Monday, 24 October 2011

Bite-Sized Mentions from Vancouver 2011

Eating a fresh Lower Mainland raspberry at Granville Market.
Though I tried quite a few restaurants and eateries, there was definitely more to Vancouver's food scene.  Since the following individual instances were too small for their own posts, I decided to compile the notable "honourable mentions" here.
One of the food stall aisles at Richmond Night Market.
A food stall at Richmond Night Market; this one was selling Xinjiang-style BBQ meat.
Richmond Night Market
Night markets have been popular through East and Southeast Asia and have now spread to wherever large Chinese communities exist.  Night markets are more focused on food and leisure and are meant to provide entertaining strolls for the public more than actually providing a place in which to conduct normal business.  Though a night market in Toronto only became prominent in recent years, the Vancouver area has had at least one night market for many more years.  About ten years ago I recall the Richmond Night Market being located in the parking lot of Lansdowne Centre, this time it is located in a warehouse area of Richmond.
Preparing my Vietnamese-style iced mixed fruit drink.
The food stall section of the market was definitely the most fascinating part for me.  It was so full of activity, not only with respect to people walking by and buying food and drinks from the stalls, but also with respect to the sights, sounds and smells.  One stall would sell BBQ meat, another lemonade, another jiaozi, another Pad Thai.  Chinese (along with its sub-categories), Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and Western fare were offered side by side.
Holding a Vietnamese-style iced mixed fruit drink, with coconut milk, lychees, strawberries, pineapple and agar-agar jelly.
I was definitely thirsty, so I decided to go for a Vietnamese-style iced mixed fruit drink.  The concoction I ordered had some sizable bite-sized pieces of lychees, strawberries and pineapple along with some multi-coloured agar-agar jelly.  Agar-agar, despite the appearance, is surprisingly high in fibre.  It had the right level of sweetness, and the fruit helped make the drink refreshing, countering the richer, creamy coconut milk.
A "boat" of takoyaki.  The one at bottom left shows the interior of one of the takoyaki.
Of course, I absolutely couldn't leave the night market without ever trying takoyaki, a food item I noticed three different stalls offer.  The best way to describe them is that they're a mix between a dumpling and a pancake.  They're savoury in nature and are cooked in special metal molds, consisting of mostly octopus pieces but also containing, in this particular version scallops and shredded cabbage.  Garnished with Japanese mayo and dried bonito shavings, they were piping hot and gooey good!  The only downside was that these spherical delicacies were a challenge to eat; I had to double-skewer each ball and handle them delicately in order to eat them.
Fresh Lower Mainland raspberries bought at Granville Market.
Fresh Local Fruit
The Lower Mainland was one of several parts of Canada where a good variety of fruits and vegetables can be grown.  In spite of the wet and cool weather hampering Vancouver residents from really enjoying the outdoors the first half of this summer, a lot of the fruit were turning out quite nicely.  It was perchance raspberry season, amongst other things, when I was in town, and I got to enjoy these sweet delicate beauties.  Their sweetness and rich flavour of the local berries really put the ones that I could only get in supermarkets back home to absolute shame.
Rainier cherries at Granville Market.
On this trip I discovered a variety of a fruit I've fairly enjoyed throughout my life.  In most supermarkets one would typically find the Bing variety of cherries, but here I finally tried Rainier cherries.  A cross between the Bing and Van varieties, Rainiers have been called the "Princess of Cherries" due to their particular sweetness, and their status as a premium variety meant they've fetched for higher prices.  I absolutely fell in love with them, and I made sure to enjoy as many of these as possible before my flight home!
One of the shelves at Oyama Sausage Co.'s Granville Market stall.
Locally Made Charcuterie
My sister suggested I take a look at Oyama Sausage Co. while at Granville Market.  Oyama, a local business, specialized not only in sausages and cold cuts but also in charcuterie, all handcrafted.  I decided to try a few varieties of charcuterie for breakfast over the next few days in town, and I was not disappointed.
Five charcuterie varieties from Oyama Sausage Co. (clockwise from top): duck proscuitto; hot capicollo; air-dried beef; elk proscuitto(?); venison proscuitto.
I ordered five varieties, of which one I don't remember that vividly if it was elk proscuitto, but my gut feeling is still saying "yes" to me on that.  I definitely enjoyed the duck proscuitto; despite the duck fat and naturally rich flavour it was suprisingly lighter than expected.  I placed the air-dried beef in second place of the five varieties I ordered.  It was considerably less salty than the other varieties as the proscuitti especially were salt-cured, and the air-dried beef was tender.  It's amazing, also, how so many meats theoretically could be cured proscuitto style, including venison and elk.
A Bread Affair's stall at the Thursday Farmer's Market on Granville Island.
Spelt Bread
Still staying with the Granville Market area, I walked past this stall in the Farmer's Market, set up on Thursdays.  Realizing I needed bread to accompany the charcuterie for breakfast, I decided to get myself a loaf of spelt bread from A Bread Affair.  Spelt was essentially a predecessor to modern wheat and today is considered more of a specialty grain, which is why spelt bread is considered more, like some arguable varieties as pumpernickel, as an artisan bread.  I'd never had spelt bread before, and I found it quite interesting.  Though it had a flavour more to my liking compared to whole-grain wheat bread, I found it to be on the tougher side, something the vendor did advise me at the time.
Blenz's Iced Matcha Latte
Matcha Latte
During my urban explorations on foot I noticed quite a lot of Blenz Coffee shops.  Blenz, a Vancouver-based company, to date only had shops in British Columbia in the domestic market; however, internationally it has been found in China, Japan and even the United Arab Emirates.  I had a few Blenz concoctions, including the addictive Iced Chocolate, made with Belgian chocolate, but the unique one in my opinion was the (Iced) Matcha Latte.  Even Blenz had jumped on the fusion bandwagon and decided to incorporate an Asian tea variety, namely matcha (Japanese green tea), with a Western preparation, namely adding milk to tea (or coffee).  It was a refreshing and eye-opening treat for me.
Thomas Haas Chocolates, Kitsilano store.
Locally Made Chocolates
My sister also suggested that I take a look at Thomas Haas Chocolates if time permitted.  Unlike Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut, another notable chocolatier based in Western Canada, Thomas Haas also sold pastries and chocolate-based drinks.  Unfortunately I was unable to try the chocolate drinks, but I did get myself a small box of chocolates.  A fan of fine chocolate, when in Vancouver, should definitely stop by here!
Salmon Jerky
Lastly, my parents recommended jerky from Mei Jan Hong to me when they took me to Aberdeen Centre, one of the newer Chinese shopping malls in Richmond.  Prepared in the Singaporean style, the small store prepared their batches of jerky daily over a low-heat grill completely visible to the public.  I'd seen and had pork and beef jerky as a child, but the use of sockeye salmon to make jerky was a new one for me.  I gave in to temptation and got myself some beef jerky as well as some spicy salmon jerky.  Compared to the prepackaged ones from Chinese supermarkets I had as a kid, Mei Jan Hong's jerky was considerably easier to my teeth, though beef naturally was tougher than salmon.  The sweetness wasn't overpowering, and the flavour of the meats themselves were still quite evident.

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