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The Restaurant:
Sweet Sauce, Quick Food, Lasting Memories


By the late 1940's Chinese populations through Canada were scattered across every province and territory, from the urban sprawl of Toronto and Vancouver, to the remote landscapes of St. John Newfoundland and Winnipeg. While the circumstances and conditions differed greatly for the Chinese living in these regions, they all however, had one thing in common, Chinese Canadian food; or rather, a great dislike of it.

With little funds and resources, many Chinese opened small business operations such as laundry mats, convenience stores and of course, restaurants. During this period, the word "authentic" could hardly be associated with the food commonly sold at Chinese restaurants. Indeed, new Chinese immigrants struggled to get accustomed to this new brand of Chinese cuisine, finding it overly greasy and too "hot" in relation to Chinese dietetics.

Stereotypical Chinese Canadian food boxes with fortune cookies.

Although heavily adapted and modified to suit western tastes, Chinese restaurateurs soon found that serving just this Chinese Canadian food was not going to be enough to pay the bills. Most white Canadians only ate Chinese food occasionally, it was widely viewed as being a cheap, quick and unhealthy meal; and in many regards, was quite the case.

As Fung Hi Eng, a former cook and owner of a Chinese restaurant in St.John's, Newfoundland tells us "...people usually only had fried rice and sweet and sour chicken balls...we didn't get enough money in the early days, so we ended up serving white foods, like hamburgers and French fries to attract more people."

Some say the predecessor of Chicken balls is the Cantonese dish "Sweet and Sour Pork", pictured above.

Despite being a staple Chinese Canadian dish, sweet and sour chicken balls could hardly be considered Chinese at all. While the origins of the chicken ball unsure, some say that it was an attempt to westernize a traditional dish, sweet and sour pork. Continue...

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The bane of many food enthusiasts, chicken balls and sweet and sour sauce are a staple of Chinese Canadian cuisine.

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