On the outskirts of Vancouver lies an unexpected yet delightful ode to Asian culture.If you’re obsessed with authentic Asian food, you could search for luscious soup dumplings in Shanghai, scour hawker stalls in Hong Kong for fish balls and haunt hole-in-the-wall dives in Singapore looking for the best hand-pulled noodles. Or you could head to Richmond, British Columbia, Vancouver’s bustling multicultural little sister that, with more than 400 Asian restaurants, is like going on a gourmet tour of Asia. With a population that is 65 percent Asian, Richmond is a seamless blend of two cultures — and a gastronomic surprise.
EAT: There are dozens of choices along Alexandra Road, a three-block-long strip known as “Food Street.” Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Shanghainese, Hong Kong-style — it’s all here. Jang Mo Jib, which is Korean for “mother-in-law’s house,” serves classic Korean dishes like Bool Go Gee with Bee Bim Bahb — warm rice topped with veggies, sliced beef, chili paste and a fried egg. Nearby, Shanghai River will satisfy your craving for xiao long bao, those juicy pork dumplings that pop in your mouth, and dim sum. Lido Restaurant is a Hong Kong–style café in a strip mall with fresh-from-the-oven pineapple buns (order them with butter) that, along with milky tea, make for the perfect breakfast.
Jang Mo Jib
8320 Alexandra Road
7831 Westminster Highway
4231 Hazelbridge Way
DO: In the late 1800s, Steveston Village, along the Fraser River, was the center of Richmond’s fish-cannery activity (at one point, there were 15 canneries here). One of those facilities, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, built in 1894, has been converted to a national museum to honor the West Coast’s fishing industry. Steveston also has a terrific fish market (barter for fresh salmon, crab, halibut … even sea urchins, right on the wharf) and the tastiest fish-and-chips this side of the U.K. Some say Pajo’s is the best; others prefer Sockeye City Grill. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site
12138 Fourth Ave.
3500 Bayview St.
Sockeye City Grill
108-3800 Bayview St.
SHOP: Step inside the Aberdeen Centre and you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to Hong Kong (it’s named after the Chinese city’s Aberdeen Harbour). There’s a large Daiso, an outpost of the Asian bargain-store chain that carries more than 50,000 goodies — from fake eyelashes to Japanese floral wrapping paper — with most items priced at $2. Little shops hawk Singapore-style beef jerky and Japanese zisha teapots, and several stores sell herbal cure-alls for whatever ails you. Additionally, Parker Place mall is worth a visit; look near the food court for the stall selling boxes of dragon’s-beard candy, a concoction similar to cotton candy with a peanut cluster inside.
4151 Hazelbridge Way
4311 Hazelbridge Way
DRINK: Bubble tea — a frappe of black or green tea, fruit syrup and ice served over sweet, chewy pearls of tapioca (known as “boba”) that taste faintly like caramel-flavored gelatin — is to Taiwan what Starbucks coffee is to Seattle. So it’s no surprise that Richmond is home to the Zephyr Tea House Café, which serves more than 60 varieties of tea and frappes. Try the almond milk or the matcha ice-cream frappe.
Zephyr Tea House Café
7911 Alderbridge Way
STAY: If you’re staying in downtown Vancouver, the Canada Line rapid-transit system gets you to Richmond in about 25 minutes (get off at Aberdeen Station; a day pass for unlimited transit is $9). But for convenience, you can’t beat the Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport, directly across the street from the Aberdeen Centre and at the edge of Richmond’s four-block culinary complex called the Golden Village, which features more than 200 Asian restaurants.
Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport
8181 Cambie Road