2012 Richmond Night Market: The Food Vendors
Follow Me Foodie to the new Richmond Night Market and its 88 vendors!
I like to think of it as the Asian version of the Vancouver Farmers Market, except there are no farmers and just food. I can handle that, can you? This year the Richmond Night Market is even bigger and it has found a new home right by the River Rock Casino. There is also the Richmond Summer Night Market and both are fun checking out as long as the weather is good. This year there are 88 food vendors and if you’re like me, you’ll B-line it towards them. The food is my favourite part of course, but this Make A Wish children’s charity cherry blossom display is worth a pit stop.
If you’ve ever been to Hong Kong, then this will remind you of it, but a cleaner and nicer version. This would actually be considered spacious too. If you’re a Richmond Night Market veteran than you can skip this section and just start scrolling down to the food, but if you’re a rookie, then here are my tips.
Follow Me Foodie’s Richmond Night Market Tips
1. Go with a group. I recommend going with a group of 3-4, not because it’s dangerous, but so you can try more stuff. I wouldn’t go with a huge group because you might lose each other though. Unlike most Asian restaurants everything is served in smaller portions and meant for individual servings, so it does accommodate
2. Wear the right shoes. There is a bit of gravel in some unavoidable areas. People wearing the wrong shoes, like me, might accidentally step on your toes while you’re in the crowd.
3. Bring cash. This might not come as a surprise, but it’s cash only.
4. Take transit. Parking is a pain because the casino parkade is only for River Rock Casino customers.
5. Don’t wear anything you don’t want dirty. It’s street food. It can get messy. You might also end up smelling like garlic squid, curry fishballs, grilled meats, or stinky tofu, but those are all delicious things to eat.
6. Be hungry. One could easily find dinner here and have a 5 course meal for about $25.
7. Learn some Chinese. Most of the vendors speak English and the menus are in Chinese and English. Many have pictures or displays of the food too, but here are phrases that might come in handy.
|Thank you||Dòjeh (for a gift) m̀hgòi (for a service)|
|Is there a house specialty?||Yáuh mo jiew pai choy?|
|I’ll take one… two… three.||Ngóh yiew yāt goh… leung goh… sāam goh.|
|I’ll have what he/she’s having.||Ngóh yiew khui sick goh yeung. (Pointing helps)|
|Do you cater?||Yáuh mo doh wui?|
|Do you have a restaurant?||Lay yao mo chāantēng?|
|I’ll take one to go.||Yut goh oiy mai.|
|Get out of my way!||Hàng hoi di! (Not very polite, so use only for severe cravings. Food does sell out.)|
|Can I have your number?||Lay dihnwá houhmáh gei dou ho? (You never know!)|
**Recommendations (based on what I’ve tried so far): Ah Fei Kitchen H.K. Style Curry Fishballs, Abalone with Oyster Sauce, Grilled Lobster Motoyaki, Wasabi Mayo Style Soba, Chef James’ spicy or non-spicy lamb kebabs, Chef James’ beef kebabs, Mango Coconut Slush, Dragon Beard Candy
Food stop 1: Rotato
This easily has the longest line up and as the night progresses it just gets longer, so if you want to try it, come early or it’s like waiting for a table at Vij’s.
Rotato – It’s a spiral cut Russet potato on a stick sprinkled with your choice of seasoning. I saw these “Rotato” or “Tornado Fries” about 5 years ago at the Stampede carnival in Calgary and Vancouver was introduced to them maybe last year. They’re actually very popular in Korea too, but it’s not an Asian snack. People are almost as obsessed with these as they are with poutine, but instead of fries it is freshly made potato chips.
I tried Sour Cream and Onion, Ketchup, Apple Cinnamon, Butter, BBQ, Roast Garlic & Pepper and Cheddar Cheese and all of them were good with strong flavours except for the Apple Cinnamon and Ketchup. Butter reminded me of popcorn, and BBQ was actually really good and BBQ aren’t even my favourite flavour of chips. Out of the listed I actually like Ketchup, but the version here seemed a bit mild, maybe it just needed more seasoning.
They’re not really crispy like chips, but more like tender fried potato skins with seasoning. They are really good, but it is a deep fried potato so it is not exactly Asian food if you’re looking for a more traditional experience.
Food stop 2: Ah Fei Kitchen
BBQ Pork Stir Fried Instant Noodle (Small $4.50, Large $7) – The brand of instant noodles they use for this is the red and white package with the blond haired little boy on the front. Any Asian kid will know which ones I’m talking about. It was/is comfort food. They tasted pretty good, but the fishballs were the winner here.
**H.K. Style Curry Fish Ball (6pcs $3, 12pcs $5.50) - I’ve had a ton of curry fishballs at night markets, but the ones at Ah Fei Kitchen were noticeably better than most others. The quality was higher and they were really plump, spongy and moist and well flavoured with a mild curry sauce. The curry sauce is Chinese style curry sauce which often uses coconut milk instead of cream. These were topped with an optional hot sauce and they come in super spicy or non-spicy.
Food stop 3: Bakudanyaki
This has always been a favourite. It used to be a food cart in Richmond and I tried it a couple years ago when it was. It’s nice to see them back in the game. There were periods of on again and off again hiatus and they were missed by a lot of locals when they were in hibernation.
Bakudanyaki ($5 each) – It takes some time and effort to make and it is not food that has just been sitting there. It’s basically a Japanese style fritter that is stuffed with squid, cabbage, corn, red pickled ginger, shrimp, rice cake, quail egg and green onion. It’s topped with house made sauces and bonito (smoked fish) flakes. The sauces are the flavour of Bakudanyaki and it comes in original, chili, wasabi and curry flavour. So the wasabi bakundanyaki would have wasabi mayo and the curry bakudanyaki would have curry mayo etc.
This is how it is served. One softball sized Bakudanyaki per person. These things are rich though and people normally have one for lunch. I would definitely share this if you plan on eating other things.
This is how it looks cut up. There are a lot of ingredients and it is very rich and a bit mayo heavy with all the sauces. It is quite dense, yet soft, fluffy and creamy with all the ingredients inside, but I really like them. The wasabi one is my favourite and it’s drizzled with takoyaki sauce (similar to terriyaki sauce) and wasabi mayo.
Food stop 4: Seafood Kingdom
This was one of my highlights and definitely a new player in not only the night market, but Chinese dining overall. The owner is trying to introduce traditional Chinese people to modern flavours so he is offering lobster bisque and modern style of Chinese food. It still seemed pretty traditional Chinese to me, but the food was good and the lobster is Ocean Wise.
**Abalone with Oyster Sauce ($6) – $6. $6! $6!!! I have to emphasize that they are ONLY $6! At a Chinese restaurant the minimum you would be paying for this guy is maybe about $15 and it can reach $35+ easily. The price varies with quality, but they are expensive. Nowhere in Metro Vancouver will you find a restaurant selling $6 abalone unless it’s a super crappy canned version. This is a Chinese delicacy and although there are many black market ones, these are from New Zealand and legally imported.
Abalone is a giant sea snail and this one is braised in ham stock, chicken consommé, and Oyster sauce. It’s a savoury and sweet sauce and it is not supposed to mask the abalone which is the real highlight. It tastes like a very meaty clam. It might be a bit acquired, but if you like clams and steak, think of this as a ‘clam steak’.
The abalone isn’t a very high quality, but for the price and size it is great! It wasn’t a poor quality one either though and for $6 it was great value and more than I expected. I was surprised to see it at the Night Market and even more impressed with the end result coming from such a place. To see a high quality one at an upscale Chinese restaurant see my Braised Whole Fresh Australian Abalone at The Jade Seafood Restaurant.
Mushroom & Lobster Meat in Butter Sauce ($6.50) – It was definitely more mushrooms than lobster and the lobster meat was claw meat which I’m not keen on. It still tasted fine and it was good, but not something I would come back for.
**Grilled Lobster Motoyaki (Half $5.95) – $5.95. $5.95! $5.95!!! Again. I must stress that this is half a lobster for $5.95. That’s a pretty good deal. This is Ocean Wise from Nova Scotia and it is prepared the Japanese way. It was topped with Kewpie Japanese mayo which is a bit sweeter and then grilled upon order. It was creamy, rich, indulgent and the lobster wasn’t chewy and not overcooked.
Food stop 5: SOBASAN Japanese Buckwheat Noodles
This was another highlight for me. It is Chinese owned and operated and they are making modern versions of Japanese Soba noodles. These noodles are perfect on summer days because they are all served chilled. Traditional Japanese tend to order cold soba noodles too, although most Japanese restaurants in Metro Vancouver serve only hot. Of course I’m not going to come at it with an “is it authentic?” approach, because it’s not. It is trying to be different and it is at the Night Market, so in this context it is about enjoyment.
They have it set up like Subway and you first choose your noodles, then choose your sauce, and last choose your toppings. They also have 4 of their own creations.
Takoyaki Style Cold Soba ($6.50) – It’s one of their most popular and my second favourite. It was soba noodles with artificial crab meat sticks, canned corn kernels, unagi (BBQ eel), preserved octopus, and takoyaki sauce. It was sweet and savoury and quite heavy with the sauces, but I liked it.
HK Street Style Cold Soba ($6.50) - They used a Chinese rice noodle and this actually tasted very Chinese… no surprise, but I lost the Japanese aspect completely. This was artificial crab meat stick, preserved jelly fish, precooked squid, precooked clams, preserved octopus, precooked sliced topshells, HK street sauce. It tasted like some of the ingredients served on the cold appetizer dish of a traditional Chinese banquet menu. There was a sesame oil and sweetened soy sauce flavour and it didn’t taste bad, but it was my least favourite of the 4. They had some artificial shark’s fin which is just clear vermicelli noodles, so I was happy about that.
Kimchi Seafood Style Cold Soba ($6.50) - This had preserved jelly fish, kimchi, precooked prawns, preserved octopus, and spicy sauce. I expected to like this one more. It was still good because gochujang (Korean hot soybean paste) makes anything taste good, but I probably wouldn’t order this again. I wasn’t keen on the preserved octopus on any of them though. They were vibrant red and you have to eat them in one bite and they were a bit too gelatinous and chewy. I could imagine them to be intimidating to those unfamiliar with this sort of cuisine and/or ingredients.
**Wasabi Mayo Style Cold Soba – This was my favourite and it’s another popular choice. It came with fish roe (tobiko), preserved seaweed, scallops, preserved octopus, and wasabi mayo sauce. The scallops were a selling factor and I’m just a fan of wasabi mayo and tobiko. This tasted the most Japanese to me and the ingredients worked together and the toppings were enjoyable. It is the only one I wasn’t really picking around. This also seemed the most refreshing with the crunch of seaweed. Again, this isn’t traditional soba noodles, but it was good and I would order this one again.
Food stop 6: Chef James – Xin Jiang Man BBQ
This is Chef James! He was the most entertaining vendor and he loved putting on a show which attracted an easy crowd. He is no gimmick though, his kebabs hit a home run. He was actually a chef at Fairmont Waterfront in downtown Vancouver, but I hope he keeps this up because he has my support for sure.
If you don’t see him, you’ll here him. I didn’t even understand what he was yelling, but he made me want to buy all of his skewers. It definitely wasn’t a “hot accent thing”, which usually only applies to Europeans and Aussies, but it was a “I know I grill the best meat and you want to try one” kind of things. Hook. Me. Up.
**Skewers (Any 3 skewers for $7 or any 5 for $11) – I tried all of the skewers which included beef, lamb, spicy lamb, chicken, and honey garlic prawns. I would definitely go back for the AAA beef, lamb and spicy lamb. The lamb wasn’t gamey at all and it is his signature skewer. There are a lot of BBQ skewer vendors at the Night Market, but the quality of meats he’s using is better than most. It was well worth it. The meat was tender, flavourful, well marinated and generous and I have no idea how he’s making a profit on these at those prices and these portions.
He also has a crispy bun skewer. See! There is something for vegetarians besides Rotato. These were sweet and savoury sticky mini green onion buns glazed and grilled on the BBQ and sprinkled with sesame seeds. They were nice and crispy on the outside and not hard and still soft on the inside. They are pretty filling and I would only want one piece… and then bring me more meat sticks.
Food stop 7: Po Wah Dim Sum
Po Wah Dim Sum is one of the most recognized vendors. There are a million stalls that look like this, but this one is one of the popular ones. Just look at their staff and size of their tent. They’re busy! If you have never had dim sum before, don’t let this be your first experience. It won’t do it justice. However, it is still not bad, but just think of it as street food. It is like getting a hot dog or burger at a regular vendor. It will give you an idea, but it doesn’t do the items justice. It was still Chinese food made by Chinese people, but it is not high quality of course. It is a quick fix and it does the job.
Shrimp Dumplings ($3.50 for 4 pcs or $6.50 for 8 pcs) – They can’t compare to the real deal, but it’s also edible although harder to appreciate if you’ve had the real thing. These ones were stuffed with baby shrimp which makes me want to cry, but given the context, I’m not expecting prawns or anything gourmet. I highly recommend trying them at an actual dim sum restaurant. It is only about $1 more and it is a dim sum staple.
Pork Dumplings (Shao Mai) – These are more acceptable and easier to appreciate in a Night Market context compared to the Shrimp Dumplings. You can make decent shao mai with average ingredients, but you can’t make decent shrimp dumplings without the right ingredients and technique. These were actually good enough that they are going to be mass producing them and selling them frozen. While it is frozen dim sum, it was good frozen dim sum and good street food version of shao mai.
Curry Fish Balls, Beef Balls, Lo Bak (Daikon) or Tofu ($3.50/7 pcs or $6.50/15 pcs) – This was curry fish balls and tofu. The curry fishballs weren’t as good as the ones at Ah Fei Kitchen, but the deep fried tofu puffs were good. The tofu was really juicy and saucy. The curry sauce wasn’t as rich or thick as the one at Ah Fei Kitchen and it wasn’t that spicy although a bit greasy.
Super Spicy Curry Fish Balls – I like my heat and I found these a touch more than medium spicy. They were flavourful spicy and not just hot, but the spiciness gradually builds and lingers. I enjoyed them, but try them last or you won’t be able to taste anything else for the next 10 minutes. They’re not that hot though. It is not Thai food hot or Indian food hot and on those scales it would probably be a medium.
Pork Dumpling ($3.50/4 pcs or $6.50.8 pcs) – These were fine, but not particularly memorable. I’ve just had too many of these in my life time though so I’m biased. They had a decent amount of meat stuffing with some green onion inside and it was actually well seasoned.
Pan Fried Pork Buns ($3.50/4 pcs or $6.50.8 pcs) – These were moist with juicy meat inside, but again it won’t do the real thing justice. This is actually a Shanghainese dim sum speciality so let this only give you an idea, but not a proper representation of the real thing. Here is a restaurant version of them at Shanghai House – see Pan Fried Pork Buns or Shanghai Wonderful has good ones too.
Chow Mein Noodle – It was fast food chow mien. It wasn’t greasy, but it was sitting on that wok for a while although occassionally being tossed. It wasn’t burnt or dry, but if anything on the drier side. It was kind of plain for chow mein.
Rice Noodle Rolls – This is one of my favourites. It is comfort food. Traditionally this is “peasant food” and it is topped with sesame sauce and Hoisin sauce. They actually make their own sauces here too which is impressive. People usually just buy the pre made sauces. It’s a slippery chewy springy rice noodle roll in a sweet, savoury and nutty sauce and I could eat the whole thing by myself. Restaurants serve it during dim sum and they usually have green onions and dried shrimp in them, but the street version is just plain most of the time.
Food stop 8: Mango
Desert time! Asian cultures aren’t known for their desserts and most of the time they don’t like things too sweet. They find most Western desserts way too sweet and usually they just prefer fruit or some hot sweetened soup like red bean soup. Me and red bean soup still aren’t friends, but I’m going to try a sip every time I see it until the day I start to like it.
Mango Coconut Slush - It’s the best seller here. They use all fresh fruit and real milk which is very rare. Most bubble tea places use powdered milk and powdered fruit, so I was a fan of this vendor. They also use rock sugar instead of refined white sugar so it is healthier. It was made with fresh mango, ice, 2% milk, coconut milk and it was creamy and refreshing, but not too rich like a milkshake either. I’m a fan of milkshakes, but I could have this more often. The fresh mango on top just took it from great to excellent. These are very popular in Hong Kong and if you want a dairy free version with even more mango I recommend the Mango Moo Shake from Phnom Penh.
Food stop 9: Dragon’s Beard Candy
This is food and entertainment. I consider him the Dragon’s Beard Candy Master in Metro Vancouver and I don’t know anyone else that makes it as well as he does. There aren’t many dragon beard candy makers to begin with though. You can buy in at T&T and other bakeries, but usually they won’t be as fresh or as good as this. Don’t judge it until you try it here.
The “dragon’s beard” is a hand-pulled spun sugar (made of syrup) that has been pre-cooked so it is almost elastic like. It is pulled in a container of glutinous flour that resembles icing sugar, but it is not nearly as sweet or floury tasting, and it prevents it from sticking. It takes a lot of skill, technique and energy to make Dragon’s Beard Candy and he has to pull and stretch the sugar.
He uses no machine and it is all body strength. He manages to produce these very fine sugar strands which are kind of dry in texture. It is an incredible process and something to be admired. It is an ancient art form in China and other Asian countires make it now too, but it is traditionally Chinese.
And that is a Dragon’s Beard Candy. You get 6 in a box. It is messy to eat, but delicious. It is best fresh, so anything you see at the grocery store I wouldn’t count as real Dragon’s Beard Candy. I’m pretty loyal to this stand and I only see him at Night Markets and the rest of the year at Chinese New Year festivals featuring food vendors. Dragon’s Beard Candy is especially popular during Chinese celebrations.
Takoyaki ($5 for 6/pcs) - It is a Japanese baked fritter with a bit of octopus and pickled ginger inside. It is more batter than stuffing though and the inside is rich and creamy with a very small piece of octopus tentacle. That is how it is supposed to be too. It is topped with takoyaki sauce (similar to teriyako sauce) and Japanese mayo (which is sweeter than American mayo). Takoyaki is similar to the Bakudanyaki above, but the mini golf ball sized version and way less filling. They are lighter and fluffier than the Bakudanyaki, but they are also different dishes.
That was only 10 vendors. So 10 out of 88 vendors… is… wait let me get my calculator. I know. I’m Asian, but we’re not all good at math. 11%. 11%!?! I only tried 11% of the food vendors at the Richmond Night Market, so I barely scratched the surface. Not to mention I didn’t try every single item each of these vendors offered. Actually wait a minute, I think I might have. Well it was close. You get the idea and I hope I only tempted you to go check it out yourself. I’ve been to the Richmond Night Market numerous times now, but this year is good and I’m looking forward to reordering some of the things I tried while trying the other… 88 – 10… wait let me get the calculator again… 78 I missed!
Location: 8351 River Road, Richmond, BC
Friday & Saturday 7pm-12am
Open on long weekends.
By public transit: The Canada Line is a highly recommended form of transportation. Click here to plan your trip!
By Car: Use No.3 Road and avoid using “Great Canadian Way” because that is reserved for River Rock Casino customers only. There is no parking at the casino parkades for those visiting the Richmond Night Market.