Story by Adrian Brijbassi and Petti Fong
RICHMOND, BRITISH COLUMBIA — The Year of the Rooster is no different than any major celebration in other cultures. The occasion is marked with food — a lot of it and the best, most coveted of it. For Canadians, the destination for authentic Cantonese, Shanghainese, Szechuan and Hunanese cuisine is Richmond, the Vancouver suburb that the South China Morning Post calls “probably the first majority-Chinese city outside of Asia.”
As the Chinese New Year begins, many of Richmond’s restaurants are celebrating with feasts and serving decadent menu items. At Golden Paramount (8071 Park Road), the Hong Kong favourites showcased include Typhoon Shelter Crab, which originated in the Asian metropolis’s harbours protected from storms by causeways and breakwater rocks. The crab is stir-fried with scallions, chillies, garlic and bean sauce. At Golden Paramount, the crab is sourced in British Columbia and is served on a large platter for family-style sharing.
Eight-treasure duck is carved and served table-side by a waiter. The duck is deboned, seasoned with Asian flavours, and stuffed with dates, nuts, sticky rice and other ingredients. Stir-fried sea cucumber is plated with rice noodles. Crab and fish maw soup is presented in a large white pot for sharing. Lobster is fried with garlic and spices, creating a beautiful golden glaze. Abalone, scallops, and sweet-and-sour pork are other specialities that diners such as Chinese food expert Lee Man rave about.
“The food here is restrained. It’s simple but very well executed and all the ingredients are locally sourced,” he says. “Richmond diners know their food and a restaurant won’t survive for long if it isn’t exceptionally good.”
One restaurateur who has been among Richmond’s most successful is Tony He. His restaurants include Sea Harbour Seafood, Chef Tony’s and Fisherman’s Terrace in the Aberdeen Centre mall. Known for dim sum and high-end Cantonese dishes, He’s restaurants are often packed with diners looking for steamed buns filled with pork or chicken, dumplings loaded with prawns, and colourful, delicious egg tarts. At Fisherman’s Terrace ( 4151 Hazelbridge Way, third floor of the Aberdeen Centre), you will find all of those favourites as well as one of the most interesting desserts you will enjoy in Richmond. The restaurant’s sesame ball is filled with black sesame paste, which is surrounded by a bitter melon. A dough that is covered with sesame seeds keeps those ingredients tightly packed. Like so many of the dumpling dishes in Chinese cooking, opening the sesame ball is an experience in itself as it reveals the tasty cache held inside.
The variety of Chinese food in Richmond is unlimited. Visitors even have the chance to with monks at the Zen Kitchen, located at the International Buddhist Temple (9160 Steveston Highway), the largest such place of worship in Western Canada. The kitchen serves vegetarian meals daily and you can dine for $20, or for free if you participate in a group prayer and meditation service.
Along with Cantonese dim sum, Guangdong seafood and Peking duck, adventurous diners will want to indulge in Szechuan food, also known as Sichuan. The spices in Szechuan food are famed for producing a tongue-numbing sensation that begins as soon as it touches your lips. At Golden Szechuan (3631 No. 3 Road), the peppercorn that is the basis for most of their dishes is bright red and adds a vibrancy to dishes from potatoes to pork. Try the barramundi, or Asian sea bass. The fish is buried under so many Szechuan peppercorns that the fillet is almost hidden. But dig in for an unforgettable and explosive dish.
MORE ABOUT DINING IN RICHMOND
Tourism Richmond: Culinary travel is the biggest draw to the city. For diners looking to plan their visit, the Tourism Richmond website is a terrific resource.
Richmond Night Market Dates: From May 12 to October 9, 2017 (Fridays-Sundays only), the Richmond Night Market gives visitors an incredible taste of Chinese food and many of Richmond’s restaurants have stalls.
Location: The night market is located at 8351 River Road, Richmond, BC
Directions: Take the Canada Line light rail to the Bridgeport Station and walk one kilometre to the night market entrance. The fare on the Canada Line can vary but from downtown Vancouver you will likely pay about $2.75 for a one-way ride.
Cost: Admission to the night market is $3.25 (children under 10 years enter for free). Vendors charge $2 to $10 for most dishes. Carry cash as well as credit and debit cards as some vendors won’t accept anything but coins and bills.