On October 2, the food writing class was greeted with towering pillars and Chinese lettering painted across an archway. We were fortunate enough to get a tour of Chinatown by Round Table Tours’ own Melissa Simard. After hearing a brief history of the Chinese in Montreal, and how Chinatown started up, we got to explore it.
The first building we entered was a very small tea shop; we barely all fit into it! After receiving some background information on the shop and the owner, we got to try what resembled a sort of hard berry. This was no berry, however, as one by one, everyone’s faces puckered up, the bitterness taking us all by surprise. The strange thing was that this ball of flavors went through stages of bitter, sour, and sweet – though I’m not so sure the sweet ending was worth going through the other stages.
We then moved onto another tea shop called My Cup of Tea. This shop was much more modern, and here we got to try some cups of tea. One of the teas was actually quite beautiful; you dropped a ball into a pot of water, and the ball slowly unwrapped into a decorative flower, providing both exquisite taste and aesthetic splendor. After sipping on the hot tea to our hearts’ content, we moved on.
Our next stop was a Chinese grocery store. The first thing that struck me about it was the music – playing for what seemed like an eternity was a very high pitched voice singing over a very happy beat. Greeted by vegetables that we had never set our eyes on before, we knew that this store would be an interesting experience. Walking through the store proved that point. We were walking among things such as various types of fish flavored snacks, fish-inspired drinks, and lots of fresh fish. The one thing that gave me comfort was the wall of ramen noodles. I knew I had to come back to try some new things.
After the grocery store, we walked to the far end of Chinatown to a place called Wings. Although its name might imply that it specializes in chicken wings, it is famous for its fortune cookies. Being used to prepackaged fortune cookies, nobody expected how delicious their freshly baked counterparts could be. It was like a whole other food entirely, and because of it I will never enjoy any sub-par fortune cookies again.
One of the last stops was a small shop right on the street, where we stopped to get some Dragon’s Beard. At the time, we did not know what this was, but we knew we were going to find out. We were presented with what looked like little balls of spider webs. Although it was safe to assume that they must be good, this would turn out to be a huge understatement. The treats tasted like a cross between a peanut butter cup and cotton candy. It had such a rich flavor, and was so unique –we discovered that it is a very secretive recipe that not many people know.
We ended our trip in a small bakery called Harmonie. Here we were able to pick from their selection of food, most of which were variations of bread. There was bread with meat and egg in it, bread with fruit flavors, dessert bread and pastries. It was quite sweet and delicious, and a must-have if visiting Chinatown in Montreal.
Overall, Chinatown in Montreal was an amazing experience, and I would recommend that everyone visit it at some point. It is a great way to meet friendly people, immerse yourself in a different kind of culture, and to try new foods that you wouldn’t ever even think of.