A trip to Vancouver, BC, is never complete without a trip to Chinatown. I ventured there on this visit on my last day of vacation. It was a hurried visit, there wasn’t really much time to spend wandering about in shops and interesting places. But one of the things I always want to explore is Dim Sum in Chinatown. I love me some dumplings.
On my second visit to Vancouver, BC, roughly 14 years ago, we ventured to the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which I recall as being beautiful and peaceful on that bright and sunny day.
There was a stop at a Dim Sum Restaurant that I don’t even remember the name of. I just remember it was my first taste of “real” Dim Sum, something I had wanted to try for ages. I remember it being pleasant. It was a nice restaurant and I did enjoy the food and the setting in general. It was a shame to discover it didn’t appear to be around any more. Maybe it was and I just missed it. It would have been fun to explore again.
I had some time on this recent trip to wander briefly the streets of Vancouver’s Chinatown once again, I didn’t have the time I would have liked, to search through all the shops and look for some special treasures I didn’t yet know I wanted. It was more a quick in and out side trip this time, but there was a stop at a Dim Sum restaurant that was definitely the highlight of this short trip to Chinatown.
My group wandered about the streets taking in the shops and sights before heading off for some Dim Sum In Chinatown.
The thing that struck me was that there didn’t appear to be all that many restaurants here. The choices of places that had Dim Sum seemed really small. As I was traveling in a small group who actually lived in Vancouver, I let them pick the place.
They decided to go with Jade Dynasty Restaurant on East Pender Street.
My first impressions were that it was a bit grimy and dingy looking. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the food is too. It had a bit of a worn out feel and look to it. The Dim Sum place I had originally visited on one of my first trips out to Vancouver didn’t appear to exist anymore. I remember it being bright and clean and packed to the rafters with diners. I also remember them serving their Dim Sum from little carts, if I remember right. Jade Dynasty had a different feel about it, but I’ve eaten at plenty of little dingy holes in the wall that turned out to have pretty awesome food.
We were seated promptly, a small party of 4 and offered tea. I picked a couple of items off a picture menu that had seen better days, but it was handy to get an idea of what I was ordering. We then selected the dishes we each wanted and marked them off on a paper sheet where all their offerings were listed.
The dishes began to arrive, one by one, we didn’t have that big an order, only 6 items from their Dim Sum menu, I was surprised that it took the time that it did. The restaurant wasn’t all that busy on this rainy Sunday. I expected that most of the items ordered would arrive about the same time, but they didn’t. It took longer than expected, but nothing horrible. I was there to have fun and wasn’t in a rush.
I’m a big chilehead, so I like my food hot and spicy, I immediately zeroed in on their wonton in spicy chili sauce and ordered them up. I also spotted steamed Shanghai pork dumplings, xioa long bao, and went for those too!
Others in my party ordered a few items, I sampled two of them, a pot sticker like fried dumpling and some deep-fried tofu with spicy chili and salt. they also ordered some eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste and Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, which I didn’t try. The tofu was just OK. I’d never had any cooked this way before so I was curious, it was good but on the bland side despite being listed as being cooked with spicy chili. I did not find it to be spicy at all.
I did sample one of the fried dumplings, it was good, but I’ve definitely had much better. I like my version of Fast Super Easy Potstickers more. Yes, I’m biased, but when you get to make your own, you get to make them just the way you love them.
My first dish, wonton in spicy chili sauce, was ok. It certainly didn’t come across as spicy, not to me anyway. The wonton was good, the sauce was more garlic than anything, which is fine cause I love me some garlic. But it wasn’t the dish I expected, it looked like it should have been spicy, but it wasn’t. If I were to rate it on a heat scale, I would go with zero out of ten and if pushed maybe a 1, in case my chilehead taste buds were deceiving me and someone who doesn’t like spicy might have found it hot. I did not, not at all. As far as a dish goes, it was just OK. I did eat it all though. When it arrived at our table I expected to be sweating and my nose to be running by the colour of the sauce the wonton where swimming in, but it was not spicy at all. Shame.
My second dish was steamed Shanghai pork dumplings, which came in a little bamboo steamer, 5 dumplings to a steamer. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these, the wonton though good were not what I had expected. But these little bites turned out to be a surprise!
The first surprise, after taking a small bite out of the dumpling, deeming it not too hot to eat in one go, I popped the sucker into my mouth, bit down only to discover a molten hot lava core of liquid hotness. It was one of those WTF moments…do you keep it in your mouth or do you spit it out and save the skin in your mouth! I foolishly opted to keep it in my mouth, it was good, I didn’t want to spit it out into my napkin, but omg it was HOTTTTTTTTTTTTT! Lesson learned though, just because it was cool to the touch on the outside, the core of the dumpling was liquid fire 🙂 Not hot spicy, just boiling hot, ouch!
Now I think of myself as a bit dumpling crazy, I love the suckers! I have a few dim sum cookbooks, I make my staple pot stickers regularly enough. I also picked up a new Dim Sum cookbook earlier in the week after discovering a gem of a cookbook store while exploring downtown Vancouver. More on this little adventure in future posts! A little off the beaten track, discovered while visiting all the luxury car dealers in Vancouver. They’re all pretty much clumped together in a small area of Vancouver. The cars were on my partner-in-crimes bucket list of things to do while in Vancouver and being the excellent parental unit I am, I made sure it happened 🙂
So I clearly had dumplings on the brain this trip. After the initial surprise of the super hot dumpling core, I was a little more careful on the second one. I’ve read about “soup” dumplings before, I’ve never actually had any before and I’m thinking that these little dumplings definitely qualify. The outside wrapper was not hot to the touch, the initial bite into the pork dumpling didn’t prove to be overly hot, so I just popped that sucker into my mouth and chomped down only to have my mouth filled with liquid hotness. Though somewhat painful, it was an oddly pleasant surprise. Yah, what can I say, I’m weird 🙂
It was a good enough experience that I went digging through my new dumpling cookbook in hopes of finding something similar in its pages. I found one and I can’t wait to get experimenting with my own versions! These little pork dumplings made me want to explore them more and try them in my own kitchen. I like food adventures like that, the ones that give you the urge to dive right in and learn to make them on your own.
So for me, this Dim Sum in Chinatown experience was all about these little dumplings. First because they gave me a funny food memory of hot exploding liquid and secondly because they gave me a new food interest to explore. I love it when stuff like that happens!
All in all, this restaurant experience was just OK. I’ve had much better and I’m pretty sure I’ve had much worse. Yah, I have! But the highlight for me that made it a fun experience were the steamed Shanghai pork Dumplings. I know have a new food love and a funny story to go with it 🙂