It’s that time of the year again, the biggest food event of the year that I looked forward toward the most. No, it wasn’t Eat Vancouver or Dineout. It’s the food stalls of Richmond Night Market. What could be better than a block of food vendors selling freshly cooked food right in front of you that you may not find anywhere else?
Note: This post was compiled from three separate visits.
The Japanese Corn Dog was the first thing that I ate at this year’s night market. I hesitated for a bit because I was deciding whether to have that or the Japanese yam fries (basically yam fries with terimayo and nori). I settled with the corn dog because I wanted to try something different.
I found this to be disappointing. It was just a sausage plastered with hash brown drizzled with ketchup. There just wasn’t any wow factor to this thing. Is this seriously what the Japanese is eating? I was expecting some creativity along the lines of Japadog, but this was just a joke. Next!
The swirling/hurricane potatoes of Rotato were always a hit at the night market, as proven by the 30+ something lineup. I wasn’t going to try it because I’ve already had it before, but I coincidentally bumped into my little cousin so I have to buy her something.
I got the Roasted Garlic and Pepper for myself while I got the Cheese for my cousin. First the cheese. The powdery cheese “seasoning” tasted like as if it’s right from a Kraft dinner package. I just thought the cheese tasted too fake and powdery, especially in areas with higher concentration. But again, it’s meant to taste like warm, Cheeto flavored chips and it worked to that end.
I have to admit my Roasted Garlic and Pepper tasted even better. I couldn’t taste the garlic nor the pepper, but the seasoning they had on there was so flavorful that made it incredible addictive. It reminded me of the seasoned fries they have at Japadog. I could not stop eating this and I drilled through mine pretty quick.
In exchange for the Rotato, I got to try the Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken from my cousin, from The Famous Popcorn Chicken and Fried Tofu stand.
The exterior of the chicken was well seasoned, although a bit on the salty side, and quite crispy. The meat itself was tender and juicy. It wasn’t anything too gimmicky or fancy like what its neighbors were offering, it was a traditional Taiwanese snack that was done right.
Another popular stall that had long line ups was the Squid Co. stall.
I was offered to try the Signature by a friend. The squid was quite chewy, tasted rubbery, and heavily sauced with satay.
There were quite a few stalls selling takoyakis, as they proved to be popular in the history of night market dining. Sure enough, one of my friends got a bowl full of it for us to try.
The takoyakis were served piping hot, as everything down to the pastry was made fresh. It was drizzled with teriyaki sauce and mayo which gave some flavoring to the otherwise bland octopus.
The moment I entered the night market entrance, I could immediately smell the curry fish balls even though the food stalls were a good half a block away. A Hong Kong street food classic, I just had to have it.
I didn’t know which one served the best curry fish ball, so I just trusted my sense of smell and instinct. I ended up at Dim Sum Express and got the spicy version just for that extra kick. Sure enough, it was spicy with strong flavors, and even my friends agreed. It did reminded of the good old times in Hong Kong where I used to eat these all the time.
Another Hong Kong street food classic that I missed was the Hong Kong style waffles, basically a waffle sandwich with condensed milk, peanut butter, and sugar.
I thought the composition was a little dense and thick, and they could have used more ingredients for more flavoring.
Yet another Hong Kong street food classic was the egg puffs, from Egg Puffs. Obviously, back in the olden days, we only had the original. Times changed, and these guys came up with quite a few flavors in case things got too boring.
Cheese was sold out so I tried Matcha. The pastry was fluffy as expected, however, I couldn’t really taste the matcha. I gave some to my friend, but she said she COULD taste it. Nonetheless, I probably would have picked something else if this was the case.
The business of cooking skewered meat at the night market was quite competitive, which was good! But I was told that the king of the hill here was Chef James, AKA the Xin Jiang Man. (Note: Xin Jiang is an area in China’s far west.)
I couldn’t resist the sight and smell of raw meat being grilled on an open flame, so I got a trio of beef, chicken, and lamb. I found them to be overly seasoned, to the point where it was too salty, and some bits of the meat were slightly chewy. Maybe it was just my batch, but this stall always had long line up’s.
The Xin Jiang Man doing what he do best.
I’m always interested in trying something new and tasty, and something that differed from your usual skewers and dim sum at the night market was the Pocreeto stall. Its menu were based on deep fried shredded potatoes, similar to a hash brown. The different toppings and sauces then formed the different menu items.
I got the Mushroom and Broccoli Cheesy Potato. The deep fried potato was drenched with a cheese sauce, which had the same flavoring and consistency as your typical broccoli cheese soup, and it might well be because I saw the guy pour it from a large pot. The mushrooms and chopped broccoli tasted fresh and worked well with the dish. This was another surprise at the night market.
A stall that caught my eye was the Sobasan Japanese Buckwheat Noodles. A variation of the cold Japanese soba noodles, Sobasan had available a vast array of toppings for choosing. You could also customize the type of noodles and sauce.
Looking at the menu was staggering as there were so many choices, so you had to know what you wanted. I picked the rice noodles with wasabi mayo, unagi (BBQ eel), scallops, seasoned seaweed, and tamago (Japanese egg omelette). I don’t usually order soba noodles in a Japanese restaurant because I never liked cold noodles, but this rendition was something different. In terms of texture, it was quite creamy. The wasabi mayo bought in some heat which I love, and I could taste the individual toppings. If there weren’t people around, I would have licked the sauce right off the container!
Kung Fusion was an Asian martial arts/badass themed burger joint. Those words made no sense together, but that was probably the best description. There was a POW, BAM, SPAM spam burger and a Hai Miso Tasty Japanese themed burger with teriyaki chicken. Pretty over the top with the names and props to them for taking a risk to make Asian themed burgers.
I settled for a Korean themed Dear Leader burger with lettuce, kimchi and bulgogi (marinaded meat). The meat was dry, but at least it was tender. I could taste the kimchi, but overall, I thought the burger was too simple, not unlike the quality of burgers your aunt would grill at a family BBQ. I just wish they could do more to add a bit of punch.
…and the inside.
A stall which caused quite a stir among observant food enthusiasts was the Zhang’s World Famous XianBurger and Terracotta Noodles, home of the Xian (an interior Chinese city) HUMburger.
The Chinese HUMburger was actually the most interesting thing on the menu. I was warned by the seller that burger could be too juicy as she handed it over to me, and it was. The BBQ pork was finely chopped, quite flavorful with the sauce and was indeed quite juicy. I liked how the parsley was there to cut through the richness and provided some contrast to the flavors. The buns were the traditional Chinese buns you would find in Chinese cuisines. Overall, it worked, and it was quite filling.
Bonus picture: chopping the juicy pork.
Like fashion and technology, so too should food evolve. I’m always excited to see chefs pushing their boundaries to the next level, and Le Tigre Modern Chinese Cuisine managed to get my attention. However, I just thought it seemed to have a bit of an identity crisis because the menu was heavily Japanese influenced.
The Kickass Rice featured a half boiled egg with the yolk slightly oozing out (!), cilantro leaves, some kind of soy based sauce drizzled with some kind of mayo. This reminded me of the Chasu Don I’ve had at Q-Go Ramen. It was delicious with different combination of flavors working together with a nice, creamy texture. Putting an egg on anything works!
Unlike its competition, the skewered beef wasn’t seasoned with salt, pepper, or other spices, but with grated radish and green onion – again with some Japanese influence. The meat itself was well marinaded, tender, juicy, and beautifully cooked with some nice sears. Not quite modern Chinese, but who cares, I liked the food.
A stall that raised an eyebrow was the Seafood Kingdom stall. Offering lobster and abalone south of the $7 mark, it did turn heads.
While it did offer Lobster Bisque, which was actually my favorite item on their menu, I went all out and got a 1/2 lobster. It was grilled and the top was torched, similar to a motoyaki. The butter sauce was creamy and wasn’t bad, but the lobster flavor was faint. Of course you couldn’t expect Blue Water Cafe quality here, but quantity wise, it wasn’t much either. The majority of the meat was in the tail, but there were only a few bits and that was pretty much it.
The large, rotating rotisserrie from Original Oktoberfest Style turned everybody’s heads, and I just knew we had to try it.
We decided to split the Roasted Pork Hocks between five people because it was such an epic proportion. Fortunately, they chopped it up before serving so it was easier to share. There was no way you can finish this by yourself (unless you’re an American). My first bite was chewy and rubbery, but the parts that were tender was juicy and packed with flavor, especially the well seared skin. There were even some fat parts for the true connoisseur. We were all stuffed after we threw the empty dish away.
The rotisserie. Is there a way to make this into an animated background?
As the evening came to an end, it was time for dessert. Luckily, stalls that sold them were abundant. I love creme brulee’s, and having a matcha variety was the more better. And so, we arrived at Golden Goodness.
The creme brulee was torched on order, so you can see the top crust being caramelized. The matcha powder was sprinkled on top soon after. Unfortunately, the caramelized crust was way too thin and it cracked easily, but still retained its sweet caramel taste. The matcha powder was so dry that I ended up choking. In terms of taste, it could have been much better, it was just missing some finesse.
Another dessert that I tried was the Baked Egg Pudding. I’m not sure what kind of trickery could chop the top bit of the egg off, but the inside was replaced with a sweet custard topped with whipped cream. It looked pretty cool and it was a delicious little dessert snack.
There were quite a few options for drinks too, if you wanted to wash down all that grease and spices. There were stands all around the market grounds selling regular sodas and energy drinks, which was…boring. Considering there were a few stalls selling slushes, smoothies, and bubble tea, going to these stands was just a waste of time. Wanted to try something different that I wouldn’t usually get, I ended up at the Icy Bar.
I got the Mango Tapioca Icy, with fresh sliced mango, tapioca, and milk. I appreciated that they used fresh mango, instead of frozen ones, but I thought the drink itself could be sweeter. Unfortunately, it was bland and watery.
The food at the night market was quite an experience. It was just the choices that were available, the smells as you walked through the stalls, and the sight of the food that were cooked freshly on order. When you come here, come here with an open mind. Take in the atmosphere, put down your boring sandwiches and wraps, and try something new. Admission was $1.50 as of this writing and rumors are it will go up as we head into the summer. There are also plenty of free parking and the venue is easily accessible by skytrain. No reservations!