Western-style Chinese food can be made in the home kitchen and is a taste of Canadian history.

Western-style Chinese food can be made in the home kitchen and is a taste of Canadian history.

LITZENBERGER: Take-out you can make at home

  • Feb. 27, 2011 12:00 p.m.

BY Cathi Litzenberger

As I prepare this column, it’s freezing cold and snowing outside! Days like this roll me into the doldrums and I really don’t feel like doing anything except cocooning.  

Hopefully spring is on its way soon.  Until then, it’s the perfect time to try some international comfort foods and I’ve chosen Chinese recipes today. According to Wikipedia,  Cantonese immigrants, brought in to build the railway in the 1800s, invented  Chinese food as we know it today by taking traditional Chinese recipes, adding available ingredients and adapting them to Canadian tastes.  

The first Chinese “cafe” was established in Gastown (now Vancouver) prior to the building of the railway and with the encouragement of Scandinavian loggers and millworkers, also became the first Chinese smorgasborg in the country. Labouring for the railway spread Chinese immigrants across Canada and the majority of those who weren’t killed remained here to start a new life. Soon, small Chinese cafes sprung up in every small town and large city across the country, becoming the first to offer ethnic food in Canada. 

Today’s recipes include egg rolls, a lovely lemon chicken dish, a fried rice recipe, and a mixed chow mein. The majority of Chinese recipes can be prepped ahead of time but most need to be cooked just prior to eating.  Enjoy.

Egg Rolls (can be halved)

25 egg roll skins

Oil for deep frying


1 lb. large uncooked shrimp, shelled

8 oz. can water chestnuts

1-inch piece fresh gingerroot

1 lb. ground pork

8 green onions, chopped

1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced

1/2 Chinese cabbage, finely shredded

1/4 cup dry sherry

4 tsp. light soy sauce

1 tsp. sugar

4 tsp. vegetable oil

3 tbsp. corn starch

1/2 cup cold water

Devein and chop shrimp; chop water chestnuts, and grate gingerroot finely. Combine shrimp, water chestnuts, gingeroot, pork, onions, pepper, mushrooms, cabbage, sherry, sauce and sugar in bowl. 

Heat oil in pan, add pork mixture, cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Remove from pan and cool. Combine cornstarch and water in bowl. 

Spoon a tbsp. of filling evenly across one corner of each egg roll skin, fold in sides; roll up in an envelope shape, brushing edges with cornstarch mixture. Deep-fry egg rolls in batches in hot oil until golden and cooked through; drain on absorbent paper.

 Lemon Chicken

4 whole chicken breasts

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup water

4 egg yolks

Oil for deep-frying

6 green onions, chopped

Lemon Sauce:

2 chicken bouillon cubes

3 tbsp. honey

3 tbsp. dark brown sugar

1 tsp. grated gingerroot

1-3/4 cups water

3 tbsp. cornstarch

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Carefully remove skin from chicken. Using sharp knife, remove meat from breasts to make 8 fillets. Pound chicken lightly to flatten. 

Blend cornstarch and water in bowl, add lightly beaten egg yolks; mix to a smooth batter. Dip chicken into batter; drain away excess. Deep-fry chicken in batches in hot oil until light golden brown and cooked through. Drain on absorbent paper and keep warm. 

To make sauce: combine crumbled bouillon cubes, honey, sugar, gingerroot, water, cornstarch and juice in pan, stir over medium heat until sauce boils and thickens. Slice chicken fillets into 3 or 4 pieces, top with lemon sauce and green onions. Serves 4.

Loaded Chow Mein (chicken, pork, shrimp)

1/2 lb. egg noodles

Oil for deep frying

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 lb. large uncooked shrimp

1/4 cabbage, finely shredded

1/2 lb. lean pork, chopped

2 tsp. light soy sauce

2 tsp. sherry

1 tsp. cornstarch

1/3 cup vegetable oil, extra

1 tbsp. chopped fresh gingerroot

1 clove garlic, minced

2 medium onions

1 red bell pepper

2 stalks celery

8 green onions, chopped


1/2 cup water

4 tsp. light soy sauce

2 chicken bouillon cubes

2 tsp. cornstarch

4 tsp. dry sherry

Add noodles to a large pan of boiling water, boil, uncovered, until tender; drain. Rinse noodles under cold water; drain well. Spread noodles out on clean kitchen towel on wire rack. Stand at room temperature for 3 hours or until almost dry. Deep-fry noodles in batches in hot oil until golden; drain on paper towels. 

Make sauce: Combine water, soy sauce, bouillon, corn starch and sherry in a jug or bowl. Set aside. 

Chop chicken into cubes. Shell and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact. Shred cabbage. Combine chicken, pork, soy sauce, sherry and cornstarch in bowl; mix well. Cover, stand 1 hour. 

Heat extra oil in wok or skillet, add gingerroot and garlic; stir-fry until fragrant. Add chicken and pork mixture, stir-fry until meat is almost cooked. Add shrimp, stir-fry 3 minutes. Add vegetables and cook 2 minutes. Add sauce, stir until sauce boils and thickens. Serve mixture on noodles. 

NOTE: noodles can be cooked and not deep-fried if desired.

Pork Fried Rice

3/4 lb. long-grain rice

3 slices bacon, finely chopped

Vegetable oil

3 eggs, lightly beaten

3 tbsp. vegetable, extra

2 tsp. grated fresh gingerroot

3/4 lb cooked pork, thinly sliced or cubed

8 green onions, chopped

1 lb. cooked shrimp, deveined (optional)

1/2 cup fresh peas (optional)

2 tbsp. light soy sauce

Add rice gradually to large pan of boiling water; stir well. Boil, uncovered, about 12 minutes or until just tender; drain immediately in strainer, rinse well under cold running water; drain well. 

Spread rice evenly over 2 baking sheets and refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally. If serving the same day, spread on baking sheets, bake in 350 F oven about 20 minutes, stir every 5 minutes. 

Fry bacon in wok until crisp. Remove from wok. Heat a small amount of oil in wok, pour in enough beaten eggs to make a thin omelet; turn, cook other side. Remove from wok, repeat with remaining eggs. 

Roll up omelets, cut into thin strips. Heat extra oil in wok, add gingerroot, stir-fry until fragrant. Add rice, stir-fry 5 minutes. Add egg strips, bacon, onion, and shrimp and peas (if using) and stir-fry until heated through; stir in sauce.