*sigh* Ginger beef… it is one of those quintessential Chinese Canadian dishes that I rail about as being an awful representation of Chinese food. In fact I generally describe it as a bastardized version of Chinese cuisine created to appease the Western palate and I feel the same way about chop suey, lemon/orange chicken and chicken balls etc. – all of those mall food court options just make me sad. But while I hate the idea of these types of foods, I understand their existence as something that Chinese restaurants created to keep their businesses going in the local communities – I just wish we could reach a stage where these types of dishes could go extinct. So why am I ranting about ginger beef? As you could probably tell, despite my lack of love of ginger beef, I went to the ginger beef throwdown at this season’s inaugural What The Truck event. The event was held at the Royal Alberta Museum and was to help promote the Chop Suey on the Prairies exhibit, which focuses on the history of Chinese restaurants in the prairies, hence ginger beef being the theme of the throwdown.
Anyways, after that looooong introduction, let’s move on to the stars of the show – the throwdown items. After a trek up a very steep hill (please see Teresa’s post for a view of said hill) to the museum, Teresa (aka @thankfulfoodie) and I ended up arriving about 10-15 minutes early, which was great because a line had already started. The lines were a bit different this year because instead of having lines at all the separate trucks, you went into a line to purchase tickets ($5/ticket) and then just handed the trucks those tickets. While this kept the lines at the trucks manageable, you did end up with a huge bottleneck up front if you arrived later in the evening. I thought this was a good idea especially in the space where the trucks were because they were all parked along a single sidewalk and there would have been mass confusion if each truck had long lines.
Teresa and I shared our items so we could have a taste of all the throwdown entries. First up we have the traditional ginger beef offering from The Lingnan. As I’ve indicated above – I am generally not a fan of the traditional ginger beef offering, but this version was not bad, I liked the spicy heat of The Lingnan’s version. Also they probably provided the most value for the $5 ticket price.
Next up was the offering from Bully Food Truck, which was the Ginger Beef Bacon BLT with house made tender ginger marinated beef bacon served on a fresh egg bun with lettuce, tomato, sesame mayo and pickled red cabbage. I really liked the inside of this sandwich and again, the portion was great for $5. The visual appeal of this sandwich was definitely the most colourful and I loved the red cabbage for all the colour it added. My only quibble with this one was the bun was a bit dry for me, but it was still very tasty.
Following that were the two options from Smokehouse BBQ – in addition to the throwdown item, we were also quite interested in trying the pig balls, so we just went for it and got both. The Smokehouse Ginger Beef – injected and slow smoked beef brisket thinly sliced, with wasabi cole slaw, ginger sauce and toasted sesame seeds – was incredibly tender and very good, I just wished there was a bit more of it.
The Pig Balls were delicious! These are basically stuffed arancini or risotto rice balls stuffed with pulled pork and caramelized onions, breaded and deep fried, finished with chipotle raspberry BBQ sauce. The pulled pork was an awesome little surprise inside and the risotto was nice. Again, I just wish there was a bit more of it. Overall, I felt the Smokehouse BBQ options were quite good but the value wasn’t quite there compared to some of the other trucks, especially with the pig balls, $5 for 2 seems quite expensive.
And finally, I saved the best for last – my favorite of all the throwdown items goes to The Act Food Truck for their ginger beef slider which was a homemade ginger-spiced beef patty with a daikon and carrot slaw and sesame soy mayo. I loved everything about this slider and I could taste a hint of ginger in the patty, while the slaw gave it this added crunch – I would totally order this again.
Unfortunately, The Act didn’t win but congratulations are in order to The Lingnan for winning the throwdown with their traditional ginger beef! Also congratulations to Sharon (@Sharonyeo) and Mack (@mastermaq) for running such a successful event (I am pretty sure this is one of the biggest “truck stop” events I’ve ever seen) – your hard work was definitely worth it and appreciated!
After noshing on all the delectable offerings, I popped into the Chop Suey on the Prairies exhibit and took a peek. I was really interested in the exhibit because when my family immigrated to Canada, one of the first things they did was open a Chinese restaurant in rural Alberta. I found the history of the exhibit quite interesting as it essentially reflected my own family’s history. While I like the number of videos and tablets in front of several displays with the stories of people who owned these restaurants etc.; I felt parts of the exhibit were a bit too text heavy, especially in the beginning when the discussing the immigration act, although I can’t think of anything that would make it more interactive (so maybe I shouldn’t complain?). I definitely enjoyed the sections where food was discussed and I was completely mesmerized by this video showing how bean sprouts grow – I watched that several times!
So What Would Argenplath Pay?
In total, our food tickets cost $25 so after splitting that with Teresa, it works out to $12.50 each for the two of us to share all five items. I was comfortably full afterwards and most of the items were a pretty good value, although as noted above, I just wanted a little bit more from Smokehouse BBQ. Our divide and conquer method of attacking What the Truck events seems to be paying off as we were quite efficient and managed to get our food in record time, although arriving a bit early was a great idea. I saw a lot of people drive into the event and heard that parking may have been an issue but as we walked in and took transit out, it didn’t really affect us at all. In fact, I think that biking, walking or taking public transit is a great way to get to most of the What the Truck events and definitely encourage more people to do so. I am planning to attend a bunch more What the Truck events in the future as I love the atmosphere of hanging out with people who love food and socializing with friends, so hopefully, if you’re in the Edmonton area, I’ll see you at the next event!
The Chop Suey on the Prairies exhibit was open to everyone that evening so I got to pop in to see it for free, but you can visit this exhibit and all the other museum offerings for $11. My personal favorite is the Wild Alberta exhibit and it has been there since I was a child but something about all the animals makes me feel like a kid again.