With so many readers traveling through Vancouver B.C. we like to inspire side trips and special places that we think our readership would like. Richmond, B.C., is one those special gems we want to share with you.
Minutes from the Vancouver, B.C. airport, Richmond is an Asian food lover’s dream.
With a setting along the famous Fraser River, Richmond has about 400 Asian restaurants for its 200,000 residents, or, one for every 500 people, and the quality bar is very high, even in the mall food courts.
With a nearly 70 percent Asian population, almost half of which are from China, a visitor can count on some scrumptious and varied fare. Add to this amazing variety of restaurants the renowned Richmond Night Market with its 80 food stalls, and you’ve landed yourselves in the middle of a foodie heaven!
We checked into the Radisson Hotel, just a short walk from the Aberdeen light rail station. There are plenty of well-known hotel brands in Richmond, but the Radisson is particularly handy to the airport and light rail. What this also means is that you can get to downtown Vancouver without getting into a car by walking the short distance to the light rail.
A foodie friend and I found ourselves dining a deux on the first night of a 3-night stay and headed for the Shanghai River Restaurant after walking the borders of the main restaurant district. Note: Walking, very good idea. Much food. Fortunately Richmond is flat and great for burning off a big meal on foot or bicycle.
The first thing we noticed at the Shanghai River Restaurant was that its gorgeous dining room was full of happy Asian families and tables full of intriguing looking plates of food.
Courteously greeted and seated, we tried the soup dumplings which were absolutely delicious, followed by vegetables wrapped in bean curd, pork with preserved vegetables and Black Cod. That’s about all two people could handle, but it was exquisite and, reminded us that the best way to eat Asian food out is with a larger group so you can sample more menu items.
The large group issue was handled the next morning when the gracious hosts of Tourism Richmond gathered a table full of us for Dim Sum at Fisherman’s Terrace Restaurant in the sprawling Aberdeen Center, another short walk from the Radisson.
O, boy! And out came the prawn dumplings, 3 mushroom soup, pork buns, barbecued pork pastry. tapioca cake, turnip cake, deep fried prawns, egg custard and steamed mini-sponge cake, to name a few items. A hearty Richmond, B.C. breakfast!
Not only does Richmond have remarkable gastronomic attractions (more on those in a moment) but a short bus, bike or taxi ride will get you to Steveston Village, an engaging working seaport steeped in regional history. Plan to visit the beautifully restored historic Gulf of Georgia Cannery, built in 1894, at the Steveston Harbor. The Cannery reflects the multicultural heritage of the area and the guided tour will convince you of the rough and tumble life of the Gulf of Georgia fishing and canning industry.
As you walk along the wharf on your walking tour of Steveston, check out the fresh fish being sold right off the docked fishing boats. On the wharf numerous restaurants specialize in fresh seafood dishes and the friendly locals are welcoming. (It’s Canada!).
Heading back to central Richmond, just about 2 miles away, perhaps it might be time for your afternoon Pineapple Bun at the intimate Lido Restaurant and Bakery. This place is so popular that sometimes you have to order and pay for your Pineapple Buns in advance and the hostess will tell you to come back in 10 minutes when the next batch is due out of the oven. The buns are a real treat, with a nice pot of tea. There is no pineapple in them, but the tops resemble pineapples, hence the name.
While we are helping you burn off all this wonderful food, it is time to guide you over to the spectacular Richmond Olympic Oval, just west of central Richmond. Built for the 2010 Winter Olympics and the speed skating events, it has been transformed into a public fitness center, in true Canadian fashion. It is chock-a-block full of exercise machines, basketball courts, a climbing wall, badminton and, watch out, the best ping pong players you’ve ever seen up close! You can get a day pass to use the facilities and it is big enough to not feel crowded. The refreshing groups of young people engaged in athletics was wonderful to see. This really is a “worth your time” attraction like Steveston.
While on the subject of athletics, if you have ever been curious about Dragon Boating,the Richmond Rowing and Paddling Centre at the nearby University of British Columbia Boathouse offers visitors the opportunity to get out on the Fraser River, under the supervision of veteran coaches and trainers. See sidebar for contact information.
All of these attractions can be reached comfortably by bicycle and there are several bike rental outfits in the Richmond/Steveston area to serve you. A good cycling map is available listing additional resources.
Returning to our foodie world, along Alexandra Road, (aka “Food Street”), are a couple of notable restaurants to try (among many). The first is Jang Mo Jib Korean Restaurant. The name means “grandmother’s house” and serves very traditional Korean cuisine and the excellent claypot cooking.
We tried Pork Neck Soup, the delicious short ribs and Korean traditional sausage (Soon Dae Jub See). The kim chee was varied and delicious as well.
Our moveable feast then lurched a block away to the Claypot Hot Pot and BBQ restaurant to have some fun with this great Cantonese-style cooking.
In the middle of the large tables are gas burners divided into sections so that different broths can be used to cook the varied food items, which on our visit included soup bases of Szechuan Spicy, Parsley and Preserved Egg, Satay and Peppered Pork Stomach. Into these sauces we cooked: Short ribs, pork belly, sliced lamb shoulder, and meatballs of fresh prawn and minced dace (fish). We also deep fried some fish skin and spicy pork ear. For our vegetarian palate we also cooked tofu, gluten, garland chrysanthemum and lotus root. The tastes were amazing and this style of cooking is especially fun when you have a table full of people.
Lastly, if you are traveling to Richmond, B.C. between May and September, you are in for a special treat if you visit the Richmond Night Market, open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. During our visit, there were 80-plus food stalls, ranging from Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese and varieties in-between. Bring your appetite and be prepared for some real fun. It teems with people from all over the region as well as tourists and the management monitors food prep and keeps the grounds very clean. The Richmond Night Market is accessible via the light rail (Bridgeport Station) and sits close to the Fraser River, so bring a light jacket or sweater to keep the night chill at bay. Be prepared for lots of food and fun.
From now on, spending at least 2 days in and around Richmond, B.C. is going to be part of our trips to Vancouver. Discovering the convenience of the light rail system and recognizing that Richmond is a full-on Asian food celebration were two highlights of our visit. One thing that stands out is how most people of Asian descent appreciate a wide range of cooking styles from around Asia. This translates into a large community support base in Richmond and it is enjoyable to see. Food brings the world together. Perhaps that accounts for the happy families we saw in Richmond. Don’t miss it!
Some helpful links for you:
Tourism Richmond: http://www.tourismrichmond.com
Richmond Night Market: http://www.richmondnightmarket.com
Richmond Olympic Oval: http://richmondoval.ca
Steveston Village: http://www.steveston.bc.ca
Gulf of Georgia Cannery: http://gulfofgeorgiacannery.com/