For those who frequent EBO in the Delta Burnaby Hotel, you would've known about the "best Malay-style roti in the GVRD" made by chef John Chang. No, I'm not pulling your leg (unless it's a tasty lamb shank...), the roti was indeed the best and it wasn't even a Malaysian restaurant! Well, John has a new venture called Phat Buddha Tacos located in the Richmond Night Market. Now, let's just say "tacos" is a loosely used term here as the shell is actually grilled naan and the fillings are purely Asian-inspired. I was invited by John to check out his stand, which was bustling with activity much like the rest of the market.
To begin, we sampled the Buddha's Beef featuring lemongrass meatballs with coconut curry and pickled carrot & daikon. These were impactful with moist meatballs that were kissed by the grill. There was a definite lemongrass hit which went well with the creamy and aromatic curry. Although the dish wasn't spicy, there was a good level of spice present. Next, we had the Van-City's Taco with torched salmon on a bed of spinach & kale topped with bacon & bonito flakes. Oh man, this was good. The slightly crispy shell could barely contain the goodies within it. Moist, flaky and smoky, the salmon was well seasoned with what tasted like sweet miso. The crispy bacon added a balancing saltiness while the greens kept the flavours in check.
Our next taco was the "Like" Hainanese with poached chicken, daikon & carrot, sprouts, toasted puff rice, ginger & scallion condiment and hot sauce. This concoction really embodied the Hainanese chicken experience with a twist. We enjoyed the crunch and nuttiness of the puffed rice as well as the ginger & scallion (could've used more ginger). The chicken did get a touch lost with all the veggies though. Deviating from the taco train for a moment, we tried the freshly-made Nay Nay Naan brushed with garlic butter and served with cilantro and coconut curry dip. We had both the regular and the cheese version (as pictured). The grilled naan was soft and warm with a touch of chewiness. I personally loved the cheese version as it was gooey and tasty even without the dip. But the regular version with the dip was money as well.
Last up was the Bang-Dang Belly featuring a large piece of braised pork belly atop sesame slaw finished off with crispy noodles, scallions and hot sauce. I guess the saying "save the best for last" rang true for this taco. It was spicy from the hot sauce, aromatic and tangy from the sesame slaw and most important of all, the pork belly was tender with a rich nutty sweetness. Sporting a char, the belly was smoky as well. As a result of the braise, the fatty parts were nicely rendered to a gelatin-like quality. This ended off our little tasting session with a bang. In fact, most of the flavours were apparent and completely in our faces. Definitely not mailing it in here.
*All food was complimentary*
- Impactful complimentary flavours
- Well-prepared proteins
- Decent value (2 tacos for $10.00)
- This goes for all the stalls... busy and crowded market
- Very messy to eat