Chicago: Day 2 on the Chicago Riverwalk

OK, Vancouver.

It’s alright.

It’s OK.

You gotta let it go at some point and move on.

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Credit: The Province on May 28th, 2010

I know it’s hard being soundly thrashed by the same Chicago Blackhawks for the second time in as many years.

But who are you gonna support in the Stanley Cup finals? I tell you you should just throw all your support behind the Blackhawks. With 5 players on the team from BC and 20 Canadians in all, the Blackhawks is as much a home team as the Canucks is.

So with that, it is alright to click play on this soundtrack and actually enjoy the “music”:

LOL! I got to pacify the disappointed Canucks fans before I re-embark on writing about my Chicago city series.

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This was the second day in Chicago. I had not gotten online for more than 24 hours. It is because I did not want to pay the $17 (a day!) for the internet in the hotel room.

So, I woke up early and went to the corner cafe where I knew there is free wifi. Oh joy, it was great to be online again. I planned to spend a lot of time here. Well, I wanted to spend as much time until the battery on my notebook ran out. This notebook was at the last leg of its life and I am having keys coming off. The battery … well … it lasted only 45 minutes.

It wasn’t fun having to look at the battery indicator like every minute and have it turning more red by the minute and starting blinking at me. So, I just ordered a coffee for now and not want to waste time ordering breakfast and eating it.

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The Corner Bakery Cafe was where I had my breakfast. This is apparently a franchise but they are not anywhere near this side of the world. I like the setting.

The place was slow early in the morning and that gave me the peace to work. It soon filled up very fast shortly after.

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I can’t remember what it is that I ordered but I remember thinking this is one of the most delicious breakfast I had in a chain bakery. It actually felt healthy eating this. I just love the big slices of avacado and raw red onions.

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After the breakfast, I went back to the hotel room to leave the notebook. I don’t want to carry the notebook around, do you?

I took the “L” and headed a few blocks north. I wanted to start the day doing the Chicago Riverwalk.

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The Chicago Riverwalk is over a 1 km stretch along the south bank of the Chicago River. This is meant to be a “second shoreline” of Chicago where there are walkways which is lined with places for recreation and reflection, a place where office workers and families can relax, and a great place to get a bite to eat.

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It is really hard not to love the Chicago River.

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Yeah it is all concrete, nothing natural about it but still. I earlier did mention that the current flow of the river is reversed, remember that? It used to be a huge sewage dump flowing into the Michigan Lake but now … it flows from the lake inland.

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There are some memorials around the Chicago Riverwalk. This is the … Continue reading

Chinese Laundry Kids Stories at Foo’s Ho Ho in Vancouver’s Chinatown

Suanne and I had such a wonderful time last week that I decided to write about this blog post out of sequence.

LotusRapper alerted us to this event in Chinatown that truly intrigues me. As you know, I had been doing a lot of research on Chinese cuisines through the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine (8GTCC) project. While the 8GTCC project deals with the tradition Chinese cuisines, I was really convinced that outside of the traditional cuisine, there lies a a lot of branches of Chinese cuisines that needs to be legitimately called Chinese cuisines for what it is worth.

For instance, the Chinese cooking in Malaysia and Singapore presents dishes that you will never find in China (eg. bah kut teh, laksa) and yet it uses the same common cooking techniques. There is also a branch of Indian Chinese cuisine of which there are a few restaurants around Metro Vancouver.

And then there is the North American Chinese cuisine with its fortune cookies, General Tso chicken, chop suey, egg foo yong, ginger beef, just to name a few. I would assume that the Chinese in China would not recognize such foreign created cuisines as Chinese cuisine. But I think we should recognize them as distinct branches of Chinese cuisine which had adapted to the local environment over the generations.

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Foo’s Ho Ho is one restaurant that Suanne and I had always wanted to visit. It is always low on the priority list when there are so many great restaurants around the city. We only wanted to go to Foo’s Ho Ho not for its food but for the nostalgic, historical aspect. So when the event presents itself, we instantly called to sign up.

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It was a very educational night for me. I was surprised to find out that Foo’s Ho Ho is that big with two dining halls split over two floors.

The event was well attended too. There has to be at least 100 people who attended this event organized by the Friends of Foo’s Ho Ho. The Friends of Foo’s Ho Ho is a group of committed people who aims to support the iconic Foo’s Ho Ho restaurant when it fell on bad times after the passing away of the owner last year.

Last September, this restaurant was on the verge of closing down and people come together to form a Foo’s Ho Ho society to raise fund through such community dinners to help to revive it and make history comes alive.

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You may click on the image to get a larger, more readable version.

In those hey days, there were actually two separate competing restaurants on the same street. There was the Foo’s and the Ho Ho. Foo’s and Ho Ho had to merge to survive and so today we have Foo’s Ho Ho.

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Foo’s Ho Ho has seen better days. I was remarking to Suanne that we don’t see a lot of the platings of these design anymore. I am guessing it might not be easy to replace them once they break.

Foo’s Ho Ho started in 1955. In those days, it was the grandest of Chinese restaurant in Vancouver. This is where people would host wedding dinners. It is perhaps like the Kirin and Sun Sui Wah of today. So it holds a lot of nostalgic value to the “Lo Wah Kiu” … the old-school Overseas Chinese.

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Suanne and I felt out of place to tell the truth. A lot of people who attended this event is “Lo Wah Kiu”. We were seated next to some elderly ladies who so proudly professed that they are old-school. We had some nice chat but the event got started. We would have loved to hear the stories of their lives in Chinatown of their younger days.

Yeah, everyone seems to know each other except us. But despite that we enjoyed that night and soaked in the nostalgic stories narrated by various people throughout the program-filled night.

The Friends of Foo’s Ho Ho put up these community meals and events once a month. For the night, the theme was Chinese Laundry Kids with stories from real laundry kids growing up in North America. They managed to invite two authors of Chinese history books.

The event started off with an old video on Chinatown and the Chinese laundry business called the Eight Pound Livelihood (the 8lb refers to the weight of the irons used in those days).

The first speaker of the night was Elwin Xie who shared his experience growing up in the Union Laundry in Vancouver.

I hope I am not boring you but there are food further down this blog post.

There are two other speakers who graced the event. John Jung, Professor Emeritus, Psychology, UCLA, from Georgia wrote a book on Chinese Laundries and spoke of his experience growing up in a Chinese laundry and of his research on a follow-up book on Chinese groceries and Chinese restaurant.

There was also a book reading by Judy Fong Bates, a former teacher, who wrote her short stories series of books on the Chinese culture in North America. One of her books, the Midnight at the Dragon Cafe, was selected as the book to read in city of Oregon recently.

Are you still there? LOL! Food coming up next …

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This is an eight-course dinner for $30. The menu is based on what is called village style cooking. This is old school Americanized Chinese food which you don’t find a lot of anymore. Some of the dishes are reminiscent of what my mum used to cook at home when I was young.

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The first course is the Appetizer Platter which has Deep Fried Ribs, Chicken Wings and Squid. With all the talking, by the time the first course is served, we were really hungry. You know, I want to defend … Continue reading