NAIT staff and students help organize a first-of-its-kind food festival in Edmonton's Chinatown
Edmonton’s first Chinatown Dining Week starts Saturday, Jan. 20, with culinary delights sure to tickle your taste buds – particularly if you haven’t spent much time in this part of the city.
“I’ve met a lot of people who were born and raised here who have never been to Chinatown,” says NAIT International Engagement Coordinator Freya Fu, one of the organizers of the dining week. “I’ve always carried my Chinese cultural pride with me, and I go to Chinatown a lot – to shop, to dine,” she says. “There’s a gem here.”
Fu was eager to help organize the event with Marketing student Bernadette Karabani, Continuing Education instructor Sunny Bong, and local food blogger Sharon Yeo.
“We hope to bring more people into Chinatown,” says Fu. “People should come and discover.”
Karabani did just that this summer. She was introduced to the allure of Chinatown after taking part in a walking tour through the neighbourhood.
“It was really cool,” she says. “I like exploring Edmonton but I’d never been to Chinatown.” She chose to get involved with the Chinatown Dining Week team, to get some marketing experience and sample Asian dishes along the way.
The group is looking forward to hearing what people think about their time in Chinatown. You can share your experience with #EatYEGChinatown on social media.
If you’re not already familiar with this unique part of Edmonton, here are 5 reasons why you should make a visit to Chinatown.
1. You’ll encounter food you’ve never had before
When you glance at the restaurant menus in Chinatown, you’ll probably see items you’ve never tried before. That’s what Karabani discovered when she chatted with the owner of Cui Hua Gui Lin Noodle House – fermented vegetables are a popular ingredient on the restaurant’s menu.
Karabani wasn’t immediately sold. “I was like, ‘I don’t know about this,’” Karabani says. But she was pleasantly surprised after sampling a dish. “It’s really good. A person who walks in for the first time might be less inclined to try. But you shouldn’t hold back.”
2. There’s a lot to take in
There is no shortage of options in Edmonton’s Chinatown. In fact, it’s the largest in North America, in terms of geographic area. That’s because it’s technically two parts: Chinatown North and Chinatown South.
“When people go to Chinatown, they typically go to Chinatown North, where the businesses are concentrated,” says Fu. That includes most of the restaurants.
“Chinatown South is east of Canada Place, [around] 102 and 102A Ave. [That’s] where the associations, clubs and community-based organizations are located.”
3. The food is affordable
Edmonton Chinatown Dining Week features 5 restaurants with $15 fixed menus for a 2-course meal, which is a great deal for lunch or dinner. But you’ll find dishes with awesome prices year-round.
And if you need to pick up some groceries after your meal, Karabani suggests you stay in the neighbourhood. She recently started shopping in Chinatown. The prices have made her a regular customer.
4. It’s culturally diverse
There’s a misconception about the cultures represented in Chinatown, Fu says. The businesses and restaurants reflect several Asian cultures, not just Chinese.
“There are so many different people here,” she says. “There are diverse interests.”
While Chinatown is large, it’s walkability means you can almost experience a different culture with each step. From table tennis and calligraphy classes at the Multicultural Centre to festivals organized by the Chinese Benevolent Association, there’s a lot to explore.
5. It’s a great place to take photos
“There’s a really cool, old school feeling in Chinatown that’s perfect for Instagram photos,” Karabani says. Many of the buildings, like the historic Hull Block, have exposed brick. You’re sure to also stumble across murals that bring pops of colour to the area as well.
If you’re in Chinatown for dinner, Karabani recommends walking it off by taking a stroll through the neighbourhood. She likes snapping photos in Chinatown after dark.
“There are a lot of stores that have vintage lighting. You can take a perfect picture.”