3rd Annual HSBC Chinese Restaurant Awards at Red Star Seafood

Event: HSBC Chinese Restaurant Awards
Event Date: September 28, 2010

The 3rd annual HSBC Chinese Restaurant Awards was hosted by Red Star Seafood Restaurant in Richmond, BC. This campaign shines some light on metro Vancouver’s much deserved Chinese food scene.

From Left to Right: Michelle Dunn (Director of Communications, Tourism Richmond), Jocelyn Hsiung (VP of Retail Branch Network for Metro Vancouver for HSBC Bank Canada), Craig Stowe (Director of the HSBC Chinese Restaurant Awards, Stephen Wong (Founding Chair of Judging Panel)

The HSBC Chinese Restaurant Awards has 2 components: The Diners’ Choice Awards and The Critics’ Choice Signature Dish Awards.

For the first time this year the public can participate and vote online, from Sept. 28-Oct. 5, for their favourite Chinese restaurants to participate in the 2011 competition. From there the top 20 restaurants will be selected and another cycle of online voting (from Oct.6- Nov. 12) will determine the winner of The Diners’ Choice Award. Click here to start nominating.

For the Critics’ Choice Signature Dish component, 11 judges were hand selected to form the panel, and no, they were not only the CEO’s of the sponsoring companies. The judges include restaurant professionals, journalists and those that have a strong knowledge of Chinese Cuisine. A few members of  the Canadian Dim Sum Chefs Association, Chinese Canadian Chefs Association and Hong Kong Canadian Chinese Chefs Club also joined the panel. Each judge was given 400 Chinese restaurants in metro Vancouver, and by mid-September they submitted 3-5 of their favourites from the list for each category. Through November to December the judges are to taste all the recommendations from all judges to vote on the 24 Gold Signature Dish winners as well as name a Chinese Chef of the Year.

All winners will be announced at an Awards Ceremony to be held on January 18, 2011. See results here.

My thoughts…

The HSBC Chinese Restaurant Awards is a great way to incorporate the Chinese food scene to mainstream media. If it wasn’t for this, all there would be is the Vancouver Magazine Awards which only involves about 3 categories for Chinese restaurants. With 4 regions and over 160 cities in China and endless cooking styles, 3 categories is not enough. The annual HSBC Chinese Restaurant Awards is a step in the right direction.

It’s no doubt that Vancouver, BC is famous for having the best Chinese food in the world. It’s common to hear locals, tourists and critics say that Vancouver’s Chinese food is comparable or even better than to what is available in Hong Kong. I spent this past April in Hong Kong trying some of Hong Kong’s best food, and I still believe that Metro Vancouver’s Chinese food is untouchable. Being on the West Coast our seafood is first-class and many of Hong Kong’s renowned chefs have come to Canada to share their culinary techniques and talent.

Of course the judging could always be more fair, but this is with any competition. I noticed that some of the judges have heavy involvement, or own, some of the Chinese restaurants in metro Vancouver. Nonetheless I will also predict that most likely the restaurants nominated are the obvious ones that most people have tried or repeat nominees from the previous years (*Ahem* Kirin, Sun Sui Wah, Red Star Seafood).

Also to be fair, every judge would have to visit all 400 Chinese restaurants in metro Vancouver and try all their dishes to truly determine even their favourite top 3-5. Of course I have my top 3-5 favourites as well, but I also haven’t tried all 400 restaurants. It’s hard to be fair, and I’m not claiming to be, but just trying to keep it real… yo. Overall I do find the initiatives respectable and commend them for their efforts.

I attended the event as Follow Me Foodie, so the following portion of this post will showcase the lunch provided by Red Star Seafood. But due to the nature of the event I won’t be going into much detail (well compared to my usual) about the food. To see my post on Red Star Seafood on a regular day see my post here.

On the table:

Supreme Dim Sum Platter

  • A selection of 6 award winning items.
  • Red Star Seafood won Diner’s Choice Silver Award, Best Cantonese Dim Sum, 2010.
  • BBQ Pork Puff Pastry & Prawn Spring Rolls
  • I’ve ordered the BBQ Pork Puff Pastry before from Red Star Seafood – see here.
  • The Prawn Spring Rolls were simple, crispy and stuffed with prawns.

Supreme Dim Sum Platter

  • A selection of 6 award winning items.
  • Red Star Seafood won Diner’s Choice Silver Award, Best Cantonese Dim Sum, 2010.
  • Prawn Dumpling (Har Gow), Pork and Prawn Dumpling (Siu Mai), Beef Meatball Dumpling
  • I’ve ordered Prawn Dumplings before from Red Star Seafood – see here. Maybe it was because they were cold, but the skin wasn’t chewy like it usually is and should be.
  • Pork and Prawn Dumpling – they had a sprinkle of what seemed like 5 spice powder on top and that was different and unexpected.
  • Beef Meatball Dumpling – This isn’t as common to find at dim sum restaurants in metro Vancouver. It’s made with the same beef they use for the steamed beef meatballs that are sometimes wrapped in tofu skin.

Supreme Dim Sum Platter

  • A selection of 6 award winning items.
  • Red Star Seafood won Diner’s Choice Silver Award, Best Cantonese Dim Sum, 2010.
  • Deep Fried Crispy Tofu Wrap with Vegetables
  • It’s crispy deep fried bean curd skin stuffed with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots and cabbage. These were a bit mushy in the middle and surprisingly, I actually prefer the ones from Terracotta Modern Chinese. It may be comparing apples to oranges, but the ones at Terracotta had prawns and chestnuts and actually taste very good.

Roast Barbeque Duck

  • Fraser Valley Grade A Duck, Yarrow, BC
  • Critics’ Choice Signature Dish, ‘Duck’, Gold Award, 2010
  • They definitely hand selected the duck because the portion of skin, fat and meat was perfect.
  • If I order duck at Chinese restaurants it’s always the Peking Duck Crepes and rarely the duck itself.
  • See Peking Duck Crepes I’ve ordered at Empire Chinese Cuisine, Imperial Seafood Restaurant, and Kirin Seafood Restaurant.

Geoduck with Mushrooms Abalone and Asparagus

  • Geoduck is a highly prized Chinese delicacy, so they really spoiled us.
  • BC Geoduck (courtesy Underwater Harvest Association) stir fried with Fraser Valley abalone mushrooms and asparagus.
  • Geoduck is a type of clam. It resembles oyster mushrooms when it’s cut up. The geoduck is the curly one on the left. I’ve never had it prepared this way before.

  • This was definitely different and unique to Red Star Seafood. The ingredients were not new to me, but the execution was.
  • It was an asparagus wrapped in shrimp paste and then wrapped with a bamboo mushroom. A bamboo mushroom is a type of Chinese mushroom that is spongy, stretchy, slightly crunchy and kind of chewy. It absorbs a lot of liquid so it’s juicy from all the sauce it soaks up. I like it, but it’s acquired and very traditional Chinese.

Soy Chicken

  • BC free-range chicken, Wingtat Game Bird Packers, Fraser Valley. Simmered in Amoy Superior Light and Superior Dark Soy Sauce.
  • What?! An organic free-range chicken at a Chinese restaurant?! The concept is more uncommon than seeing meat at a vegetarian restaurant. I’m not sure if this was a special case or if all the chicken used at Red Star Seafood is free-range. It’s about time ONE Chinese restaurant starts using organic though. They broke a tough seal and I’m curious to see who follows their lead.

Sauteed Sablefish

  • Wok-fried locally-harvested wild sablefish (courtesy of Canadian Sablefish Association) Amoy Supreme Light Soy Sauce.
  • Okay, wait, where am I?! Local, organic and ocean friendly ingredients again?! We’re on a roll! AND the flowers were edible.
  • Sablefish is not a typical fish used in Chinese cuisine and this is not a traditional dish, but unique to Red Star Seafood.
  • I’m not sure if it’s on the regular menu or special for this event.

Dungeness Crab with Wild Rice

  • BC Dungeness Crabmeat on fried Canadian Organic Rice
  • No, this wasn’t at Wild Rice (a modern Chinese restaurant), this was wild rice! This is definitely contemporary and it totally worked! This was freaking amazing and I was so impressed to see it come out of Red Star Seafood, a traditional Chinese restaurant.
  • I had to ask if it was available on their regular menu, and it is! It must be ordered in advance. Order it!

  • It’s new to their menu and part of their new image or brand which seems to be organic, local and healthy.
  • I’ve never seen anything like this rice and I loved it! This is my favourite fried rice to date.
  • It’s smoky wok fried wild rice, with salty pieces of bacon, organic scrambled eggs, and topped with shredded crab meat and salty deep fried dried scallops. The texture was slightly crunchy and the rice was very aromatic. It was the perfect symphony of traditional and modern.
  • This was something I would expect to see at Terracotta Modern Chinese, Goldfish Pacific Kitchen, Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie or Wild Rice, but they did it first here and it worked like a charm!

Golden Scallop E-Fu Noodles with Omelette Julienne

  • Fresh North Coast Scallops, BC Certified organic free range chicken eggs, Wingtat Game Bird Packers, Fraser Valley.
  • Braised locally produced E-Fu noodles.
  • Lucky Noodles or Long Life Noodles! Every Chinese restaurant has their own interpretation. This was a gourmet version with the scallops. The standard one is usually with Chinese mushrooms, or enoki mushrooms and green onions or beat sprouts and sometimes egg.

Okanagan Valley Fresh Fruit Platter

  • I don’t know what kind of  pineapple grows in the Okanagan… let alone BC… and I’m almost certain that those humongous grapes are the ones I see at T & T Supermarket from China.
  • Other than that, all the fruit was fresh and ripe. These cruise ship fruit platters at fine dining Chinese restaurants seem to be a new thing hitting the market. You should really check out the fresh fruit platter at Kirin Seafood Restaurant, it’s super nice and served on a bed of ice.

Egg Tarts

  • House made egg tarts. No joke, these could be the best dim sum egg tarts I’ve had to date. I’ve tried 10 in Richmond and these were excellent!
  • They had a tender flaky buttery crust and a perfectly sweetened and soft creamy egg custard. They were bright orange so I think the eggs are organic. I don’t even like egg tarts that much and I ended up taking 6 of these home.

Chef’s Signature Dessert Duo

  • Layered Coconut & Red Bean Jello
    • If you read my blog you know how I feel about red bean anything… I’m not a fan. However this was tolerable with the coconut jello. It’s not uncommon for Chinese restaurants to offer this though. They’re not very sweet like most Chinese desserts. 
  • Coconut & Red Bean Mochi

  • It was a Chinese mochi made with red bean and inside was a thick coconut filling. It’s not creamy or really even sweet, but it’s almost the texture of gummy paste. It was like a coconut mochi inside a red bean mochi. The whole thing isn’t that sweet and it didn’t really taste like red bean either. I ended up taking a bite and scraping the dried coconut off and eating that.

Water Chestnut & Almond Jelly Rolls

  • Another new item unique to Red Star Seafood and doesn’t need to be pre-ordered.
  • This seemed like it was inspired by the traditional Chrysanthemum jello with goji berries, which you can order at some other dim sum restaurants.
  • It was a thin sheet of water chestnut jello rolled with toasted slivered almonds. Again, not that sweet and it reminded me of rice rolls, but people seemed to like it.

Red Star Seafood on Urbanspoon

16 Comments

  • KimHo says:

    While I am sure there will be a lot of camaraderie in this event, in the end, it will be more on the lines of personal preference that has nothing to do with the food. At least it is an attempt… Which is better than that extremely westernized, quasi high-end restaurant bias of Vancouver Magazine Awards. As for myself, I guess the fact that I have only blogged a handful of Chinese restaurants is sort of reflection of my thoughts. 😉

  • Mijune says:

    KimHo – that too! I mean Chinese food is really about group dining or you’re stuck with take out one offs and bang for your buck places… so how is it possible to try all 400 restaurants and all their specialties without a big group?

  • Elaine says:

    LMAO iono about better than HK 😎 but Vancouver certainly has pretty good quality Chinese food…

    I admire you for trying all those worms in HK hahaha~ I remember back when I was really young, like 7 or 8 years old, I used to love eating sipunculid worms. I don’t know how and why… I have been wanting to try them again, but everytime I look at pictures of them I shiver >___<

  • Bow says:

    Free range chicken is a big draw in Chinese restaurants since the avian flu. I love the duck at Lam Chu Gee, at the Golden Swan , the Dai Tung and Hon’s on Robson. I’ve eaten in Richmond a lot and I still prefer the dim sum at the Happy Valley and the Golden Star. I do admit that I haven’t eaten at the Red Star; though I find the Empire, the Jade, Sun Sui Wah, Kirin, Fisherman’s Terrace, the Neptune, Gala,Lucky Tao, etc., etc. good but not great; expensive…compared to the others I mentioned. Oh, the West Lake’s good too.

  • Mijune says:

    Elaine – there are lots of food that I used to like as a kid but have grown out of now as well! Like Chef Boyardee ravioli and Mr. Noodles! And those Squeeze It drinks and Gushers… ew! but I still like Kraft Mac & Cheese from a box, some tv dinners, and almost any Costco frozen food… and Dunkaroos! 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    Bow – I guess you’re right about the free rang chicken thing. I will really have to try Happy Valley and Golden Star but I rarely go dim sum in Vancouver… the ones I tried were quite dissappointing, but I do trust you. However I feel as thought it’s unfair to put them in the same cateogry as fine dining Chinese… which are a lot of the restaurants you listed. I do think with price should come quality, so I hope at least the quality is there even if the flavour is not… if that makes sense

  • fmed says:

    Mijune –

    (Disclosure: I am one of the judges in the Critics panel for the Critics Choice Awards).

    To clarify a couple of points:

    The Chinese Chefs in the critics panel automatically disqualify their own establishment(s) of from the Critics Choice awards process.

    I think your point about trying all 400 Chinese Restaurants in town to find the “best” restaurant and dish is a valid one — and it is a point not lost on the judging panel. I don’t think any of these awards will please everyone given the subjectivity of the matter….which is why the CRAA is extending its reach by including the dining public in the selection process. If all we are able to accomplish is a dialogue amongst the city’s diners on what should be the “best” dish in each category then I think the the CRA has served its purpose. Given that – I can assure you that the selection process is a pretty rigourous one – and one that involves a looooot of eating! As a first time judge – I have been pretty impressed by the sincerity and integrity of the selection process.

    We are also well aware of the usual pattern of selecting usual “big guns” in town – and for the Critic’s Choice Awards this is one issue that we are pretty comfortable with addressing. The panel is made up of eaters who do not exclusively dine at these higher-end places…so we are hoping to cast a wide net in terms of the selection of dishes. A number of us regularly eat at the all service levels – food court stalls all the way to the Kirins and Sea Harbours et al. I, for one, am happy that we have a “Food Court” category for example. True lovers of Chinese food know very well that some of the best Chinese food is served at food courts and family-run joints.

    Anyway, I only personally became involved when I felt assured that the process is solid, the judges had good palates, and the organization itself had integrity and sincerity. If you don’t agree with some of the selections – please feel free to voice it! This will add to our own data points for next year’s selection. (And I am always game to try new places or dishes!)

    -fmed

  • Mijune says:

    fmed – Thank you for introducing yourself and thanks for your comment and for clarifying some details to questions I proposed. I respect that you addressed your concerns before accepting your position as a judge.

    I agree with a lot of things you have said and I am particularly happy that there’s a food court category as well. I do hope some family run joints get some attention, however I question how many of these veteran customers are aware of this campaign and the online voting process. Are all Chinese restaurants made aware of these awards? It would most definitly be in their advantage if they knew, so that everyone would have an equal chance in promoting their food and getting customers to vote. A restaurant with a computer saavy clientele would also have better odds. Nonetheless I hope to see a small family run place win a Critics Choice Award and not just the Diner’s Choice Award as well.

    You said that “The Chinese Chefs in the critics panel automatically disqualify their own establishment(s) of from the Critics Choice awards process.”… so to clarify, the restaurants are completely removed from the Critics Choice awards?

    Overall I do think it is a well-organized contest, but I just wanted to pose some concerns I had.

    Thanks again for commenting!

  • fmed says:

    Online voting is an certainly an imperfect process, but is quite useful if it is provided the appropriate checks and balances. It is certainly a big challenge to get the word out about the online voting process. From where I sit, the awareness about these awards is growing exponentially and many Chinese restaurants are now aware of its existence….however, the Diner’s Choice awards are really designed for the diners and not the restaurants themselves (restaurants can’t “apply” to be on the list, for example – they have to be nominated by their customers). Grassroots involvement by engaging the lovers of Chinese food in this city is top priority, IMO. (BTW – family run restaurants and food court stalls are already well represented in the awards from previous years.)

    To address your second question: yes- to protect the integrity of the Critic’s Choice process, the restaurants affiliated with the Chinese chef judges are not eligible to receive any Critic’s Choice awards or nominations.

    All your concerns are valid and I too have shared these same ones in the past. The awards are new and I think it will get better each year as the organizers address these issues. I know that the organizers are sincere and are in it for the long haul. Personally, I am involved because I love Chinese food and would like nothing more than to use these awards to introduce novices to this great cuisine.

  • rae uske says:

    HI Mijune,

    This is Rae, event manager from Chinese Restaurant Awards.
    I am aware about your question on the Diners’ Choice Awards. Since 2009 when we first had the Diners’ Choice Awards online voting, we have been fine-tuning the voting process and excluding any repetitive and suspicious votes by having improvement on tracking system every year(Including tracking IP and domain).

    The Diners’ Choice Awards are promoted through the press relations mainly, including inviting you to our Launch Luncheon. We also send out enewsletter to our database and past voters at the commencement of the Diners’ Choice Awards nomination and voting plus reminder as well. And, we have media partners to spread the words for us kindly to the public – diners.

    Chinese restaurants know about CRA well now. I think the focus is not about their benefits from getting their customers to vote. Customers have free will. There is indeed something more meaningful behind. The awards have become a motivation for the restaurants to do better and better on food, service and providing a good environment. This is what we heard from the restaurants.

    For Critics’ Choice Signature Dish Awards, the critics give judgment on the dishes alone, regardless of the sizes of restaurants. & I think Fernando has answered most of your concerns on Critics’ Choice Awards.

    Always let us know anytime for any question.

    Cheers,
    rae

  • Mijune says:

    fmed and rae – thanks for addressing all the questions I had and I think the readers will really appreciate it as well. It definitely helps ease my doubts and my intentions were just to try and come from an honest and neutral place. I look forward to seeing the outcome of this years awards and trying out some of the nominees/winners if I haven’t already.

    Cheers!

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