Category Archives: Origins of Gung Haggis Fat Choy

No Burns Day celebrations at Simon Fraser University… a sad day indeed!

No Robbie Burns Day to celebrate Scottish culture at SFU.

In 2010, Burnaby Mayor Derick Corrigan eats a handful of haggis, under the watchful eye of then SFU President Michael Stevenson, SFU Pipe Band members and SFU mascot McFogg the Dog. – photo T.Wong

There are no Robbie Burns ceremonies at Simon Fraser University this year.  No SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival either. Both the Ceremonies Department and SFU Recreation and Athletics cite budgetary restrictions.  Are the universities so tight for cash that there are no pennies left in SFU's sporran?  How much is it for a haggis and a bagpiper? 

(note: I phoned the office of SFU President Andrew Petter, and was informed that the budget cuts happened before Petter took office in the Summer – so the plot thickens… SFU has known that the Burns ceremonies was canceled since at least September… and still nobody did anything?).

The only Burns celebration will be the annual Robbie Burns Day Supper hosted and organized by the SFU Pipe Band – which is independent of the university.  SFU provides practice space in exchange for use of the name.  I even checked the SFU calendar – While the SFU Pipe Band is listed on the events page, there is no listing for Burns Day ceremonies or the SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival.  Sadly, January 25th is blank… empty… nothing…

This is a strange departure for a university that adopted Scottish
culture in its motto “Je Suis Prets,” taken from the Fraser Clan motto and
coat of arms.  Even the University's colours match the blue and red
from the Fraser Hunting tartan.  And why call your sports team “The
” unless you are modeling yourself on Scottish culture?  Simon
Fraser University also offers a Centre for Scottish Studies program that
has been doing great community outreach in Vancouver area with Director
Dr. Leith Davis.

In recent years, SFU has celebrated Burns Dinner, by having the three city mayors of Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, who also happened to have Scottish ancestry, attend Burns ceremonies at the three cities where SFU campuses are located.   The Burns ceremonies have grown more elaborate over the years.  When I helped out in 1993, the ceremony was simple.  The bagpiper led, I followed holding the sword upright, and the haggis carrier followed, and we delivered the haggis to the main cafeteria, where somebody must have given the Address To a Haggis.
But in 2009, SFU helped to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robbie Burns by having piping and Scottish dancing at each of the campuses in Surrey, Burnaby and Vancouver.   And at the Burnaby campus there was even the debut of the first ever “Dressed to Kilt” fashion
show at the Highland Pub.

Hmmm…. I think that SFU not celebrating Robbie Burns Day, would be like NOT having a Chinese New Year parade in Vancouver Chinatown, or no St. Patrick's Day Parade in Vancouver for March 17th!   But wait… The occurrence of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening on the same weekend as Chinese New Year almost necessitated the cancellation of the Chinese New Year Parade last year, but was saved as the parade was opened earlier in time to clear the streets before an afternoon hockey game.  Sadly, the entire week of Celtic Fest activities was canceled in March due to venues being booked for Olympics and Paralympic events.  But Simon Fraser University doesn't have to compete with the Winter Olympics, they are only citing budgetary constrictions.  How expensive can a single haggis be?

I first became involved with the strange customs of Scottish-Canadians when I was asked in 1993 to help with the Burns Day ceremony.  I was a student tour guide, and we were paid to give tours to visitors.  But nobody wanted to carry a haggis, and wear a kilt.  Being loyal to my job, I hedged… “I'll do it if you can't find anybody else,” I said to our team leader, being very mindful of all the deep snow around campus that cold week in January.

They called back, and the rest is the stuff of legends.  “Toddish McWong” made his media debut in both the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province, for being multicultural open to embracing a Scottish tradition, which in 1993, was 2 days away from Chinese New Year. 

“Gung Haggis Fat Choy” was coined as a word, and would follow me for the next few years, even after I graduated from SFU, and never even tasted the haggis that day on the mountain.

Years later I would invite friends to the first Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.  We had 16 people in the living room of a private townhouse in North Vancouver.  Our host Gloria hired a bagpiper, from the SFU Pipe Band.  I cooked most of the Chinese dishes.  We served the haggis with sweet & sour sauce, and with plum sauce.

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 098

“Toddish McWong” at the Scottish Parliament exhibition of “This Is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.

Over the years, I have come to celebrate both the Scottish and Chinese
pioneer history and culture at Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinners.  So many of
the place names of BC are named after Scottish places, such as
Craigellachie – the site of the last spike of the Canadian Pacific
Railway.  In fact for 2009 Homecoming Year Scotland, Harry McGrath, the
former director of the Scottish Studies Program of SFU, created the
project: This Is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.  The photo project matched
pictures of similar named places in Scotland and Canada, such as Banff,
New Glasgow, and many others.  I was honoured to be part of their
project, and I attended the closing night reception at Scottish
Parliament, where I encountered a life-size picture of myself.

In 2004, I received a phone call from SFU Recreation Department, asking if I could help them create an event that could bring together the University's Scottish heritage and traditions with the large Asian population of students.  In January 2005, we unveiled the SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy “Canadian Games”.  

 click for more photos

Sadly there are no dragon cart races for SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival this year.  But last year, McFogg the Dog and Toddish McWong posed with the winning team in 2010 – The Wellness Warriors.

created dragon cart races – imagine dragon boats “paddling” across SFU's convocation mall.  Imagine trying to have the world's largest “Haggis eat-in.”  It was a big hit.  Okay, not the haggis bit… but many students tried haggis and said they liked it.

For the past few years, I have been the race commentator for the dragon cart races.  It is always fun to watch people having multicultural fun, and playing with the cultural stereotypes.

But sadly…. not for this year at Simon Fraser University. 

This is the year that Maclean's Magazine also published an article in it's annual university issue, titled “Too Asian?”   It has generated a lot of co
ntroversy as Asian-Canadians and cultural analysts have criticized the article for pandering to stereotypes and faulty journalism.   “Maybe SFU is NOT Scottish Enough now?”  A list of critiques can be found on

Gung Haggis Vancouver dinner joined by new dinners in Victoria and Nanaimo

Toddish McWong's Gung Haggis Fat Choy
Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinners
come to Victoria and Nanaimo!

I have long wanted to do a Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner in Victoria and Nanaimo.  These are both significant cities in BC history for Scottish and Chinese pioneers.

Victoria Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner – January 22nd, Golden City Restaurant
Nanaimo Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner – January 23rd, Iron Wok Restaurant
Seating is limited, and by invitation only.

I want to create small intimate dinners that were like the first restaurant Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner of 40 people, which followed the initial dinner of 16 people in a living room.  At the very first dinner, I invited friends – many of whom had Chinese or Scottish ancestry.  Each guest was asked to bring a song or a poem from Chinese or Scottish culture, or help present a Robbie Burns Supper tradition.  I cooked most of the Chinese dishes that were served.  I made a lemon grass winter melon soup, stir-fried snow peas with scallops, steamed salmon with garlic and hot oil, sticky rice.  Fiona brought the haggis.  Rod picked up the lettuce wrap from Chinese take out.  Gina made a noodle dish. 

And in between each dinner course, we read a poem or sang a song.  I read Recipe for Tea, from the Chinese-Canadian anthology “Swallowing Clouds,” written by my friend Jim Wong-Chu, which described how tea first came to the UK from China via Scottish traders.”  Gloria read the Burns poem “To A Mouse”.  Her friend gave a Toast to the Laddies.  Gloria even hired a bagpiper!  It was a wonderful evening…  the first Burns Supper I ever attended.  And I only learned about the elements of a Burns Supper, by going to the Vancouver Library where I worked, and asking for details at the reference desk.


Rev. Chan Yu Tan is 4th from the left, standing beside his elder brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai, at the 50th Anniversary of the Chinese United Church in Victoria.

Victoria was the first port of entry for all the Chinese immigrants coming across the Pacific Ocean by boat.  It once was one of the largest Chinatowns in North America, and the oldest in Canada.  My great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan arrived in Victoria in 1896, following his elder brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai, who came in 1891 to help found the Chinese Methodist Church, which later became the Chinese United Church. This has now been told in the CBC documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy.

Meanwhile, on my paternal grandfather, Wong Wah, also came to Victoria, as a sixteen year old in 1882.  He worked in a Chinese dry goods store for his uncle, and later managed the store as it became one of Victoria's largest Chinese merchant stores.

Scottish influence is found throughout Victoria.  It is as easy as the street names of Caledonia, Balmoral and Craigflower.  The first governor of British Columbia James Douglas was schooled in Scotland, due to his Scottish father's influence, even though his mother was a creole free black.  It was Robert Dunsmuir, born in Hurlford Scotland near the town of Kilmarnock, that became one of the richest men in North America by being a coal baron.  Dunsmuir served as premier of BC, as did his son. Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, was built by Dunsmuir as a gift to his wife, but he died a year before it was completed.

Rev. Chan Yu Tan also ministered at the Chinese United Church in Nanaimo. From there, he would often travel to the mining town of Cumberland to also minister to the Chinese labourers there.  It was coal baron Robert Dunsmuir that owned the coal mines around Cumberland and Nanaimo.  During a general strike at the mines, Dunsmuir used Chinese labourers as strike breakers.  Although it is now little more than a ghost town of a few remaining buildings, Cumberland was once one of Canada's largest Chinatowns – so big that it could sustain two Chinese opera houses.  Author Paul Yee's new play Jade in Coal was set in Cumberland.

I am looking forward to creating inaugural Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinners
in both Victoria and Nanaimo, as I have so much family history in both cities.  The Victoria dinner will follow the board meeting for The
Land Conservancy of BC
.  TLC executive director Bill Turner has attended
many Gung Haggis dinners in Vancouver, and our TLC Board Chair Alistair Craighead was born near Glasgow Scotland.  Vice-Chair Briony Penn worked for the National Trust of Scotland many years ago, and helped create “Tam O'Shanter Experience” that was featured at the Robert Burns National Heritage Park, that has now built the Robert Burns National Birthplace Museum to replace the “Tam O'Shanter Experience.”

The Nanaimo dinner will be a joint-venture with my friend Shelagh Rogers, CBC broadcaster, who now hosts The Next Chapter on CBC radio.  Shelagh has been organizing Reconciliation dinners between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people.  Awhile back, she asked me about creating something similar to a Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner, which she co-hosted with me in 2005.  I said, “How about a Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow Dinner” that could embrace all three pioneer cultures?  And that is exactly what we will have on January 23rd.  We are inviting friends with Chinese, Scottish and First Nations ancestry and culture and having a dinner.  We shall see what people bring to the table in songs and poetry that will reflect our desire for cultural harmony and fusion, as well as reverence for our shared but distinctive past.

See pictures and story from Nanaimo Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow Dinner


A picture of Toddish McWong included in 150 of BC's historical and contemporary figures invited to “The Party” installation to help celebrated 150 years of BC History at the Royal BC Museum in 2008.

Janice Wong exhibit of monotypes at the Dundarave Print Workshop Gallery

Janice Wong exhibit of monotypes at the Dundarave Print Workshop Gallery

Janice Wong is my famous author/artist 2nd cousin-once-removed. Author of Chow: From China to Canada – Stories of Food and family. She sent me this note:

exhibiting recent monotypes at Dundarave Print Workshop Gallery (the
printmaking co-operative; I've been a member since 1997).
The exhibition opens June 7, 6-9 pm and continues until June 24.
Regular hours at the gallery are:
Wednesday through Sunday, 11-5 pm
Location: Dundarave Print Workshop Gallery 1640 Johnson Street, Granville Island, Vancouver BC

Vancouver's Two Solitudes… 2001 Census results: Scottish? Chinese? How many?

Vancouver's Two Solitudes…
2001 Census: Scottish? Chinese? How many?

Many people ask me why the fascination of Scottish culture, or the
unlikely fusion of Scottish and Chinese traditions for Gung Haggis Fat

I usually reply that the Scots and Chinese are really Vancouver's
earliest pioneering cultures, along with First Nations of course. 
I regard the Scots and Chinese as British Columbia's “Two Solitudes,” which  Wikipedia describes as “A phrase expressing Canada's bilingual and bicultural nature.
Traditionally, French and English Canadians have had little to do with
each other — hence the “two solitudes”, together but separate, alone
but together.

The phrase originally comes from Hugh MacLennan's 1945 novel  “Two Solitudes” which the McGill-Queens University Press describes as “

“A landmark of
nationalist fiction, Hugh MacLennan's Two Solitudes is the story of two
races within one nation, each with its own legend and ideas of what a
nation should be. In his vivid portrayals of human drama in prewar
Quebec, MacLennan focuses on two individuals whose love increases the
prejudices that surround them until they discover that “love consists
in this, that two solitudes protect, and touch and greet each other.”

Gee… it's kind of a love story similar to the hate between the
Montague and Capulet families in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
story.  Maybe this is the reason there are so many people with
Scottish  names in my extended family tree now.

According to the 2001 Census results for Vancouver

The top ten total responses for ethnic origins were:

Total population:  1,967,480

Canadian                 378,545
Chinese                   347,985
Scottish                   311,940
German                  187,410
East Indian             142,060
French                    128,715
Ukrainian                 76,525

These results are for people who checked these responses in the
ethnicity box.  In reality they could choose as many boxes as
applied to them, or as they wanted.  But ideally, these are the
people who most count English, Chinese, Scottish as the ancestry.

Of people who selected only one ethnic group the results are:

Total responses:   1,226,280

Chinese                   312,180
East Indian              123,570
Canadian                 141,110
Dutch (Netherlands)  21,115

These are the people who chose only one ethnicity.  These numbers
also would most likely represent the newest immigrant groups. 
People who checked “Canadian” most likely did so, because they did not
want to be defined by “ethnic origin” or simply didn't have a clue as
to what to check.  Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson
admitted that she checked “Canadian” even though it is documented and
widely known that she was born in Hong Kong.

Now it gets more interesting with people who chose multiple ethnic
boxes.  Groups below can be said to represent the groups that have
inter-married most with a different ethnic culture.  Although this
could be misleading if you lump English, Scottish and Irish together as
“British”- just make sure you don't separate them into Catholic and
Prostestant because some Irish Catholics would be more likely to marry
a Filipino Catholic rather than an Irish Protestant.  But in
Canada, we are all “Canadian” and the great thing is we are more likely
to be open-minded about race, religion, and culture…. aren't we?

Total responses:    741,195

English                   362,165
Scottish                   270,020
Canadian                 237,435
German                   142,945
French                     113,655
Ukranian                   58,375
Dutch (Netherlands)  46,050
Nowegian                  35,735
East Indian                 18,495

GUNG HAGGIS FAT CHOY: The CBC TV special – summaries and video clip – view the origin of Gung Haggis Fat Choy and Toddish McWong


The CBC TV special – summaries and video clip
– view the origin of Gung Haggis Fat Choy and Toddish McWong

Robbie Burns Day meets Chinese New Year. 
Two separate cultures. 
Nothing in common. 
Everything in common.

View this video clip from the CBC television performance
special “GUNG HAGGIS FAT CHOY.”  The 30 minute show was created in
the fall of 2003 on a small budget, and debuted on January 24th, and
25th, 2004.  It recieved two nominations for Leo Awards for Best Musical/Variety, and Best Direction for Musical/ Variety.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy – View Clip

Gung Haggis Fat Choy
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.

It was produced by CBC who hired Moyra Rodger to produce and it was directed by Moyra with Ken
Stewart.  It was amazing to join them on the different sets as
they filmed each segment.  I did get paid by CBC as a consultant, and for
use of the television rights for the name “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.”

The show blended together stories, music and dance from Chinese and
Scottish cultures to highlight both Robbie Burns Day and Chinese New
Year celebrations.  I was involved in the planning stages, as well
as being filmed for the “Origins of Gung Haggis Fat Choy”
segment which featured me donning a Scottish outfit, adjusting the
buckles of the kilt, and the “flashes” which hold up the socks.

“Only one student volunteered to carry the haggis for the Robbie Burns
Celebration at Simon Fraser University” says the narrator retelling a
short version of how I first developed the “Gung Haggis Fat Choy”
concept.  Check my version of the origins here:

There was a strong belief to ensure that each segment had something
Chinese and something Scottish in each of the music performance
segments.   Also featured was a cartoon segment about poet
Robert Burns, with Monty Pythonesque animation style.  And on the
serious side… a straight reading of Burns’ “Address to a Haggis” by
ex-Scotsman Neil Gray, a non-professional actor but loyal fan of The
Goon Show, and Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners since 2002.

Every segment was short and quick paced.  Information preceded
each musical performance, giving background on not only Scottish and
Canadian culture, but also on Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  Archival film
footage highlighted a segment about the making of haggis. 
Archival film footage of Vancouver’s Chinatown during its heyday during
the neon nightclub years from the 1950’s and 1960’s featuring long gone
restaurants and dinner nightclubs such as the Bamboo Terrace and the
Marco Polo. Visit

A simulated Chinese New Year dinner featured my
bagpiper friend Joe McDonald, my parents, grandmother, girlfriend,
friend Don Montgomery with his two young children, and friends Ray and
Ula.  Typical Chinese New Year food dishes were served as well as
traditional haggis.  Joe wore his full Scottish regalia outfit
complete with bear skin hat, while I wore my beautiful Chinese
jacket.  This was a fun segment to film.  My father passed
out li-see, lucky money red envelops, to pass out to the children and
young single adults.  We actually had four generations
represented.  My grand mother, my parents, my friends, and my
friend Don and his two young children who are actually half-Chinese and
half-Caucasian.  It was a perfect example of what Gung Haggis Fat
Choy is about… blending Scottish-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian
cultures and bloodlines.  In fact, all my maternal cousins have
married Caucasian partners, and our family dinners feature little Hapa
children running around laughing and playing together.

were filmed outside in October at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen
Chinese Classical Garden.  This was the first music video ever
filmed in the gardens, which were designed by my architect cousin Joe
Wai.  This was exciting to watch being filmed because bagpiper Tim
Fanning (aka Constable Tim Fanning of the Vancouver Police Department)
and Chinese flautist Jin Min-Pang were added to Paperboys lineup. 
This segment is an instrumental but filled with lots of great
energy.  The premise is imagining what would happen if a Chinese
flautist accidently meets a Scottish bagpiper in a Chinese Classical
Garden where a Celtic-Canadian band is playing… just the normal
Canadian thing in intercultural Vancouver… happens all the time…

is lead by Qiu Xia He and her husband Andre Thibault, who lovingly
refers to her as “the boss.”  They are joined in this segment by
Willy on vocals, Zhimin Yu on Roan, and a Chinese vocalist.  The
segment was filmed on Vancouver Chinatown’s Keefer St.  It was a
chilly November evening when we filmed at night.  One store stayed
open late so we could film using its contents and site as the props and
the set.  The segment also features archival footage of
1950’s/1960’s Vancouver Chinatown with all its neon lights as
b-roll.  It’s a great segment sung in both Mandarin Chinese and

JOE MCDONALD has been the “Official Gung Haggis Fat Choy” bagpiper
since 2001, when the dinner only served 100 people.  For 2002, he
joined me on an invterview on national CBC Radio with host Bill
Richardson.  It was only natural to bring him into the CBC
television performance special.  Joe performs with his band “Brave
Waves” supplemented by singer Sharon Hung,
performing an uptempo
version of Auld Lang Syne.  Sharon is great singing… everybody
asks “Who is the Chinese girl singing?” Joe has become a good musical
friend since 2001, as has Sharon.  Both of them have performed at
many Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners since our first meeting.  Sharon
also performed with me for First Night Vancouver on Dec 31, 2004.

is the Greek-Canadian who sings in Mandarin.  He is a big hit in
Shanghai, and Chinese women literally “scream” a la Elvis at this mild
mannered statistician from Ottawa.  George was a volunteer
translator for the Chinese Olympic team in Athens 2004. In 2005 CTV
made a television documentary about him titled “Chairman George.” In the CBC tv special, Chinese fan dancers from the Vancouver Academy of Dance
in a spectacular sequence which features the dancers and their fans,
while a male voice sings in Mandarin Chinese.  The fans slowly
reveal the mysterious face of the singing White man.

Links for the featured performers are:

  • PAPERBOYS – Contemporary Celtic-Canadian sounds
  • SILK ROAD MUSIC – World Music fusion, led by Qiu Xia He and Andre Thibault
  • GEORGE SAPOUNIDIS – Mandarin singing Greek-Canadian
  • BRAVE WAVES: Joe McDonald & Sunny Matharu – bagpipes + South Asian tabla drumming world music fusion

For more stories about the GUNG HAGGIS FAT CHOY television performance special click on: 

 CBC TV Special “Gung Haggis Fat Choy”

Happy Hogmanay – listening to BBC Radio Scotland Live!

Happy Hogmanay – listening to BBC Radio Scotland Live!

It's almost midnight in Scotland.

I am listening live to BBC Radio Scotland, as they count down the minutes.

minutes ago when I tuned in, they were playing Elvis Presley, followed
by Dolly Parton's “9 to 5″…. then there was Tom Jones…

Now they are going live to Edinburgh….

A pipe major plays the bagpipes.

There is a countdown…. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….

Then everybody sings a song – what is it??

It's not Auld Lang Syne!?!?!

It's some song about Happy New Year!

The hosts come back and ramble on like New Year's hosts do…

They pop a champagne cork.

Now I hear accordion music… sounds like a polka – no it's not.

It's some song about Caledonia…

I've never heard it before.

“Come in, come in…here's my hand…”

Oh – it's Andy Stewart… whoever he is…

Now they thank Radio Scotland listeners from around the world.

here's a song I recognize.  “I Would Walk 500 Miles” by the
Proclaimers.  This reminds me of the 2003 GHFC dinner when my
musician buddies Pat Coventon and pd wohl played their own version with
a “Eat Haggis” bridge, and words about Toddish McWong.

Happy New Year everybody!!!!

Toddish McWong on BBC Radio Scotland: Check it out on-line

Toddish McWong on BBC Radio Scotland –
Check it out on-line

“Toddish McWong” or in Canadian, Todd Wong, is featured on BBC Radio Scotland on the radio Scotland website. 

Just click on programs – go to “Scotland Licked” – then wait awhile
until you hear the voice of host Maggie Shiels.  Listen to the
introductions where she talks about finding me in Canada – then click
on the 15 minute fast forward button. I will be heard very very soon….

The interview explores the origins of my Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner event, and the haggis-Chinese fusion food that we have created for it.

The crew said that I definitely had
a “Canadian accent” – Funny because my girlfriend said that she loved
“Maggie's” liting “Scottish accent.”

St. Andrew's Day is in honour of the Patron Saint of Scotland – that's
the reason Maggie came looking for me – to find out what I had done
with “their haggis”.  Simply wrapped it in won ton wrappings and
added waterchestnuts, deep fried  and dipped in sweet and sour
sauce.  I also describe the haggis lettuce wrap.

Then Maggie asked what I had done to the Robbie Burns poem – “Address
to the Haggis”?  I told her that we “updated” it… and proceeded
to “rap” it.  I think for the January 22nd, I will have performer
Rick Scott sing along with me to “The Haggis wRap!”

Happy St. Andrew's Day (January 30th)

Does “haggis won ton” translate into french? The Source interview for Gung Haggis Fat Choy January 2005

Does “haggis wun-tun” translate into french?

Early in January 2005, I did an interview for The Source, a bilingual
newspaper in Vancouver.  Nigel Barbour met me at Library Square
and we chatted at Guttenberg's – one of my favorite coffee and tea
houses in the Library Square area.

Nigel was very intrigued by the concept of Chinese-Canadian and Scottish-Canadian cultures mixed together.

Very strange to read out myself in french.  Mais bien encours, je
peux parler en francais plus mieux que je parle en chinois.  Je
suis nay a Vancouver.  Je suis  cinquieme-generation Canadien!

Here's the link to the interview.

“Gung Haggis Fat Choy” poem by Todd Wong

This is a poem I wrote last
year while we were doing development for the CBC tv special “Gung
Haggis Fat Choy.”  It wasn’t used in the special, but I have read
it at poetry readings, last year’s dinner, and I will read it today at
Simon Fraser University for the opening of the SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy
“Canadian Games.”


Gung Haggis Fat Choy


By Todd Wong


What is Gung Haggis Fat Choy?


It is the inter-section of Chinese and Scottish cultures.

In a new land,

In a new voice,

In a new vision.

It is Gung Hay Fat Choy;

the traditional Chinese New Year greeting meaning “Longevity and Fortune.”

It is Robbie Burns Day;

the celebration of the Scottish poet Robbie Burns, and all things Scottish…

including the national dish of haggis:

Oatmeal and sheep organs mixed together and cooked in the stomach of a sheep

Just like some perverse mix of multi-culturalism.





Gung Haggis Fat Choy!


The Chinese called this land Gum San (Gold Mountain)

And the Scots gave it the name of Nova Scotia

Westerners became Easterners

The Far East becomes the Far West


Gung Haggis Fat Choy!


It is the play on words.

It is the play on cultures

It is the play of time and place.

It is simply the play of Canadians…


Gung Haggis Fat Choy!


Something Old

Something New

Something Borrowed

Something B-r-e-w-e-d…


Gung Haggis Fat Choy!


It’s quirky

It’s surprising

It’s enlightening

And arising…

Gung Haggis Fat Choy!


Ó 2003 Todd Wong

The Origin of Toddish McWong & Gung Haggis Fat Choy

Who is Toddish McWong?  And how did you come up with Gung Haggis Fat Choy?

“Toddish McWong” was born on a snow covered day in the highlands
surrounding Vancouver, way back in 1993.  It was on Burnaby
Mountain, at Simon Fraser University that mild-mannered psychology
student and SFU tour guide, Todd Wong, was asked to help out with the SFU's annual Robbie Burns celebrations.  Wong first
declined but the tour guide leader later begged Wong to reconsider.
“You're my last hope,” she said.  Wong relented.

Wong was befuddled with the idea of a Chinese guy (him) wearing a
Scottish kilt and having to show his bare knees out in the snow. 
But with a background steeped in Asian Canadian history, community
service and multiculturalism, Wong quickly realized that he was having
an epiphanetic multicultural moment.  He, a 5th
generation Canadian was learning about Scottish-Canadian culture
with its strange traditions of men wearing skirt-like attire, carrying
swords, playing funny sounding musical instruments and eating exotic

On top of that, the Chinese Lunar New Year fell on January 27th only
two days away from Robbie Burns Day, which is always January 25th in
celebration of the Scottish Bard's birthday.  “Gung Haggis Fat
Choy!” said Wong, “I can celebrate two cultures at the same
time.”  And thus was born the persona of Toddish McWong with his
growing appreciation of Scottish Canadian history and culture.

Flash forward to 1998, and Wong was putting together a Chinese New
Year Dinner party for about 12 friends.  Lo and Behold, the Lunar
New Year again fell two days away from January 25th, Robbie Burns
Day.  Dinner plans were quickly made to incorporate both Chinese
New Year and Robbie Burns Day traditions as Wong scurried off to the
Vancouver Public Library to research Robbie Burns Day and discover
Scottish songs for himself to play on his accordion.

A dinner of 16 in a friend's living room was the setting for the
first Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner hosted by Toddish McWong,
along with co-host Gloria Smyth.  Todd cooked and organized most
of the dishes.  Gloria hired the bagpiper.  They invited
their friends.  Fiona brought a haggis.  Margot toasted the
lads and lassies.  Others brought poems related to Scottish and
Chinese culture, or songs and food.  It was a smashing

The following year in 1999, Wong decided that for the dinner to be
recreated – he no longer wanted to cook 8 courses for 16 people. 
The dinner was moved to a small Chinese restaurant and turned into a
fundraiser for Wong's dragon boat team.  40 people
attended.  A raffle draw was created.  A bagpiper was
hired.  People read poems… Wong played his accordion and led
singalongs to Scottish songs… 

And each year, the dinner grew in size… practically doubling each
year from 40 to 60.  First it outgrew the New Grandview Szechwan
Restaurant at 100, then it outgrew the Spicy Court Restaurant at
200.  In 2003, the dinner found a home at the Flamingo Chinese
Restaurant on Fraser Street (named after Simon Fraser – the same chap
that the university was named after, and the same tartan that Wong
first wore as a kilt), and the dinner size reached 390 people.

In 2001, Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop became a beneficiary of
the dinner as Wong became an ACWW board member.  This also
recognized the contributions of ACWW president Jim Wong-Chu, who
had guided Wong in organizing the dinner event since 1999.  It is
Wong-Chu's poem “Recipe for Tea” that has become a Gung Haggis Fat Choy
classic read along with Robbie Burns' own Address to the

Each year the quality of the musical entertainment has improved and
expanded.  Highland dancing was added in 2002.  Pat Coventon
led a small sized house band in 2003 with friend pd wohl on guitar,
vocalist Karen Larson on drums and another friend on violin.  Jazz
bassist Harry Aoki did duets with vocalist Margaret Gallagher. 
And 12 year old Alex Sachs played solo violin and then a band
accompanied duet with Toddish McWong on accordion himself. 

For 2004, the dinner grows every upward and onward. 
Actor/director Adrienne Wong will co-host with Toddish McWong. 
Joe McDonald returns with an expanded Brave Waves lineup featuring
Andrew Kim on sitar.  Qiu Xia He and Andre Thibault from Silk Road
Music will also perform.  Special guests soprano Heather Pawsey
performs on Sunday, and violinists Mark Ferris and Alex Sachs on
Saturday.  Award winning highland dancing teen-aged brothers
Vincent and Cameron Collins perform on both nights.

Also on Robbie Burns Eve, CBC television in BC, premiered a regional
television special titled “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.”  It featured
performances by:
The Paper Boys with chinese flautist Jing Min Pan set in the Dr. – Sun Yat Sen Chinese Classical Gardens,
Silk Road Music Ensemble in Vancouver's Chinatown,
George Sapounidis singing in Mandarin accompanied by the Vancouver Dance Academy
Joe McDonald's Brave Waves with LaLa on vocals
+ origins of Toddish McWong and Gung Haggis Fat Choy
+ mini features on Robbie Burns, Chinese New Year and haggis.

2004 closed when Toddish McWong
was invited to chat with Peter Mansbridge on CBC TV's The National,
when The National started its Road Stories in Vancouver.

In 2005, the dinner moved to
the largest Chinese Restaurant in North America – Floata – in
Vancouver's Chinatown.  CBC Radio's Shelagh Rogers host of “Sounds
Like Canada,” came to co-host an intimate dinner of 600 with Toddish
McWong and Tom Chin.  Haggis Lettuce Wrap made it's debut.

Mayor Larry Campbell attended dressed in kilt with Chinese
jacket.  The Scottish and Chinese Canadian MLA duo of Jenny Kwan
and Joy McPhail switched cheongsam and tartan.