Despite having been settled in Vancouver for the last seven years or so, my family had never been to dimsum before. I mean, I’d gone for dimsum before, but always with friends, never with my family. I’m not sure why, but it was probably due to the fact that we almost always go out for dinner, rather than lunch, and sometimes ordering at a Chinese restaurant can be daunting when you don’t speak Chinese. In any case, though, we finally decided to satisfy our cravings for dimsum by trekking out to Wah Wing one Sunday afternoon.
If you’re like me and aren’t too familiar with the world of dimsum, it can be difficult trying to decide what to order, especially since the English menu descriptions are usually less than helpful. Still, I know enough to order the Siu Mai ($4.25). The shrimp on top were a nice touch, being aesthetically pleasing and letting us know how much care was put into the food. The siu mai themselves were moist and meaty with a nice bounce, while the shrimp on top provided a nice textural snap.
I guess I’m still a kid at heart because one of my favourite items to get is always the Lo Mai Gai ($4.25), or the sticky rice wrap. It’s just so fun to unravel that lotus leaf and discover the sticky rice within. Anyways, the rice here was moist, but not too wet, and quite filling. It was also filled with meat and other savoury treats, like mushrooms, which added a slight note of earthiness.
Next up, we had the Steamed Beef Balls ($3.95), which were nicely cut up for us as to be more sharable. Beef generally isn’t my meat of choice, but here it was nicely tenderized, smooth, and tender. There was a subtle textural crunch from the water chestnuts. These balls also had a distinct aroma from the greens, and although I’m not sure what they were, I really enjoyed it.
We had another kid-friendly item in the BBQ Pork Buns ($3.95). The pork filling was predictably sweet, but also slightly savoury at the same time. I thought that the morsels of pork were also quite substantial, with less filler and fatty pieces than other dimsum I’ve had. For me, though, the highlight of these is always the bun itself, and here it didn’t disappoint, being pillowy soft.
I also ordered the Pan Fried Turnip Cake ($3.95). Here, it was not too greasy, again both combining the natural sweetness and savouriness of the ingredients. However, I found it a bit dense for my liking, and a little too dry, as I kept having to reach over for my tea. Still, I enjoyed it, as it was one of the more filling items at the table, compared to the dumplings or the beef balls.
Last up, we also ordered the Fried Green Beans Special ($7.95), which is a lunch special that includes a bowl of rice and a soup of choice. The beans themselves were very fresh and quite crisp. The taste of the beans themselves was allowed to shine, as the dish itself was neither too salty or spicy. Unlike other versions I’ve sampled, these also included some diced onions, which also provided an enjoyable textural crunch.
As part of the lunch special, we also received a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup. I can’t pretend to be an expert on this, but I thought this was one of the best versions I’ve personally had. There was a good balance of flavours present, and the mushrooms added a subtle silkiness and earthiness. But then again, I enjoy mushrooms in just about anything. In any case, I especially thought that the fried green beans special was a good deal, considering that the meal includes both rice and soup.
Thankfully, though, my family enjoyed our first Vancouver dimsum experience, and so we decided to return for a dinner service. The restaurant was quite crowded, but the service was excellent, as it had been during dimsum. Our tea was promptly replaced without us having to hail down a waiter, and the servers, knowing that we weren’t Chinese, were thoughtful enough to identify each dish for us.
Once I saw it on the menu, I eagerly suggested that we order the Half BBQ Duck ($12.95), since I love duck in any form. To be honest, it was a bit pricey, but I think it was worth it, as the duck was moist and tender, and not at all tough, which can often be a problem with duck. The skin was crispy and flavourful without being too greasy, and there was plenty of meat on the plate as well.
My parents always like to order the Mongolian Beef ($12.95). This version was fine, but ultimately nothing memorable. This version was seriously lacking in the vegetable department. Some kind of broccoli would have definitely helped matters. It was fine, but nothing we would order again.
Moving on, we also had the Tofu with Minced Beef ($12.95). This pretty much had everything we were looking for. The tofu itself was silky soft, and went perfectly with the steamed rice we ordered. It was a little salty and a little spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. The beef had soaked up the sauce and was admittedly quite salty, but I find that that’s the way it is at every restaurant. The portion size was also perfect for the price we paid.
Lastly, we had an item we always order for my mom’s benefit, the Pan-Fried Soy Sauce Rice Noodles ($10.95). The noodles were a tad too soft for my liking, as they could have been chewier. The onions, meanwhile, were undercooked, being too raw. Still, there was a nice assortment of ingredients on the plate, including large, tender slices of beef, so I suppose that makes up for it.
After two visits to Wah Wing, we were well-satisfied, and we would definitely return. I can’t say that I or my family are experts on dimsum, but both of our experiences here left us impressed with the food, the service, and the prices.
Wah Wing Szechuan Restaurant
2748 Lougheed Highway
Port Coquitlam, BC
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to Golden Lake in the past year or so– including both dim sum and dinner visits, I’d ballpark it around a dozen. For my family, that’s a lot, since we tend not to go out to Chinese restaurants too often (it’s usually just my mom and I, and you can’t really order much if there’s only 2 people eating it). This time around though, we went with my dad and Samson, to enjoy the short Alaskan King Crab season, which runs roughly from the middle of February to mid-March, depending on the amount of crabs shipped over.
My mom, dad and I actually wanted some king crab last week, but as it was just the three of us (and we weren’t feeling exceptionally hungry), we decided to wait a week so that Samson could join us too. Our visit wasn’t all for nothing, as we did have one of my all-time favourite dishes, Peking Duck ($26.99/2 courses)!
Here, they bring out the entire roast duck and slice it for you at the table– a little entertainment to go with your dinner, if you will. Some may find Peking Duck incredibly unhealthy (it is mostly duck skin, after all), but I think that this is the bestest thing ever. No, really. If prepared right, the crisp duck skin, wrapped in a thin steamed pancake, drizzled with a little hoisin sauce and topped with slices of green onion is a real delicacy– my favourite restaurant for this is actually in Hong Kong, but I do like the one offered at Red Star Seafood Restaurant (on South Granville Street in Vancouver). The one they offer here at Golden Lake is quite good, but the skin isn’t quite as crispy as I’d like. I appreciate that they include a little bit of meat with the skin, so that it doesn’t induce tooooo much guilt.
Now, since throwing out the rest of the duck would be an utter, horrifying waste, most restaurants offer it served in an additional one or two ways. We opted for one other course, and this came out soon afterwards in the form of the Lettuce Wraps. Here, the duck is chopped up and pan-fried with water chestnuts (for that satisfying crunch), green onions and plated atop crispy wonton skins. Again with hoisin sauce as a condiment, you would put a few spoonfuls of the duck mixture into the freshly cut lettuce, and eat it taco-style. I’ve been to restaurants where this isn’t executed very well, because the lettuce is ripped up oddly, creating crevices for the cubed meat to fall out of. At Golden Lake, the lettuce leaves are whole, and there were quite a few pieces too. I like this dish for its differing flavours and textures– you have crisp lettuce and wonton wrappers, crunchy water chestnuts and chewy duck, and it’s all a mingling of sweet and salty that just seems to work out. For reference, the third course is often a duck soup or “gung”, which is a starch-thickened soup.
You probably came here to read about our adventures in the wonderful spiky world of the Alaskan King Crab, so without further ado, here it is! King Crab, like most seafood, is served by the pound, and Golden Lake is currently selling it for $16.99/pound (I’ve seen it go as low as $12.99 last year). The King Crab in itself is also a three-part meal, and there are many preparation options. The Crab Legs always come up first, and we chose to have them steamed with garlic and green onion. Eating crab is often the bane of my Chinese restaurant visits– I love it, but I’m lazy and I hate getting my hands dirty. With King Crab though, all that isn’t such a big deal, as the legs are served split open, and it’s as easy as eating lobster — you just pull it out with the little fork! These were prepared perfectly, as the fluffy, sweet meat just slipped right out. As well, the minced garlic was steamed to the right point, so they weren’t overly spicy from rawness, but still had that great garlicky taste.
The next course consisted of the Crab Knuckles, which could be prepared with a seasoned salt rub (tsew yim) or battered lightly and tossed with dark soy, green onions, ginger and onions. We chose the latter, as its our usual preference for crab and lobster, but I hear that the seasoned salt is a more traditional approach to it. The knuckles came out steaming hot, and were again very well executed– the batter was very, very light, and the soy sauce seasoning wasn’t too salty. As well, the crab meat was still fluffy, and wasn’t drowning in oil. This take on the dish is a little messier than the legs, as you have to do a little work to pick out the crab; however, I thought that the work was definitely worth it, and I’d love to have this dish again.
Served shortly after the knuckles was our requisite veggie dish, the Baby Bok Choy with Gingko Nuts and Bean Curd in Broth ($15). We had ordered this dish during another visit, and felt that the simplicity of it would go well with our decadent meal tonight. There really isn’t too much to say about this– the veggies were cooked properly, the broth was appropriately seasoned– it wasn’t a fantastically stellar dish, but it did the job.
The very same minced garlic and green onion mix (actually taken from the empty platters of crab legs) is used as the broth base for noodles in the third course. I found this practise to be a little puzzling (hence, why it was important to use a separate pair of chopsticks to pick up the legs), but it made sense in the end, as the Garlic Noodles were infused with that delicious crab aroma from the first course. For this course, you could choose from e-fu noodles (a spongy thick egg noodle often served with lobster) or sang mein, which is the kind you’d see in a bowl of wonton noodles. We chose the sang mein, as it tends to soak up more of the sauce; e-fu noodles need more oil to be cooked well, and we thought it would probably overwhelm the dish. Along with garlic, this veggie dish is cooked with bean sprouts, chives, and green onion. The noodles were cooked al dente and were quite chewy, but I thought that there was a bit too much water in the dish, making it wetter than I would have liked. The garlic was pretty overpowering in this dish, and I found it a smidge too salty for my tastes.
As for the King Crab itself, it certainly was an indulgence– our crab was just under 10 pounds, making the price for the crab about $170; to make it into a 2 course meal, you need to add $28; and to get the noodles, you have to add another $15. If you’re keeping count, that means we nearly spent a whopping $240 for a meal for 4 people, and that’s definitely not something we’d do every day. If you have the funds for this kind of a splurge, I’d say go for it (at a reputable restaurant so your money doesn’t go to waste). As for myself, I don’t know if I would have king crab anytime in the next few years…
Sometimes, instead of a noodle course, the Alaskan King Crab head is used as a container for baked rice; however, our server Peter (the floor manager, I believe), recommended that we go with the noodle dish, as our head didn’t have much meat in it, and we’d get more bang for our buck with the noodles. His presence as our server on both nights was much appreciated (though was a little too talkative at times…), as he gave us great advice with regards to portion sizes, and how many dishes we should order. There was never any pressure to order more food (or more expensive food, on our Peking Duck night), our tea and hot water was always filled up, and our plates were always being changed over. We did go eat at a later time (we ordered our food around 8pm), but I’ve been during peak hours for both dim sum and dinner, and service is equally good then. After finishing yet another satisfying meal with fresh-baked almond cookies and taro-tapioca dessert soup, I hope that you’d find the same service and quality here that makes Golden Lake one of my favourite restaurants!
3555 East Hastings Street
The Pink Pearl has been an establishment in Vancouver for as long as I remember (which is about 18 years or so), but I’m certain it’s been around way longer than that. Now, whether it’s been open for all 18 of those years is another issue, as the last time I remember going was when I still watched The Magic School Bus. After multiple fires and accidents, the restaurant remained closed for quite some time, depriving my family of a place to go for dim sum.
Well, that certainly isn’t the case anymore. The Pink Pearl opened up again earlier this year (correct me if I’m wrong), and though we really wanted to visit, we weren’t able to make the trip out til this summer, when my aunts and grandma were in town visiting. We decided to go there after church for a late-ish lunch, and ended up bringing the whole family along (all 17 of us).
I was worried that there wouldn’t be any tables, since we were arriving just when all the other churches in the area let out– usually places along East Hastings are packed, but it turns out there was one lone 17-person table available. Score! We sat down and quickly put in our orders, as we were all quite hungry.
While we were waiting for the order-form food to show up, none other than a dim sum push cart ambled by! Where do you even SEE these anymore?! I was uber excited, both because there was food to be had, and also because I wanted to be a push-cart lady when I was younger. Others wanted to be princesses, I wanted to push food around… I had high aspirations, I really did. Anyways, we asked for two orders of the Pan-Fried Shrimp and Veggie Dumplings, which looked interesting enough. Since the dumplings were pushed around on an open cart (as opposed to a warming cart), these were a little cold. The skins were adequately thin, and the shrimp had a pleasant snap to them, while the veggies were only so-so, as they were a tad mushy. Too bad, really, as these would have been great if not for that (and the coldness).
As many of you know, food doesn’t come when you expect it to at most dim sum places– case in point, the Egg Tarts arrived next, but since we were hungry, this was a welcome addition to the table. These egg tarts had fabulously flaky crusts (look at all those layers of pastry!). The filling was just right, being not too sweet. We actually ordered 5 plates total, 2 at the beginning and 3 at the end, so that we could all get one.
Next up were three different plates of rice rolls– Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls, Beef Rice Noodle Rolls, and Chinese Donut Rice Noodle Rolls. All the rolls exhibited good chewiness– they weren’t too thick and didn’t disintegrate while you tried to pick them up with your chopsticks (God knows how often that happens to me, but I think it’s just because I’m a bit of a failure when it comes to chopstick technique). The Shrimp, like in the dumplings above, were snappy and tasted fresh. I also liked that these were deveined properly, as I’ve been to some restaurants where they weren’t, and it was not a pretty sight. I don’t actually like the Beef Ball-mix that’s served at Chinese restaurants (there’s a weird taste to them that I just can’t put my finger on), but all my relatives had good things to say about it– the beef was bouncy and not crumbly, and the water chestnuts didn’t distract too much from the plate. The Chinese Donut Rolls were a bit disappointing, though, as the donut didn’t taste very fresh. Granted it’s wrapped up in a rice wrapper, so the moisture from the roll would naturally make the donut less crispy, but it was the fact that it was overly chewy and oil-logged that made us dislike it.
This is terribly unhealthy, but I always order the Deep Fried Salt and Pepper Squid and Deep Fried Tofu when I go for dim sum. This time though, I had an excuse because all the cousins wanted it as well. The pieces of squid had a thin layer of batter covering them, and weren’t too difficult to eat (usually my cousins have a hard time chewing the squid). There was a ton of garlic, jalapeno peppers, green onions and red pepper was well, which made this bursting with a variety of flavours, so it was both spicy and salty. It was too bad that this dish was too oily, or else it would have been fantastic. The tofu wasn’t nearly as oily, and was very crisp and hot. I liked the little bits of deep fried garlic as it again gave a little more flavour to the dish.
The next dishes that came up were all a little…adventurous. The Fish Maw with Shrimp Mousse was prepared well, with the fish stomach being spongey and not-too-fishy. The shrimp mousse was bouncy and worked well with the maw. My aunt really likes this dish, so we generally order it when we go out, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. The Phoenix Talons (or Chicken Feet) were kind of blah– too oily for our tastes, and it didn’t have much in the way of spices or flavour. My grandma usually loves this (even though we need to swish it in water to get rid of some of the salt and oil), but she really didn’t approve of these. The Pig Stomach with Veggies was a hit though– we loved the peppery soup that came with it, as well as the variety of veggies (napa cabbage, celery and cabbage) and the bean curd sheets. The pig stomach didn’t smell or taste unpleasant, and was tender without being too fatty. I haven’t had this dish in a while since my mom isn’t too confident about the cleaning and stewing process, so this was a real treat.
And at long last, the staples of the Chinese dim sum menu: Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings) and Siu Mai (Pork and Shrimp Dumplings). We appreciated that they came fresh from the kitchen, so that they were very hot, but felt that they fell short. The har gow’s skin was too gummy, and didn’t hold up well even under pro chopstick skills (so I really had no chance… there were shrimp bits everywhere). As evidenced by the shrimp bits on the table, the shrimp itself was diced up too much and wasn’t held together properly. The dumplings were pretty bland as well– none of the usual hits of sesame oil. I didn’t feel like the siu mai was anything too special; there was actually too much pork in it (you can kind of see the pork spilling out of the wrapping), albeit well-prepared pork that was bouncy and not hard to chew.
And onto the obligatory meat dishes, we had the Steamed Beef Balls and Black Bean Spareribs. As I said before, I don’t eat the beef balls, but my aunts and uncles all enjoyed it, saying pretty much what they did with the rice rolls. The Black Bean Spareribs were a little blah. I felt like there could have been more sauce and flavour. The ribs themselves were quite tender though.
But wait– there’s more! By virtue of having 15 people eating (including several uncles with big appetites and little cousins who had uncle-sized appetites), we ordered even more food– and it’s not like we only ordered one of each of the above dishes either. To get a little fuller, we ordered some Egg Yolk Custard Buns, Stir-Fried Glutinous Rice, and two orders of Rice in Soup (called Pow Fan in Chinese, but I can’t quite figure out what it’s called in English). The Custard Buns were actually some of the better ones I’ve had, as the bun was soft while still holding up to the thick but slightly runny ingredients. The egg yolk custard wasn’t too salty or sweet, but wasn’t bland either. Stir-Fried Glutinous Rice is one of my favourite dishes, despite the heavy amounts of oil used to cook it. The rice grains in this were slightly chewy without being hard, and was full of Chinese sausage, egg, dried shrimp and green onion. I loved eating this, but staring at the pool of oil on the empty plate afterwards was not too appetizing. The Pow Fan was quite a bit healthier than the glutinous rice. Basically, this dish is 30% steamed rice with 70% soup and ingredients, and so naturally the rice would break down a bit, rendering it into something like congee. We ordered one seafood mix with wintermelon, and one mini oyster and wintermelon. Both were a little heavy on the MSG, but the ingredients in each were quite good– there was a good mix of clams, shrimp and conch in the seafood bowl, and there was also a good amount of oysters in the oyster bowl. I don’t know if I’d order these again, though, as I didn’t really feel like they were worth it (I’d prefer a fried rice).
I had a good time at the Pink Pearl, even though some of their dishes could’ve been improved a bit. I think I liked my experience more for the memories it brought back (they open up a dance floor on certain weekends and my friends and I used to dance around when we were little) and for the chance to hang out with the whole family, which is difficult to do now that my grandma is back in Hong Kong. It was a little on the expensive side, though, as it came to about $17 a person, and I’m used to paying something around $12 for dim sum. This would be a good place to go if you’re with a big group, or if you’d like to see one of the older dim sum restaurants in Vancouver that isn’t part of a big chain.
Thanks for reading through, everyone! I know this was a long one…
Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant
1132 East Hastings Street
I had originally wanted to go to Milestones for Sunday Brunch with the fam, but it turns out the Lougheed Highway location has been closed down because of apartment construction nearby. Boo. We were stumped on a restaurant until my mom remembered her meal at Grand Dynasty a few months back. Eager to have some dim sum, we quickly drove over to the Grand Villa Casino and Hotel, where Grand Dynasty is located.
After a short wait, we were seated at a spacious round table. For some reason, we had to wait a really long time before someone came over to take our tea order (usually, the host brings you to the table and immediately asks you what kind of tea you’d like). Oh well, it was a little odd, but it wasn’t like we were incredibly thirsty.
We quickly checked off a few things on the order form, drank some tea (We ordered 2 different kinds, but they didn’t charge us for either! Coolio.), and waited for our food to come. First to arrive was the Pan-Fried Halibut with Soya Sauce. We were pretty impressed with this dish, as the fish (with bones) were flakey and not overcooked, and were not over-coated with batter. Despite the dark look (probably achieved by the use of dark soy), they weren’t too salty and were surprisingly not too oily either. The cilantro and green onions cooked with the fish were very fragrant and fresh (not limp). My grandma and dad both thought this was comparable to ones that they’ve had in Hong Kong, and we thought it was great because it was flavoured just right– my grandma can’t have things that are too oily or salty, so this was perfect for her.
Another thing we ordered for our grandma were the Steamed Beef Tendon with BBQ Sauce. My mom and grandma both like eating tendon a lot; me, not so much. The gelatinous quality of the tendons really doesn’t sit well with me, but I did give this dish a try. I found myself a tiny piece to eat, and I have to say that this was really well made, despite my biases toward beef tendon in general. They were soft and not too gummy, and had a lot of flavour, which didn’t actually taste like BBQ sauce. It tasted more… Asian. Haha. What we didn’t like about this dish was that it was on the oily side, so we actually had to swish it in a bowl of hot water for my grandma.
I usually love Pan-Fried Radish Cake with XO Sauce, but this dish really fell flat. The pieces were too firm, and it wasn’t spicy at all! I was hoping for a crispy exterior with a soft interior with easily discernable strips of radish. On a positive note, the cakes were large and I liked that they had bean sprouts piled on top of them, but other than that, this dish was a disappointment. I’ve definitely had better elsewhere (and for cheaper too!)
Of course, no Dim Sum meal is complete without ordering our next two dishes. The Ha Gow (Shrimp Dumplings) here were some of the best I’ve had– the skins were thin and had a slight chew, and weren’t gummy from over-steaming. The star of the dish, though, was the shrimp filling inside. These were filled with a mixture of whole shrimp and diced shrimp pieces, and garnished with a little green onion. The shrimp had a nice snap and texture, and tasted fresh, while the green onion added a little bit of crunch and fragrance to the dumpling. I’m not that big a fan of shrimp dumplings, but I found myself wanting another piece! Too bad there was exactly one piece for each of us.
No matter though, the Siu Mai (Pork and Shrimp Dumplings) were just as fantastic, and this time around, I got to eat two because my mom doesn’t like minced pork (She will have other kinds of pork, but I have no idea why she has an aversion to the minced kind. Weird.). The wrapper for these were also thin, and there was plenty of tender pork and fresh&snappy shrimp mixed together. A lot of the time, these get to be too heavy given the size and the amount of meat packed in there, and eating more than one becomes a bit of a chore; however, these ones were surprisingly light, and I really enjoyed eating them.
For our second-last dish, we had the Shredded Chicken with Sesame Sauce, which was abounding in gingery-sesame flavour. There was a good mix of both cooled dark and light meat pieces, and I liked that it came with jellyfish, julienned cucumbers and crunchy wonton wrapper bits, as it gave it some more texture. This plate was a hit with everyone at the table– it wasn’t too salty or oily, which can sometimes be the case, and even though it was a specialty dish, it wasn’t too expensive.
Our final dish was the Deep Fried Bitter Melon Dumpling with Sesame Paste. This is pretty much a “tong yuen”, or glutinous rice ball, that is usually served in Asian dessert soups, but has been deep fried instead. Bitter melon tends to be really overwhelming, so I liked that there was only a slight bitter taste to these otherwise sweet balls. Even though it was deep fried, it wasn’t very oily, and the sesame paste inside was piping hot– a great way to end our meal.
When we eat out at Chinese restaurants with my grandma, we usually need to get a bowl of hot water so that she can clear away some of the oil and starchy, “slimy” sauce before eating the food. The manager and waiters were very accommodating and attentive, coming over to change the bowl every once in a while without being asked (which is a rarity, believe me). They were also quite polite and cheerful, which was a nice change from the usually surly staff at Asian restaurants. The modern-looking dining room was a lot smaller than I had originally thought it would be, but we actually didn’t have to wait too long for a table, despite our arrival during peak lunchtime. While a few of the dishes weren’t too great, I thought that the experience more than made up for it. I would gladly return to this restaurant, but not just because it’s one of the few Chinese places in that area.
Grand Dynasty Seafood Restaurant 金殿皇朝海鮮料理
4331 Dominion Street