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Chinese Lunch Reviews Taiwanese Vietnamese

Good and Quick Lunches Around Markham and Richmond Hill

September 13, 2016 by

I admit that I’ve been a big foodie since I graduated. I only started aggressively blogging about food and restaurants since the start of 2016. I have worked around the Markham and Richmond Hill areas for 10+ years. Throughout the years, I have sampled many cuisines from many of the restaurants in the area and have even helped organize corporate food events.

During some days of the work week, my colleagues and I may have only 1 hour available for lunch. Most of the time, it is really good to get out of the office and enjoy great food to refresh the mind and spirit.

Here are my recommendations for quick – but good –  lunches in the area depending on the type of cuisine you are craving for.

Restaurant #1: Pho 88

Cuisine Type: Vietnamese

Satay Pho at Pho 88 in Scarborough
Reasons: Though this location is in Scarborough, it is close enough to the York Region border that those who work in Markham can access it easily. Once you get a table, the pho dishes come out really fast (like within five minutes). The restaurant is styled like a cafeteria and you get seats pretty quickly.  Fast and good food, consistent taste, and fast service with no nonsense. I used to eat only bun (vermicelli) dishes, but their restaurant had such great pho it converted me and I never went back. My favourite dish is the Satay Pho above.

Restaurant #2: Mei Nung Beef Noodle House

Cuisine Type: Taiwanese

Mei Nung Beef Noodle House in Markham
Reasons: If you want to taste Taiwan, these is the closest thing. This restaurant is famous for their beef noodle soups and stinky tofu side dish. The dishes normally come out quickly. Beware of the clothing you wear into the restaurant because the stinky tofu smell can stay on you.

Restaurant #3: Northern Dumpling Kitchen

Cuisine Type: Northern Chinese

Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings) at Northern Dumpling Kitchen
Reasons: This place offers great tasting dumplings and other northern Chinese cuisine for very reasonable prices. My friends and I really like their steamed, boiled, and fried dumplings along with the shredded pork cold dish. I personally think that their xiao long bao is the best in Toronto. Their service speed is good for a fast lunch.

Restaurant #4: Phoenix Restaurant

Cuisine Type: Hong Kong Style Cafe

Minced beef with rice at Phoenix Restaurant
Reasons: Even though there are three locations, this location has more space for seating and parking. They have a large menu when it comes to HK-style foods. Their meals are very consistent with each visit. The pricing isn’t too expensive and you will definitely leave feeling full. Their dishes come out very quickly (within 5-10 minutes). My favourite dish is the Fried Pork Chop with Maggi Sauce on Rice.

Locations

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Chinese

What is Stinky Tofu?

December 17, 2015 by

Source: behance.net

Stinky tofu has a rule of thumb. The stinkier, the better.

My initial discovery, and unknown love for the pungent snack began after a documentary from Taste of Asia. My first bite came from Mama Bear in Richmond Hill. And my final love was found from the Hong Kong stinky tofu stand at the T&T Waterfront Market.

What is stinky tofu?
A definite acquired taste of tofu on an indepth fermentation journey.

What’s it like?
The slightly resisting bites are popularly served fried, but in other cases it can also be stewed, barbequed, as well as in it’s soft form. It carries a pungent odour, as descriptive as I can be. It is a mix between garbage and body odour.

Why should I appreciate it?
It consists of a complicated process that takes weeks or even months of love and labour to achieve the optimal end stank.

Source: wandering-taiwan.blogspot.ca

There’s a wide variety and flexibility of brine combinations in the making of stinky tofu. Some have used Chinese medicinal herbs, dried shrimps, bamboo shoots, and even mountain water.

Source: oolong-milktea.blogspot.ca

Stinky tofu is usually priced at $6 to $8 at restaurants and is best accommodated with pickled cabbage, sweet soy sauce, and chilli sauce. There are a lot of spots in York Region that you can treat yourself! Enjoy a plate today.

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Chinese Dinner Drinks Out with Markham Food Reviews

私房菜 (Private Dinner) at My Wonderful Kitchen – Markham Food Review

December 13, 2015 by

If you read our My Wonderful Kitchen review earlier this year, you’ll know that we really enjoy their food.

They recently introduced 私房菜 to the restaurant., something that not a lot of restaurants in the area offer right now. My Wonderful Kitchen recently added this private dining service to their offerings and we were very excited to try it out.

To reserve a private dining experience, call MWK a day in advance to tell them your budget, the number of guests you’re bringing, and what type of foods you’d like to have. The chefs will prepare everything in advance for you so that your party will have the best experience possible. Here’s a look at what we had with our food blogging friends. 🙂

my-wonderful-kitchen-scallops-papaya-boat

Stir-fried scallop with papaya (漁舟滿豐收)

The Chinese name for this dish is fisherman’s harvest. The “boat” is a carved papaya that’s cut into pieces for serving; and the “fishnet” (seen underneath the scallop and papaya pieces) is delicately cut from a thin sheet of radish.

my-wonderful-kitchen-scallops-dragonfruit

Stir-fried scallop with fresh fruits (天姖送子)

To be honest, some of us were surprised at the combination of ingredients in both pics above… fruits and seafood?? Nonetheless, these were actually yummy dishes even though the fruits were warm.

my-wonderful-kitchen-wintermelon

Wintermelon with fish maws and mixed seafood (綠萼紅梅)

As one of our guests described, these were like a condensed version of Chinese wintermelon soup and we definitely agree.

my-wonderful-kitchen-fried-shrimp-taro-nest-bacon

Stir-fried jumbo prawns with vegetables in taro nest and bacon-wrapped shrimps stuffed with minced fish (鵲巢金環蟠龍蝦)

This was one of our favourites. The bacon-wrapped shrimps were SO good and the seafood mixed with vegetables were well-cooked. Definitely a must-try, so ask for this when you call to reserve!

my-wonderful-kitchen-stewed-wintermelon-balls

Stewed wintermelon balls in house-sauce (翠玉葡提)

Although we preferred the other wintermelon dish above, these “grape-like” ones (also designed to look like hanging fruits; see our pic here) were very warm, soft, and appetizing.

my-wonderful-kitchen-chicken-stuffed-sticky-rice

Deep fried chicken wing stuffed with glutinous rice (生炸珍珠鳳翼)

This dish was a crowd favourite! You can’t tell from our photo, but these chicken wings are stuffed with sticky rice!!! They wings were fat, juicy, tender, and very good. The bones were removed from the wings in order to make room for the rice. Very smart!

One of our followers (@_achau) went almost immediately after seeing our Instagram pic of this and enjoyed them as well.

my-wonderful-kitchen-hong-kong-drinks-floats-milk-tea

Coke slush, red bean, milk tea, red bean with grass jelly, and “yuanyang” (coffee with tea)

Each of these drinks had a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it. You can choose to eat the scoop on its own or mix it into your drink. Either way, it’ll still taste very good and refreshing.

We were told that our six course dinner (excluding drinks) would cost $35 per person. This isn’t a bad deal at all! All of the dishes presented to us were artistically designed (Insta-worthy 😉 ) – and very delicious.

Address: 350 Highway 7 #101, Richmond Hill, ON L4B 3N2
Phone Number: (905) 889-1088
Tip: The front entrance and parking is actually at the back, opposite of Hwy 7.

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Chinese Miscellaneous

The Struggle is Real: A Plea to End Menu Illiteracy

December 5, 2015 by

Admit it.  You regret not paying a little more attention in Chinese school.  If only you just learned the Chinese characters for “chicken”, “pork”, “stir-fried”, “steamed”, “boiled”, “buns”, or the other common words on a Chinese menu, you wouldn’t have to be in this position.  Better yet, you think back to the times when you were a kid and your folks would order such delicacies with ease.

If only I paid more attention to Dad when he ordered that fish scent eggplant thing with the minced pork…

You know the feeling.  When you’re out with your friends at a restaurant and the menu is only in Chinese, but none of your friends know how to read Chinese.  The struggle is very real.

Or to those who are not Chinese venturing into this dim sum place that your co-worker recommended, but all you see is gibberish next to the ticky-boxes.

There’s nothing better than ordering chicken or pig’s feet as a surprise.

Eating chicken feet at dim sum

Damn you chicken feet!!!

Face it – when it comes to food in Markham, options are dominated with Chinese food choices.  And while most restaurants are now smart enough to include English, there are still some that do not.

What’s worse is that it’s usually the really good restaurants that don’t have English on their menus.

The restaurant owners know this and think, “Pfffttt… the food here is so good, we don’t need to waste money on English menus.”

What’s funny (and sad) is sometimes we have too much pride.  I’m sure the server can read out and translate the menu to you, but that’s lame and embarrassing, especially for someone who looks head to toe Chinese, only to not be able to order.

And trust me, I’ve personally tried to find ways around the embarrassment of asking.  In fact, I’ve gone as far as using the Google Translate app (iPhone | Android) to translate the Chinese menu:

Chinese - Google Translate App

I think I’ll have a “Making money Duck Song Pack” with a “Health and Beef Roll Soup”.

And I know we are not alone on this.  In fact there’s a category of Foursquare/Swarm/Yelp tippers who truly look out for their fellow food-comrades by phonetically spelling out different dishes:

Honestly if that’s not looking out for one another, I don’t know what is.

Seriously, we really shouldn’t have to work that hard just to get good Chinese food.  I think it’s time everyone can enjoy everything on the menu.

So as a plea to those Chinese-only menu restaurants, I challenge you to get it together before it’s too late.

As you know, in the next five to ten years it’s going to be us menu-illiterates who will be the majority patrons of your fine establishment.

So please do something before we’re all reduced to start ordering in broken phrases of, “Ngor Yew Yut Gor Hak Jeew Ngow Pa Faan, please!” (“I would like one Black Pepper Beef Steak Rice, please!”)

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Brunch Chinese Dim Sum Lunch Reviews

Dragon Boat Fusion: My Favourites at This Popular Dim Sum Restaurant

November 26, 2015 by

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

With plenty of great spots to choose from and some of the best in the GTA, York Region has really got it good when it comes to dim sum. Here’s a look at some of the features and my favourite dishes from one of these gems.  Arguably one of the most popular dim sum joints in the region and for good reason, Dragon Boat Fusion serves up fairly consistent, good quality dim sum along with crazy daily lineups as any good dim sum joint should.

Early birding is encouraged.

Early bird pricing is in effect on weekdays (not including holidays) when you order before 11am when all small, medium, and large dishes are $2.99.  Otherwise, the regular prices are:  S $2.99, M $3.99, L $4.99,  XL $5.99, and SP $6.99.

As for tea, there are the standard teas available at dim sum to choose from and it goes for $1.30 per person. They serve the nicer quality stuff here than typical dim sum joints. For tea, I usually prefer Iron Goddess.

Some Dim Sum Faves

Dragon Boat Fusion - Har GowDragon Boat Fusion - Siu Mai

(1) Har Gow and (2) Siu Mai

These are the classic duo. If they make har gow and siu mai well, then you know the dim sum is good.

(1) Big and plump, chock full of fresh shrimp. Well made skin as it’s thin and translucent yet firm enough to not break when picked up. Garnished with a whole shrimp in the shell.

(2) Also quite big and plump with a balanced ratio of pork to shrimp and topped with roe. Fresh, flavourful, and moist.

Dragon Boat Fusion - Rice noodle rolls with dough fritter

Rice noodle rolls with dough fritter

The dough fritter is actually crispy; a key feature of quality for this dish. Nice and thin rice noodles. Topped with bonito flakes giving these an added deep savoury flavour which definitely levels this up. Warm, sweet soy sauce served on the side to use as you please. Also served with the standard peanut and hoisin sauce for dipping.

Dragon Boat Fusion - Foie Gras Almond Shrimp Balls

Foie Gras Almond Shrimp Balls

A fine example of their fusion dim sum. Love the textural contrast with the crispy almond slivers and shell to the smooth foie gras filling. Very tasty deep, savoury flavours

Dragon Boat Fusion - Thousand Layer Custard Cake

Thousand Layer Custard Cake

A somewhat rare find at dim sum these days. Piping hot, steamed multi-layer, rich yet mildly sweet egg yolk paste.

Dragon Boat Fusion - Dragon Boat Specialty DIm Sum Platter

Dragon Boat Specialty Dim Sum Platter

Served on an afternoon tea style 2-tiered tray with assorted sweets and fruits on top and savoury gems on the bottom. Quite a nice treat to enjoy alongside regular dim sum dishes. Having had this twice, I’ve found that they change up some of the items.

Dragon Boat Fusion - Platter 1

Top Tier (of the platter)

Assorted sweets including birds nest milk tart, coconut pudding on papaya, red bean paste dumplings, assorted jello, fruits, and cherry tomatoes.

Dragon Boat Fusion - Platter 2

Bottom Tier (of the platter)

White cloud chicken feet, eel/meat pastries, seaweed salad, and beans.

Service

The service here is generally quick and efficient  Though it’s the kind of service you’d expect from typical Chinese restaurants. When it gets crazy busy, you’ll have a harder time waving down wait staff.

Décor and setting

Overall, this joint is well lit with a pleasing modern decor in a gold and white theme.  Modern style tableware with many dim sum presented in branded square steamers. Both tables and chairs are adorned in cloth. And of course, as the focal point, a somewhat blinged out double happiness raised platform area for all those dope wedding banquets or dope dim sum sessions in this case. (It does seem a bit quieter up there.)

Crazy line ups

When I have some time off at non-peak times during a weekday, I love whisking away to dim sum hoping to enjoy small lines and very short wait times.  Not so at this joint. If you want to avoid the crazy lineups, be ready to get there before the doors open at 9am, even on a weekday.  Tables fill up minutes after the doors fling open and then the crazy wait begins.  Also, as is the case with many Chinese restaurants, even if you make a reservation you will most likely end up still having to wait a while when you get there.

Inadequate Parking

In terms of parking, there are only a handful of spots outside the restaurant reserved for it.  Around the corner, are a handful of unreserved spots available.  But when those are all filled up, take a detour to park over at the adjacent parking lot where The Keg is and then cross over the small hill.

Regardless of these cons the quality, variety and unique fusion takes on dim sum as well-made standard dishes makes this joint a worthwhile visit.

Address: 160 E Beaver Creek Road, Suite 4-6, Richmond Hill, ON L4B 3L4
Phone Number: (905) 731-3718

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Brunch Chinese Dim Sum Lunch

10 Dim Sum Dishes You Should Try

November 2, 2015 by

One of the best perks of Markham is the plentiful supply of high quality dim sum. On weekends, popular restaurants will have a queue outside, long before they open. For me, dim sum is one of the only reasons to wake up before 10am on a Saturday. There are two types of dim sum restaurants, ones with carts loaded with dishes and wheeled around the restaurant for diners to order tableside, or those with ordering sheets. Most dim sum restaurants today favour the ordering sheet. If you’re new to the morning tradition of “yum cha”, the bevy of steamed dishes and Asian-centric ingredients may be daunting. Add in the fact that many restaurants lean towards exclusively speaking Cantonese or Mandarin and an order sheet with minimal descriptions, it gets even harder to figure out what to order. To help, here are 10 dishes, savoury and sweet, that would be a good start to any dim sum journey. Each dish is listed with their English name followed by Cantonese and Mandarin pinyin.

(1) Shrimp Dumplings – Har Gow, Xia Jiao
A staple, plump shrimp wrapped in a transparent wrapper and steamed to perfection. The wrapper should be thin and the dumplings shouldn’t stick to the paper or other each. I like mine with a dab of hot sauce.

(2) Shumai – Siu Mai, Shao Mai

Another classic steamed dish, generally with ground pork, shrimp and mushrooms wrapped as an open dumpling.

(3) Chicken Feet – Fung Zau, Feng Zhua

Yes they’re the feet of chicken and look odd, but when prepared well, the perfectly rendered skin and cartilage melt off the bone. Start with trying just one knuckle.

(4) BBQ Pork Bun – Char Siu Bao, Cha Shao Bao

Steamed and soft or crispy and baked, BBQ pork buns are a must.

(5) Lotus Leaf wrapped Sticky Rice – Lo Mai Gai, Nuo Mi Ji

A sticky rice ball filled with chicken, shiitake mushrooms and Chinese sausage all wrapped in a lotus leaf and steamed. This dish is filling and full of umami flavours.

(6) Rice Noodle Roll – Coeng Fan, Chang Fen

In general, this dish consists of a long sheet of rice noodle rolled with a filling and steam. Typical fillings are fried dough fritters (my favourite), ground pork or shrimp. The fish is served with a seasoned soy sauce that’s poured on top of the roll.

(7) Steamed Tripe – Ngau Pak Yip, Niu Bai Ye

This was the dish that made tripe one of my favourite proteins. Thin slices of the white offal is steamed to a perfect tenderness with fragrant ginger and green onion.

(8) Beef Offal – Ngau Jaap, Niu Za

Honeycomb tripe is featured in this dish along with lung, spleen, daikon and various other goodies. It’s like a treasure chest of textures and taste.

(9) Sesame Ball – Jin Deui, Ma Tuan

Made with glutinous rice flour, often filled with a red bean paste and rolled in sesame seeds, half a ma tuan is my favourite way to end a dim sum meal. Half, because that’s usually all there’s room left for.

(10) Egg Tart – Daan Taat, Dan Ta

Puff pastry filled with an eggy custard, egg tarts are a one bite wonder. The pastry should be flakey and the custard silky smooth, creamy and not too sweet. When I find a good plate of egg tarts, I will happily take a plate to go.

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Chinese Dinner Lunch

Baked Pork Chop and Rice with Tomato Sauce — Cha Chan Tang Exclusives

October 21, 2015 by

I’ll be honest, I’ve spent most of my life growing up on “fast food.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a fan of the Super Size diet from McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, or any of your regular fast food joints.

No, I grew up on a different kind of quick meal diet; the kind that combines the best of Asian and Western cuisine into helping plates of food less than 10 minutes after you order and can just as quickly down. Let’s talk Hong Kong cuisine; let’s talk cha chan tangs.

Cha chan tangs are cafés that serve a variety of different food and provides for every single meal you can possibly eat. I may be guilty of sitting at cha chan tangs as a kid for hours on end, while my parents chatted with the servers and the other patrons at the cafe. Breakfast would slowly turn into brunch, and then maybe it would be time for an afternoon tea snack. Such is the way that these restaurants operate, as a place for people who may not speak to each other anywhere else to come and banter about the latest news and trends.

To avoid a long political history, all you need to know is that a lot of Hong Kong cuisine, the kind that you can order quickly at a sit-down café, has influences of Western flair. Baked casseroles, meat sauce spaghetti, and mixed grills are only some of plenty of dishes that don’t immediately shout Asian. But they are, and they come synonymously paired in the same menus as your regular chicken and broccoli, beef fried noodles, and Cantonese chow mein. Here’s where quantity and efficiency doesn’t get downplayed by quality because how can you complain about food when you’re sitting in front of a mountain of deliciousness for a pretty affordable price? Just pick and choose from hundreds on the menu. There’s bound to be something for you.

Speaking of which, I thought long and hard about the signature dish to introduce to someone who might still be confused by the authenticity that is a Hong Kong cha chan tang cuisine. I couldn’t really look any further than Baked Pork Chop and Rice with Tomato Sauce. This is by far one of the best comfort foods you can possibly order when you’re starving. It is a staple of any cha chan tangs you go to, especially those who want to serve the masses!

Baked Pork Chop and Rice with Tomato Sauce - Keung's Delight

This dish is everything and more. Here’s a photo I recently took from a meal at Keung’s Delight at the Warden & Steeles T&T plaza. Not so much your classic cha chan tang, but a great place to dine and reviewed previously on my blog. Don’t be afraid of using extra cutlery and plates because it’s almost impossible to eat this during a meal without additional utensils! Here’s a technical look at the assorted components: fried pork chops nestled on top of rice (choice of egg fried rice or the regular variety), and blanketed by a gooey tomato sauce. Baked for a few minutes (literally, a few minutes), and voila! Your famous Baked Pork Chop Rice casserole dish.

Baked Pork Chop Rice - Keung's Delight

 

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Breakfast Chinese

Macaroni & Ham in Soup — Memories of Mac ‘n’ Chinese Breakfasts

September 21, 2015 by

Ahh…comfort food. Maybe it’s the sound of bacon sizzling that wakes you up in the morning. Maybe it’s leftover pizza at midnight. Or maybe it’s just that grilled cheese sandwich you had for breakfast…and lunch…and dinner. No matter where we are or what it is to us, certain things that we eat give us that warm and fuzzy feeling, one that tells the stories of home, a good day, or a full stomach.

I’m pretty Canadian through and through. And you really can’t be without having gone through dozens of those blue boxes in your kitchen pantries while growing up. Which ones, you ask? Kraft Dinner, of course. KD for the typical Canadian child after school is the equivalent to instant noodles and ramen for those of us blessed with Asian cuisine.

But Marco Polo didn’t bring back pasta from China to Europe just for scrumptious Italian meals that have spiralled into a cheesy quick fix for hungry adolescent teens (at least, I hope he didn’t). And neither has the humble macaroni been one where Mac ‘n’ Cheese is the only sure fire way for macaroni to be eaten. I know growing up that my first taste of the rainbow-shaped pasta wasn’t for afternoon meals or even dinner. I had it for breakfast.

Whoa, hold on for a sec. Breakfast?

As a Chinese-Canadian, I can vouch that Chinese people take the “Breakfast should be the largest meal of the day” idea very seriously. Please refer to dimsum if you’re curious to know why.

My section on Markham Food will be dedicated to relaying everyday comfort food that a lot of us from the East side (of the world) grew up loving and finding, well, comfort in. Like I said, comfort food is anything that brings back good memories or lets you settle down with a warm and hearty stomach at the end of the meal. I wanted to start with something simple. Something that gave me that same fuzziness. It may have been the fried rice I was eating, but I knew what I wanted my blog posts to talk about. The classic Combo A at your local Chinese cafes (aka cha chan tangs; read my next blog post!): Macaroni and Ham in Soup.

I mean, what can be more comforting in the morning, when you’re eating breakfast at home or at a local cafe, and be served a heaping bowl of macaroni in soup. With ham. And a piece of buttered toast/egg sandwich. Downed with a cup of hot milk tea? Want to be fancier? Try asking for the ham to be shredded first. Want to be less opulent? Remove those peas, carrots, and corn that’s usually sprinkled on top for “aesthetics” purposes.

I know a lot of people can agree on this, and it may surprise them, because it’s so simple. It may not be something you may miss immediately after weeks away from home, but it’s something that we do go back to time and time again. For me, it has become a large part of my life, because it reminds me of my earliest memories growing up.

My memory of macaroni and ham goes back to preschool when my dad and I would go to a local restaurant for breakfast after dropping my mom off at work. It would be the only thing we order. I would try really hard to finish all the macaroni, but I always ate too much of the ham and ending up pushing the bowl to my dad to finish. And in he’ll come to finish the meal, breaded butter and all. Hope you liked that walk down memory lane.

Mac n’ Cheese is pretty good, sometimes. But, Macaroni and Ham ain’t bad either.

Macaroni - Chinese Breakfast

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