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Chow Mein Sandwich

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daeira Jun 8, 2008 06:34 PM

Hello all,

Long time reader, first time poster. I'm wondering if any of you can help me to locate a chow mein sandwich in Toronto. They're quite popular in New England and I know that some Chinese Canadian restaurants in the early 40s and 50s also carried their own version of the chow mein sandwich (oftentimes called the chow mein burger). But I haven't seen one in Toronto ever.

Essentially the chow mein sandwich is white bread (or hamburger bun), topped with a chop suey mixture sprinkled with fried crispy chow mein noodles (the kind in the salad aisle), topped with thick gravy and then with another hamburger bun/white bread. I know, sounds yummy doesn't it? Based on the description alone, who wouldn't want to eat that? I know Nathan's in NY City does a version of it and as I said it's also available on the east coast in the USA. But I've yet to encounter it in Toronto. Pure curiosity is fueling my quest for this sandwich like entity, that and the fact that I'm doing doctoral work in Chinese food so I'm particularly interested in Canadian-Chinese/Chinese food in general.

Thanks in advance for any tips

daeira

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    embee RE: daeira Jun 8, 2008 06:45 PM

    While I have no idea whether you can get this thing, you might try Sea Hi on Bathurst, Peking Express on Parliament, or the chop suey truck that hangs out on St George (if it still does) at the U of T.

    This gunge was popular when I was a kid in Brooklyn. There was a fleet of trucks that sold it, though cups were more popular than sandwiches. I believe it had largely disappeared by the late sixties.

    1 Reply
    1. re: embee
      akyra RE: embee Jun 9, 2008 08:52 AM

      while at the Sea Hi .. grab a side of those bacon wrapped chicken stick thingies with the homemade plum sauce ... 12 years ago I had them and have been craving them ever since ...

    2. happycamper RE: daeira Jun 8, 2008 07:41 PM

      The lady at Yung sing pastry (Badlwin St) has put veggie chow mien with my Tofu Bun on request. It's really quite delicious. Ask for their fantastic satay hot sauce (let's keep that a secret shall we)
      I have never had chow mien bun in North America, but when I was in Amsterdam that was my cheap lunch fix on a daily basis. My favorite was chow mien in a bun with hot curry sauce. Just the thought of it makes my mouth water.

      1. s
        sbug206 RE: daeira Jun 8, 2008 09:11 PM

        Being a chinese canadian whose family ran a "chinese-canadian" restaurant I have never ever heard of such a thing. I can imagine it's some weird concoction made up to appease "close minded" american appetites. I very much doubt you'll find something like that up here where there's such a large asian population. It just wouldn't appeal to them. And because of said population, even the non-asians would be used to/open to the more "authentic" food.

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          shpeizmaven RE: daeira Jun 9, 2008 05:23 AM

          I've never seen this in the GTA. I doubt Sea Hi has it and the now three trucks that park on St George do not serve it either far as I know. The truck that used to service Harvard when I was a grad student was still serving them so the concept has not yet been abandoned in New England.

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            daeira RE: daeira Jun 9, 2008 05:37 AM

            It's been difficult to find in TO. I've scoured a few remaining split-menu Chinese Canadian restos and haven't had success.

            According to some of the people I've interviewed, the chow mein sandwich actually made an appearance just outside of Toronto, in some of the smaller town Chinese restaurants. I know now, with such a large Chinese population, it would be difficult to find some of the more "interesting" Chinese-Canadian foods that were popular decades ago. Somehow, I'm intrigued by this and just want to try it. I imagine it's a bit like the garbage plate, you either really like it or you're turned off by the entire idea

            embee & happycamper - honest opinions, how did it taste when you had it years ago?

            sbug206 - was your family's restaurant in Toronto?

            3 Replies
            1. re: daeira
              OnDaGo RE: daeira Jun 9, 2008 05:46 AM

              Go to the Peter street deli on Peter just south of Richmond at a non peak time say 3pm and ask the owner.. usually the guy behind the cash... I am sure that even if he has never heard of it he will make one for you.. It is a very typicle Chinese Canadian restaurant that serves burgers as well as chineese dishes.. love the food there but the inch of grease on the walls.

              1. re: daeira
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                embee RE: daeira Jun 9, 2008 06:58 AM

                We are talking about fifty years ago! I had no concept of "real" Chinese food at the time. Still, viewed in isolation, it was disgusting.

                Going from long ago memories, it was a cornstarch thickened (very thick) liquid, flavoured with salt and msg. It contained what I presume were canned bean sprouts and bamboo shoots, and some possibly fresh, but overcooked to stringy mush, celery.

                Most people doused it with "suey sauce". (The commercial for which went "La Choy makes Chinese food taste - American!" I can remember the jingle.)

                The crispy noodles came from either a can or a cellophane bag, and I recall them being very tasty. However, the overall concoction was really gross.

                They were mainly sold from trucks and, where I lived, you typically ate them from a cardboard cup. However, a sandwich on a burger bun was usually an option. It seemed like these trucks were everywhere for a few years, and then disappeared as abruptly as they had arrived.

                Most restaurant chop suey had additional stuff such as meats, mushrooms, peas, and even the extremely exotic canned baby corn. I don't recall seeing a chop suey sandwich at an actual restaurant. My elementary school served this for lunch a few times (with chicken), but the parents complained and it disappeared.

                I can't see any reason why one couldn't make a tasty version of this concoction. However, the stuff I remember definitely wasn't.

                1. re: daeira
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                  sbug206 RE: daeira Jun 9, 2008 12:13 PM

                  No, family is out west in BC. Looks like someone else did some post-graduate work already.

                  http://www.flavorandfortune.com/dataa...

                2. tbonetak RE: daeira Jun 9, 2008 07:50 AM

                  Funny, Japanese-Canadians, or at least the ones in my family and its circle of acquaintances, have been eating Chow Mein sandwiches since my father, who's now 70, was a kid. White bread as well, but the chow mein is different. The recipe I have calls it "Steveston Chow Mein" after the town in BC that was one of the first places the Japanese settled in Canada. Chicken, finely chopped onion and celery, fresh bean sprouts simmered with soy sauce and chicken broth, but then mixed with short, soft, flat brownish chow mein noodles instead of the crispy fried ones. It's what you do with all the leftover chow mein after New Year's Day. Delicious. Never heard of getting one in a restaurant, though.

                  Interestingly, in any convenience store in Japan you can probably by a yakisoba dog. Standard-issue round chinese egg noodles (like the ones you get in stir-fried noodles here) and pork (usually) stir-fried with a soy/worcestershire sauce, topped with silvers of pickled ginger, and served in a hot dog bun. Not nearly as good as a chow mein sandwich, imo, but still kind of tasty.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: tbonetak
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                    jeffs101 RE: tbonetak Jun 9, 2008 08:14 AM

                    This brings back a lot of childhood memories. Also being Japanese-Canadian, I too fondly remember eating these as a child. I also remember it being rather embarassing trying to explain what it was to my school mates! But they always begged to trade lunches whenever I had them!!

                    1. re: jeffs101
                      tbonetak RE: jeffs101 Jun 9, 2008 08:42 AM

                      Exactly! It was the ultimate sandwich to trade. What a fool I was, giving them away like that. Should've hung on to them.

                    2. re: tbonetak
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                      djchrono RE: tbonetak Jun 9, 2008 08:22 AM

                      Yakisoba pan is very tasty! I've never seen it in Canada, but it's easy enough to make yourself.

                      1. re: djchrono
                        skylineR33 RE: djchrono Jun 9, 2008 08:53 AM

                        I had yakisoba pan before at J-Town of Markham.

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                      daeira RE: daeira Jun 9, 2008 01:25 PM

                      What great memories of the chowmein sandwich (in cup form or sandwich form or Steveson Chow Mein form). While my research doesn't focus exclusively on the chow mein sandwich, it's just something I encountered in the process of my work. I heard about this sandwich that I had never ever heard about before and I grew up eating Chinese in Toronto. I still remember when I would go to Chinatown at Bay and Elizabeth and get bbq pork.

                      I'll try the Peter Street Deli and see if it can be requested.

                      Now the yakisoba dog sounds interesting too.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: daeira
                        happycamper RE: daeira Jun 9, 2008 04:10 PM

                        Oh Peters, yes great memories indeed.
                        (I swear by two combinations: H&S soup + Fries, Grilled cheese +Eggdrop soup)
                        The version I am used to is Mi Goren instant noodle panfried topped with curry and stuffed in a bun. It is really delicious: the perfect fix for a poor student.
                        I dont think the combinatino of noodle and bread is that odd. Aren't diners used to put fries in burgers?

                        1. re: happycamper
                          mrbozo RE: happycamper Jun 10, 2008 12:56 PM

                          "Aren't diners used to put fries in burgers?"

                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chip_butty

                      2. Chandavkl RE: daeira Jul 23, 2008 03:30 PM

                        Well as Chinese food migrated to North America, there have been a number of strictly regional varieties that have popped up. For example there is the St. Paul sandwich, unique to Chinese restaurants in St. Louis, deep fried cashew chicken found in and around Springfield, MO, and your chow mein sandwich primarily in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Less exotic might be honey chicken which is found all over the Miami, FL area. More widespread was a dish called yetcamein, sort of a noodle in watery gravy dish found throughout much of the Midwest US. In each case, finding the same dish in any other geographic area is pretty much impossible. Note also that Toronto is one of the leading centers for Chinese food in North America and as such, old time favorites are more likely to have been pushed aside. For example you can hardly find chop suey in Los Angeles any more, while you still can get it quite easily in Chicago.

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