The Signature Dish Approach by Stephen Wong

Stephen Wong, Chair of the Judging Panel

Food Columnist & Cookbook Author, Food & Wine Consultant

Since the late 80’s I’ve contributed articles to various publications on Chinese and Asian foods. That includes a series of food pages in The Vancouver Sun on Asian ingredients and cooking; a weekly column in The Province on wine and food featuring many recipes that were inspired by Chinese and Asian cuisine; and current feature articles in The Georgia Straight about the changing local Chinese food scene and my picks of restaurants to go to, and more importantly, dishes to have when you get there.

As a restaurateur, I had worked in European-style
restaurants; where the influence of Chinese and Asian ingredients
always loomed large. Back then, when French restaurants were importing
frog legs and Dover sole from France, Chinese restaurants were already
going fresh and local – using live seafood like Dungeness crabs, spot
prawns, swimming scallops, geoducks, rock fishes and Ling cod etc. Two
decades later, some of these ingredients are now mainstays in the most
progressive restaurants in the Lower Mainland because Chinese
restaurants have laid the groundwork.

As the
earliest adopters of local ingredients, Chinese chefs in the Vancouver
area have a long history of creating signature dishes that have not
only inspired the current local cuisine movement but have gained a
loyal following among visitors from across the Pacific.

That’s why the key concept of the ‘Chinese
Restaurant Awards’ is a little different from other award programs in
that we will be awarding excellence by spotlighting “Signature Dishes”
rather than by the more conventional categories of region or cooking
style. In doing so, we are also paying tribute to the robust and
knowledgeable grapevine among local Chinese diners whose good taste
have helped sustain our region’s uniquely vibrant Chinese restaurant
When I spoke to our panel of esteemed judges about the “Signature Dish”
approach, they all agreed that this is an interesting and informative
way of representing what is the very best in the industry.  It is our
hope that the results of these Chinese Restaurant Awards will not only
reward the cream of the crop of Chinese restaurants for their
creativity and hard work, but that they will also serve as a
user-friendly guide to the public – locals and visitors alike – of the
very best in Chinese cuisine in this region for years to come.