Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

Elegant Dim Sum – 苏杭人家-Suhang Restaurant

December 23, 2012
苏杭人家 – Suhang Restaurant, Richmond BC
苏州酱鸭 (Special Sauced Duck Suzhou Style)
雪菜豆板酥 (Mash Bean Cake with Pickled Vegetables)
灌汤小笼包 (Steamed Soup Buns with Pork Filling)
上海荠菜馄饨 (Shanghai Wonton)
罗汉斋两面黄 (Vegetarian Crispy Yellow Noodles) 

ImageFor a quick dim sum on a Sunday, we visited 苏杭人家 (Suhang Restaurant) as they always have great food and friendly service without a crazy line that is out the door. The restaurant was quite full but it was not outrageous. The owner, Amy, is always smiling and nice.Image

Suzhou cuisine is known for marinated cold dishes, especially duck and fish. Therefore, we tried the 苏州酱鸭 (Special Sauced Duck Suzhou Style). It was delicious, marinated in a sweet soy sauce. The duck was tender and the skin was not too fatty. The flavour was absorbed by the duck very thoroughly and the dish was served at a slightly cold temperature that was just right for this kind of appetizer.


A hot appetizer, the 雪菜豆板酥 (Mash Bean Cake with Pickled Vegetables), made with fava beans that have been cooked till they could be mashed slightly. The fava beans were soft and mushy but still had their shape. The texture was great in that it allowed the beans to soak up the salty flavours from the pickled vegetables. This dish was warm but light and not too greasy.


A traditional, the 灌汤小笼包 (Steamed Soup Buns with Pork Filling), was the not the best I have ever had. There was very savoury and tasty soup inside each bun but the wrapper was not thin enough. The pork filling was tasty and the buns were great, just not outstanding.


Opting for something light and soupy, we had the 上海荠菜馄饨 (Shanghai Wonton), made with a shepherd’s-purse filling. I love shepherd’s purse. It is very similar to watercress. The small wontons had very soft wrappers around the refreshing filling. The clear broth was flavourful and light, just what we were looking for.

The 罗汉斋两面黄 (Vegetarian Crispy Yellow Noodles) were very good. The noodles were nicely pan double-fried, crispy for the most part. I just love that crunch. Fried dough never disappoints. The parts that were soaking in the light sauce were soft and seemed a little over cooked. The vegetables, including baby bok choy, pan-fried tofu, black wood ear, shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, shredded carrot, and bamboo shoots. I absolutely loved the baby bok choy, the two fungi, and the bamboo shoots. The tofu soaked up the light flavour nicely, though. The sauce was decently thickened and light, but still flavourful.Image

Finally, the 多汁生煎包 (Pan-Fried Pork Soft Buns) were nicely pan-fried. The outside had the slightest crispiness with the thick dough soft but not overcooked. The inside soaked up some of the soupy liquid that was so flavourful. The filling was good but too small. One small bite and you are just left with dough.Image

Not pricey but not cheap either, Suhang nails the flavours. However, I do think they could give slightly bigger portions for some of the dishes. The atmosphere is nice for those who like dim sum to be more elegantly high-end, without the crowded and noisy huge restaurants and the clatter of silverware. This is much smaller and had a friendly and bright feel to the place.

Suhang Restaurant 蘇杭人家 on Urbanspoon

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Spicy Sakura – Sakura Mandarin

November 22, 2012
Sakura Mandarin, Philadelphia PA
Spicy Stir-Fry Pot


A second afternoon of wondering around Chinatown, Dad and I settled on the bright and friendly Sakura Mandarin. It was a cute fusion of Japanese and Chinese cuisine. I love a clean and happy little place.

Their special was the Spicy Stir-Fry Pot. It is essentially a vegetable base with various meat and protein additions, all stir-fried together in the wok in a Sichuan style. So many tables had a huge wooden bowl on the table, shared between everyone. It looked so tempting. For $7, you get the base, and then each additional topping is $5 (minimum four kinds). The base includes long mini mushrooms, green kelp, yuba, bean sprouts, lotus root slices, black wood ear fungus, bamboo shoots, and wide clear noodles. In addition, we ordered sliced lamb, squid, fish fillet, and jumbo shrimp. They were quite generous with the meat and they were tender and succulent. The mild spice was plenty flavourful, with quite a kick, though I could have gone for a medium. I loved the variety of vegetables and it was certainly enough for two. Such a kick… so satisfying!

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Little Shanghai, Big New York – 上海小馆-Shanghai Asian Manor

ImageSeptember 2, 2012
上海小馆 – Shanghai Asian Manor, New York NY
灌汤小笼包 (Steamed Tiny Buns w. Pork)
菜芯狮子头 (Braised Lion’s Head Meat Ball w. Vegetable)
上海粗炒 (Shanghai Lo Mien with Shredded Pork & Shrimp)
鱼香茄子 (Eggplant with Garlic Sauce)

Downtown Manhattan was great, but after a long walk to Chinatown, we were starving again. Originally planning on another restaurant with superb ratings and online reviews, we did not want to wait nearly an hour since it was already past 8 p.m. Thus, we decided on Shanghai Asian Manor, still eating Shanghai cuisine at a restaurant with good but not as many rave reviews.Image

The 灌汤小笼包 (Steamed Tiny Buns w. Pork) were huge and quite decent. They were also cheap at only $5.50 for 8! Steamed on a bed of sweet napa cabbage leaves – which I quite enjoyed – the little baozi were filled with pork that were not exactly too fat. This meant there was not as much soup inside as I would prefer, but it was still good. The wrappers were not the thinnest but they were not ridiculously thick. The vinegar with ginger was good and it was nice to find such delicacies far away from home.

The 菜芯狮子头 (Braised Lion’s Head Meat Ball w. Vegetable), another traditional Shanghai dish, was quite nice even if it was not exactly authentic. The three meatballs of ground pork were well seasoned and flavoured. It was pan-fried very nicely, with the harder, almost crunchy layer on the outside that was hard to bite and separate while the inside remained moist and juicy. The sauce was also quite flavourful and I loved the bamboo, shiitake mushrooms, and baby bok choy coated in the sauce. The bok choy, especially, was very good since the flavour was soaked into it completely rather than just have the sauce dumped over the vegetables at the last minute.Image

The 上海粗炒 (Shanghai Lo Mien with Shredded Pork & Shrimp) was quite disappointing. The noodles were somewhat flavourful with the soy sauce taste but it was slightly overcooked; while still holding its shape, it was not exactly firm and chewy. The shiitake mushrooms, shredded cabbage, and baby bok choy were okay, as were the shredded pork. The shrimp were actually quite tender and bouncy but that was the best part of the dish. I expected something a lot better from a Shanghai restaurant since this is one of the most generic, popular Shanghai dishes.Image

Finally, the 鱼香茄子 (Eggplant with Garlic Sauce) was my favourite of the night. The sauce was no garlic sauce; there was hardly any garlic or chili flavours. However, it had a nice sweet bean sauce-like base so it was rather sweet and savoury at the same time. The eggplants were fried quite nicely, although it was quite a greasy dish. I enjoyed the slightly pan-fried and shriveled black wood ear, and the peppers were also good. The eggplants soaked up quite a lot of flavour, so while not authentic, they were delicious.

I was reasonably happy with this meal in New York’s Chinatown. It is not a myth that Chinatown food do not offer the most authentic, delicious dishes, which is why I was quite satisfied with Shanghai Asian Manor. The price and quality were compatible and while still craving the best Shanghai food, at least I had some decent, regular Chinese food to satisfy my growling stomach.

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Non-spicy Goodies – 上海坊-Shanghai Goodies

ImageAugust 26, 2012
上海坊 – Shanghai Goodies, Richmond BC
小笼包 (Steamed Pork Buns)

Since my cousin is too young for authentic Sichuan spiciness, we got him 小笼包 (Steamed Pork Buns) from 上海坊 (Shanghai Goodies) next door. Six xiao long bao’s were only $3.50… talk about cheap! Of course, quality was sacrificed, but it was still not too bad. The buns had thicker skin but since they were still made to order, the skin was still chewy. With the extra thickness, they were actually chewier, which was fine by me. The pork inside was not a fresh and did not have as much of a fresh, refreshing pocket of soup. The malt vinegar did not have ginger shreds and came in a container too small to dip the buns into. However, fatty pork and flour wrapper is still fatty pork and flour wrapper at the end of the day. My cousin certainly enjoyed his meal, even though I took one!Image

Shanghai Goodies 上海坊 (Parker Place) on Urbanspoon

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New Restaurant, Old (Traditional) Food – 上海粗菜馆–Shanghai Élan Restaurant

ImageAugust 22, 2012
上海粗菜馆 – Shanghai Élan Restaurant, Burnaby BC
马兰头香干 (Wild Vegetable w/ Diced Dried Bean Curd)
熏鱼 (Shanghai Style Smoked Fish)
南翔小笼 (Shanghai Style Juicy Pork Bun)
腌笃鲜 (Salted Pork in Hot Pot)
干锅茶树菇鸡 (Wok-fried Chicken with Chinese Mushroom)
红烧走油圆蹄 (Braised Pork Hock w/ Brown Sauce)
素什锦 (Stir Fried Deluxe Mixed Vegetables)

To wrap up a summer of hard but enjoyable work, I got invited out to dinner to a newly opened Shanghai-style restaurant, Shanghai Élan Restaurant in Crystal Mall. I have heard mixed reviews from Mom’s colleagues. The general consensus was quite right, though. It is a good restaurant with superb food but slightly pricier than normal. However, the evening was for celebrations and good food made it just that much better.

To start, we got the traditional 马兰头香干 (Wild Vegetable w/ Diced Dried Bean Curd). I will get this dish at all the Shanghai restaurants I visit. This particular one had decent ingredients: finely chopped vegetables and marinated bean curd. The amount of vegetables versus bean curd was nice. The dish had a nice savoury flavour but was not outstanding. The taste could use a little more savoury, or even sweet, aroma. For me, it was a little bland, or perhaps plain; I was looking for a more complex flavour.

ImageThe 熏鱼 (Shanghai Style Smoked Fish) was exceptional. The fish was crispy on the outside but still had some tender parts on the inside. It was nicely fried but not oily at all, just giving it enough crunchy texture. It soaked up the sweet marinade sauce really well. The smoky sauce was definitely on the sweet side, with some ketchup, soy sauce, and a few other ingredients. It was not watered down and very flavourful; the strong flavour certainly went well with the fish, making it an absolutely scrumptious cold appetizer.Image

Next came yet another traditional dish – the 南翔小笼 (Shanghai Style Juicy Pork Bun). The skin was thin, stretchy, chewy, and not overdone. There was some soup inside, but I thought the pork was not rich enough. More soup was definitely possible had it been fattier ground meat. It had a nice flavour, but again, I am missing that delicate freshness crucial for Shanghai food. The malt vinegar had just enough thin ginger strips and added a nice acidity to the pork. These were decent xiao long bao but they are not the best around town.

A traditional Shanghai-style soup is the 腌笃鲜 (Salted Pork in Hot Pot). It is basically a clear soup with salted pork belly cubes, bamboo shoots, bean curd knots, and bok choy. Due to the salted pork, the soup had an extremely refreshing and slightly savoury taste while not becoming oily and heavy. This also gave the soup its cloudy appearance. The pork was a little tough; the lean parts were slightly on the drier side and the fatty part was not exactly soft and melt-in-you-mouth either. The bamboo shoots and the bok choy were crunchy and refreshing, which I clearly loved. The bean curd knots were hard to get wrong and they added a nice texture to the soup, which in itself was quite good.Image

I am not sure how much of a traditional Shanghai dish 干锅茶树菇鸡 (Wok-fried Chicken with Chinese Mushroom) is, but I certainly loved this dish. It was extremely spicy and full of bold flavours. The tea tree mushrooms soaked up the flavour, as did the onions, bamboo shoots, and a few other vegetables in the dish. They were perhaps coated in a little too much of the chili oil, but at least the spiciness was much appreciated. The chicken was slightly fried so some parts had a little crispy outside. I found it to be a little dry and tough, the meat not being tender. It soaked up some flavour, but it could have been done better for sure. Despite all the oil in the sauce, I loved just how strong the spicy chili and other flavours were.Image

The 红烧走油圆蹄 (Braised Pork Hock w/ Brown Sauce) was also decent but not the best I have had. The sauce was slightly sweeter than usual, which was absolutely fine by me. I think they might have added a little ketchup, although I am not sure. It was, however, not very strong in flavours: a little sweet, a little savoury. I think a thicker sauce would be nicer, and it was also a bit too oily for me. The pork was mostly tender but a few parts were a little dry and tough. It did not completely soak up the flavour, which also did not help it become moist and very succulent. The skin for the most part was soft; however, it was not melt-in-your-mouth perfection. The whole piece of meat just seemed to be a little overdone in my opinion. The bok choy offered a refreshing contrast in both flavour and texture. This is where I really would have appreciated a less greasy sauce, so the bok choy could be flavourful but not oily.Image

Finally, we had 素什锦 (Stir Fried Deluxe Mixed Vegetables) for something with more vegetables. It was a mix of some of my favourites: black wood ear fungi, shiitake and button mushrooms, carrots, bamboo shoots, napa cabbage, bean curd slices, and wheat gluten. All the vegetables were cooked nicely, coated in the sweet sauce. Again, this was a sweet dish, which I absolutely loved. The sauce was more of a sweet soy sauce but nicely thickened. The vegetables soaked up the flavour while maintaining their freshness and for some of them, the crunch. My favourites were the napa cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and black wood ear. The bamboo shoots were also good. I am just a fan of sweet dishes so this matched my palate perfectly.Image

The dinner that slightly expensive but offered great Shanghai food turned out to be an excellent way to celebrate. I loved the new renovations. While it was quite noisy, the service was friendly and the place looked great. The silverware and plates and such were all new, without chips on the side, and had some designs instead of just the traditional white round dishes. New restaurants are just so much nicer than ones that have been around for years. I think I would still go back to Richmond for Shanghai food but this was definitely not a bad choice for dinner.

Shanghai Elan Restaurant 上海粗菜館 on Urbanspoon

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Authentically Shanghai in Richmond – 沪江海派料理-Shanghai River Restaurant

ImageAugust 14, 2012
沪江海派料理 – Shanghai River Restaurant, Richmond BC
南翔小笼包 (Steamed Pork Bun)
砂锅云吞鸡 (Steamed Chicken Soup w/ Wonton)
鲜百合炒黄祺班 (Pan Fried Yellow Snapper from Gulf of Mexico)
鱼香茄子 (Braised Egg Plant w/ Chili Sauce)
雪菜肉丝汤面 (Pickled Vegetable & Pork Noodles in Soup)

牛肉生菜包 (Lettuce Wrap w/ Minced Beef)
香酥鸭 (Deep Fried Duck Meat w/ Taro)

Once again, we dined with my cousin’s family. This time, they had just come back from a 4-day trip to Banff and having been in Canada for over a week already, were intensely craving some Chinese food, especially Shanghai cuisine. Therefore, we decided to go to Shanghai River Restaurant, since I wanted to revisit this restaurant that we used to frequent. Over the years, there were rarely times when our meals would be only mediocre. Often, a couple of months later, the quality would be back up to where it was before. They probably changed chefs a few times, but on this particular visit, I was glad the quality was still where it was, which is to say exceptional.Image

We started with the 南翔小笼包 (Steamed Pork Bun). It is decently priced, at $7.50 for eight. The skins were thin yet chewy. The pork filling was tender and there was a delicious pocket of the meaty soup in each one. The meat was not overly seasoned, nor was it bland. Rather, it was savoury and tasted like good quality meat. The malt vinegar served with it had lots of little pieces of ginger, which I appreciated compared to either no ginger or large pieces at other restaurants.Image

The 砂锅云吞鸡 (Steamed Chicken Soup w/ Wonton) was also incredibly delicious. The soup was extremely ‘fresh,’ by which I mean all the fresh meat flavour had seeped into the soup, making it slightly savoury and sweet as well as refreshing for a meat-based soup. We call this xian in Chinese. The chicken was tender in some parts but dry in others. I certainly liked the wontons much more in this soup. They had the traditional shepherd’s purse and pork filling. The wrappers were slippery and not overdone while the filling was savoury and full of flavour. I also enjoyed the refreshing baby bok choy in the soup. This was just a bowl of light yet delicious soupy goodness.

ImageThe 鲜百合炒黄祺班 (Pan Fried Yellow Snapper from Gulf of Mexico) was actually quite disappointing, especially since I had high hopes and expectations for this dish. I had tried leftovers of this a few years back and both Mom and I loved the soft fillets in the savoury yet light, starchy sauce with the black wood ear fungi. At $18.80, I was expecting a medium-large dish of flavourful fillets with various delicious fungi and vegetables. What we got, instead, was a small plate of less than twenty small pieces of fish that was dry. This was probably due to a combination of not-so-fresh fish and slightly overcooking them. They did not soak up the light sauce, of which the dish did not have much to begin with. The only things I enjoyed about the dish were the vegetables, which included yellow chives, straw mushrooms, asparagus, onions, black wood ear, and lily bulbs. It has been a while since I had lily bulbs but I was never partial to them. I did like the chives and the two fungi. The asparagus added a nice crunch but seemed out of place, as did the onions.Image

After reading online reviews, I knew I just had to get the 鱼香茄子 (Braised Egg Plant w/ Chili Sauce). I love eggplants, especially in garlic chili sauces. I would order this dish at any Chinese restaurant and although some are better than others, it is hard to screw up the sweet, savoury, and spicy dish. The one at Shanghai River turned out to be fantastic, though! The eggplants were fried just enough so that they were soft, slightly mushy, and soaked up the flavours of the sauce, yet were not too oily. The dish still had a decent amount of chili oil, but that is only expected. The shredded pork was sort of fatty, but that is also normal. I loved the shredded black wood ear and bamboo shoots. Everything was coated in a layer of slightly thickened, perfectly spiced and seasoned chili garlic sauce. There were lots of the shreds, but the eggplant were still the star of the dish. The flavours were complex yet harmonious, and this is certainly one of the best eggplant in spicy garlic sauce I have ever tried.Image

My cousin ordered the traditional Zhejiang cuisine comfort food, the 雪菜肉丝汤面 (Pickled Vegetable & Pork Noodles in Soup). The noodles were slightly overcooked, although they were still slightly chewy and soft. I just prefer mine a little undercooked. The soup was flavoured nicely but light, just like most Zhejiang cuisine dishes. The pork was average, with some lean and some fat. I found the Chinese mustard, xuelihong, to be a little on the bland side. It was incredibly fresh and chopped up nicely, but I like mine to be on the salty side, just because it is usually paired with soup, rice, rice cakes, or noodles. The bamboo shreds were also nice and crunchy. This is traditional Shanghai comfort food and at $7.50, it was quite decent here.Image

Going off the track of authentic Zhejiang cuisine, we ordered the 牛肉生菜包 (Lettuce Wrap w/ Minced Beef) for some beef and vegetables. The lettuce wraps were crunchy and I love tianmianjiang, or sweet bean sauce. This one was quite sweet and smooth in texture. The diced beef was just okay. They only had a strong savoury flavour, most of which probably came from soy sauce. I enjoyed the pine nuts but not so much the lily bulbs and other ingredients. The fried vermicelli bedding were barely crispy and got soggy and hard to chew very soon. However, the crunch of lettuce with the sweet bean sauce made the dish, not necessarily outstanding, but certainly delicious.

ImageFinally, Uncle chose to order the 香酥鸭 (Deep Fried Duck Meat w/ Taro). We were all surprised when we discovered how much taro surrounded the duck that we thought they only gave us taro and thus the wrong dish in the beginning. The taro was crispy and fried nicely but slightly too oily for me. There was barely any duck inside it though, and it was certainly not distinct. The sauce was actually quite bland. It was thickened and had some savoury flavour that seemed to me came from some sort of soybean or soy sauce. It looked flavourful but did not taste that way. The shiitake mushroom bits inside the sauce did not do much in the way of taste either. It just ended up being a crunchy, mushy, and slightly bland bite. At $17.80, this dish was not worth it in the ingredients or the taste. At least the taro was soft on the inside, offering a nice contrast to the deep fried exterior.

While there were some misses, there were also definitely some hits, especially with authentic Zhejiang cuisine. I would recommend sticking to the xiao long bao, soup, and eggplants. Even with some disappointments, the dishes were still good; they just did not meet our high expectations for this place. If you are craving upscale Shanghai dishes and know what to order, then Shanghai River is definitely a good bet.

Shanghai River 滬江海派料理 on Urbanspoon

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After the Top of the Mountain – 上海一只鼎-Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant

August 4, 2012
上海一只鼎 – Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant, Richmond BC
南翔小笼包 (Steamed Bun Filled with Pork Nanxiang Style)
马兰头拌香干 (Tossed Herb with Dried Bean Curd)
花雕走地鸡 (Braised Free Run Chicken with Huadiao Rice Wine)
生煎包 (Pan-fried Dumpling Filled with Pork)
干烧四季豆 (Dry-fried Green Beans with Minced Pork)
糟熘鱼片 (Sautéed Sliced Fish in Rice Wine Sauce)
木桶咸肉菜饭 (Steamed Rice with Vegetable and Salt Meat)

陈皮牛肉 (Tangerine-flavored Beef)

After returning from Whistler quite late and craving some Shanghainese food, I got the whole family to drop by Top Shanghai Cuisine. We have always liked the food here but their service was so horrible a few years ago that we stopped going. Mom was not too eager, but I figured that the bad servers were probably all gone by now. After all, if the food is excellent, service quality can be sacrificed to an extent. Surprisingly, even at 9 p.m., the restaurant was still unbelievably crowded and loud with lively chatter.

To start, we ordered the 南翔小笼包 (Steamed Bun Filled with Pork Nanxiang Style), and besides the one I sampled, my little cousin ate the rest of them as xiao long bao is one of his all-time favourite dishes. The wrapping was thin and chewy, not overcooked. Inside was a pocket of ‘pork soup,’ the juice from the melted pork fat in the filling. This is what makes xiao long baos so delicious, as well as the tender filling. This version was not entirely out-of-this-world, but it was still great. It was served with ginger in white vinegar, rather than the traditional kind. I was surprised by this but glad to find that the taste was not much different. They were placed on thin slices of daikon radish, and even though they were not meant to be devoured, I ate it anyways.

The 马兰头拌香干 (Tossed Herb with Dried Bean Curd) was finely chopped and nicely seasoned with enough salty flavour. However, I think I prefer the sweeter version from Suhang Restaurant, just because I love sweet dishes. The vegetables and bean curd were both quite fresh and for $7.99, there was quite a lot. There was a nice, oil-seasoning aroma but the flavours were subtle and none were overwhelming. The texture was also nice, as is traditional with this dish.

Next came the 花雕走地鸡 (Braised Free Run Chicken with Huadiao Rice Wine), which is chicken marinated in an alcohol-based sauce. The alcohol flavour was incredibly strong in this dish, perhaps a bit too much for me as it detracted from the other flavours from the spices and other ingredients. The chicken was extremely tender though, perfectly cooked. The skin was chewy and fatty so I left that alone, but the meat was cooked yet still incredibly tender. The flavour had soaked into the meat, which was nice. However, it is hard for me to appreciate cold chicken most of the time. For what it is though, this dish was quite good.

Another one of their most popular appetizers is the 生煎包 (Pan-fried Dumpling Filled with Pork), which are pan-fried baozi or Chinese buns. Instead of the soft and fluffy texture from steaming, the pan-frying makes the wrapping chewy with a crispy exterior. The crisp was nicely done of this and the wrapper was not overdone either. The filling was too small, however. It was the same as the xiao long bao, made with pork, but there was just not enough of it. There was a lot of empty space inside each bun, and not every one of them had the soupy liquid either. The green onions on top added a nice zing of flavour for those who like them but to me, it did not add much to the dish. This was not my favourite dish but looking around, most people seemed to love theirs.

The 干烧四季豆 (Dry-fried Green Beans with Minced Pork) was one of the best I have had in quite a while. The slightly fried green beans were slightly crispy on the outside but cooked to perfection on the inside. The most important part of the dish, the accompanying ground pork, sauce, and various ingredients were excellent. In addition to the pork, there were shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp bits, onions, and red chili peppers, I believe. It was very spicy, just the way I like it. The soy sauce made it salty but the flavours were complex. The meat was nicely pan-fried as well and the dish was just flavourful in general. The savoury taste mixed well with the soy sauce flavour and it was not bland at all.

My favourite dish of the night was undoubtedly the 糟熘鱼片 (Sautéed Sliced Fish in Rice Wine Sauce), a traditional Shanghainese dish of fish fillets and black wood ear in a sauce made from jiuniang, or sweet rice wine pudding. The alcohol taste in this case is quite faint but still present. I loved the thickness of the sauce. It was also slightly sweetened but salty at the same time. Black wood ear is one of my favourite types of fungi ever. I was indeed very happy to eat the large chewy pieces, along with the succulent fish fillets. The sauce was incredibly addicting and I was almost just eating it plain with a spoon as it was not overly salty. I would get this dish again anytime. It was the first time I recall trying this traditional dish and according to my mom, it was very well done. Regardless of how authentic it is, it was fabulous!

Mom was craving the 木桶咸肉菜饭 (Steamed Rice with Vegetable and Salt Meat), which is rice mixed with salty pork pieces and chopped bok choy and then steamed in a small wooden tub so the aroma of the wood would somewhat soak into the rice. The rice was slightly on the softer side for me as I prefer more of a chew. However, I enjoyed the bok choy inside very much. I am not a huge fan of the meat but it added some savouriness to the dish. I would have liked more vegetables and meat rather than rice but the flavour did soak into the rice, making it slightly savoury and quite tasty. This was not an outstanding dish but it is not like I expected it to be amazing, considering the simple concept behind it.

Our last dish was also the least authentic and for me, the most disappointing. The 陈皮牛肉 (Tangerine-flavored Beef) is supposed to have a very strong orange peel flavour but this one was overwhelming with the black bean sauce. Only a few pieces had some orange aroma and it was not apparent at all. At least the beef was tender and succulent, soaking up the sauce. While not bad, it was not a flavour I liked since I did not think the black bean sauce mixed well with the orange flavour. It was also not as sweet as it should be. I also like mine without too much liquid sauce. The bok choy on the bottom was coated in a slightly spicy oil but were still good. However, this dish should not be served on a bed of vegetables as it should be just the beef with perhaps some other vegetables stir fried together with the meat. At least the price was decent enough to justify the non-authentic way of making this dish.

Overall though, this was still quite an authentic Shanghai dinner. The service was average. They were very busy but our server offered us a 10% discount for paying cash. At a Chinese restaurant, as long as they are being reasonably attentive and not rude, I will be okay with the service since I am not expecting anything outstanding to begin with. Sometimes, it is nice to be left alone to enjoy the meal without much interference from the servers. It was really crowded and loud, though, and part of that was due to the clanging of plates, bowls, and silverware. However, with reasonable prices and great food, I left content and full.

Top Shanghai Cuisine 上海一只鼎 on Urbanspoon

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Shanghai Cuisine Cravings Satisfied – 苏杭人家-Suhang Restaurant

ImageJuly 22, 2012
苏杭人家 – Suhang Restaurant, Richmond BC
香干马兰头 (Marinated Bean Curd with Special Vegetables)
上海两面黄 (Shrimps with Clear Sauce in Crispy Yellow Noodles)
上素蒸饺 (Steamed Vegetable Dumplings)
椰子糕 (Coconut Pudding)

After taking an extremely long time to decide where to go for lunch, we picked Suhang Restaurant because we thought two combos would have been too much from Kyung Bok Palace. I would have preferred Alleluia Café or some other Hong Kong-style café, but Mom is just not one for cheap eats or extremely casual dining. The restaurant was full when we arrived and we requested to be switched to a bigger table after they gave us one stuck in between two larger tables that did not even have enough room for the two people to be facing each other. It also took us a long time to decide what to order, since they had both dim sum and regular lunch options. Our server was slightly put up with us because we were so slow, but I think he could have been nicer about it and maybe made a few suggestions since we were clearly not being very decisive.

I was badly craving 香干马兰头 (Marinated Bean Curd with Special Vegetables) so we ordered that to begin. It is chopped Indian aster mixed with finely diced marinated bean curd. The vegetables were as fresh as you can get them in Vancouver and the bean curd bits had a nice, tender, yet firm texture. This dish was surprisingly sweet, more so than I have had. However, loving sweet dishes even when I am not eating desserts, it suited my palate perfectly. The texture was great and the cold vegetables and bean curd mix was satisfyingly refreshing.

Since we wanted something hot and stir-fried, we went with the traditional 上海两面黄 (Shrimps with Clear Sauce in Crispy Yellow Noodles). We have had this twice before and it was not good the second time because the noodles were not fried enough. This is basically vegetables, shrimp, and pork in a thick, light sauce poured over crispy pan-fried noodles. The noodles need to be crunchy for it to be good, otherwise it is just a lot of mushy noodles with a slightly bland sauce. This time, however, the noodles were extra crispy, much to our delight. Most of the noodles were crunchy and not yet soggy, since it was served piping hot. That just immediately made the dish delicious. The shrimp were succulent and tender. The pork strips did not taste very fresh, with just the slightest hint of sour meat. Perhaps it was just because it had been marinated. The vegetables consisted of carrots, bamboo, sliced button mushrooms, water chestnuts, black wood ear, and golden needle vegetable. My favourites were the chewy and succulent black wood ear, bamboo, and golden needle vegetable. Along with the crispy noodles, this very popular Shanghai dish was certainly well executed here.

Loving steamed buns and dumplings that do not have much meat or is too oily, I went with the 上素蒸饺 (Steamed Vegetable Dumplings). Five huge dumplings for $5.95 was not a bad deal. The dumpling wrappers were nice, just thick enough to be incredibly chewy. I loved that texture. The filling was a mix of diced bean curd and shredded bok choy. It was slightly sweet, similar to the taste of the Marinated Bean Curd with Special Vegetables. I loved that sweetness, as well as the blend of aromas and seasoning. It is definitely one of the best steamed dumplings I have ever had, simple yet delicious.

Finally, they offered us complimentary dessert, the 椰子糕 (Coconut Pudding). It was slightly sweet, with a strong taste of coconut milk. The texture was soft and tender, and also quite ‘bouncy’ for lack of a better word. Too much of it would not be good, as the taste gets quite monotone after a while, but the small square they offered was a nice finish to the meal. Image

Depending on the chef, this restaurant has been hit and miss in the past. Today, it was definitely a ‘hit.’ All three dishes were well made and the complimentary dessert added a refreshing ending. I would certainly recommend all three dishes to others. The price is not outrageous and the service is okay. The restaurant is not extremely loud, as some Chinese eateries can get, so the atmosphere is certainly decent as well. 

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Some Quality, Zero Quantity – 侬-Nong Chinese Restaurant

ImageJuly 12, 2012
侬 – Nong Chinese Restaurant, Vancouver BC
避风塘茄子 (Spicy Eggplants)
南翔小笼包 (Shanghai Dumplings)
花素蒸饺 (Veggi & Egg Dumplings)
豉汁蒸排骨 (Steam Spare Rib)
北菇滑鸡煲仔饭 (Mushroom & Chicken Rice)

We needed a quick lunch as it was quite late already to be heading out to somewhere for a meal already. We were nearby, so Dad recommended this restaurant, which he had previously eaten at and thought the food was decent. Well, we though, why not? We were a little taken by surprise when we were given the dim sum marking sheet as it was already after one on a Thursday. However, I guess it is still technically dim sum. Another issue we realized right away was the inflated prices on all the dishes, at least $1-2 more than very decent dim sum in Richmond, by far the most expensive. Thus, we went with some simpler dishes and had a light lunch.


First on the table was the 避风塘茄子 (Spicy Eggplants). The eggplants were lightly battered and fried. I liked this dish a lot, even though it is not completely worth it for the price. It had a nice crunch and texture to it though. The chili peppers with the dried small shrimp made a very salty, extremely spicy, but also delicious topping. The eggplants were still soft on the inside so the heat went with it very well. The strong spice paired nicely with the bland taste of the eggplant and the crispiness of the batter.

ImageThe 南翔小笼包 (Shanghai Dumplings) were some of the best xiao long bao I have ever tasted. The skin was thin but still chewy. The meat was soft and flavourful on the inside. Most importantly, there was a lot of liquid in each bun, the great-tasting ground pork juices with a nice taste to it. The meat looked quite pink, which at least means it contains a lot of meat rather than have too much flour or starch mixed into it.Image

My favourite dish was perhaps the 花素蒸饺 (Veggi & Egg Dumplings). The concept here is simple: carrots, baby bok choy, black wood ear, and water chestnuts all diced, slightly sweetened, in a large steamed dumpling. It is not a particularly complex dish, but it was certainly well executed. I like the bigger size of the dumplings, as well as the light hint of sweetness in the vegetables. The dumpling skin was also well made, quite thick and chewy. It is comfort food for me.

For something a little more traditional for dim sum, we went with the 豉汁蒸排骨 (Steam Spare Rib). The pieces of ribs were extremely tender and quite flavourful, which I really liked. I found the meat to be on the fattier side for me. I would have preferred more muscle meat than fat, which made the dish a little too greasy. The black bean sauce flavour was there though and quite distinct. The pumpkin cubes at the bottom really soaked up the flavour and were very tasty. They were soft and mushy and had that nice pumpkin aroma. I wish there were a few more pieces though. 

ImageImageFinally, the most disappointing dish of the meal, the 北菇滑鸡煲仔饭 (Mushroom & Chicken Rice) was plain and unexciting. It was chicken thigh meat marinated – I think! – and steamed on top of rice with two pieces of mushrooms, baby bok choy,  and Chinese sausages. This was a little bland for me as there were not multiple layers of taste. The chicken was extremely tender though! They had really smooth and silky texture. The mushrooms could have been so much more plentiful. They do not cost much, unless they are using fresh shiitake mushrooms. The Chinese sausages were sweet but very uncreative. It looks like if they were sloppily thrown on top. The baby bok choy had no flavour at all. The rice was nicely cooked, and after it got chicken juice soaked into it, it became slightly more tasty.Image

I would not recommend this restaurant to anyone. For the extremely high prices they charge, you get above average food but definitely not one of the best. Thus, it did not end up on my dependable restaurants. It was a quick lunch, but we waited a while before the food came. They also did not give us a pot of boiled water to refill the teapot. The service was average for a Chinese restaurant. They also do not specialize in any one cuisine, which kind of lowers the prestige level of the restaurant. However, I guess each market is just very different!

Nong Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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A Break from Cooking – 上海亭美食-Food Shanghai Ting

ImageJuly 8, 2012
上海亭美食 – Food Shanghai Ting, Richmond BC
上海炒年糕 (Shanghai Fried Rice Cake)
鱼香肉丝饭 (Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce on Rice)

No homemade lunch waited for me when Dad and I came home. After grocery shopping, Mom decided she did not want to cook two whole meals on a Sunday. After satisfying her hunger with a bowl of wonton, she brought home Chinese fast food from Food Shanghai Ting. This, as we have discovered, is one of the better places to go for Chinese fast food, as most dishes are made to order. The chef is from China and so knows what he is doing. The dishes usually taste quite decent, even if they are not the most authentic.

First, we tried the 上海炒年糕 (Shanghai Fried Rice Cake). It was basically stir fried sliced rice cake with shredded pork, bok choy, and some other sort of smaller Chinese vegetables. The sauce was a simple soy sauce-based one. The rice cakes were cooked nicely, al dente in a way. They were chewy yet soft enough and still quite sticky. Rice cakes, when cooked to the perfect texture, are one of my favourite foods, especially in the carbs category, better than rice and maybe even thick noodles. The bok choy and the other vegetable were okay. The pork was mostly lean pork, perhaps slightly fatty, but mostly just tender pork. There were only a few shreds of complete fat. The flavour was not too salty or bland, but I found the food quite oily. There was literally a layer of oil covering the rice cakes, vegetables, and pork. They certainly could have eased up on that.Image

The 鱼香肉丝饭 (Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce on Rice) was more flavourful. The garlic sauce certainly had more of a complex flavour. I love garlic and chili peppers, so garlic sauces are usually one of my favourites when eating more generic Chinese food. The shredded pork was the same as in the rice cakes, mostly tender and leaner meat with only a few shreds of pork fat. My favourite part of this dish was actually the vegetables – bamboo and black wood ear shreds. They absorbed the flavour better than the pork, although the taste was good in general. This was certainly not too authentic, but it was still quite tasty and came out steaming hot. For $5.75, Mom and I found it to be a good deal.

Both meals were $5.75, but comparing the flavours, I think I would pick the Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce on Rice over the Shanghai Fried Rice Cake. I like the more complex flavours – garlic sauce will beat out soy sauce almost all the time. It would be lovely to have the shredded pork come with rice cakes. Then it would be really appealing for me. There are so many of these fast food places around Richmond now. With so much competition, most of them are quite decent from what I have heard. Perhaps I will try a few more in the next few months to see for myself the general quality for Chinese fast food in the most Asian city. 

Shanghai Ting 上海亭美食 on Urbanspoon

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