The History of Chinese Restaurants
Due to the increasing number of Chinese immigrants coming to Toronto, Chinatown became a popular residential and commercial centre for many businesses including restaurants, laundries, and grocery stores. These businesses were easy to start up, only required a small monetary investment, and also allowed the Chinese to create jobs for themselves instead of having to go out and look for work.
Growth and Popularity
Since downtown Toronto was such a popular location, many restaurants were successful, which allowed people to get good quality food at a decent price. However, restaurants cost more to invest in than laundries but the profit was much greater which usually evened out costs. The Chinese also lived in the restaurants they worked in, which helped minimize their costs.
First Chinese Restaurants
In 1901, the first Chinese restaurant to open was Sing Tom’s restaurant; however it didn’t last very long and was replaced by Kong Yee Teas in 1902. Two other popular restaurants that were specially known for their Jewish and Chinese clientele were Hung Fah Low and Jung Wah.
Problems with the City
The more restaurants that opened, the more Canadians feared that by allowing white women to work for the Chinese they would ultimately sell them into slavery. In 1908 the Board of Police Commissioners began to refuse licenses to restaurants that employed white women. This sparked a lot of outrage from the Chinese however even though it was prohibited to employ white women in 1914 there were still as many as 126 white women employed in Chinese restaurants in Toronto.
Chinese Restaurants Today
Although the growth of Chinese restaurants was gradual and slow, today they are an integral part of Chinatown’s economy and culture. Many restaurants not only serve traditional Chinese food but some dishes have also been adapted to suit people’s tastes in the West. Dishes like chop suey and dim sum are still popular among many customers that visit restaurants.
Zuha Ziaee is a second year English at Ryerson University in Toronto. She has a passion for writing and research and was asked to focus on an aspect of Chinatown as part of her final research project for ENG390: Open Topics in Experiential Learning.
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