Greater Vancouver chinese food tour

Life has taken us to Vancouver many times, but we've never had a chance to explore Richmond's famous Chinese food scene. So we decided to use some of our vacation days for a trip to Vancouver for a short, but jam-packed, food tour.

We spent quite a bit of time researching online and landed on a list of over sixty (that's right - six zero!) Asian (primarily Chinese) restaurants that came highly recommended in the Greater Vancouver Area. From a city that boasts more than eight hundred (yup, that's eight with two zeros!) Chinese restaurants, that's a pretty comprehensive list. 

 

Tour Map:


We've compiled all sixty restaurants on Google Maps to help anyone in visiting plan their own foodie adventure:
Culinary Slut's Chinese Food Tour of Vancouver & Richmond

Accommodations:
We chose to stay at Hilton Vancouver Airport. It's perfectly located to allow access to many of the restaurants on our list on foot - which is our favourite way of exploring cities in any case. Its location also allowed for a long, leisurely walk to the Richmond Night Market. (see below) Conveniently, our room had a microwave and an empty mini-fridge so we could enjoy leftovers (especially dumplings for breakfast!); the hotel also has the benefit of being located close to beautiful Minoru Park.

Some Useful Tips:

Bring Cash! 
Many of the Chinese restaurants in Richmond are cash only (or allow only the use of a debit card).

3.7 - 3.9 Is A High Rating on Google Ratings
While in cities like New York or Toronto a user rating of 3.7 with over 100 votes might make us hesitate, that is not true of Vancouver and Richmond's food scene. The people casting the votes are pretty discerning. (maybe even a little bit harsh) Only on rare occasions did we find restaurants that managed to touch a 4-star rating.  In these circumstances a rating of 3.7 - 3.9 is solid and you can count on the food being delicious.

Many Places Close for Turnover in the Afternoon
You'll see a lot of restaurant closures from 3 - 5pm. Make sure to check the hours of an establishment before rushing out to satisfy that sudden dumpling craving. And you will have sudden dumpling cravings. That's a thing.

The Richmond Night Market
Arrive early; the line up to enter is huge and if they reach capacity you may not be allowed in. Consider the $28 (per person) VIP pass which gets you in much faster and allows for multiple entries. We just used one entry and then gifted our card to a lovely member of the hotel staff. You can always just hand it to a stranger as you leave the Night Market as a random act of kindness.  We recommend that you don't drive or take a cab to the Market. Traffic to and from is absolutely insane; walk (or take the SkyTrain to the River Rock Casino and take the short walk from there). There's lots of signage so it's pretty easy to find and as pedestrians we just had to follow the obvious flow of other humans going our way.

Breakfast and Snacks: For the most part, our breakfasts were comprised of leftover dumplings gently reheated in a microwave and consumed in the comfort of our hotel bed.  We also hit Chinese bakeries for savoury pastries, paired with some fruit from the Richmond Mall Farmer's Market and enjoyed amidst the beautiful setting of Minoru Park. 

Kin's Farm Market is located at the Richmond Centre Mall, but can only be accessed from the parking lot. You'll see it located right beside the Cobs Bakery.  Their produce is of exceptional quality, including both local and imported fruits and vegetables. We stocked up on fantastic mandarin oranges, ripe strawberries and some of the best apricots we've ever had. Then we headed inside the mall and picked up some delicious fare from Maxim's Bakery. There's a great selection of sweet and savoury choices. For breakfast, we picked up tasty savouries like their Tuna Danish, Dried Shredded Pork Bun, and BBQ Pork Roll.  We also picked up a Japanese-Style Cheesecake to enjoy in the room during the 3-5pm "lull" in our feeding frenzy.

 

If you want to explore up Richmond Road, Kam Do Bakery had a great selection of pastries with flavours like Walnut, Lotus seed, Date, Taro, and Pineapple pastry. We tended to focus on their buns with choices including Pineapple Buns With Coconut, Deep Fried Bean Buns, Garlic Ham Buns, and Taro buns. For breakfast, we picked up Curry Beef Buns and Pineapple Pork Buns. They also had a unique series of pastries that included Salted Egg.  We gave the Date with Egg Yolk Pastry a try - it was sweet and earthy, with a paste-like yolk in the center. Definitely one of the most unique foods we've tried; it was so unusual to us we couldn't decide whether we liked it or not - and that sort of thing really works for us! This is a great bakery to visit if you want to try something new to push your taste horizons.

As mentioned already, but worthy of repetition, we tended to take our breakfast pastries over to Minoru Park. This beautiful green space has a pond where Red-Winged Blackbirds nest, filling the air with their beautiful song.  Ravens can be seen bathing in the waters, families of Canadian Geese rest in the sunlight and a chorus of unseen songbirds plays in the background.  There are a good number of benches where you can sit amongst the flowers and enjoy the peaceful beauty. Past the dense greenery there's an open field where people can be seen enjoying some casual sports, as well as a high quality running track where we burnt off a few calories. (just enough to justify another day of indulgence!) You may find that the crinkling wrappers of your baked goods draw the attention of some critters. It didn't take long for an adorable grey squirrel to sidle up to us doing his best to execute all the gestures that have melted the hearts of many a homo sapien before us. He was soon followed by a family of geese also hoping we'd share our meal with them. 

Sweet Tooth:

 

If you're finding the bakeries delicious then consider dropping by iTofu for a different kind of sweet. We have often found Asian desserts are as focused as much on texture as they are on flavour; iTofu's creations are no exception. The delicate, silky tofu provides the pudding base, accented with toppings like coconut jelly, mango, and tapioca balls flavoured like black sesame. If you want something more exotic, consider the grass jelly or taro balls. You can adjust the sweetness of the dessert with ginger syrup, simple syrup or cane sugar. 

Grocery Stores:

 

Instinct might lead most people to focus on restaurants, but we always find grocery stores and markets an enjoyable part of any food tour. Price Mart Foods was another outpost for some tasty baked goods to enjoy in our room during the mid-day "recovery". The sweet options include things like Taiwan Style Pineapple Buns, Double Chocolate Buns, Milky Cheese Buns, and Butter Cream Buns with Almonds. T&T is a world all its own, with a spectacular seafood section and the most epic noodle aisle we've ever seen. The dried goods aisles are especially interesting, with all kinds of items that don't make the shelves smaller Asian markets.  There were also a variety of options for pre-made meals, including the choice to buy fresh seafood in-store and then have someone cook it for you on the spot.

Dumplings
In our search for tasty dumplings, Chef Tony's kept coming up again and again. It is set up in what we understand to be classic Hong Kong style, with a spacious room and big round tables, most of which were occupied by multi-generational families. While they offer some dim sum classics like Pork Belly In Steam Buns, there are also some unique treats on offer. The Black Truffle Pork and Shrimp Steamed Dumpling was a luxurious mouthful, while the Cuttlefish Ink Har Gaw made for a highly Instagram-able delight! While we have seen variations of Chive and Chinese Doughnut Rice Noodles With Diced Pork at many dim sum restaurants this was our first time trying it! The sumptuous silky rice noodle against the crunchy doughnut made for exquisite texture contrast. 

One would be hard-pressed to find a dumpling lover that didn't hold a special place in their heart for Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings). These little pockets of sheer delight literally explode with flavour, releasing rich, reduced broth over your tongue. They're notoriously time-consuming to make, so any restaurant that does a good job of them instantly attracts a loyal following. Our first taste of Xiao Long Bao on this trip was at Dinesty Dumpling House. While it's called a "Dumpling House", only a small part of the menu is dedicated to this delicacy, and most were sold out by the time we arrived.  So we gave the XO sauce and pork soup a try. XO sauce is a much-loved flavour originating in Hong Kong, made of dried seafood (usually shrimp and scallops), accented with shallots, garlic, chili. Then we just had to explore the rest of the menu and ordered the Camphor & Tea Smoked Duck, a slightly smokey and very salty dish served with steamed buns. They also had a favourite of ours on offer: braised tea tree mushrooms. In this case, they were served with bamboo shoots, combining two things we love for their unique texture and flavour. 

Rumours reached us that the best Xiao Long Bao in the area was actually in a mall food court. Our curiosity was instantly piqued. We made our way to Lansdowne Centre and sure enough there was R&H with a small crowd of people patiently waiting for their order of dumplings.  The skin was soft and chewy, thick enough to make the dumplings easy to pick up, but not so much that the broth was overwhelmed. What a lovely and unexpected find this was for two people who generally do their best to avoid mall food courts at all costs!  

The best dumplings on our trip were actually an accidental discovery. We had been wandering Alexandria Road in search of an elusive restaurant. After giving up, we decided to stop into Chengdu. It's impossible to put our finger on exactly why we chose this spot, but our instincts insisted it would be a good choice. We knew a gem had been stumbled upon when an amuse-bouche of raw cabbage in flavourful oil turned out to be off the charts delicious and was quickly devoured.  The incredible dumplings were quite simple: silky wontons served in a richly flavoured chili oil bath. Equally amazing were the dan dan noodles: minced pork and ground pork and sui mi ya cai (a preserved vegetable mix) in the very same flavourful oil.