The Food Court in the Empire Center is a place that I like a lot.
I know this is strange especially when you consider that the Empire Center is an almost dead mall in comparison with the other indoor Asian malls in Richmond (for example, Aberdeen, Yaohan, Parker Place and the Richmond Public Market).
The quietness of the mall is what I appreciate especially when I just wanted a slow, quiet meal. There are no ambiance to speak of at all. No service to talk about too. The only thing that matters here is the top-of-the-class food.
Although there are just about 10 food stalls in the food court, some of my favourite dishes are found here. I blogged about the Claypot Ostrich Rice and Steamed Rice with Lotus Leaf from James Snacks (see post here) last month. The Claypot Ostrich Rice is the very dish that won Gold in the Food Court category in the 2010 edition of the CRA.
Today, I am going to share with you two other stalls which serves excellent food that is worth checking out.
The Choi House Special Chicken is our recent find. This stall is oddly sandwiched between a hair salon and a wedding boutique. It is just a counter with no food in sight. At a fleeting glance, you might not even know it is food stall.
The Chinese name of this stall translates to the words “Salt Baked Chicken”.
The menu mesmerized me. It is all about meat with combination of words like chicken, duck, beef, pork, squid and ox mixed with words like tongue, tendon, legs, balls, ribs, kidney, feet, and wings. You may click on the pictures above to read the menu.
Normally, I would expect that duck dishes are more expensive than chicken dishes. But here, the duck dishes are cheaper. I am not sure why but it could be that they serve only free range chicken.
For a meatatarian, this is the type of food I like. I need some of you to help me categorize this food.
This is definitely Cantonese style food. The Cantonese are famous for its Siu Mei which includes the roast pork, BBQ pork, sausages etc. The meat stuff in Choi House is not siu mei. They don’t roast or BBQ it. It is lighter. I was about to categorize this as Lou Mei but what do I know, right? Is this considered as Lou Mei?
Look at it!
The above is half a chicken which costs $12. They call t his the House Special Spicy Chicken (Boneless). I don’t know why they even call this “spicy” when it is not spicy at all. Maybe it is because they are saying that they use spices to make this? *shrug*
This chicken is served cold. We were instructed to keep it … in the fridge and that we MUST NOT warm it up at all. This is meant to be eaten cold.
The chicken is cut into easy to eat strips and as mentioned earlier, boneless too. It has a very unique texture between the meat and the skin. The skin is gelatinous and very delicate tasting. This is the reason why this has to be eaten cold.
There are a lot of meat here for $12.
Let me (with tongue in cheek) compare this with the House Specialty Shredded Chicken from Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine (see entire post on Zen, the so-called “Greatest Chinese Restaurant Out of China” here).
The above is the House Specialty Shredded Chicken served by Zen. This dish above is standard in ALL of Zen’s tasting menus. They look totally alike right? LOL!
I was trying to make a point to some friends that it is just this one dish from Zen that make it so hard for anyone to justify the expensive tasting menus in Zen. You pay big bucks to sample dishes like this but you can get equally good ones at the Empire Mall Food Court for way cheaper. Maybe a person with finer tastes can differentiate the two but for mere peons like us, they taste the same. Both equally good.
BTW, Zen says that they use Polderside chicken. Choi House told us they only serve free range chicken.
We wanted to also try their duck because they have so many items that are duck based.
The above is called Spicy Duck Leg Rice ($7.50). While the chicken was served instantly (they took it out from the fridge!) this one took any awfully long time to prepare. We were the only customer and was wondering why it took so long. This dish was served with free milk tea which is a nice bonus.
We added some pig tongue to this for $3 extra. The pig tongue is the slices of meat on the left in the picture above.
Lots of lovely duck meat. It is moist with quite a bit of fat in the skin area.
Although this is also called spicy, it is not spicy at all. But it has a lot of nice black pepper.
The pig tongue is chewy. I find that pig tongue is kind of over-rated as an exotic part. If no one tells me, I would have thought it is just normal lean pork.
The rice is made to perfection with the right amount of soy sauce.
I have actually written about Lai Leung Kee Delicatessen before (see here). That was a long time ago. Three years ago as a matter of fact.
Lai Leung Kee is well know for their exotic Chinese food. They specialize in meat organs … you know, parts like lung, tripe, liver, tendon, etc.
Many restaurants can claim they can make such dishes but not many will be able to execute well enough to make it palatable. Lai Leung Kee makes it very well.
The above is the Stew Beef Organ Meat in Broth which costs $7.50. It came with a big bowl of rice on the side.
The types of organs in this dish are (clockwise from top):
- Dunno, maybe just shank
The vermicelli is a good type of noodles to go with the broth.
The broth is light. Definitely not salty at all.
So yeah … these are the few dishes Suanne and I like to get when we want a slow, unhurried meal at the food court in the Empire Mall. If you have not tried this before, it is worth checking out.