Chop Suey on the Prairies

November 1, 2010 - August 31, 2012

Every town has one ...

There are more Chinese restaurants in North America than there are fast food outlets combined. They range in size and grandeur from upscale banquet halls serving over 500 people to family-run hole-in-the-wall cafés where the parents cook and serve while the children do homework or clean vegetables in the corner. Chinese restaurants have become so much a part of our landscape that it is hard to imagine a time when they were considered exotic.

All across the prairies, Chinese restaurants can be found in almost every town and hamlet. While the families that have run these restaurants may have changed over the years, the restaurants remain and have become indispensable centres of small town life.

Chop Suey on the Prairies will be on tour around Alberta from November 2010 to September 2012.

Tour Schedule

Donalda and District Museum November to December 2010
Mountain View Museum, Olds January to February 2011
Wetaskiwin Heritage Museum January to February 2011
Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre March to May 2011
Musée Morinville Museum March to May 2011
Camrose Railway Station Museum & Park June 2011
Lac Cardinal Pioneer Village Museum June 2011
Multicultural Heritage Centre, Stony Plain July to September 2011
Caroline Wheels of Time Museum July 2011
Trochu and District Museum August 2011
Fort Ostell Museum, Ponoka August to September 2011
Onoway Museum November to December 2011
Sundre and District Pioneer Museum November to December 2011
Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre Medicine Hat February to April 2012
Evansburg Tipple Park Museum March 2012
Nobleford Museum May 2012
Bentley Museum May to June 2012
Millet & District Museum, Archives and Visitor Centre June to August 2012

Ginger Beef is a Chinese-Alberta specialty.

Even though a number of restaurants claim to have invented ginger beef, it is generally agreed that it originated with chef George Wong at the Silver Inn Restaurant in Calgary in the mid-1970s. On the menu it was, and is still, called "deep fried shredded beef in chili sauce." But regular customers kept asking for the 'gingery beef dish' and so the name was shortened to 'ginger beef.'

The Silver Inn's ginger beef dish was soon adopted by other Calgary Chinese restaurants. Today, it can be found in almost every restaurant, food court and kiosk serving Chinese food in Alberta.

Let's see what we can learn by taking a closer look at...

The History of ginger beef.

The dish's inventor, George Wong, was a traditionally trained Chinese chef whose specialty was Northern Chinese food, sometimes referred to as Peking style. His career as a chef took him to London, England where he worked in relatives' take-out restaurants.

In 1974 Wong moved to Calgary and married Lily Cheung, one of two sisters who owned the Silver Inn. The sisters intended to open a Chinese restaurant serving authentic Northern Chinese food, but for the first year found themselves serving hamburgers and grilled cheese alongside their Chinese dishes. Calgarians were not yet ready for Chinese dishes that went beyond chop suey, fried rice or egg drop soup.

"Deep fried shredded beef in chili sauce" was one of the dishes that Wong introduced to his new customers. Inspired by an orange peel beef dish from Hunan province in China, he adjusted the seasonings to create a pub dish that had been popular when he worked in England. The dish was sticky and sweet, the way that most English people liked their Chinese sauces, and its spiciness went well with beer. To make his dish appeal to Calgarians, Wong battered and deep fried the beef. Even though he used very little ginger, Calgarians attributed the dish's slightly spicy taste to ginger and 'ginger beef' was created.

Thus, in reality, this Alberta Chinese specialty is a traditional dish of Northern China that has been influenced by English pub culture and tailored to Albertan tastes.


Click on a dish below for a recipe!

Alberta Ginger Beef

Beef with Ginger
and Spring Onion

Orange Peel Beef

content author: Director, Visitor Experience
last updated: June 4, 2013
technical contact: Web Coordinator

youtube facebook google twitter instagram tumblr pinterest

All form fields are required.

Include link to this webpage with message?

The personal information that you provide on this form is collected under the authority of section 33(c) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act and is protected by the privacy provisions of that Act. It will be used to communicate with you in response to your question or comment to the Royal Alberta Museum.