Suburban Richmond, British Columbia, has the Vancouver International Airport, numerous recreational trails and access to both the ocean and the Fraser River. More importantly: authentic, delicious, more-choice-than-you-can-imagine Asian food.
Richmond is becoming a food destination for culinary explorers looking for an authentic taste experience beyond your typical General Tao’s chicken or wonton soup.
The city is home to over 800 restaurants – that’s a lot for a place with less than 200,000 residents – with a full half of them specializing in Asian fare, primarily cuisine from Hong Kong and mainland China. Declared “the best Chinese food outside of China” by both Condé Nast Traveler and The New York Times, Richmond is becoming a food destination for culinary explorers looking for an authentic taste experience beyond your typical General Tao’s chicken or wonton soup.
How Richmond got delicious
Immigrants from Hong Kong started moving into the Vancouver area in large numbers in the 1970s, and word has it many chose Richmond because the word “rich” suggested prosperity (for similar reasons, Richmond Hill, Ontario, has a thriving Chinese-Canadian population). Newcomers launched restaurants as family businesses, and other new arrivals flocked to them, hungry for a taste of home. It helped that Richmond’s vibrant fishing industry provided a bounty of seafood for Asian dishes.
Navigating Richmond’s restaurants can be intimidating for the uninitiated – many of the best spots are tucked away in nondescript strip malls, with no English signage or menus. But you can start by doing some Internet research before heading out. Visitors wanting to wing it (literally – the wings in Richmond are delicious) should start on the three-block stretch of Alexandra Road commonly referred to as Food Street, which features over 200 Asian restaurants. Here you’ll find sit-downs like Vivacity Restaurant, offering formal Chinese banquet dinners, countless hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese bahn mi joints, and the very popular Snowy Village, a Korean dessert place specializing in bingsoo-style shaved ice.
Visit the mall
For the tastiest finds and in-the-know bragging rights, explore the nooks of Richmond not typically known for top-notch cuisine: mall food courts. The city boasts a number of Asian-style malls, most of which offer food that’s way better than your local takeout. Aberdeen Mall – a modern facility that’s branded as one of North America’s largest Asian malls – features an 800-seat food court with many tasty choices. But some of the best eats can be found in the smaller, dingier malls like the less flashy Parker Place or the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Empire Centre. It’s home to the very unassuming James Snacks, which whips up the best claypot rice around.
Find food experiences
In Richmond, it’s not just what you eat: Where you eat it is also part of the fun. Download a map of the city’s Dumpling Trail and take a self-guided tour of over 20 restaurants offering dumplings from different parts of Asia. If you’re in Richmond over the summer months, hit at least one of the city’s two night markets, both of which sell Asian street food aplenty. Whatever route you choose, bring along an open mind and a pocketful of cash – many Richmond restaurants don’t accept debit or credit cards.
Must-tries in Richmond
Hainanese chicken at Prata-Man Singapore Cuisine (9060 Capstan Way): This is cold chicken served with chicken-oil rice and a hot clear broth. It may not sound fancy – and it isn’t – but it is outstanding.
BBQ pork at HK BBQ Master (4651 No. 3 Road): Located in the parking lot under a Superstore, this hidden gem cooks up succulent barbecued meats.
Congee at Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant (8135 Park Road): This spot does a mean traditional hot porridge, with additions like barbecued duck and Chinese doughnuts for dipping.
Pineapple buns at Lido Restaurant (150 – 4231 Hazelbridge Way): While they don’t contain any pineapple, these hot buns with a crispy sugar topping served with a pat of butter are an indulgent treat.
Lamb soup with hand-pulled noodles at Xi’An Cuisine in the Richmond Public Market (2370 – 8260 Westminster Highway): Watch the chef pull and hand-cut the fresh noodles that go into this rich broth with lamb meat.