Sherman's Food Adventures: Richmond Night Market 2018

Richmond Night Market 2018

At one point, we had 2 thriving night markets both located in Richmond.  To many, this was plenty confusing since one would have to either say, "the one near the River Rock" or "the one behind Home Depot".  Well, that isn't a problem anymore since the one behind Home Depot has ceased operations.  So the busy Richmond Night Market (picture credit Tourism Richmond) has become even busier with lack of competition.  In fact, it doesn't even have any equal in North America as it is the biggest Asian night market on the continent.  I made several visits with the first on my coin and the subsequent ones hosted by Tourism Richmond.

My first visit was with family visiting from the Bay Area in California.  Although they sport the biggest Chinatown in San Francisco, they hadn't seen something like the night market before.  We started off strong with the large Deep Fried Squid Tentacles from Squid Feast for $14.00.  This was a substantial portion of perfectly fried squid.  It was crunchy on the outside while appealingly chewy.  It was well-seasoned with a peppery saltiness, but we thought it could've been even saltier.  While we were waiting for our order, I stepped over to the Dumpling Master for their Mixed Dumplings ($7.50) consisting of 2 each Kimchi Beef, Black Truffle Pork and Spinach Vegan.  There was a variety of toppings to choose from including nori, bonito flakes and sesame seeds.  My favourite of the bunch was the black truffle as it was strong enough to be noticed, but not overwhelming either.  The pork was tender and meaty while retaining some juiciness.  Predictably spicy and tangy, the kimchi beef was good as well with a meatier filling.  Surprisingly, the vegan dumpling was pretty tasty too.  I would've been happy with them as an order, seriously!

I'm sure most of you are familiar with Takoyaki ($7.00) which is why we did not try the stand that specialized in it.  Rather, we hit up Best Takoyaki where they featured not only the traditional version, but also veggie-yaki, hotateyaki (scallop), shrimp-yaki and BBQ duck-yaki.  We ended up with the regular and the BBQ Duck-Yaki ($8.00) We found the takoyaki to be on the softer side with a crumbly exterior.  However, it was fluffy and tasted quite good with hits of cabbage, caramelized batter and octopus.  For real impact, the BBQ duck-yaki was meatier and really did have a roast duck aroma.  Add to the fact there was still octopus, the little balls were filling.  Of course a visit to the night market isn't complete without Chef James' BBQ Skewers (5 for $13.50) at Xin Jiang Man BBQ.  We got lamb, shrimp, beef and chicken skewers and they were on point.  The meat was succulent and well-spiced while completely charred and caramelized on the outside.

Something not readily found anywhere else, we had the Dragon Beard Candy ($5.50) at Kam's.  It looked a lot like cotton candy, but the texture and sweetness was nothing like it.  Rather, it was like a hybrid of Chinese peanut candy and cotton candy.  Hence it was more dense and robust than the light and airy cotton candy.  As mentioned, it wasn't incredibly sweet.  Instead, it was pointedly nutty and aromatic.  If you ever drop by, make sure you watch them making it, very cool.  Okay, our next item was not really anything sexy nor inventive.  But it is a street food classic being the Curry Fish Balls from Po Wah Dim Sum House for $5.50 (7 pieces).  This was pretty typical with small fish balls soak in a watery curry broth.  I found the fish balls to be tender with a nice rebound.  They weren't as spicy as I would've liked, but the curry did penetrate into the fish ball.

Returning only a week later, I was hosted by Tourism Richmond.  We began with dessert.  Well why not?  This was especially true with the Daifuku (2 for $7.00) from Asomi Mochi.  We had all of their available flavours including Purple Yam, Chocolate, Matcha and Original.   These were really good!  The mochi was soft and tender, yet still retaining a light delicate chew.  Beyond that, the thin layer of sweet red bean ensured flavour without being overwhelming.  I know this could be the luck of the draw, but their strawberries were large and sweet.  My favourite of the bunch had to be the original as it just tasted like a classic daifuku.  The matcha was a close second as it was not bitter at all while being impactful.  Close by, we got the Seafood Okonomi Poutine ($8.50) from Okonomi Bites.  This was also very good with crunchy fries topped with real cheese curds and strips of fried okonomiyaki.  I found the strips airy and fluffy while not sporting enough seafood.  No matter, the tangy and sweet sauce really brought the whole thing together was was the best part.

Staying in the same section, we had the Stuffed Crab Claws with shrimp paste for $13.98 at Mr. Crabzy.   These were topped with cheese, tobiko and wasabi mayo.   Compared to things I'd already tried, this was one of the tastiest.  I found the shrimp paste to be on point being moist and buttery with a perfect rebound texture.   It was well-seasoned being sweet and a bit savoury, but the topping of wasabi mayo added a creaminess with a minor hit of spice at the end.  Although the price might turn some people off, I thought it was worth it due to the ingredients and the execution.  Continuing on our streak of good eats, we had the Spicy Braised Pork Belly finished with apple wood smoke for $10.00 at The Phamily Table.  Like a fine dining establishment, they actually piped in smoke into the clam shell box.  So we were treated to the intoxicating smell of smoke upon opening the lid.  The belly was buttery and tender without being too fatty.  The smoke was there, but not strong, yet the spicy sauce on top was impactful.

Rounding the corner and up the busiest part of the food stalls, we made our way over to Tasty Oyster & Scallop BBQ.  As such, we got one order each of the BBQ Garlic Scallop with vermicelli ($12.00) and BBQ Garlic Oyster ($7.50).  Underneath the chewy vermicelli, the scallops were beautifully prepared being buttery and briny.  Despite the hot sauce on top, the scallops were actually bland.  A simple addition of salt and/or soy would've brought the dish to life.  The same could be said about the gigantic oyster.  It too was also perfectly prepared being soft and tender, but was lacking in seasoning.  With the hot sauce and red chili, there was a definite kick.  Yet, salt was definitely needed here.  As mentioned, the oyster was just massive as it was a meal in itself.  It was super-fresh where the sweet brininess was the highlight. 

Right across the way, we stopped at Sweets for well, you guessed it, sweets...  The better of the 2 items we ordered was the Deep Fried Yam Balls ($8.00).  These were crunchy and fairly airy while being appealingly chewy.  However, they were not served hot as we were expecting, so that decreased our enjoyment.  We didn't really care for the Matcha Croissant ($8.00) as it was very dense and not flaky at all.  In fact, the inside was doughy with no discernible layers.  With that being said, the matcha flavour was apparent and not overly bitter.  Continuing with dessert, we had the Tofu Cheesecake ($7.00 each) at Cupping 8 Cafe.  As pictured, we selected Mango and Matcha as our flavours.  I found the texture of the cheesecake to be similar to a very stiff panna cotta.  Therefore, we could eat it off the stick since it was so firm.  However, it was still smooth and almost silky when bitten into.  I'm more a traditionalist when it comes to cheesecake (I like the NY style), but this was different and healthier I'm sure.

Heading back to savoury, we decided to try one of the more popular items according to their top 10 board.  At the Banh Xeo, we ordered the Local Experience Vietnamese Savory Crepe ($8.50).  Hidden within the thin and crispy crepe, there was the usual bean sprouts, onions, pork and shrimp.  In terms of execution, the crepe was pretty good.  As mentioned, it was thin and had a mostly crispy texture except for some spots.  Inside, I found the amount of pork and shrimp to be insufficient as most bites were just mostly bean sprouts.  We already had fried squid the first time I visited the night market, so this time around, we sampled the BBQ Squid ($8.00) at Lao Er BBQ Squid.  Unlike the fried variety, the texture of the squid stayed more buttery while retaining a chewiness.  Also, the seasoning has a chance to penetrate the squid and of course coat the squid on the outside.  Hence, there was a lightly spicy and umaminess to the dish.

If you thought this wasn't enough food sampled at the night market, think again.  We came back a few weeks later with Mijune at the wheel.  In addition to much of the aforementioned items, we also had the following eats.  Yes, she went nuts (as she usually does when it comes to food), where we started off with some different items at Chef James.  Other than the usual awesome skewers, we also had the Crispy Buns, Buttered Corn ($3.50) and Roasted Yam ($3.50).  Seared and caramelized, the green onion buns were indeed crispy while fluffy on the inside.  Beyond the smokiness and savouriness, the addition of hoisin added a rich sweetness.  The corn on the cob was pretty textbook being cooked just enough where the niblets were crispy and sweet.  As for the yam, it was very good.  It was soft while still retaining its texture and shape.  Drizzled with a slightly spicy mayo and imitation bacon bits, there was variation in flavour and texture.

Right next to Chef James, the Original Oktoberfest-Style Roasted Pork Hocks were calling out to us.  Roasting on the rotisserie, these huge chunks of meat were $15.50, but oh-so-worth it.  Succulent and juicy, the pork was super tender and flavourful.  There was a choice of sauces including hot, wasabi mayo, BBQ and mustard. Be careful though, if you do end up getting this, it is far too much food for 2 people, let alone one.  So make sure you are sharing this.  Around on the other side, we decided to get 2 Pancake Wraps from Fusion Wraps.  We decided on Spicy Chicken and the classic Taiwanese Egg & Pork Fluff.  Despite looking rather thick and dense, the pancakes were pretty good.  They had a Malay roti quality to them where they were flaky on the outside with defined layers on the inside.  We much preferred the egg and pork fluff as it as not overly heavy and had the traditional taste we are familiar with.

Moving along, we decided to get one of the hottest items from last year's night market in the Spicy Garlic Bossam ($10.00 + $1.00 kimchi) from Teppan Bossam.  Unlike a traditional bossam, their version involves searing it on a blacktop with a sweet and savoury glaze finished with toppings and sauce.  It is eaten as is without blanched Napa cabbage and pickled turnip.  Unlike the previous times, this one was a little on the chewier side, but is was still tender enough and fatty.  The sear added caramelization while the sauce delivered as promised.  Over at Bao House, we went for both the Pork Belly and Beef Gua Bao (or Taiwanese "burger") for $11.99.  Dressed with pickled snow cabbage and cilantro, we noticed that the white sugar and ground peanuts were missing (maybe to avoid nut allergies?).  Despite this, the baos ate well with a firm fluffiness.  Inside, the beef was sliced thin and tender while the stewed pork belly was super moist and tender.

For awhile there, we lost Mijune only to discover that she had done back-to-back fried chicken stalls.  The first one was the Korean Sweet Chili Fried Chicken from Chicking for $7.00.  The chicken itself was succulent and tender with a think crispy batter on the outside.  As for the sauce, it was fairly mild and sweet.  Personally, I would've enjoyed a more aggressive gochujang-style of sauce, but I can see why they offered a milder version for the masses.  While this was decent, the Sweet & Spicy Wings ($7.00) from The Chicken Shop were outstanding.  There was a punch of flavour with each bite where the chicken itself was bursting with juices.  The batter was on point being the right thickness and super crispy.  They were able to render the skin despite the presence of an aggressive batter.  Yep, the thing you see at the back was indeed fried chicken skin.  That was thin and super crispy while lightly salted.

Of course we couldn't forget about the drinks since we were eating all this fried food!  So Mijune took it upon herself to hit up the Sippy Tea for their Roasted Milk Tea in a Ziplock-type bag.  Hey, it didn't look like much, but wow, it was delicious!  The drink was well-balanced with an impactful amount of roast tea flavour combined with conservative sugar content.  The milkiness was perfect, offering up some creamy notes to each sip without being heavy.  This was actually refreshing.  Okay, the stuff we had at Icy Bar was actually a lot later (hence the lack of light), but I decided to add it here since we were on drinks.   In addition to the Mango Icy ($7.00), we had the Mango Tapioca Icy ($6.00) and the Summer Special ($6.50).  The mango icy (shaved ice) was topped with a considerable amount of ripe mango, mango mochi and a big scoop of ice cream.  This was refreshing, but the ice could've been less gritty.  The "drinks" were the real stars of the show as they were just sweet enough while exhibiting the flavours of all the fruit that you see.  I highly recommend you get these as a palate cleanser.

Continuing on sweets, we got Crunchy Ice Cream at 196 Degrees.  These liquid nitrogen created ice cream nuggets were akin to dipping dots and mini-melts.  However, their size and shape were bigger and much more random.  They weren't crunchy per se, but the firmness was appealing.  After the initial bite, it melted into a creaminess that was sweet, but not overly so.  From the 2 flavours we ordered, I enjoyed the Matcha ($8.00) more as it was slightly bitter with plenty of natural tea aroma.  I found the Strawberry ($8.00) to have a "Pocky-like" taste.  Staying with matcha, we tried the Cold Fried Ice Cream at Sawadika Thailand ($8.50).  Essentially, they take the ice cream in its liquid form and freeze it on a large steel cooling plate.  Using spatulas, they form it into rolls as you see in the cup.  This was topped with chocolate sauce and coconut.  This was also quite good with a firm, but creamy texture that was purposefully sweet.  The matcha was more mild here, but still definitely there.

Yet another dessert (blame Mijune), we had the Ube and Black Sesame ice cream sandwiches from Cookies N Cream (2 for $14.00).  Although none of the ingredients are made by the vendors, the end product was good nonetheless.  I found the ice cream to be rich and balanced in flavour while the cookies to be the right texture.  What I mean by that is that the cookies were soft enough to not shatter when bitten into (held its shape).  Lastly, we grabbed another market favourite in the Seafood Cracker ($6.50) from Japanese Seafood Cracker.  I had this last year and it is akin to a really large sheet of shrimp chips but a little more dry and styrofoam-like.  Yah, that doesn't sound that appetizing, but I could see this going with beer at home.  Not sure walking around the market eating it though.  So there you have it - the stuff I have tried at the Richmond Night Market for 2018.  If I go again, I might add some more items to this article.  For those who are visiting Vancouver, this is definitely an experience not to be missed.

*2 of my 3 visits were hosted by Tourism Richmond*

The Good:
- Large selection of food representing many different cuisines
- "Yeet Lau" which means lively atmosphere
- Free parking

The Bad:
- If you go nuts, prepare to bring lots of cash
- Can get rather crowded, but that is part of the experience 


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