Larry Wong's Dim Sum Stories


First aired on North by Northwest (27/01/12)

Dim Sum, the Chinese-style of cuisine featuring many delectable dishes of dumplings and bite-sized morsels, can be literally translated to mean "touch the heart."

It's clear that Larry Wong's memoir Dim Sum Stories: A Chinatown Childhood aims to have the same effect. It's an affectionate look back at growing up in Vancouver's Chinatown during the 1940s and '50s, and paints the portrait of a man very close to Wong's own heart: his father.

larry-dad-photo-175.jpg"I guess it's redemption on my part," he told CBC's North by Northwest recently. "I grew up with three siblings and they all left home by the time I was in my early teens so my father treated me as an only child. But because I was in my teens, we often had fights, arguments, differences, and I said things that I really now do regret quite a bit. I guess, being an adult, I sort of look back and it's like 'Oh God, I shouldn't have treated him like that. So in a sense it's sort of like redemption on my part."

His father, and his journey from a Chinese village to settling in Canada, is a major part of Dim Sum Stories. The senior Wong's story is much like those of other Chinese who immigrated to British Columbia during and following the gold rush. After setting up a shirt-tailoring store, he was able to save and borrow enough to bring his wife and children over.

As to be expected with a book titled Dim Sum Stories, food is a frequent topic of discussion, and some of Wong's most treasured moments with his father happened with chopsticks in hand.

"When he closed up shop, he would make supper and after supper he would leave me alone to go down to Hastings Street to help his friend George," Wong said. "If he felt lucky he would go into one of the gambling clubs on Pender Street, and if he happened to hit it rich, he would go to a Chinese restaurant, which in those days were open until two in the morning. It was called the New Chung King and he would order chow mein. He would take it home and because he wanted to celebrate his winnings he would wake me up. So I would eat the chow mein and he would tell me about how he won at the gambling table and how happy he was...and then he made me go to bed!"


Dim Sum Stories: A Chinatown Childhood

by Larry Wong

Dim Sum Stories: A Chinatown Childhood by Larry Wong, a local historian and past president of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society, is about his 1940s-1960s childhood in Vancouver's Chinatown. A close friend of Wayson Choy, author of The Jade Peony, Wong's personal short stories reveal a world filled with people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Find out more at the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia.