Often overlooked by its bigger brother Vancouver, Richmond—British Columbia’s fourth-largest city—is full of history, culture and some of the best Asian cuisine you can find in North America. Richmond, BC has a population just shy of 220,000, with 65% of the population of Asian descent and 50% Chinese. Of the over 800 restaurants in town, 400 serve Asian cuisine and 40 of those serve dim sum. With so much incredible food at its disposal, Visit Richmond put together the “Dumpling Trail” to highlight some of the best. I spent two days eating my way through the city exploring traditional Chinese markets, mall food courts (it’s not what it sounds like) and two summer night markets to uncover these amazing delicacies.
Here are ten of my favorites:
1. Wild mushroom dumpling, Jade Seafood Restaurant
My group’s first stop was at Jade Seafood Restaurant. We arrived around 10am so I thought we’d be the only ones in the restaurant—but apparently that’s primetime for dim sum and the place was packed. My favorite was the “Trio of Wild Mushroom Dumplings” with a blend of sautéed mushrooms inside a delicious dough. Mushroom dumplings are rare and only a few places make them, so if you see them on a menu, give them a shot. They won’t disappoint.
2. Spicy wontons, Xi’An Cuisine at Richmond Public Market
Hidden on the second floor of the Richmond Public Market—a Chinese marketplace where locals gather to buy fresh produce, meats and even get a haircut—is Xi’An Cuisine. Chef and owner Robert opened the stall 20 years ago after moving to BC from China. He’s famous for his hand-pulled noodles and customers gather to watch the chef work his magic for the crowd. In addition to his noodle soups, Robert also makes fantastic spicy wontons, which is what we tried. The most famous and diverse of all dumplings, his interpretation were boiled instead of fried, filled with delicious pork, and drizzled with his famous spicy chili oil.
3. Soup dumplings, R&H Chinese Food at Landsdowne Centre
R&H Chinese Food will change the way you feel about food courts. Located in the Lansdowne Centre mall next to a Subway, R&H could at first glance be dismissed as a fast food joint, but a closer look behind the counter reveals an assembly line of fresh dumplings, each hand-made from scratch. R&H is famous for their soup dumplings, or XLB, which consist of pork and amazing soup broth inside. Soup dumplings are one of my favorites and these were the best I’ve ever tried. The dough was thin and delicate, but strong enough to hold the filling until you were ready to devour it, a sign of quality and skill on the part of the chef.
4. Spicy wontons, Shanghai Station at Empire Centre
Next we made our way to Shanghai Station, which is difficult to find if you don’t know where to look. Located at the food court of an unassuming shopping mall called Empire Centre, Shanghai Station is known mostly among locals and serves award-winning dim sum. The owner Lisa prides herself on using the freshest, highest-quality ingredients for her handmade dumplings—and that’s immediately apparent upon first taste. We tried her version of spicy wontons, which were incredible and distinctively different than the ones we tried earlier; the sauce was lighter and slightly less spicy, and it had a hint of peanut.
5. Steamed Egg Yolk Bun, Jade Seafood Restaurant
Another favorite from Jade Seafood Restaurant (see #1 above) was the “Steamed Egg Yolk Bun.” This was my first experience trying this type of dim sum, and admittedly I was a bit apprehensive at first. After watching my host show me how to eat it without getting egg all over myself, I gave it a shot and it immediately became a favorite. The egg is in the middle and a bit runny, but the flavor profile is sweet like a dessert pastry. The combination of the savory egg and salty sweet dough made for an amazing treat. I can’t wait to have this again.
6. Pork belly cone, Illumination Summer Night Market
In addition to over 800 restaurants, Richmond is also home to two night markets that run from May through October. My first night in town, I visited the Illumination Summer Night Market, which was named by Travel + Leisure as one of the top four night markets in the world. Our first stop was at Bibimrito to try the famous “Pork Belly Cone” with fresh onions, cabbage and tomatoes and topped with a sriracha mayo. You had me at pork belly…
7. Lamb skewers, Xin Jiang Man BBQ at Richmond Night Market
Lamb skewers might sound like a dish you can get anywhere, but Chef James’ have reached legendary status over the last 20 years at the Richmond Night Market, Richmond’s largest summer night market featuring over 100 food vendors and 250 retail booths. As soon as the doors open, the crowds line up for Chef James’ skewers and are often more than twenty people deep. Using a family recipe he’s tweaked over the last two decades, James sources only the finest meat he can get his hands on (his lamb is sourced from New Zealand), marinates them for at least 24 hours, and then adds his proprietary spice blend while on the grill. The result is a juicy, tender skewer bursting with flavor and worth the wait.
8. Soft shell crab tacos, Tabetai Tacos at Richmond Night Market
Another favorite from the Richmond Night Market: the soft shell crab tacos from Tabetai Tacos. Chef Benedect Lim’s focus is on creating innovative cuisine using locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. In addition to running a food stall at the market, he also owns a local poke bar and catering business. The taco itself was out of this world, with a heaping serving of fried soft shell crab topped with avocado, green onion, tobiko, and a spicy aioli.
9. Watermelon drink, Illumination Summer Night Market
This might not be dim sum or even food technically, but on a hot summer night this watermelon drink is heaven. We found this at a food stall at the Illumination Summer Night Market, and it’s simple, but so refreshing. They take a mini watermelon and hollow it out, and then combine the fruit, ice and simple syrup in a blender. The result is poured back into the watermelon and given to you with a straw.
10. Mizu, Richmond Night Market
I tried a lot of fantastic food during my trip to Richmond, but none looked as good as this one. It’s called mizu, which was described by the chefs as an intriguing Japanese cult dessert made of mineral water and agar (a jelly-like substance) served with roasted soybean flour and black sugar syrup. Beautiful and surprisingly tasty, this was one of the more unique dishes I’ve ever seen.
BONUS: Screamers, Steveston
These aren’t located on the Dumpling Trail, but instead in the beautiful fishing port of Steveston in the southern part of Richmond. Famous for its seafood market where you can purchase the day’s catch directly from fishing boats, boutique shops and restaurants, Steveston is a fun place to spend an afternoon. It was here that I was introduced to Screamers, which are essentially frozen yogurt and slushee (frozen soda) mixed together. There are a dozen or so flavors, but I went with blue raspberry slushee and vanilla yogurt. So good!
For more on Richmond, BC and the Dumpling Trail, check out visitrichmondbc.com.