For aficionados of Asian cuisine, Richmond, BC is a food lover’s paradise.
With over 200 restaurants on Alexandra Road alone, Canada’s multicultural city serves up a variety of flavors – Cantonese, Szechuan, Shanghainese, Northern Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Malaysian. While you could start and end your visit on “Food Street,” covering just three short city blocks, Richmond offers an abundance of eateries beyond the city’s Golden Village. So why not wander Richmond’s culinary backroads, watch master chefs in action, and expand your cultural horizons?
Here’s where to find a few of the region’s best discoveries off the beaten culinary path:
Parker Place, Empire Centre and Landsdowne are among Richmond’s twelve or so food courts offering plenty of places to get your Asian food fix. Whether you have a hankering for BBQ, clay pot rice or pork soup dumplings, stop here to check out local favorites. Stroll through the centers for an overview not only of the food scene, but also for a flavor of Asian decor, trendy fashions and popular art in the speciality stores on site
Our group’s weekend food fest began with lunch take-out from two food stalls at Parker Place Food Court, Lai Taste and Parker Place Meat & BBQ, for tastes of Vietnamese fish subs with a refreshing complement of cucumber and cilantro, succulent roasted bbq pork and duck, and soya chicken.
Tip: Arrive early at Parker Place Meat & BBQ. Expect waits of up to 30-minutes or longer at this popular takeout-only venue known for its scrumptious food and friendly service.
Cap off your lunch with the sweet taste of Chinese bubble waffles and dragon beard candy. Like a waffle in reverse, bubble waffles are a Chinese snack with batter inside that can be customized with matcha, Oreos or red bean paste.
What’s dragon beard candy? “Like a little cloud of sweetness,” the candy is spun sugar made originally with stuffed peanuts, similar to Turkish delight.
Still hungry? Head to award-winning James Snacks at Empire Centre Food Court to sample its signature dish, claypot rice, a one-pot dish of meats or chicken and vegetables. Try the Chinese preserved sausage (darker in color than the regular sausage) for a hint of sweetness.
Tip: Call 30 min. ahead to place your order to allow enough time for the the rice to form a crisp crust and the flavors of the ingredients absorbed into the rice.
At Lansdowne Food Court, be sure to try the juicy pork soup dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) at R & H Chinese Food.
On any given weekday, you might catch Wang Mei Ling preparing one of the 40-50 baskets she makes daily (80-90 baskets, 6 dumplings per basket, on weekends). She fills the wheat flour wrappers with minced pork and aspic, seasoned with salt and white pepper, sugar, rice wine soy and ginger. One of my favorite finds!
Richmond Public Market
How about some hand-pulled noodles for your Asian food fest?
At Xi’An Cuisine on the second floor of the Richmond Public Market, watch the chef as he demonstrates his noodle-stretching technique before you sample one of the many noodle dishes sold here. You can even pick up ingredients for a home-cooked Asian meal at the grocery store or food shops on the first floor if you want to try your own hand at noodle-stretching.
Hole in the Wall Locations
Small, unpretentious, with a focus on family-friendly food fare for the adventurous, these restaurants might otherwise go unnoticed in their tucked away locations were it not for their loyal followings.
Tip: At many hole in the wall restaurants, you can’t make reservations ahead of time. Expect up to 30-minute waits(at least) for seating depending on the time of day.
Here a few favorites from our weekend extravaganza:
Happy Date Restaurant and Bakery
Start your second day in Richmond with breakfast at this Hong Kong style restaurant with a bakery attached. Enjoy a Chinese donut (crispy on the outside, soft on the inside), dipped in soy milk.
Follow with a bowl of congee with preserved egg and shredded pork, and you’re all set for the day ahead.
Xin Shun Spicy Crab Hot Pot
Put on your plastic gloves and get your hands dirty when you dive into this dish of spicy stir-fried crab mixed with shrimp, vegetables and meats. What fun – and so delicious!
For a taste of traditional Hainanese Chicken, Prata Man is the place to go. Just head to the end of a small plaza on Garden City Way and have a seat at one of the dozen or so tables inside. Here the Hainanese chicken is served cold with green onion and ginger, complemented by chicken oil rice and a clear, hot broth.
Prata Man prides itself on having the highest quality of all three ingredients – the broth, chicken and chicken oil rice – to create the best possible traditional dish.
BBQ Meats at HK BBQ Master
Accessed through a parking lot located under a large supermarket, BBQ Meats at HK BBQ Master ranks high for its superb crackling roast pork, thanks to its use of pork belly.
Crackling is the crispy skin on cooked pork. Not a fan of crackling roast pork? No worries. The moist, flavorful BBQ duck and pork also drew high praise from our group of food explorers.
Order the choy sum (a Chinese leafy green like gai lan, but softer and sweeter) as a tasty side dish.
Travel is all about discovery, and Shibuyatei is a gem. Located next to a car wash, Chef Takeo Sato runs his one-man restaurant with passion. But don’t let the location fool you.
Shibuyatei is billed as one of the best places for authentic “larmen” outside Japan where Chef Takeo previously ran a ramen shop. His focus on flavorful ramen, minus MSG, is evident in every delectable bite.
For an intimate, upscale Japanese dining experience, book a reservation at the exclusive Sushi Hachi, open only for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays. The husband and wife team specialize in serving authentic traditional nigari and sashimi, simply presented.
If you’re not sure what to order, you can’t go wrong saying this magical phrase, “Omakase,” loosely translated as “Chef, I am in your hands.”
But wait – Let’s not forget dessert after all our Asian dining! How about a bite of this scrumptious bananas & chocolate honey toast tower from Aberdeen Centre’s Sugarholic Cafe, described as “European high tea meets Japanese sweets.”
At least you know what you’re getting here!
After a whirlwind weekend of sampling traditional Asian foods at fourteen favorite eateries in Richmond, BC, it’s time to head home, with visions of yummy Asian dining dancing in my head – and on my palate.
Thanks to Visit Richmond BC for showing me a few of the best hole in the wall restaurants the area has to offer!
What’s your favorite Asian dish, wanderboomers? Please share with us here.