Eating My Way Through Vancouver, Canada

Kitsilano Beach | Vancouver

Kitsilano Beach

I can’t even begin to extol the virtues of visiting the Pacific Northwest when it is not raining. With all the rain throughout the year, cities like Vancouver really blossom when the sun shines and all the plants are green and lush. If it was like that all year, I think everyone would want to live there!

Coconut Ash and S'Mores Ice Cream at Mister | Vancouver

Coconut Ash and S’Mores Ice Cream at Mister

Besides the proximity to nature (the beach is in the center of town and the mountains are 30 minutes away), Vancouver is bustling with an amazing food scene. I could live there for a month and I wouldn’t make the slightest dent on my things-to-eat list. I did my best in a short amount of time. For novelty ice cream, look no further than the liquid nitrogen treats at Mister (1141 Mainland St.). Their most famous flavor is the coconut ash, which complements the black ice cream cones, but I actually like and recommend the crème brûlée (complete with a crackable sugar top) or s’mores (toasted marshmallow!) more. If you get your ice cream in their signature black cone, expect a massive amount of ice cream. It’s enough to share among 3 people (seriously). Flavors change daily so there’s always a surprise in store.

Lunch at Fable (left) and Ice Cream at Rain or Shine (right) | Vancouver

Lunch at Fable (left) and Ice Cream at Rain or Shine (right)

If you’re looking for a more traditional ice cream experience, head over to Rain or Shine (1926 W 4th Ave #102), close by Kitsilano beach. You can indulge in flavors like coffee toffee and salted caramel. Right next to Rain or Shine, you can grab a bite to eat at Fable (1944 W 4th Ave.). They have one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever tasted (thick-cut bacon and cheese are extra) or you can eat more healthy with local British Columbia salmon and kale.

Granville Public Market | Vancouver

Granville Public Market

Speaking of local salmon, BC salmon is absolutely incredible. Darker and redder in color, the flesh is flaky and ever so creamy with all the rich fish oil. My first stop in Vancouver was the Granville Island Public Market (1669 Johnston St.). The whole island is full of cute boutiques and small art galleries. The highlight is definitely the public market where there is a plethora of lunch choices at different stalls. I had to order the deep-fried salmon and calamari at Celine’s Fish & Chips. It was the first time in my life I’ve ever seen fish and chips with salmon and now that’s all I ever want to eat.

Aburi Sushi at Minami | Vancouver

Aburi Sushi at Minami

When in Vancouver, you have to eat sushi. With fish that fresh, it’d be a travesty if you didn’t. At Minami (1118 Mainland St.), you can try the famed aburi sushi. This flame-seared sushi has an extra touch of magic because the chefs sear the fish with binchotan (Japanese bamboo charcoal). I’d never seen anything like it before in my life! That extra bit of charcoal adds a whole new level of smokiness and complexity to your palate. The salmon oshi sushi (pressed BC wild salmon, jalapeno, Miku sauce) is hands down probably one of my favorite bites of food. Don’t miss out though on the tuna tartare, ebi fritters or Champagne roll (scallop, salmon, cucumber, uni, rolled in golden tobiko, Miku sauce).

Loco-Lomi Poke Salad at the Poke Guy | Vancouver

Loco-Lomi Poke Salad at the Poke Guy

I seriously cannot think of a better place to sell poke than Vancouver. At The Poke Guy (420 Richards St.), you’ll find local Hawaiians (shout-out to Reno!) serving poke with a twist, including toppings like mango and corn. One of their star dishes is the Loco-Lomi salad. Reno was great at explaining that lomi-lomi is a salmon salad with tomatoes and Maui onions. Their salad has smoked lomi-lomi, albacore poke, avocado, house yuzu slaw, kani, mango, peashoots, masago, crispy onion and furikake on a bed of lettuce. While I also loved the Poke Guy’s traditional poke, the loco-lomi salad is definitely unique and worth trying.

Cartems Donuterie | Vancouver

Cartems Donuterie

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I Found the Perfect Shanghai Soup Dumpling at Jia Jia Tang Bao

Jia Jia Tang Bao: Xiao Long Bao

Jia Jia Tang Bao: Xiao Long Bao

A bold statement, indeed. Roughly, a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post “In Search of the Perfect Shanghai Soup Dumpling” where I compared Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao to Lin Long Fang’s xiao long bao. Din Tai Fung came out triumphant. I am proud to announce that I have finally found the perfect xiao long bao.

Jia Jia Tang Bao: Waiting in line (top); Inside the restaurant (bottom)

Jia Jia Tang Bao: Waiting in line (top); Inside the restaurant (bottom)

My San Francisco friend introduced me to one of her college friends who has been living in Shanghai for roughly the past eight years. When he suggested a group gathering at  Jia Jia Tang Bao 佳家汤包 (50 HuangHe Road; 黄河路50号), I was definitely intrigued. We planned to meet at 11:30am and when I arrived at 11:20am, a long line had already formed. The people in line were a mix of locals and foreigners (including fellow Americans) and I heard whispers about which xiao long bao were the best.

Jia Jia Tang Bao: Menu

Jia Jia Tang Bao: Menu

Jia Jia Tang Bao is definitely more of a hole-in-the-wall local restaurant. There is limited seating and it’s all communal tables with plain stools as seats. They have a variety of xiao long bao, but the problem is they often sell out by 12pm. By the time I arrived at the order counter at 11:50pm, there were only three types left: pork and egg yolk, pork and crab meat, and just plain crab meat. For a group of 5 people, I hastily ordered six steamers of three pork and egg , two pork and crab and one crab. Roughly, 10 minutes later, Jia Jia sold out of pork and egg yolk dumplings. For an extra 1 RMB, you can order the house ginger, which I highly recommend because xiao long bao isn’t complete without shredded ginger.

Jia Jia Tang Bao: Pork and Egg Dumplings

Jia Jia Tang Bao: Pork and Egg Dumplings

The seating is relatively organized because they don’t allow you to sit down until you’ve ordered food. Our group of five people was relatively large so we only had to share our table with one other person. The steamers came out and I was ready to eat! Each order comes with 12 dumplings and we quickly ate while trying to avoid burning our tongues on the hot soup inside each dumpling.

Top: Pork and Crab Dumplings; Bottom: Crab Dumplings

Top: Pork and Crab Dumplings; Bottom: Crab Dumplings

The dumpling skin was thin, the filling was so tasty, and the inside was bursting with soup. Everything danced in my mouth, creating a perfect food moment. This was my first time having Shanghai soup dumplings with egg yolk, but I really liked it. I honestly believe those were my favorite. The general consensus of the table was that the pork and crab meat were the best. I liked the all crab meat/roe dumplings, but it was really rich and I don’t think I could have eaten an entire steamer of them. We were pretty lucky because October-November is crab season in China so the fillings were really fresh.  Otherwise, I think they add frozen crab meat (this is me just guessing based on the seasonality of food).

If you go to Jia Jia, I definitely recommend getting there at 11am. By the time we actually finished eating and left Jia Jia, the line was even longer! While I won’t be frequenting every weekend, I now know where to take people to get good xiao long bao.

Xiao Yang Sheng Jian Bao

Xiao Yang Sheng Jian Bao

Also, right across the street from Jia Jia Tang Bao is Xiao Yang Sheng Jian 小样生煎. Sheng jian bao 生煎包 is basically the pan-fried version of xiao long bao. At Xiao Yang Sheng Jian, there aren’t different fillings, just pork, but the dumplings are also filled with hot soup. It’s another famous Shanghai institution. After Jia Jia, we actually stopped by Xiao Yang to give our out-of-town guests another taste of Shanghai.

It was a fruitful and wonderful trip to HuangHe Road and I would highly recommend going to both Jia Jia Tang Bao and Xiao Yang Sheng Jian Bao. You could even get Xiao Yao to-go and eat it while you’re waiting in line at Jia Jia! Look at that. I’ve already planned your perfect eating day for you.