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By Tourism Richmond

The charming elegance of the interiors of Richmond’s Bánh Mì Très Bon (1840-4720 McClelland Road) makes any diner feel like they have been transported to a Parisian café. In the display case are a variety of brightly coloured macarons and an assortment of small cakes. If they turn to the menu on the wall, though, they’ll see classic Vietnamese dishes, like pho, bánh mì, and bánh bot loc (shrimp and pork tapioca dumplings).

Bánh Mì Très Bon, RichmondThis combination of Vietnamese cuisine and French pâtisserie items represents chef/owner Lan Do’s cultural and culinary influences, as well as the colonial history of Vietnam itself. Do, who is of Chinese descent, was born in Vietnam into a family with a passion for food and the restaurant industry. “I’ve had a love of food since childhood because my mom and dad are pretty adventurous eaters. I was never afraid to try anything,” she explains. Her grandparents on her father’s side ran a Chinese bao business while the food she ate at home melded both Chinese and Vietnamese cooking. As a child venturing out to eat with her father, she sampled French dishes like pâté and baguettes with rich butter.

Lan and her family moved to Richmond in 1980 when she was eight years old, but she never forgot her Vietnamese roots, even as she built a successful marketing and business consultancy business in the high tech industry. It was always her dream to open a Vietnamese restaurant, a dream that she finally set in motion when her son and daughter were grown up.In 2016, after quitting her job, Do embarked on a three-month trip to Vietnam during which she thoroughly researched and sampled its cuisine. “I went from the south to the north of Vietnam. I really went into the rural areas and tasted the food there. I think that’s where the food is still intact since the recipes are still the same,” she says. In Hoi An, she discovered the most amazing bánh mì at places like Madam Khanh, The Bánh Mì Queen. She also met the fourth-generation baker of the baguettes sourced by many bánh mì shops in the city.

In addition, Do was so intent on honing her Vietnamese cooking that she trained at The Saigon Professional Chefs’ Guild (World Association of Chefs’ Societies) in Ho Chi Minh City, tirelessly working with three of the country’s top chefs in private lessons that ran from 7am to 6pm, 6 days a week. With their mentorship, she refined the recipe for her pho, as well as learned certain secrets, like how to make the crispiest spring rolls by coating them in a starchy flour before deep frying them.

She returned to open Bánh Mì Très Bon with her husband Doanh Do in a new retail complex in Richmond. For her, the location for her new restaurant was a given. “It had to be in Richmond. I grew up in Richmond. It’s my hometown. I want to contribute as much as I can to the community where I grew up,” she insists. She also saw an opportunity in a dining landscape that lacked an establishment that specialized in bánh mì.

Her concept was culturally two-pronged and unique in a marketplace that usually associates Vietnamese cuisine with non-descript pho joints. “The concept is simple. I wanted to introduce Vietnamese cuisine and incorporate French flair,” says Do. The French elements can be seen in the pastries and desserts, the aesthetics of the room, as well as the plating of the Vietnamese dishes.

In terms of the ingredients, Do aimed to differentiate Bánh Mì Très Bon by sourcing as local, sustainable, and organic as possible. For example, her meat comes from a farm in Chilliwack who delivers the freshest of product to her. This exacting sourcing drives up her costs but Do wants to serve only nutritious food that she would feed her own family.

Besides the French pastries and Vietnamese ham, all components of the restaurant’s dishes are made in-house, including the baguettes that are baked daily. When Do was designing her bánh mì selections, she focused on highlighting basic high quality ingredients, such as in a veggie version with grilled tofu, Portobello mushrooms, and eggplant, and in their popular breakfast sandwich with two fried eggs.

The restaurant’s pho is another labour of love, which involves simmering beef bones for twelve to fifteen hours, allowing the natural flavours to deepen and infuse the broth. Instead of using MSG as a flavour shortcut, Do relies on a balanced use of spices and other ingredients, such as onion, ginger, shallots, star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom. While other cooks will incorporate dried tangerine peel and black peppercorns, Do feels they overpower the subtle notes of the broth. The menu is fairly small in order to ensure the consistent quality of every dish served, such as grilled lemongrass chicken on rice with egg, or butter garlic chicken wings. However, Do, both at home and at the restaurant, is constantly engaged in research and development, fine tuning new recipes, which are labour-intensive and offered as specials to her customers. Recent creations were a northern Vietnamese soup with duck, bamboo shoots, and vermicelli, as well as a turmeric seafood noodle soup, which hails from central Vietnam.

Many of these are local street food dishes that no one else in the Lower Mainland is currently serving. “It’s so exciting to bring them out one at a time,” says Do. And judging by the contented faces of those around her enjoying bowls of noodle soups and bites of freshly made bánh mì, her customers share in Do’s enthusiasm.

Check out this recipe from Bánh Mì Très Bon for Tiger Prawn Pomelo Salad.

Bánh Mì Très Bon
1840-4720 McClelland Road
Richmond
604-273-4422

By: Lan Do, Executive Chef and Owner of Bánh Mì Très Bon

INGREDIENTS
(6 portions)

White or red Pomelo – (1 medium)
(in the restaurant, they order their pomelo from Vietnam)
Green Papaya, julienned (1/2 medium)
Carrots, peeled and julienned or shredded  (2 jumbo),
Basil leaves,chopped into fine strips (1 cup)
Roasted peanuts, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
Large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut in half & boiled (1/2 pound)

DRESSING
White sugar (100 grams)
Fish sauce (50ml)
Garlic, minced (20 grams)
Lime juice (40 grams, approximately 2 limes)
Red chili peppers, minced (2)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Peel pomelo and remove all the skins, break the pomelo flesh into small pieces.
  2. Toss pomelo, shredded green papaya, carrots, prawns and basil into bowl
  3. Make dressing: Add lime juice and fish sauce to sugar, whisk well until dissolved.  Add minced garlic and mince red chili peppers.
  4. Dress salad.
  5. Sprinkle chopped peanuts on top of salad.

By Jackie Dives

Commercial Drive is a hot spot for food and shopping. Head north from your ride along the Central Valley Greenway for plenty of food options. 

At Commercial Drive and East 7th you can grab a casual yet stacked burger and beer at Relish. It has a bit of a cafeteria vibe, so if that’s not exactly what you’re looking for try Jam Jar.

Burgers galore for omnivores and vegetarians are on the Relish menu. Pictured is one of the veggie options.
Here’s a beefy burger option at Relish.
Welcome to 77k Freeze.

For a completely new experience head a few stores down to 77k Freeze, where they make custom ice cream to order. This is a gem for people who have particular allergies or eating restrictions, as you choose the ingredients and they freeze the ice cream on the spot using liquid nitrogen.

Freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogen!

Custom ice cream for any taste.

As the Greenway goes through Burnaby it takes more of a backroad detour. Still, there are a few places to stop and grab some treats to-go that are nearby.

Onwards to Burnaby!

In the summer, you may find blackberries along the way.

If chocolate is what keeps your legs pumping, stop at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory (open weekdays) down Douglas Road and then hang a right on Still Creek Drive.

If you need a sugar jolt you can grab a handful of Mexican treats and a Jarrito from El Comal on the way down to take a rest at nearby Burnaby Lake.

Interior of El Comal.
Some of the Mexican treats available.

I would also highly recommend grabbing some of their made-fresh-daily soft taco shells and any other Mexican food you can manage to carry back on your bike to make dinner with.

Authentic Mexican ingredients to take home.

They hope to be re-opening their restaurant soon so phone ahead, as you may be able to eat lunch there too!  

Elsa Lourdes Nuñez Gleeson, owner of El Comal.

From East Columbia Street, turn down Holmes Street and onto Tenth Avenue on your way to New Westminster and you’ll find Paradise Vegetarian Noodle House, where Vietnamese food goes vegan.

Spicy lemongrass gluten at Paradise Vegetarian Noodle House.
Back on the bicycle and we pedal back to the Greenway an on to New Westminster next!

This is part of a 3-part series.

Part 1: Vancouver Olympic Village
Part 3: New Westminster’s Central Valley Greenway

By Anna Black

Tucked just a few blocks from the New Westminster Skytrain station, you’ll find a cozy little Vietnamese eatery on Carnarvon Street called Banh Mi Bar.

Now in its second year of operation, the restaurant has become a popular choice with locals because of their affordably priced and freshly made traditional Vietnamese baguette subs and friendly customer service.  Owners Lily and Tung have been described on Yelp Canada as an “absolutely lovely pair of people” that are “nice and friendly” and always “deliver with a smile”. The restaurant has received numerous five star reviews and as a result was recently named one of the site’s Top 100 Restaurants for 2017.

The menu, although simple, offers a delicious choice for every sub lover complete with delicately flavored grilled meats, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and just a splash of sriracha, all served on crisp freshly toasted baguette. One of Banh Mi Bar’s best sellers is the House Special which features four different types of pork plus meatballs. Other options include meat balls, pork patty, vegan, cold cut, and chicken. Their iced Vietnamese coffees are also always a big hit.

The restaurant offers patrons some inside seating room but because of its location right in the heart of historic downtown New Westminster, it’s also the perfect stop for takeout on your way to New Westminster Quay, Queens Park, or for a stroll by the Fraser River.  While you’re there make sure to grab your stamp card to receive your eleventh sub for free.

Banh Mi Bar is open Monday – Friday from 10 AM – 6 PM and Saturday from 10 AM – 5 PM. They are closed on Sundays.

Banh Mi Bar
722 Carnarvon Street
New Westminster, BC
604-553-9966

By Visit Richmond BC

Chowing down at a food court in Richmond is somewhat different compared to the typical North American mall food court; you’ll find incredibly unique mom ‘n pop stalls serving tasty curries, warming noodle soups, creating mouth-watering dumplings, barbecuing meats – you name it, you’ll probably find it in Richmond. Each and every food court in Richmond has a hidden treasure waiting for you to discover it.

It can be slightly overwhelming on your first visit; there are so many options to choose from that you may not be able to decide. To help you out, here are some insider tips about two popular Asian malls and their food courts, including where to go for the best eats and how they compare to each other in the ultimate face-off!

Food options at Parker Place
Food options at Parker Place

The Contenders

Parker Place
Established in 1993, Parker Place Mall has become a shopping landmark in downtown Richmond. At this mall you can dine on the tastiest cuisine and shop for the trendiest fashion, the coolest toys and gadgets.

Yaohan Centre
Yaohan Centre is one of the earliest Asian Malls developed in Richmond. You’ll find over 80 stores selling fashion, health and beauty products, art and gifts; both the Osaka Asian supermarket and food court sell an array of dishes.

Yaohan Centre vs. Parker Place

The Mall: First Impressions
Easily accessible from the Canada Line’s Aberdeen Station, both malls are just a five minute walk in either direction (north for Yaohan, south for Parker Place). Both malls also have large parking lots offering free parking, making it easy to stop in for a quick bite.

Each mall has a few different entrances, but both food courts are easy to find. Parker Place has lots of Asian stores selling various items from rice cookers to fresh fish. Yaohan is home to Osaka Supermarket; if you have not been to an Asian supermarket before, this is a good one to look around and grab some cooking sauces, teas and candies.

Parker Place food court
Parker Place food court

The Food Court
Parker Place’s Food Court is long and narrow with food stalls on both sides and seating running down the centre. They have big tables, ideal for groups of friends and family and it is light and airy, making for a comfortable dining environment.

Yaohan Centre’s Food Court is quite spacious compared to Parker Place’s food court, with food stalls on three sides and plenty of seating in the middle. They have a nice path to walk around and view all food stalls.

The Food Stalls | Parker Place – Our Favourites:

Parker Place Meat & BBQ

While not formally in the food court, we would be remiss to leave this off the list of favourites. Found at unit 1020, Parker Place BBQ Meats is a small butcher shop selling freshly barbecued meats (chicken, duck and pork) as well as a variety of ready-to-go BBQ meals for under $10. Arguably serving up the best BBQ duck in Richmond, there are often long line ups so patience is necessary – we promise that the BBQ meats will be well worth the wait!

Lai Taste
This unassuming Vietnamese food stall offers tons of items including a huge selection of noodle soups and lemongrass dishes, but the star at this stall are the foot-long Vietnamese subs, or Bahn Mi, available for under $5, including tea. The buns are light and crispy and our top picks are the fried fish and pork sandwiches.

Joy’s Taiwanese Kitchen
For those looking for a traditional bowl of beef noodle soup and a side dish of onion pancakes, or some savoury beef wraps, Joy’s Taiwanese Kitchen serves up traditional Taiwanese fare in generous portion sizes. The value here is fantastic, with every dish available for under $10.

Honorable Mentions:

Shanghai Goodies
Has a good choice of noodle and rice dishes, desserts and Shanghai snacks. We recommend you try their Tan Tan noodles.

Rainbow Café
Visit this stall for sweet treats and bubble tea. It’s the best place for bubble waffles and a delicious treat made in-house, the dragon’s beard candy.

Food options at Yaohan Centre
Food options at Yaohan Centre

Yaohan Centre | Our Favourites:

Curry House
Curry House’s Laksa is one of the best in town. Not too spicy, not too creamy and with a good amount of noodles, chicken, egg and tofu puffs, this laksa is sure to fill any curry cravings you might have. They also serve up delicious Malaysian dishes for under $10, such as curries, Hainanese chicken, char kway teow and roti.

Wah Yuen Noodle House
This place offers almost every kind of congee, noodle, noodle soup, and noodle with meat combo possible. The wonton and BBQ pork noodle soup is always good – pair that with a Chinese donut or Chinese donut wrapped in rice noodle and you’ll have a very tasty lunch/dinner for under $10.

Chun Hing Cuisine, Golden Rice Bowl and Pak Tak
These three stalls are next to each other and offer a smorgasbord of Chinese dishes. You can choose from two or three dishes with rice or noodles from $6.99. They pile the plate so high, you’ll have enough to feed a family of four. All three stalls offer similar dishes, so take a look and see which one tickles your taste buds. Insider tip: go after 6pm and you’ll be able to get FOUR items plus rice or noodles for a mere $5.50.

Yaohan Centre food court
Yaohan Centre food court

Honorable Mentions:

Little Bean Tea Station
Serving bubble tea, shaved ice desserts and other sweet treats including Wheel Cake, which is filled with red bean or custard – your choice.

Datang BBQ
Head here for tasty BBQ meats, including duck, pork and quail. They have a variety of mix and match combos.

Our Verdict

Although both food courts serve up staple dishes and desserts you’d expect at a Chinese eatery, each have their own highlights. You won’t find barbecued meats as succulent as the ones at Parker Place Meats & BBQ serves up, but if you’re looking to feed a family, the three food stalls at Yaohan offering triple decker combos will beat any offering from Parker Place’s food court.

Having said that, we think both food courts are well managed. The stalls are diverse, with a lot of Asian cuisines represented. Each one has their own highlight and go-to dishes. Both are well worth a visit and both offer amazing value for their food. Our suggestion? Have lunch at Parker Place and dinner after 6pm at Yaohan to help stretch your travel budget.

By Joanne Sasvari

Long before they met, Lynn Le and Steven Lee knew they wanted to open a restaurant. But it took a long time – and an even longer journey – before they would see their dream become reality.

Reality it is, though. On Aug. 1, 2012, the couple opened Chopsticks on Pho in Surrey. They’ve since developed a loyal following for their fresh, healthy and flavourful Vietnamese fare. They’ve also become proud members of their community, even though it is a world away from where they started out.

DSC_0053
A meal at Chopsticks on Pho. Image by Brianna Fee.

Vietnam is where they started, back in the bad old days that followed the end of the war in 1975. Many Vietnamese, especially in the south, feared retribution from the Communist government of the newly unified country, and rightly so: It is estimated that a million Vietnamese were sent to brutal prison camps after the war and some 65,000 executed. And then, in late 1978, the Indo-Chinese region degenerated into wholesale conflict.

Hundred of thousands of people – some say as many as 1.5 million – fled the country over the next several years. Because it was illegal to do so, they couldn’t very well hop a flight to freedom. Instead, they boarded rickety boats and hoped for the best.

In 1980, Steven Lee was among them. “My family came in May of 1980. I was nine years old,” he recalls. His family left from the southern part of Vietnam, after a stint in a Malaysian refugee camp. “We applied for status and Edmonton accepted us right away,” he says.

Lynn Le’s family left in 1988, when she was 11, from the northern part of Vietnam.

“We were 31 days out in the China Sea. I remember a lot of throwing up. No food. No water,” she recalls. “We got to Hong Kong and I stayed in a refugee camp for about three years. We got status with Holland, but I came over here (to Canada) for school, and met Steve and stayed.”

“I saw this girl and I thought, she’s so small, but she loves to eat!” Steven recalls. Right from the beginning, their love for food was almost as important as their love for each other. Steven says: “When we first dated, we asked each other what we wanted to do, and we both had the same thought, ‘I want to own a restaurant.’”

Salad rolls. Image by Brianna Fee.
Salad rolls. Image by Brianna Fee.

“When we opened the restaurant, it was solely based on the passion we had, but neither of us had any restaurant experience,” Lynn says.

“When we were building the restaurant, especially the kitchen, we got the equipment in and didn’t know how to work it. We did it all by ourselves,” Steve says. “There were days we literally held each other and cried.”

That was then. Now things are completely different. Now they have a whole community that loves what they are cooking up.

Pho Xao Shrimp. Image by Brianna Fee.
Pho Xao Shrimp. Image by Brianna Fee.

Lynn, the cook, calls her food “fusion-y,” with some French and Thai influences, but in fact, most of the menu is fairly traditional Vietnamese fare adapted to local ingredients. Everything is as fresh as possible, and Lynn hand picks everything from the market herself.

“Everything on the menu is strictly my recipe, but it’s influenced by my mother,” she says. “The soup itself, which is a pho noodle soup, is traditional. What I’ve fusioned is the salad rolls and few other dishes.”

Not surprisingly, the pho is the most popular dish on the menu. “It’s the broth. They love it,” Lynn says. “My favourite dish, I think, is the salad roll, with just the rice paper wrap. You can make anything into the salad roll: chicken, prawn, pork.”

Classic-Pho
Classic pho. Image by Brianna Fee.

They’re not just feeding the community’s appetite for fresh food, though. Every Aug. 1, on the restaurant’s anniversary, half of everything they make goes to BC Children’s hospital; then on Thanksgiving, $2 or $3 of every bowl of pho they sell goes to the SPCA.

Still, they can’t forget their past, and how far they’ve come to be where they are. As Lynn says, softly, “We remember because it was so horrific.”

“We are so happy now. It took us three years, and we have good customers and loyalty, who have been supporting us since. We have been blessed in that way,” Lynn says.

Chopsticks on Pho
101 – 15325 56th Ave.
Surrey, BC
778-574-1884
www.chopsticksonpho.ca

By Sheliza Mitha

Across a few short, bustling and walkable blocks of Coquitlam is where you’ll find Austin Heights – an unassuming culinary gem that’s home to some of the most delicious and densely concentrated restaurants anywhere in the Lower Mainland. Overflowing with restaurants representing nearly every corner of the globe, the area is relatively small in size (making it easy to explore by foot) but big on taste serving up the height(s) of culinary adventure with almost every step.

Here, you’ll find a veritable foodie destination that requires some serious and dedicated exploration – which is just what I set out to do one bright, sunshine-filled day. The goal was to spend a good part of my day in a self-guided food tour of the area. This meant nearly five-hours of restaurant hopping to experience just a few of the area’s tastiest and most unique experiences – only because it would be impossible to explore and appreciate all of the area’s offerings in a full day, or two or three. (But, it’s certainly worth a try.)

My first stop was an early lunch at Austin Fish & Chips, a simple, unpretentious and authentically old school kind of place that serves up some of the best fish and chips this side of the Pacific – and I’m not the only one to think so.

Though it was still quite early when I walked through their doors, the place was already quietly humming with a slew of regulars. This is little surprise considering the place has been here for some 35 years and takes immense pride in their homemade items (tartar sauce, coleslaw, French fries) and uses only the freshest seafood available.

As for me, I ordered straight from the menu: halibut and chips. The fish was light and flaky on the inside, complemented by an equally light and crunchy batter. Generous handfuls of fries gently swam beneath the halibut, which was also accompanied by a soft roll and refreshing coleslaw that made an ideal partner to the fried foods spilling over my plate.

Austin Fish & Chips
Austin Fish & Chips

From here, it was a short walk across Austin to Soup Plus, a charming soup-and-sandwich café where they make almost everything from scratch – including the soups and the sandwich bread. So tucked away is it that it can easily be missed unless you’re seeking it with intention. And I was.

Through word-of-mouth and various reviews, I had heard about the mysterious owners who run the place – a true mom and pop kind of situation where the pop is a world-renowned chef. And, while Seinfeld has its notorious “Soup Nazi,” many Coquitlam regulars consider Soup Plus owner their very own version. Indeed, on my quick visit there, one customer was jokingly rebuffed with a “No soup for you!”

With a slightly overwhelming soup selection, I ventured for the lentil bacon and the mushroom with a tuna salad sandwich on the side. The lentil-bacon was savoury, peppery and hearty enough to enjoy on its own, while the mushroom soup was unexpectedly light yet creamy with a full, robust flavour that made me regret ordering a small. One bite into the sandwich and it was clear that it had been made by a pro. The bread was soft, with the right kind of bite and thick enough to carry the weight of the tuna filling, which was meaty and creamy without being greasy. The addition of crispy lettuce, cucumber and tomato made for an ideal balance of flavour and texture.

Though I was already full at this point, I vowed to hit three more places before the day was through. The next stop was Pho Holiday. This relatively new addition to Austin Heights belongs to two young Vietnamese sisters, who – after working in other restaurants for years – decided to open their own.

Pho Holiday features a full menu ranging from appetizers and Vietnamese subs to traditional beef pho, noodle soups, grilled meat, various vermicelli and rice dishes as well as kids’ meals; there is no dearth of options here if you’re looking for truly authentic Vietnamese fare.

Already quite full from my previous stops, I ordered an appetizer with fried shrimp rolls, spring rolls and a shrimp salad roll. Most surprising was the generous portions. Each fried shrimp roll included a large giant prawn, tender and juicy wrapped in a crispy, flaky shell. The spring rolls were equally delicious, as were the salad rolls. The afternoon I was there, a few regulars had strolled in for the pho, which I was told was hearty, comforting and full of flavour – the main reason for which they had come back for more.

From here, I headed a block north to Ridgeway Avenue to the Indian Grill & Curry House. This eclectic place is owned and operated by the Chatrath family, who moved here roughly six years ago from Germany where they owned an “international” restaurant serving all manner of cuisine (e.g., German, Greek, Indian, Italian, etc.).

Here, they focus almost exclusively on Indian and Italian, offering up traditional versions of both. So, along with your order of plump, crispy samosas and creamy butter chicken, you can also enjoy some pizza and chicken wings. While visiting, I sampled some of the veggie samosas, which were freshly made, piping hot and stuffed with savoury potatoes that were hard to resist – despite the fact that this was my fourth meal in a matter of hours.

Down the street is where I picked up dessert to bring home. Inno’s Bakery is so much more than its name. While it’s true that Inno features more than 30 types of bread all baked using the best, all-natural ingredients (no preservatives here), but look beyond this and you’ll find a thriving mini grocery store – the kind you might find in Chicago or New York – complete with mini aisles and colourful products packed into tidy shelves.

Inno`s Bakery
Inno`s Bakery

Along with standard staples, the store carries an impressive range of fine foods and imported specialty products, as well as its very own line of goods – such as coconut chips and granola. Since this bakery is especially well known for its Lava Raspberry Chocolate Cake, this is what I took home to my family. This indulgent dessert is combination brownie and Black Forest Cake with a molten raspberry twist – the luscious raspberry filling oozing out with each slice and bite. The result is a sweet, rich yet tart chocolate experience that we found more than a little addictive.

Austin Heights is situated in the southwest part of Coquitlam, stretching along Austin Avenue from Blue Mountain Street in the west to Gatensbury Street to the east, and along Ridgeway Avenue just one block north of Austin.

Austin Fish & Chips
1119 Austin Ave, Coquitlam
604-937-7244

Soup Plus
1102 Austin Ave, Coquitlam
604-936-7827

Pho Holiday
1054 Austin Ave, Coquitlam
604-931-2646

Indian Grill & Curry House
1041-A Ridgeway Ave, Coquitlam
pizzatownbc.ca

Inno’s Bakery
1053 Ridgeway Ave, Coquitlam
innobakery.com