Monday, 17 October 2011

Bringing "Guangzhou" to Vancouver

In spite of walking all over downtown Vancouver my hunger hadn't returned in time for dinner thanks to the two snacks my parents and I had mid-afternoon.  However, we decided to end our Saturday sojourn with a dinner at a more unsophisticated Chinese restaurant called Kwong Chow Congee & Noodle House.  Using the Cantonese pronunciation of the city of Guangzhou in its name, the restaurant naturally features Cantonese cuisine, with a greater focus on congee and noodle dishes.  At least one congee dish was in order for us, as congee is easy on the digestive system and is considered as a food therapy dish.  Though perhaps plain congee was the healthiest choice, it was also the blandest, so we opted for one of the healtheir flavoured ones.
Congee with Conpoy and Dried Bok Choy
The congee dish we ordered was something I'd never tried even in the Toronto area: Congee with Conpoy and Dried Bok Choy.  Though conpoy has been classified as a gourmet food item, conpoy had been a common food item for a long time along China's southern coast as a way to preserve excess harvests during times of plenty and allowing for use out of season or during poor scallop fishing seasons.  Both conpoy and dried bok choy had strong flavours and made for a well flavoured dish.
Front to back: Clams in Black Bean Sauce; Snow Pea Shoots with Garlic.
We decided to order two main course dishes, one because my parents enjoyed it during their last Vancouver trip and highly recommended it to me, and another because we wanted our vegetable intake.  The former was Clams in Black Bean Sauce.  I'd already had a taste of fresh, coastal BC Manila clams, but to combine fresh clams with Black Bean Sauce, one of my favourite sauces in Chinese cuisine, was simply divine.  I will insist the flavour of fresh clams made the difference, as I don't recall the replica dishes in other Chinese restaurants in Ontario having such a rich taste.

The latter main course dish ordered was Snow Pea Shoots with Garlic.  For whatever reason I've only seen snow pea shoots used in Chinese cuisine, but, regardless, they make for another good vegetable source.  Only the shoots should be used, as the mature pea vines would be very tough.  Stir-frying these vegetables with garlic creates a simple yet tasty, refreshing and, so long as the use of oil is minimal, healthy.
Fried Rice Noodles with Beef
We also ordered two noodle dishes, the first one being Fried Rice Noodles with Beef.  The English translation was unfortunately a bit of a misnomer, as the dish's more accurately transliterated title is Dry Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with Beef.  Kwong Chow's version was nicely done.  It wasn't too greasy yet most of the noodles didn't clump together, nor did the noodles fall apart due to being overcooked.  The beef was tender, and the onions, compared to versions in most other restaurants I've tried, were cooked just enough to be rid of that raw zing, yet they, along with the bean sprouts, were not cooked enough to lose their crispiness.
Jah-Jiang (Pork in Spicy Suace) Lo Mein
The second noodle dish ordered was Jah-Jiang (Pork in Spicy Sauce) Lo Mein.  Lo mein dishes are similar to noodle soup dishes except that the broth is served separately, leaving it as an option or to prevent the softening of the noodles when they become immersed in a hot broth.  This version was mildly spicy with a mild sweetness, and the sauce was all right.  Unfortunately, the broth was terribly bland and dampened the overall experience of an otherwise decent dish.

So ended my last dinner of my July 2011 Vancouver trip.  I felt fortunate to have tried a whole range of foods and cuisines, even though it was just a small dent to the Vancouver food scene.  I definitely look forward to the next time I can return to Vancouver and explore even more sights, foods and drinks.  That reminds me... I still have one more Vancouver-trip-related entry, as there were other little bits and bites I've tried that I realize are worth sharing.  Stay tuned!

Name: Kwong Chow Congee & Noodle House
Address: 3163 Main St., Vancouver, BC
Cuisine: Chinese (Cantonese)
Price Range: $10-$30
Accessible: Yes

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