Hui’s Wontons proves to be a Chinese go-to
The variety of Chinese food experiences you can have in Edmonton—from regional variants to specific product offerings—is belied by the preponderance of extremely generic Chinese food restaurants tucked into virtually every nook and cranny of the city. I mean, how do you even begin to suss out which one is going to transcend rank mediocrity for your dining-out dollar?
One method I’ve resorted to is to check out the places that proclaim an in-house specialty in their name like the recently-visited Fuqing Lanzhou Noodle House, which makes its own noodles, or Hui’s Wontons, home of house-made northern Chinese dumplings called ‘jaozi.’ After weeks of being beckoned by their red-and-white signage as I puttered down 34 Avenue, I finally heeded the call and stopped in at Hui’s to see if it was worth making a fuss about—co-diner in tow, of course.
Hui’s bears a strong resemblance to a lot of Chinese restaurants of your acquaintance. Located in a grotty strip mall adjacent to what must certainly be one of the last adult video stores on the planet, Hui and co. have made the sage decision to obscure the less than breathtaking view from their windows with Chinese landscapes. The mustard and burgundy colour scheme is clean, though a touch drab, but the room is enlivened by colourful mirrored murals on the wall (koi pond) and ceiling (fabulous birds). A team of middle-aged men in white button-down shirts and dark slacks patrol the copious tables, offering friendly advice and encouragement regarding the menu. They make sure you’re okay with chopsticks and they reserve judgment on how you can’t keep your paper placemat from looking like a Jackson Pollock painting by the end of the meal (which begs the question, why do they give you such small bowls and plates at Chinese restaurants?).
As newbies, co-diner and I were directed toward the pan-fried jaozi with shrimp, scallop, and pork ($9 for six) to get acquainted with Hui’s specialty. I definitely wished we had ordered a larger quantity, because six of those blistered, browned pockets of chewy-crisp homemade dough filled with minced pork and seafood with chives and garlic and dunked in red rice vinegar were not enough. The waiter watched me slop the house chili oil all over my dumplings (and the table) and gave me a thumbs-up for my boldness.
One cannot live on dumplings alone, however, so we also ordered stir-fried Szechuan beef ($16) and gai lan with garlic ($17). Like the dumplings, the food came out fast, fresh and piping hot—and oh so shiny. Hui’s doesn’t use MSG and boasts of limiting the use of oil in cooking, but cornstarch is another matter—not that there’s anything wrong with that as cornstarch makes tasty sauces cling to food and acts as a meat tenderizer. The vast platter of stir-fried sliced beef bore the unmistakable orange tint of chili oil and was fortified with chunks of onion, green pepper, bamboo shoots, and baby corn. The beef was super-tender and was somehow still pink inside even though thinly sliced and the chilli-garlic-soy flavouring was assertive without bringing tears to the eyes.
I was a bit surprised the vegetable dish cost more than the meat dish, but it occurred to me they could charge a premium because most people can’t cook gai lan to save their lives. Again, the portion was massive and could not have looked more appetizing—emerald green stalks of leafy Chinese broccoli cooked to perfect tender-crispness, its flavour simply accentuated with loads of minced garlic.
When we were finally done eating, our server was right there to pack up our leftovers and return with the bill. He also brought us each a complimentary bowl of rice in hot sweetened milk. Though nothing fancy, it was a lovely conclusion to our feast and just the right amount. If I lived in the neighbourhood, Hui’s would doubtless become my Chinese food go-to. But whenever I get a wild jones for jaozi, at least now I know to whom I can turn.
3388 Parsons Rd.