For a region that’s largely reclaimed land, Richmond, B.C., is an incredible restaurant mecca. This compact area is home to over 800 restaurants, and with 60% of the population being Asian-most of that Chinese-it’s a great place to explore Chinese cuisine, sampling from various regions. (Many Chinese people, including talented chefs, migrated to Richmond in response to the United Kingdom’s handover of Hong Kong back to China in the mid-1990s.) Let me be clear: I’m not talking about Vancouver (which also has its share of good Chinese food), but Richmond—just to the south of Vancouver.
It’s easy to get there from Seattle. Drive less than three hours by car, reach No 3 Road (most of the action is along or just off this street), and you’ll feel like you’ve found China. What’s not so easy is negotiating where to eat. There’s a density of restaurants, for sure, but it’s difficult when many signs are Chinese-only, and even more of the menus are that way as well. Based on extensive travel there, I’m here to help. Let me introduce an eating itinerary for Chinese food lovers that covers a variety of dining experiences, sure to satisfy from the first meal of the day to late-night treats.
Leave early morning to beat the Seattle rush hour, enabling you to get to Richmond about 10 a.m. for the opening of the Richmond Public Market. Talk about a quick immersion into the Chinese culture: here you’ll find an old-style functioning market with vendors selling things from herbs to hanging meats, and from cheap jewelry to expensive massage chairs. Upstairs is the food court. Check out stalls serving a wide array of Chinese regional dishes. I especially recommend Xi’An Cuisine, where you can order biang-biang noodles (here called “noodle with fried chili and vegetable”). Watch as the chef hand-stretches the noodles at the counter before taking them back to cook. You might also try the newly-opened Sisters Kitchen, serving Chongqing specialties like ma la (numbing and spicy) sweet potato noodles.
If Richmond Public Market marks late breakfast, cross No 3 Road to continue with a light lunch at Shanghai River. (Combined, you’ve created a two-part brunch!) There are other interesting Shanghainese restaurants in the area, but Shanghai River is one of the biggest, with a glass wall view of the chefs making what you want to be eating: xiao long bao. These soup dumplings have delicate wrappers holding a large drop of soup inside. Order a basket (I recommend the pork over the crab and pork combination) and ask for advice if you’re not sure how to eat this delicacy.
Food coma commenced, you might want to rest at your hotel-or instead head to the quaint fishing village of Steveston, which is part of Richmond. Learn the history of the salmon cannery, or rent bicycles and ride the trails (some with great water views) to get the blood circulating. You’re making space for dinner at Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle. Beef noodle soup is a national dish of Taiwan, and Chef Hung was the winner of a competition held annually to determine the best. The beefy broth comes with choice of meats, noodle type (go wide!), and spice level. After this hearty dinner, head across the street to Excellent Tofu & Snack—where the homemade soy products are indeed excellent. People come to get soy milk and soy pudding by the container (even the bucket) to take home, but you can sit at the counter and enjoy a small tofu pudding, hot or cold, sweet or savory, with a variety of toppings. Basil seeds, for example, add interesting texture and flavor.
If, later that night, you have the midnight munchies, you’re in luck, as Hou Lok is open until 4 a.m. There’s a special menu of five-dollar dishes (fried smelt and pickled vegetables with pork intestines are two of my favorites); order four, and you get complimentary congee—the ultimate comfort food to set the stage for restful sleep.
In Richmond, you’ve got to do dim sum, and my top recommendation is Jade Seafood Restaurant. Best choices here are the har gow (shrimp dumplings), pickled ginger with century egg and prawn rolls, and the unique, truffle-infused steamed mushroom dumplings. Dine before 11 a.m., and you get 20% off your total bill. (Bonus: going early gives you time to recover for lunch!) Arrive later, especially on the weekend, and you’ll wish you had made a reservation.
Between meals today, you can visit the Richmond Olympic Oval, built for the 2010 Winter Games and now a multi-purpose international center for health and wellness. Some may also enjoy a visit to the International Buddhist Temple (also called the Guan Yin Temple). You can’t miss it from the highway, as it’s one of the largest and most authentic temples in North America.
Lunch is a Japanese dish that has roots in China: ramen. For this, you’re heading to Nan Chuu Izakaya, home to G-Men Ramen—serving some of my favorite ramen in North America. Evening brings porky tonkotsu ramen (as well as a red chili miso pepper version with the acronym RCMP), but as it’s daytime, you’re getting shoyu (soy sauce) ramen, which is lighter. Slurp fast while the noodles are firm and the broth is hot. Warmed up, you’ll now want to take a little walk for a refreshing cool-down. There are lots of bubble tea places in Richmond, but my favorite is Bubble Queen. This shop is popular with the teen crowd, indulging in many candy-infused bubble teas, but if in season, get the mango slush that’s full of fresh mango slices on top and tapioca balls at the bottom.
For a multi-dish Chinese dinner, I recommend Hoi Tong Chinese Seafood Restaurant. This small restaurant specializes in Cantonese preparations, so don’t look for fireworks. Instead, note the respect for the freshness of ingredients and their natural flavors and textures. Favorites include braised pork knuckles with sour plum, stir-fried scrambled egg white with crab meat, and the understated but well-executed sweet and sour pork with pineapple.
Hungry or not, in summer it’s worth a visit to either the Richmond Night Market or the International Summer Night Market. I jokingly refer to them as cell phone cover markets, as that seems to be the main merchandise on offer, but the food stalls serve up “street food” from all over Asia like spicy squid, stuff on sticks (look for skewered lamb), and even the seductively delicious stinky tofu.
If you’re up early, still with stomach space, and eager for more dim sum to start the day, I recommend Empire Seafood Restaurant. The baked barbecued-pork buns are a nice alternative to the more ubiquitous steamed variety, buttery with a sugary crust. For dessert, try the baked tapioca pudding, which is rich and creamy—and best eaten while still warm.
This can be a good shopping day between meals. It’s easy to take the SkyTrain to sneak up to Vancouver for retail shopping on Robson Street. But don’t stay too long, as you want to return for lunch at Old Buddies Seafood Restaurant. (NOTE: Old Buddies has since closed.) The menu lists 199 dishes, with numerous bowls of congee, e-fu noodles, and noodle soups. What you want here is the wonton noodle soup. You can choose from different configurations of wontons, shrimp dumplings, and noodles, but I suggest the shrimp wonton noodle soup. For just over five dollars, you get a bowl of light chicken broth that’s some of the best around, while floating are bigger-than-you-can-believe wontons containing shrimp that have a welcome “snap” as you bite into them.
As you start to wrap up your time in Richmond, consider the opportunity for good Asian ingredient shopping. Allow time to make stops at Yaohan Center, Aberdeen Centre, and maybe even the Izumi-Ya Japanese Marketplace. A surprising find at Izumi-Ya is a special little ganache chocolate shop called La Chocolaterie. Fitting the theme of your stay in Richmond, try the Japanese sampler that includes chocolates with red bean, black sesame, and green tea.
For your getaway dinner, you can get eat-in or to-go at HK BBQ Master. The name alone sounds quite commanding, and certainly lives up to expectation in terms of meats. The BBQ pork is slightly sweet, the soy sauce chicken is incredibly moist, and the BBQ duck is simply delicious. But most irresistible is the roast pork, which boasts three delicious layers: the meat close to the bone, a layer of succulent fat, and finally an irresistibly crisp and crackly fried skin. My advice: Eat some there, then (perhaps buying more) take leftovers for nibbling while waiting at the border to clear customs, with fond memories (including great smell in the car) of Richmond.
Can’t get enough? Here are more food photos from this Richmond eating itinerary:
- Dim Sum Worth the 136 Mile Drive
- Best Bites in the Asian Food Mecca of Richmond, British Columbia
- Escape from Seattle: North to Vancouver/Richmond for the Best Chinese Food in North America
For further assistance with restaurants, hotels, attractions, and more, contact Tourism Richmond.