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Small towns, big flavours. Cantonese Chow Mein at the Parkview Restaurant, Thorhild, AB.

The Real Deal – As close to the traditional ‘Cantonese’ Chow Mein I’ve sampled outside a big city Chinese restaurant at the Parkview Restaurant, Thorhild, AB. Broccoli, cauliflower, mushroom, baby corn, shrimp, chicken and even char siu (Chinese BBQ pork)

Chinese restaurants in small towns are as ubiquitous across Canada as toques are in winter.

While it’s common knowledge that the spread of Chinese restaurants followed the construction of Canada’s national railway system in the 1880s, it was journalist Ann Hui’s book Chop Suey Nation (2019) that described the outward spread of these eateries from towns next to the railway to well beyond.

The challenge for me, having grown up in a Chinese-Canadian takeout restaurant, is to find those Chinese restaurants that cook in the ‘home’ style I grew up with, which is Cantonese style cuisine.

When I was growing up, my dad would regularly treat our business’s staff a meal at one of the long established restaurants in Chinatown. Our staff comprised of 2-3 cooks, a dishwasher (usually a female relative of one of the cooks dad had sponsored for immigration to Canada and had guaranteed a job to), and a do-everything-else handyman and delivery worker.

I loved these outings. It was one of the times I got to enjoy my number one comfort food, Cantonese style Chow Mein, traditionally a throw everything-in-but-the-kitchen sink noodle dish with vegetables, a mix of seafood (typically shrimp and squid), meat (BBQ pork, chicken and sometimes Chinese sausage or beef liver.) The main sauce for the dish uses Oyster Sauce, a Chinese cooking staple.

The tiny Parkview Restaurant in Thorhild, AB. serves up a superb, traditional style Cantonese Chow Mein that rivals that by any of the Chinese restaurants in large cities. Highly recommended.

Earlier this year, on a day trip out of Edmonton, Robyn led our posse of riders to his old stomping ground, Thorhild, and took us to the Parkview Restaurant, an eatery he was very familiar with.

With ‘Special’ Chow Mein (Cantonese) on the menu ($14), I had to order my benchmark, comfort food dish. First impressions were good; the plate of chow mein was huge, so large I ended up asking for a carton to take home the leftovers.

A ‘good’ Cantonese style Chow Mein is actually difficult to find. Even many of the big city Chinese restaurants have modified the menu, leaving out squid/baby octopus (not exactly a common ingredient in the prairies) and beef liver (an often disliked ingredient for Western palates.)

The Parkview Restaurant’s ‘Special’ Chow Mein had exactly the right flavour profile, with a sauce based on Oyster Sauce, chicken, shrimp, and (surprisingly) Char Siu (Chinese BBQ pork), and a nice mix of broccoli, cauliflower, baby corn, mushroom, all served on a generous bed of thin egg noodles (traditionally steamed, then boiled and grilled to add crispiness.)

I was mightily impressed with the dish. While most of my companions ordered one of the combination dinners, a menu staple of Chinese restaurants, they regretted their choice when the Chow Mein arrived.

All I can say is the Parkview Restaurant’s ‘Special’ Chow Mein is as close to the chow mein I love and grew up with in Calgary in the ’60s and ’70s, and it’s as good as I’ve sample anywhere. I will be back for more.

Parkview Restaurant (Chinese cuisine): 114-6th Ave, Thorhild, AB. T0A 3A0. Tel.: 780-398-3650. Highly recommended.

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