayt First Nation.

My tribe had been kicked off their lands almost a century ago because we were too close to the Royal city. So, I was not raised with any of my traditional indigenous culture.  With no one of the original band still alive, our traditions have been long lost.  I am currently a student at a First Nations college.  Subsequently, it has only been the past few years that I have truly started to take a deeper interest in my First Nations issues and culture.

I have never had an interest in any type of politics before a few weeks ago. That was when I spoke with my classmate Steven Kakinoosit. He spoke about our human rights be ripped away, our natural resources’ left unprotected for companies to exploit, and.. a revolution (Idle No More).  I had a hard time believing that something like this would happen here in MY Canada but I was enthralled by his passion for the cause. Therefore, I started doing some of my own research.  I had found that everything Steven had said was the truth.  I sat disgusted with everything I was learning in such raw details.

Bill S-212 says that reserve lands can be sold to the general public.  This means that large companies can buy directly from individuals instead of getting approval from the entire band.  They can throw large amounts of cash to people who are living below the poverty line, to companies like Enbridge, and use the land any way they see fit. Bill C-27 says the failure to make business information public can result in being taken to court and having funds to the community cut off.  Currently, if leaders speak up, they risk having finances decreased. Bill C-45 is the most shown symbol on protests signs because it prevents any debate or Grand Chiefs to present views of amendments they are imposing.

I felt I had no choice but to join the fight and be Idle No More.

Many communities of people joined First Nations peoples as allies and stood together including “Canadians for Reconciliation”- photo Shelley Ferguson

On the day of the Peace Arch protest, I had no ride to get to there.  Therefore, I was prepared to spend the day at home.  I had planned to putter around the house while checking my facebook for any updates of the protest.  I was ecstatic when I got a call from my friend, Roberta, asking me to ride there with her.  We went to the Aboriginal Friendship Center on Hastings St. in Vancouver, and made several signs to bring with us.  There was a convoy of about a dozen vehicles that headed to the rally from there. We were all in a row with our hazard lights on, flags waving out the windows, and honking the horns.  It was awesome!  On our journey, we saw an eagle flying over the convoy and I’m sure everyone felt that was a blessing that we are on the right path.

The crowd gathers to listen after singing a song  – photo Shelley Ferguson

The clouds may have remained dry but the grass was wet and soggy. Thankfully, that didn’t damper the throng of people from singing and cheering.  You could see the joy on people’s faces from having so many people in attendance.  The buzz in the air was one of brethren and purpose as we marched to pass under the white arch.

We sang all sang the women’s warrior song while walking and I suddenly realized, this was my first time actually walking under the arch. I whipped out my phone to take pictures but all too soon I was through to the other side so quickly.  The moment of being disappointed lasted about half a second because I saw people from every race before my eyes standing together as one.  Many were singing, several were laughing, and a couple were holding hands.  The feeling of awe was over powering.  I couldn’t wait to hurry my feet through the muck and be a part of it all.

Video of #INM Jan 5 Peace Arch Women’s Warrior Song

One thing that was sorely needed was a sound system.  It was hard to hear from the middle and back of the crowd.  My friend and I finally ended up wiggled our way a few rows from the front so we could kind of hear the speakers.  They spoke of the responsibility to consult and honour treaty rights, of the land protected under treaties to be given to non-First Nation people, and of taking pride & fighting for our rich cultures.  The stories and knowledge that was passed to everyone was nothing short of inspiring.

Woman spreads eagle down feathers as part of ceremony – photo Shelley Ferguson

Seeing as we were in Coast Salish territory, they asked for the Coast Salish people to come to the center and have the honor of the first song.  Roberta and I are both Coast Salish.  She grabbed my wrist and started to haul me to the front of the circle.  My first instinct was to panic because I do not know their songs and squeaked that out as fast as I could.  A woman I passed had heard me and laughingly told me to fake it.  I did not feel like I had the entitlement to be there.  I couldn’t join in song.  I was never taught our culture.

“You are Coast Salish,” Roberta said as she looked me in the eye, “You have every right to take your place up here.”  I wish I could describe the feeling of being unquestionably accepted to a world I usually watch from a distance, like through a piece of glass.  Just trying to find the appropriate words for this story causes my eyes start to water. I have to admit, that was the highlight of my day.

My friend Roberta and her cousin – Proud to be Coast Salish – photo Shelley Ferguson

When my cousin, Todd Wong, asked me to write a few paragraphs for him, I had planned to write about all the injustices that PM Harper is imposing upon my First Nations brothers and sisters.  About the First Nation people having the strength and power within us to stand up for what is right.  Against a man (PM) who passes laws which are offenses against the Treaty acts made with the Queen and are inconsistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Which are all extremely valid points but this movement is about more than just politics to me.

For me, it is also about discovering the richness and beauty of my heritage, seeing firsthand the pride and joy that traditions are being done correctly, and feeling like I found my place that I belong. My one hope is that no children have to go through what I have to feel like they belong. I am IDLE NO MORE!!!

 For more thoughtful readings on Idle No More please check these links.

Idle No More website

CBC news stories: Can Idle No More comment-threads-be-more-constructive


Where is Toddish McWong – new radio segment on CO-OP Radio

Where is Toddish McWong

This is a new segment on Vancouver Cooperative Radio shows hosted by my friend Gary Jarvis. So it won’t be at a regular time slot but here’s the first one of its type, which took place during the In The Claddagh Ring show on 21 Dec 2012. on Vancouver’s Co-op Radio 102.7 FM.

Gary Jarvis caught up with Toddish McWong – local accordion player and all round good guy at the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival @ Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens.  Todd was performing Celtic Ceilidh music with the Black Bear Rebels and was between sets when he talked about the festival as well as upcoming events Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner on Jan 27 and the Burns Marathon Poetry Reading hosted by Centre for Scottish Studies at SFU.

Where is Toddish McWong #1

The second segment took place long distance from Vernon BC, on Dec 27.  Todd speaks about the Scottish influence and place names in Vernon and Coldstream, the Kalamalka Pipe Band, and Vernon resident Betty Chan Klepp – the first Chinese Canadian Highland Dance Champion of Canada, back in the late 1950’s.

Where is Toddish McWong #2

The third segment took place from Grouse Mountain on New Year’s Eve.  Highlights include Todd going off a small ski jump, as he skis through the terrain park with his 9 year old nephew.  Todd describes the similarities of Hogmanay (Scottish New Year) and Chinese New Year, and how he had started his New Year’s Countdown by listening to BBC Radio Scotland at 4pm PST.

Where is Toddish McWong 3

When will the next segment take place?  We are not sure….   but Gary hosts “Last Call” radio show on Co-op and also co-hosts “The Rational” – so… just keep listening!