Saturday, February 2, 2008

Richmond, B.C. Act I

Living in the state of Washington for half of my life meant that Canada was always just next door. Growing up, my family never missed an opportunity to take advantage of all the delicious Chinese food to be found up north, not to mention the favorable exchange rate. Today the food is just as good as always, maybe even better, although the same can't be said about the dollar to looney ratio. But it's this fact, along with my current residence being Berkeley instead of Seattle, that makes a trip to British Columbia all the more special and savory.

When my family and I used to go to BC we would go to the Chinatown in Vancouver. Now most of the hot-spots have moved one town south to Richmond where a younger and more affluent Chinese diaspora resides. The town boasts an uncanny number of restaurants/capita. Frankly I'm baffled as to how the population can support them all. But then again, eating is a huge part of Asian culture. In Chinese for example, a common greeting is to ask "Have you eaten yet?" rather than "How are you?" Most likely, whether you answer yes or no to the question, the next place you'll find yourself is gathered around a table.

The table I found myself sitting at was at Kirin Seafood Restaurant. It's been around for over 20 years now and has gathered a bunch of awards over time. What I love most is their dim sum. Unlike Chinese restaurants in the states that seem to be frozen in time, serving the same mediocre dishes without refinement or innovation, Kirin stays on the cutting edge. They rotate their menu monthly, featuring new ingredients, dishes and techniques. It makes for an exciting dining experience where each little steamer brings a new surprise and delight.

XO sauce is an increasingly popular condiment in Chinese restaurants. It's a blend of dried scallops, dried shrimps, chilies, garlic and shallots, all fried together to create a super tasty sauce.
While many restaurants buy their XO, Kirin makes theirs in house and it is much better than anything coming out of a jar.

Chicken feet served with red vinegar. If you have never tried them they are worth a shot. There's no need to be squeamish. They taste like chicken but the texture is like cartilage.

Super crispy, succulent pork paired with roasted duck.

This was my favorite of the meal. Called Gum Sah Doufu, the name translates literally to "Golden Sand Tofu". What the elusive dusting of golden sand was we couldn't tell. When we asked the waiter he said it was simply fried garlic. A very diplomatic answer that served to guard the secrets of the kitchen.

Chinese donut wrapped in a sheet of rice paper.

Tangerine peel flavored meat balls.

Steamed spareribs with tangerine sauce.

Scallop dumplings with peas, carrots and corn.

Jade dumplings with spinach and shitake mushroom.

Classic shrimp dumplings which I believe were enriched with a touch of pork fat.

Shrimp and pea sprout leaf dumplings. These were my second favorite of the meal.

Fried shrimp and Chinese chive spring rolls.

Gigantic shark fin soup dumpling served with bamboo pith. Very tasty.

The best egg custard tart I have ever had hands down. The crust was super flaky like filo dough and the custard was rich and eggy without being too sweet.

Mango coconut tapioca custard with a pastry crust. I'm not big on coconut but it would have been awesome if it were just mango.

This was definitely a solid start for the day. But in order to gear up for the next meal I needed some exercise. So I was off to peruse the shops in the many malls of Richmond. It was there that the next eating adventure ensued. To be continued in Act II.

PS - Where are your favorite dim sum restaurants?

Kirin Seafood Restaurant
200-7900 Westminster Highway
Richmond, BC, Canada
(604) 303-8833

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