Cooking Classes


Culinary Tour in Canada's Oldest Chinatown

The earliest immigrants from China started arriving in 1858 and by 1880 Victoria had the largest settlement in Canada. Gold is what brought them but as more and more arrived many established businesses to serve this thriving community.

If you are like me you have walked up and down the aisles of the grocery stores and baffled at the array of dried, canned and fresh foods many of which have no English labels. Enter Chef Heidi who has assisted hundreds of curious cooks over the past 10 years leading this tour. The groups are limited to six people which allows lots of opportunity for questions and personal assistance. Her knowledge of ingredients and even recommending certain brands is impressive. After all, we are often faced with too many choices.

A couple of words we learned as it relates to produce are 'moo' and 'sum'. Moo means baby, as in baby bok choy. Sum refers to a flowering vegetable such as Chinese broccoli.
If you like sticky rice as much as I do you have probably wondered "What is in that?" These sausages add amazing flavour. They must be steamed or boiled for about 15 minutes before using to soften them and render out fat. And you should see the bacon! I wish I had taken a picture. They use it as we would use lardons.
Many people are cautious of produce coming from China. The good news is that most of these are grown in California and make a short trip up the coast. Most items are labelled with country of origin.
Prices in Chinatown are much better than the chain grocery store. One reason is that they have a much smaller space. The aisles are narrow and crammed with product. The sidewalk is an extension of the store. There is no space wasted. Another reason for better prices is that they often purchase the 'ugly' vegetables. This is called #2 grade produce. This is a good thing for the planet. Regular grocery stores throw out a lot of produce because it doesn't conform to certain physical standards.
I had to make a pictorial note of these fermented black beans. I love homemade black bean sauce and this is the key ingredient.
Our tour wound up with tea tasting at Silk Road Tea Store. Honestly, there are too many choices again. I became enamoured with the lapsang souchong black tea. It is a pine smoked black tea that could have all sorts of applications in your kitchen. Thank heaven for the 20% discount. They also sell online which will make it all too easy for me to try a few more.


  1. Great photos! It looks very similar to the entrance of Montreal's Chinatown..
    We are lucky to have a new asian grocery store ap 30 mins away..huge..nice..beautiful fresh veggies.. lots of neat cooking apparatus..sprakling! Just went today..Chinatown is a bit of a trek for us..and parking:(

    1. Parking is always so crazy. Of course they are right downtown and with Christmas I had to pay $8.50 to park on a Sunday! Locals couldn't believe it but all the lots and streets were full. We have Phillippino grocers in Swift Current that actually carry a good selection of canned products and a few frozen.

  2. You've been doing some research which makes the Victoria Chinatown even more interesting. It really is an old area. I always think Chinatowns are so wonderful to explore as you see so many things which are unfamiliar and I would have no idea how to cook them.

    1. Today I went shopping and bought things I never thought I would ever buy - Chinese bacon and sausage, taro, fermented black beans - and I know what to do with them!


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