Foo’s Ho Ho, formerly known simply as the Ho Ho Chop Suey, has been a Chinatown restaurant institution since the late 1940s. Joanne Lam Sam took ownership of the restaurant with her late husband, James Sam, in 1998.
The couple re-named the resturant Foo’s Ho Ho, which combines the names of both the original Ho Ho and Foo’s, one of the many Chinatown restaurants where James cooked.
James worked in Chinatown restaurant kitchens for almost 50 years. He passed away in 2009. At the encouragement of loyal customers and an affectionate community group called Friends of Foo’s Ho Ho, Joanne continues to operate the restaurant on her own, taking her husband’s place in the kitchen.
Joanne and James’ recipes have earned a reputation for serving some of the best, most authentic home-style Chinese food in the city.
“Chinatown’s existence is owed to this imposed isolation by a relatively racist society at that time. It was only until after the Second World War, 1947, that Chinatown and the people in Chinatown moved out and bought land and lived like ordinary people.
For the Chinese, food is very, very important: it’s purely a luxury that everybody can afford. And Chinatown was the only place they could socialize and have fun and enjoy themselves.
So almost every second or third business in Chinatown was either a café or a Chinese restaurant. That’s the milieu that I remember.”
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— Jim Wong-Chu, Chinatown historian
“This place was very important to my husband and me. My husband, he was a very good cook. He cooked in Chinatown for almost 50 years. He’s was a sous-cook at Marco Polo. And he owned Foo’s. He loved cooking.
That’s why he wanted to open this place. It’s the last one in Chinatown.
My husband, he used to do everything in the restaurant. He taught me how to cook, how to make a duck salad, sticky rice chicken, curry beef potatoes, egg foo young. I learned everything from him. That’s why I tried to keep it going now. Nobody makes this kind of food anymore.
I try to keep this place going. So many people, when they were young, they were eating the food. They’re the ones who come back. The food is like home, like their mom and dad cooked before.
Foo’s is very important for the community. We have a red neon sign in Chinatown. It is the last old-time Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. It’s full of lost memories for Chinese communities.
And it’s the place for all the important events—like moon-yet, a baby’s first-month birthday—and it’s a place for reunions, for lots of people to get together. People celebrate the relationship of friends at Foo’s. Somebody passes away, they get together in this place.”
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— Joanne Lam Sam, owner, Foo’s Ho Ho