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Ottawa’s Chinatown

The picture you see above was taken on a trip to Ottawa last year but in just a couple of sleeps, followed by a 3-hour flight south, I will be in the capital once again.

I am booked into Les Suites Hotel, which is by the Rideau Center and overlooks Dalhousie Street and By-ward Market, but I will be taking several trips out to Chinatown during my stay. I have a pretty big list of restaurants I want to hit and I am going to do my best to get as far through that list as possible… 

The arch you can see in the first picture was erected sometime in 2010. I’m not sure exactly when it was put up, but it wasn’t there when I visited in mid 2010 and was definitely there when I went in February 2011.

The Characters you see in the blue panel above are:



The characters in the first line can mean, respectively, ‘Enrich’, ‘Extremely’, ‘Magnificent’ but, in fact, the meanings are not significant… The Mandarin pronunciation of these characters is rendered in the Pinyin transliteration system as ‘wòtàihuá’ ( which sounds something like ‘Waw Tie Hwa’) and so you see, these characters just provide a phonetic representation of ‘Ottawa’ … more or less.

The second set of characters underneath is essentially the Chinese words for ‘Chinatown’, but that it is not strictly a direct translation. The name ‘China’ most commonly appears as 中國 or 中国 (zhōngguó), but there many other representations as well. The second character here,  , means person (rén), and when you combine that with , pronounced ‘tang’ , as in the ‘Tang’ dynasty, you get a common way of saying ‘China Person’ or ‘Chinese’.

The final character, , is pronounced ‘jiē’ and means ‘street’ so, all together, the three characters 唐人街 give you tángrén jiē. Thus, in Chinese, ‘Chinatown’ is actually ‘Chinese Street’ which, in the case of Ottawa, is a little more descriptively accurate.

You can see a PDF Map of Chinatown here:

Ottawa’s Chinatown is nowhere near being on the scale of those in San Francisco or Vancouver, nor even as large as the more modest equivalent in Montreal. Moreover, it could more accurately be called ‘Asian Town’ rather than ‘Chinatown’ as a good number of the business are Vietnamese (there are quite a few ‘Pho’ restaurants) or else Korean. Officially, Chinatown is said to run along Somerset Street West between Bay and Rochester, but the bulk of the business, stores and restaurants, etc., seem to be concentrated on the 700 and 800 block of Somerset. There are restaurants on the 600 and 900 block too, but I note that at least one on the 900 block, May’s Garden, is officially listed as being in ‘Little Italy’. I am not sure exactly how many restaurants there are in total – somewhere between one to two dozen, would be my guess – but that is still quite a lot to choose from.

In my upcoming trip, I will tryout a number of different restaurants here and also visit some of my favorite stores for Asian foodstuff. I will, of course, be sharing all this with you in upcoming posts over the following month.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I had a Taiwanese friend named Daisy, we loved her name and it suited her sunny disposition. We asked why she chose it, since it was not unusual to choose a name Americans could pronounce when she decided to stay after college. In her response, she complained bitterly that when she met her husband he brought her a bouquet of daisies for each date. So, she chose Daisy as a symbol of that early love. But, twenty years later, she said: “If my husband wasn’t so cheap I would now be Rose… When you described the characters on the sign, I was reminded of this and it made me smile. We have no ‘ChinaTown’ near where we live and it saddens me. I loved the shops and restaurants in the Boston and DC asian neighborhoods. We are lucky to have one very good take-out, they could be generic but chose to be good!

    November 4, 2012
  2. LOL … I had a room-mate from Hong Kong when I was in law school. He chose a ‘Canadian’ name: Gordon … problem was, *HE* couldn’t pronounce it. I can’t fathom why he chose it when it gave him such difficulty. We all renamed him ‘G’. At least he could say that 🙂

    November 4, 2012

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