A Deep Dive into Calgary’s Asian Food Offering for Every Occasion
Story by Carmen Cheng
Photos by Carmen Cheng and Dong Kim unless otherwise credited
What is “Asian food,” exactly? With more than 40 countries in Asia and a wide range of service from late-night takeout to fine dining banquets, calling a dish “Asian food” is sort of like calling a hummingbird an Earthling – while technically accurate, you’re missing a whole world of nuance and meaning. This broad category has been gaining popularity in Calgary for years with longstanding favourites and exciting newcomers expanding the offering all the time. We invite you on this curated tour of some of the city’s best Asian eats for any occasion, including few recommendations to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Indulging in Date Night or Friend’s Night
Duncan Ly is a highly decorated chef, well known for his bold flavours and modernized Asian dishes. The menu at Foreign Concept is rooted in Vietnamese and Korean ingredients which Ly brings to life through techniques from his French culinary training. The chic dining room, fragrant dishes, and approachable service set the stage for an enjoyable evening. www.foreignconcept.ca
In this stylish space, diners can take pleasure in the thoughtful service and food quality. The attentive service team at Sukiyaki House is always ready to recommend a new sake or fish feature. The vast menu comprises an extensive sushi list, a multitude of Japanese dishes and, as the name suggests, sukiyaki and shabu-shabu hot pots too. With advance notice, guests can indulge in a beautiful omakase experience, a tasting dinner that allows Chef Koji Kobayashi to take the reigns.
When it comes to Japanese fine dining, Sukiyaki House on occasion hosts special kaiseki dinners which chef Kobayashi is trained in. Kaiseki is a meticulously prepared multi-course meal incorporating ritualized techniques and beautiful plating to honour the seasonality of ingredients. www.sukiyakihouse.com
Sharing a Family Meal
Many Calgarians have their favourite spots for pho, Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Vietnamese cuisine is also known for fresh flavours and family style sharing dishes. The menu items at Song Huong highlights this well. In addition to noodle soups, their signature items include pork and shrimp tapioca dumplings, deep fried spring rolls wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves, and Bo Tai Chanh which is a dish of thinly sliced rare beef seasoned with lime, peanuts, and herbs. www.songhuongyyc.square.site
Golden Inn has been serving Calgarians for 43 years! Operated by the same family since 1977, this Chinatown staple is beloved for their spicy salt and pepper squid and lobster with crispy noodles in a creamy butter sauce. Golden Inn’s Raymond Lau says, “It’s traditional for Chinese to share dishes communally. Sharing is caring. Family-style sharing encourages you to communicate and bond. It’s also wonderful being able to eat and try everything.”
Families dining at Golden Inn around Chinese New Year may notice red lanterns, kumquat trees, and even a traditional lion dance performance to bring luck and prosperity for the year of the ox. www.goldeninn.ca
Celebrating a Special Occasion
Chinese Cultural Centre Cuisine
Chinese families often celebrate special occasions such as weddings or milestone birthdays by bringing their friends and loved ones together to share a decadent meal. Chinese banquets often encompass eight or 10 courses of family-style dishes. Families splurge on luxurious ingredients like scallops, abalone, and lobster to honour the occasion. Chinese Cultural Centre Cuisine is located on the lower floor of Chinatown’s iconic Cultural Centre and is a great spot to enjoy this splendid banquet-style meal. www.chineseculturalcentrecuisine.com
With the décor and charming space, Moti Mahal is often described as a “fine-dining” Establishment. But co-owner Jesse Mann says that description is misleading as their family-style menu is really approachable, “We are an Indian restaurant serving authentic Indian food accessible to everyone with a high level of service. The service standards at Moti Mahal is why they have remained an institution in the city for 29 years. Servers are happy to walk through the menu with guests. Try the papaya prawn curry or gobi alu matter, a dish made with cauliflower, potatoes and peas. www.motimahal.ca
A Quick and Satisfying Meal
Calgary Court serves casual and satisfying Hong Kong café cuisine. The quick-service menu is lengthy and consists of dishes that blend Chinese dishes with re-imagined Western-style diner dishes. It’s not out of the norm for diners to be enjoying fluffy scrambled egg sandwiches and silky Hainan chicken and rice in the same visit. The cheesy baked pork chop with rice in tomato sauce is a staple item here. During Chinese New Year, guests can also purchase New Year cakes and pastries which are customary gifts for friends. www.tasteofasiagroup.ca
In the cold weather, it’s hard to beat a piping hot bowl of soup. Hodu Namu focuses on just that – Korean homestyle soups served in stone bowls to keep the broth steaming hot with rice and small side dishes called banchan. Two soups to try – Gamjatang, a spicy pork and potato stew, and Galbitang, a brothy soup made from simmering aromatics and beef short ribs until they are tender. Pro-tip: broth type Korean soups are often served under seasoned with a side of salt to allow the diner to season to taste. www.hodunamukoreanrestaurant.godaddysites.com
A Fun Time with Friends
JINBAR is Chef Jinhee Lee’s newest venture in Bridgeland. Lee designed this concept to be an approachable space to catch up with friends over a drink and some ridiculously addictive food. Dishes like honey garlic butter fried chicken and spicy buldak (fire chicken) pizza will get your tastebuds in the mood for their beautifully crafted cocktails or a beer. www.jinbar.ca
Respect the Technique
Innovative and fun describe the concept that Chefs Kaede Hirooka and Jonathan Chung have developed. Past pop-up menus have included karaage style fried chicken, gyoza stuffed chicken wings, and brisket udon. Dishes are generally made with Japanese technique but incorporates twists born from the chefs’ background and training. Through pop-up dinners, private classes, and lunchtime bento boxes, Hirooka and Chung have found different ways to serve their ever-changing menus to Calgarians through their business Respect the Technique. www.respectthetechnique.com
Check out Respect the Technique’s Ramen Masterclass here: (coming soon)
Perfect for Takeout
Tropical Delight Noodle House
In 2014, owners of this popular Malaysian restaurant closed their dine-in business due to health reasons. A year later they reopened as a takeout business in their current location in Hidden Valley. Orders of laksa noodles, beef rendang, and wonton kolo mee are served up and packaged quickly, generally within 15 minutes of orders being called in.
Bun Bo Hue Deli
Located on International Avenue, this business is predominantly known for one item – bun bo hue, a central Vietnamese spicy beef and pork noodle soup scented with lemongrass. Customers bring their own pot which is filled with the soup and accompanied with bags of rice noodles, condiment, and herbs. You are charged for the volume of soup, $20 will generally get you enough soup to feed 4 people.