Sweet thing happened recently when I was in Halifax. I had just given a Travel Writing Workshop at the Writer’s Fed and was pretty well wiped out. By the time I cleaned up and left it was around 5:30 p.m.
One thing that relaxes me is to spend time browsing through the magazines at Atlantic News on the corner of Morris and Queen Streets. Before I knew i, over an hour had passed, I had accumulated an armful of magazines, and I was hungry. But before finding a restaurant, I remembered that I wanted to get 20 small Chinese tea cups for a new Tai Chi class we were starting back home, which we would need for our tea breaks.
I inquired about Asian markets in the city and got directions. First two were closed. But the third one, Don 88 Asian Grocery Store on South Street was open. And, yes, although it was a bit of a challenge, I was able to round up 20 small cups.
In the process I struck up a conversation with a young man, Don Tian (son of the owners), who was manning the shop that night. I also could smell food that had recently been cooked, and commented on the aromatic smell.
Don told me that they cooked dumplings, fried rice and stir fry noodles “out back” for take-out.
Would he be able to cook some dumplings for me? “Sure,” he replied with a grin, heading towards a curtained off area.
Can I come with you and watch? “Sure.”
So the next thing I’m standing in a small storage space that doubles up for a kitchen while Don places about 20 dumplings in a large electric frying pan. As they sizzle away, he showed me the spices used in cooking which includes everything from ground cumin and garlic powder to Madras curry and gourmet powder. I had never heard the term “gourmet powder” before. Wanting to know more about what I thought was an exotic ingredient, I Googled it when I returned home. Turns out it’s MSG. Matters not.
In between trips back to the cooking area where Don flipped the dumplings over, we walked the isles of the store and he showed me different packages of noodles, including his favourites. I spied some udon noodles and picked up a few along with some sauces and ingredients I can’t get at home.
While chatting I learned that Don’s parents bought the store in 2003 and named it after him, Don 88. “Eight is a lucky number for us. The number four is bad luck.”
When the dumplings were ready, he brought them out and sprinkled them with a little Chingkiang Venigar and Soya Sauce. “Want some hot sauce?”
“Sure,” says I.
I bid farewell and headed to my car with the intention of taking the dumplings back to my daughter’s home where I was spending the night.
They disappeared down my gullet before I pulled out of the parking space.
PS: I returned home only to discover that the other instructor already had 20 Chinese tea cups. I, err, actually knew that, but had forgotten. Too bad Tai Chi doesn’t improve memory. On the other hand, had I remembered, I would not have had this delightful experience. But I do have an excess of Chinese tea cups so if anyone reading this wants a few, let me know.
What an interesting life you lead, Sandra. Too bad you are shy. LOL
Shy. Yes. That would be me Rose-Marie. Haha. Must say I do love working my way into people’s kitchens. I’ve never had anyone say no yet, from 5-star operations to mom and pop shops. Folks are really gracious when it comes to sharing what they do.
This makes me extremely hungry. I really ought to read food-related blogs after I’ve had breakfast, at least. What a delightful description! I must look for this place next time I’m in Halifax.
MSG sound MUCH nicer as gourmet powder.
I wonder if we asked in restaurants if they used gourmet powder or not if any would know what we are talking about? Anyway, hope you didn’t have to wait too long for your breakfast. re-reading this now is making me hungry all over again. haha
Sandra , you have such wonderful adventures ! Thanks for sharing !
I appreciate you popping into view and commenting Janice! Thanks.
Sandra I love this story of yours it makes me want to go to Halifax and seek out this store.
Lovely. Lovely piece.
It was the perfect way to wind down after the workshop Josie. Don was very gracious and helpful. Remember when I said in the workshop that I always worked my way into the kitchen at a restaurant? Applies ANYWHERE! haha.
Makes me hungry just reading this delightful piece. Isn’t it magical when we happen upon a great place and great people (and great food) by accident. Thanks, Sandra, for sharing this.
Yes Isobel, it’s such a treat to have all those things converge in one spot. Serendipity at its best. Thanks for weighing in!
You’re making me yearn for the big city, Sandra. Or maybe at least hungry enough to defrost some dumpling skins and whip up my own batch of pot stickers. All those years of stuffing my face with chopsticks has finally paid off for something other than an enlarged waistline. My wife dropped a rubber plug down our bathroom sink drain and it was just big enough to cause major clogging if it got down to the goose neck. I thought I was looking at having to dismantle some plumbing until it occurred to me that I just might be able to reach down with a pair of chopsticks and pull the plug out. It worked like a charm. I wonder if that’s how chopsticks were invented. Some Chinese plumber was clearing a blocked drain and some cook thought, “You know. I bet you could eat with those things too….”
LOVED your story about using chopsticks to solve plumbing problem. And who knows? You may have uncovered the origin of the chopsticks. haha. Heaven knows I’ve used them many times … to retrieve that “thing” that becomes detached from the spout of a vinegar or oil bottle, to retrieving Lego stuck in air vents. And yes, I bet you could whip up a batch of your own pot stickers in a nano second. Any recipes!
Sounds like a gastronomic adventure – except for the “gourmet powder.”
It was a lot of fun Martha. My tummy was happy too!