Emerald Palace: 704 Sargent Ave 788-4573
Five Spice: 295 Nairn Ave 668-8887
Logan Corner: 247 Logan Ave 957-7288
Ming Court: 236 Edmonton St 949-1087
In the spirit of the Beijing Olympics, Ciao! editors set out on a mission to get reacquainted with Chinese food. Like all ethnic cuisines brought to North America, Chinese food has been adapted, twisted, and, at times, completely invented to suit our palates.
The history of the cuisine in Canada dates back to the late 1800s and the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. After it was complete, Chinese labourers resorted to cooking for wealthy Canadian households who found their exotic cuisine a novelty. A century later, ubiquitous Chinese restaurants are found in every small town across Western Canada.
The originality of Chinese dishes, as Canadians know, is shrouded in mystery, so Ciao! attempts to demystify the Chinese restaurant experience. The rules are simple: dine beyond comfort zone dishes like lemon chicken, breaded veal and chop suey. Our search is contained to four neighbourhood gems, all located in the city’s core.
The emblematic yellow, green and red sign of Emerald Palace beckons many Asian families, be it Chinese, Vietnamese or Filipino, living in the West End. A dish repeatedly ordered by Asian guests is a mountain of billiard ball-sized butter chicken. Pieces of meat are dredged in seasoned flour and deep-fried. The result is a glorious version of fried chicken, a popular street food in modern China (albeit American influenced). The salty coating cracks off with every bite, revealing steaming white meat that falls off the bone. Fried rice is a more traditional street food, and Emerald Palace’s deluxe version teems with bits of shrimp, pork, vegetables and egg. The dish has a lingering smokiness that is created when soy sauce is added to a hot wok. For a veggie accompaniment, gai lan is similar to Italian rapini. It arrives crisply steamed, offering a slightly pungent flavour to the feast.
Emerald Palace is open Mon, Wed & Thu 3 pm-9:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10 pm, Sun 11 am-8:30 pm.
Five Spice, on the fringe of Point Douglas, exceeds the usual decor standard, splashing the room with energizing red—a colour the Chinese believe brings good luck. Dishes ooze with saucy goodness, a trademark of Canadian‑Chinese food.
For starters, veggie mooshu is a must-try. In Northern China, where the climate is cool, wheat-based staples tend to replace rice, like the delicate flour pancakes used in mooshu. Coat the pancake with a thick layer of hoisin sauce, then add a haystack of stir-fried veggies. The fun is in the rolling then the biting, as each mouthful starts with a crunch, and ends with a flood of sauce.
Chinese noodles all have different names based on region of preparation, ingredients and size. Chow fun, with characteristic flat rice noodles, arrives hot off the wok, bathed in a rich black bean garlic sauce and laced with eggs and shredded green. An appealing smoky soy aftertaste gives the dish depth.
Five Spice is open Mon-Thu 11:30 am-9 pm; Fri 11:30 am-10 pm; Sat 4 pm-10 pm and Sun 4 pm-9 pm.
Logan Corner has a pedestrian-sounding name, but an impressively authentic menu of over 200 items. It is one of few Chinese restaurants to tout congee—rice cooked until it becomes glutinous soup. Commonly eaten for breakfast, congee is an eastern version porridge. The bowl arrives steaming, dotted with pieces of chicken and green onions. Congee’s charm is in its simplicity, a soul-filling comfort food that may have originated during famine. A shot of soy or hot sauce stimulates its flavour.
Seafood defines most Asian cuisine, so ardent foodies know Chinese often have expert preparations. Long-lee fish arrives pan-fried in a light tempura-like batter. The flaky white fish absorbs the sweet soy sauce bath, making the meat melt in your mouth. A shredded ginger and bamboo salad served atop adds a pleasing spicy-sweet aroma. Pan-fried shrimp also comes lightly battered, dusted with sea salt and red chile flakes. The crustacean is offered two ways: with shell (as Chinatown residents prefer) or without shell. Opt for the shell, as it’s where extra flavour is stored.
Logan Corner is open 11 am‑3 am daily.
The handsome dark wood interior of Ming Court sets the stage for elegant dishes prepared with a yin-yang flavouring philosophy.
Hot and sour soup is a signature Szechuan recipe, and its name derives from the main ingredients: white pepper that adds heat and Chinese black vinegar that gives an acidic tang. Ming Court’s version has a dynamic, viscous broth brimming with contrasting textures: silky tofu and egg drop mixed with crisp julienned vegetables and shrimp. Pork dumplings are excellent pairing with the soup. Pan-fried to create crispy edges, the chewy morsels are moist, almost squeaking in your mouth.
Tofu, or bean curd, is coagulated soy milk, and a key player in Asia’s dairy-shy diet. It has little flavour or aroma of its own, making it an ideal flavour‑soaking ingredient for a saucy dish. One of the tastiest preparations in the city, is Ming Court’s ginger hot tofu. Milky white cubes are deep-fried to golden, and served drowning in a sweet-as-honey glaze. Each bite releases the playful heat of ginger.
Ming Court is open for lunch Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2 pm; for dinner Sun-Thu 5 pm–9 pm, Fri & Sat 5 pm-10 pm.