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Two Vancouver Chinese Restaurants

by M. Leung

Chinese Food in Canada

Summer Volume: 2000 Issue: 7(2) page(s): 25

Vancouver is a vibrant and growing city that manages to keep its quiet charm. With its increasing Chinese population, Vancouver has more Chinese restaurants than any other city outside of Asia.

Every time I go to Vancouver, the quality of Chinese food there is improved. Most of the restaurants serve good food, but to enjoy exceptional food, one has to have connections! Since my mother's death, I have lost my connections, so it is useless for me to talk about exceptional food. Moreover, to my fellow travelers, it is more meaningful to offer places that would serve good food regardless of who shows up.

HON KEE, Number 3 Road and also their one on Alderbridge in Richmond are restaurants I like. About twenty years ago, Richmond was a farming community south of Vancouver City. Now with the new facilities at the expanded airport and all the immigrants, Richmond has blossomed into quite a bustling city. Because of the large Chinese population, the standard of food is high, and the prices are reasonable. They serve all kinds of food the whole day long.

One of the set lunches at Hon Kee is especially worth mentioning. For twenty- odd dollars Canadian for all at the table, they serve you a huge bowl of chicken congee (about six rice bowls full), crispy chicken skin with eight steamed buns, a plate of crullers the Chinese call yao tiao, and two plates of dim sum. We are light eaters and this set lunch is usually substantial enough for four of us. One can always order more from a variety of dishes listed on the menu. These dishes, while not gourmet or delicate, taste authentic and far superior to all the fares offered by the chop suey houses on the continent.

While Hon Kee is good for lunches, quick meals, and snacks, many people prefer a more formal affair for dinner. In Metropolitan Vancouver, there are hundreds of such restaurants. However, very often we’d like to go to a good restaurant without making it a black tie affair. Those times we head to a different restaurant.

KOON LOCK, 6270 Fraser Street at 47th Avenue; phone 604 327-8731, in Vancouver city is the restaurant we go to. In order to get in, one must make a reservation. This is a small restaurant at street level. It is wheel chair accessible and very accommodating. Prices are very reasonable and the food is exceptional. I went there three times during my last visit. Every time there were six to eight of us. The hand-shredded chicken was a spectacular opener. They put pickled ginger and crispy fried wonton skin with the chicken. These two ingredients added a touch of tanginess and crunch to the dish, which was a mixture of chicken and shredded vegetables and fresh spices. The proportion of the ingredients as well as the seasoning made this dish everyone's favorite.

On recommendation of the energetic waitress, we ordered the roast squab. The squab was quite expensive, but was worth every penny we paid. The skin was crispy, the meat tender and juicy and the seasoning caressed both the tongue and palate instead of assaulting them. We all concluded that their squab was the best in Vancouver! The waitress also recommended their oyster pot. Besides oysters, they put a lot of fresh spices and vegetables in the pot. The ginger, scallions, garlic cloves, and cilantro together with the vegetables were so good that we finished them as quickly as the oysters. One good point about this dish is that the oysters were not deep-fried first. In order to cook an oyster pot without deep-frying the oysters, they must be very fresh. I like them when not fried as they are less greasy and I can taste the distinct briny flavor of the oysters.

We seldom miss a chance for seafood. Koon Lock offered a combination called 'Big Fish Three Ways.' They took the fillet of fish and toss fried the pieces with celery. The bones, they added to tofu and mustard green and made soup. The head and tail was stewed with vegetables and deep fried tofu. Everything was done to perfection. We had an enjoyable meal.

Those who did not make reservations are turned away. Once we went early and talked to a friendly waiter who told us that the restaurant has been in business for six years; and that it is closed on Mondays. They change the menu every three months and offer whatever is fresh from the market. I highly recommend this restaurant for a gathering of family and friends.
M. Leung, a Shanghai native, was educated in Hong Kong then came to Boston for a Master’s Degree in Library Science. She stayed on for a Doctorate in Education at SUNY Buffalo and remained teaching at Amherst Central School and editing their teacher’s union newsletter.

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