The Untold Story of One of History’s Worst Chinese Food Commercials

If one expression sums up a tasty meal at a chinese restaurant, it is the Mandarin phrase ‘ hao chi. ’ In Chinese, the character hao ( 好 ) means good and chi ( 吃 ) means to eat, therefore at its most basic, hao qi expresses gratification with one ’ mho food. The same characters ( albeit with a unlike timbre ) can besides describe a person who enjoys consume, possibly a bit besides much, and if always there is an appropriate time to do so, it ’ sulfur undoubtedly at a buffet. The Great Buffet of China in Saskatoon, the largest city in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada, took this idiom to affection when it produced a true advertise gem back in 1996. It is besides a 30-second masterclass in how not to say, “ belly laugh, what delectable food. ”

The television, which has more than 13,000 views on YouTube, begins with an older gentleman defining ‘ How Chee, ’ as it ’ s written on the screen. We then see a trio of white folks take a snapshot at the give voice, with one guy using a peculiarly crude dialect in the march. many Saskatonians ( Saskatooners ? Saskatoonites ? ) who were approximately in the ’ 90s are companion with the commercial, and some have taken to the gossip sections of Reddit and YouTube to reminisce on the decades-old cartridge holder. “ I constantly remember means back then thinking it was super racist for that white dandy to say ‘ how chee ’ with a taiwanese accent… and now it still seems super racist, ” reads a Reddit position by Stoon5555. Another now-deleted account chimed in, “ I haven ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate seen that in decades, but when I pressed play, I knew all the negotiation. sol cringey but a local classic for certain. ” Below are a few others, but a post horse under the name Starlite_Decay takes the coat. The Great Buffet of China Reddit Reddit meanwhile, on YouTube, user Brande X quipped, “ apparently they have good Qi in the atmosphere there, ” noting the likeness between the butcher pronunciation of qi and the traditional chinese medicine concept of ‘ Qi. ’ When I began investigating the report — and atrocious chinese pronunciation — behind the Great Buffet of China commercial included above, I assumed it was a one-off ad from a bygone era. It turns out there is actually a second ad up on YouTube. It shows a family doing thai qi in a local park, and it ’ s just equally memorable as the original .

The Best Buffet West of Winnipeg

I first heard about this hidden gastronomic gem in the ‘ Paris of the Prairies ’ a few years ago while in the city of Guangzhou, after the ad made the rounds on chinese sociable media ( a gif of the commercial placid occasionally pops up in WeChat groups in China ). I ’ ve been tidal bore to visit ever since, although I equitable couldn ’ triiodothyronine justify flying from China to Canada to eat at a chinese buffet. now I ’ m back on Canada ’ s West Coast, and the two-hour flight from Vancouver to Saskatoon seems reasonable adequate for a effective meal and a weekend venture .Great Buffet of China A view of the South Saskatchewan River A view of the South Saskatchewan River While not precisely a major tourist finish, Saskatoon does have a few claims to fame : It holds the Guinness World Record for the world ’ south largest snowball crusade, which took place in 2016 with an impressive 7,681 participants, and is home to what might be the lone drive-thru pierogi restaurant in the country ( approximately 13.4 % of the province is ethnically ukrainian ). There are 100,000 lakes in the province, and no fewer than three world-record fish have been caught in its waters. Plus, it is the national and global capital of mustard production ( suck on that, Nepal ). It is besides the hometown of NHL legend Gordie Howe, former canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, and billionaire Jim Pattison, the ninth-richest person in Canada. interestingly, one of Saskatoon ’ s four sister cities is Shijiazhuang, the capital of China ’ mho Hebei province. suit, because much like Saskatoon, you ’ ve probably never hear of it ( fellow Canadians notwithstanding ). It is fabulously flat, cheery, and coldness — with a record low temperature of -39.2 degrees Celsius last February .

Great Buffet of China

Wandering Saskatoon ’ s West End, we ’ rhenium struck by the fact that there are many asian restaurants here, often beckoning passerby with large, attention-getting signs. The Great Buffet of China international relations and security network ’ t even the lone asian buffet in the city. Best Asia Buffet on the east side besides boasts decades in business, and there ’ sulfur at least one other asian restaurant, Delight+ Chinese Cuisine, offering a lunch snack bar for part of the year. But none are equally iconic as the Great Buffet of China .

A Saskatoon Staple

The Great Buffet of China was opened by Susan and Andy Kwan back in 1995, replacing the match ’ randomness earlier restaurant, Kwan ’ s Kitchen, to accommodate greater need than the first venue could handle. The Kwan family hails from Kaiping, a southern chinese city in the Pearl River Delta, celebrated for its 1,800 watchtower-like structures called diaolou. ( Believe it or not, there ’ s a small, now-abandoned community in the city called Canada Village ). It was there that Andy learned most of his cook technique — skills that he brought to Canada when the couple moved here in the early ‘ 90s, by and by refined by working in local anesthetic chinese kitchens. bet on then, G-Boc, as the Great Buffet of China is locally known, was one of the few asian restaurants in town. “ It was constantly busy, ” says Justin Kwan, son of Susan and Andy, who now owns and manages the institution. “ Because we ’ ve been here for so long, people know the appoint, and we have a distribute of firm customers, so it has been good, ” he says. now in his 30s, Justin has been active agent in the restaurant since he was 13, doing everything from washing dishes to hosting to prep exploit. His mother, Susan, who used to handle the front-of-house operations, has since passed away, leaving her character to the kin successor. meanwhile, his founder, Andy, now 68, remains in the kitchen where he ’ mho been since the begin .Great Buffet of China A collection of awards and accolades proudly displayed on a wall in the Great Buffet of China A collection of awards and accolades proudly displayed on a wall in the Great Buffet of China With 26 years in business, the place has generated enough of ostentation. Among the restaurant ’ s accolades, it is an eight-time Consumer ’ mho Choice Award winner and earned the title of Saskatchewan ’ mho Best Buffet by Prairies North Magazine. The junior Kwan tells us some customers have been coming for decades — he knows a total of them by name. “ We have a batch of people that come here that say, ‘ hey, my grandparents used to come here all the time, and we ’ re still coming, ’ ” he says. One guy even came in and showed off a G-Boc tattoo he did after losing a stake .

Great Buffet of China

While not as culturally divers as Canada ’ s big cities, Saskatoon ’ mho 1996 census lists closely 3,000 taiwanese speakers, 2,645 of whom spoke the language natively — just over 1 % of the population. ( The census does not differentiate between dialects, thus ‘ taiwanese ’ encompasses everything from yue to Mandarin to Sichuanese. )

That may not be a huge number compared to Greater Vancouver or Greater Toronto, where a respective 13 % and 7 % of the population spoke Chinese as their mother tongue in the same year. however, the Statistics Canada datum does indicate that Saskatoon is far less ethnically homogeneous than outsiders might believe. For their part, the Kwans talk Mandarin, Cantonese, and the local anesthetic Kaiping speech of Taishanese ( besides romanized as Toisanese in Cantonese ), in addition to English, and Justin acknowledges that his parents were about surely mindful of the linguistic fumble in their restaurant ’ s ads. ​​ “ Why didn ’ t anyone tell them that they ’ re pronouncing it wrong ? I thought that, ” says Justin, who was only 5 years erstwhile back then. But ultimately, it didn ’ t truly matter. The commercials did wonders for occupation, and we ’ re hush laughing about them decades subsequently .

Business and Bigotry

few industries felt the hug of pandemic safety measures like restaurants. Being a taiwanese restaurant — and a buffet — surely didn ’ triiodothyronine serve. fortunately, the Great Buffet of China adapted, closing indoor din and ramping up takeout serve. “ We got on third-party apps, we started doing on-line orders — we never did on-line order before, ” says Justin. “ To have people serve, to have merely 50 % people in there, you ’ re pretty a lot good asking for us to lose money. ” Being in the like stead for thus long, they managed to keep overhead humble ( no rent payments ), but 2020 was inactive their most challenge class in business. But worse than the score to their bottom line was the upgrade in racism and bigotry, something as sharply visible to Asians in Saskatoon as it was — and remains — throughout the world. “ I get people saying we support chinese propaganda, people messaging me ‘ go back to where you came from, ’ ” he says, along with a host of racial slur we ’ vitamin d rather not contribution. “ It ’ s decidedly picked up tenfold, I ’ d say, and not lone at the restaurant. I feel it … even though I was born and raised here and I went to school hera, tied walking around, I ’ ve gotten it, ” Justin says, adding, “ I ’ molarity barely deoxyadenosine monophosphate canadian as anyone else. ”

Lo Mein For Lunch, Dumplings for Dinner

Great Buffet of China My partner and I decide that to best experience the buffet, we ’ ll eat there for lunch and dinner, so we make our direction to West 22nd Street around 1 PM. once occupied by Chi Chi ’ s Mexican restaurant ( the phonetic similarity to how chee a coincidence, I presume ), it ’ s the lapp build up seen in the ad 25 years earlier. The tap facade has since disappeared, but the inflict neon signboard remains, blasting bright loss lightly toward the adjacent street. Inside is an attractive, roomy venue — distinctly upgraded from its early years — with a banquet area and adequate room to seat around 380 diners. Great Buffet of China The buffet is huge, with individual sections for Chinese, Western, and vegetarian dishes, vitamin a well as a salad legal profession and an array of desserts, fruits, and pastries. There ’ sulfur besides an ice cream machine and a grill open for dinner, where guests can choose from a selection of kernel to be cooked fresh by the chef. The Great Buffet of China We start our culinary galavant through the Great Buffet of China ’ sulfur offerings by sampling its China-inspired dishes : popcorn shrimp, house peculiarity shrimp, fry rice, lo mein, won ton soup, a assortment of kernel dishes, buns, dumplings, and some veggies ( to be healthy ). As you might expect from any buffet, some items are fantastic, while others are less stimulate. The Great Buffet of China The Great Buffet of China We peculiarly enjoy both varieties of prawn, ampere well as the pork barrel buttocks and coconut buns. Justin tells us the latter is often ordered for takeout by the twelve. They offer a modest excerpt of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages at excellent prices. A bottle of domestic beer, five ounces of wine, and select cocktails cost 4.50 CAD, while highballs go for 4.25 CAD. The days of 5.50 CAD lunch and 7.99 CAD dinner seen in the cringe-worthy ’ 90s ads are farseeing gone, but at 20 CAD, you can still get a good bang for your dollar if you show up fix to eat .University of Saskatchewan The University of Saskatchewan campus The University of Saskatchewan campus Before dinner, we take a brief walk around the beautiful and sprawling University of Saskatchewan campus. ( Fun fact : u of S buildings are connected by clandestine hallways, sol once inside, you never have to step into the cold. ) By the time we return, the Great Buffet of China feels like much-needed reprieve from Saskatchewan ’ mho grim winter cinch — the atmosphere made courteous by restaurant staff, who, on both visits, are systematically kind and heedful. Great Buffet of China With dinner comes the summation of sushi — a half-dozen-or-so rolls to choose from. We load up on those and sample the western dishes, excessively : fry chicken, ridicule beef, mashed potatoes, boom, salmon, corn, green beans, and a personal darling, pineapple ham. We besides try the newly grill runt and beef ( you can choose from three sauces ). Dessert Great Buffet of China Another two or three rounds, and we move to dessert : It ’ s a truly impressive and diverse spread, and everything tastes great. We are crazy about the berry decay, and in the emotional state of journalistic severity, hark back for a final bowl of ice cream with heaps of the deep-red bake goods dumped on clear .

For Me, Hao Chi!

To say this was an enjoyable day of eating would be an understatement. Of course, we were not only satisfy with two solid meals but besides for having boldly dined where virtually every Saskatonian and about no one else has dined before. It turns out Saskatoon is a adorable city — they don ’ metric ton call Saskatchewan the Land of Living Skies for nothing. Maybe it ’ s not high gear on your bucket list, but it is absolutely worth a visit, not least for its dining options. Justin is mindful of both the strengths and challenges of the syndicate business. After decades in operation, fair about any outfit in the service industry is going to have its golden years and hard times ; its plowshare of folks who both admire and admonish. Heck, he sometimes has misgivings about the name of the restaurant and the negative stereotypes it may conjure. He ’ south taking it all in footstep, though, and constantly working to improve things where he can. “ Overall, I ’ m placid glad we ’ ve been hera indeed long … We ’ ve provided a support for our kin, and it ’ s been great, ” he says.

“ It ’ s been a wild ride for certain. ” In the process of researching this story, I learned that unique Asian buffet advertisements are their own genre of commercial. In fact, the Great Buffet of China looks tame compared to some of the completely unhinged advertisements I found online. Hungry for more? Be our guest . And if you thought Saskatoon had only one Asian restaurant with an outlandish commercial, well, Ming’s Kitchen has something to say about that. Cover photograph designed by Sabina Islas. other images via Jesse Pottinger



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