Exploring Chinatown

Calgary’s Chinatown, the fourth largest in Canada, is a great destination if you’re looking to go exploring with the kids. It’s lively on weekends, dense with colorful shops and vendors, and there are plenty of good things to eat!

Perhaps its best-known tenant is the Silver Dragon Restaurant (106, 3 Avenue SE), where they’ve been serving up over 200 authentic Cantonese and Szechuan dishes since 1966. It’s always busy, but it’s particularly bustling on weekends, full of people looking for some of the best dim sum in the city. Order from the menu or stop a dim sum trolley at your table when you spot something tasty - they offer dim sum brunch daily, so don’t wait for the weekend!

Around the corner, the tiny walk-in Thi-Thi Vietnamese Sub Shop (209, 1 Street SE) is conveniently located steps from the river pathway, so you can take your satay chicken or beef to eat alongside the Bow, outside at Eau Claire, or stroll over to Prince’s Island Park for an impromptu picnic.

Take a Vietnamese sub to go (it’s the only option anyways), wander west down 2nd Avenue to the Chinese Cultural Centre (197, 1 Street SW), go inside the cultural hub (it was revamped in 1992), and look up: the most ornate building in Chinatown is known for its Hall of Prayers of the Temple of Heaven; with traditional architecture and décor, it’s modeled after a temple of the same in Beijing. The intricate details and paintings include 561 dragons and 40 phoenixes (culturalcentre.ca).

The stores are perhaps the most fun to poke around. At Dragon City Mall (chinatowncalgary.com/dragoncitymall), there are three levels of shops full of music, clothes, toys, trinkets, and food to explore. You’re sure to find some inexpensive dishes and kitchenware, as well as a few new ingredients to take home and experiment with in your kitchen.

A lot of the ‘Chinese food’ available in Calgary was invented or altered by Chinese chefs to suit the palate of European settlers. Fortunately, Chinatown has tons of options for those looking for diverse, authentic flavors from the many regions of China.

Want to try some Hong Kong-style desserts and snacks? Don’t miss The Dessert House (111, 2 Avenue SE) for their wide variety of teas and sweet and savory dishes. The Great Taste Chinese Restaurant (123, 2 Avenue SE) is famous for their Northern-style dishes (including some extremely yummy soup dumplings!). The Golden Inn (107, 2 Avenue SE) doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it is widely considered to be one of the very best Cantonese restaurants in Calgary. Most Chinese restaurants serve large portions family-style, so it’s best to go with four or more people. Why not invite some friends along for dinner?

Chinatown is also full of great bubble tea options, but for those in the know, Try Again Beverages House (111, 3 Avenue SE) which has a huge selection of fresh fruit and unique flavor options. This small takeout-only storefront was one of the very first bubble tea shops in Calgary and is located underneath the HSBC, so it’s easy to miss from the street. (Try the red bean!)

Julie is a best-selling cookbook author, food writer, cooking instructor, and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio. For more information and to subscribe to Julie’s ‘Free Lunch,’ delicious deliveries right to your inbox, visit dinnerwithjulie.com

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