Suanne and I met up with Charles of Mamak Cafe a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to show him the claypot rice place and catch up with him after the event we had at his restaurant. We were so busy before and during the event that we did not manage to really chat. Charles said he hardly ever come over to Richmond and wanted to have a closer look at the food scene here.
Moreover I wanted to also blog about another CRA2011 award winning dish. So we met up at Parker Place to grab a pound of siu yook before we walked over to the adjacent strip mall.
If ever there is a food court in Richmond that I would call my favourite, I would say it is this one in the Empire Center. This is where King Buffet, Bushair, Sunway and Shiang Garden is located.
The reason why Suanne and I like this place is because it is relatively unknown. It is slow and quiet(er) than the other food court. We come here when we want a slow leisurely meal.
There are not many stall here and to us that is part of what we like. Even with the lack of stalls, the stalls here are unique and very good. Nine times out of ten, we could come here either for:
- the Claypot Rice in James Snack
- the Chicken from Choi House (see link)
- the Meat Organs from Lai Leung Kee (same link above)
The other stalls we are not quite interested in as much.
Our object coming here is the stall called James Snack. The English name is weird. They don’t serve snacks here. What they are famous for is their claypot rice and also the steamed lotus leaf rice.
You see, the name James Snack is a direct translation from the Cantonese name Jeem-See-Lack. That sort of mean … “James is awesome”. Am not kidding.
They don’t have a big menu. Everything they have is what you see above. Basically they have two items:
- Claypot Rice, with 10 types of ingredients
- Steam Rice or Dish with Lotus Leaf, with 5 types of ingredients
James Snacks had won the Chinese Restaurant Award for best Food Court Dish for two consecutive years. With so many food courts around, I find it kind of strange that the CRA decided to award this stall the same award again. With so many food courts out there, it is as if that there are no other food courts worthy of winning the award this year. Unless some NEW spectacular food court stall coming on stream this year, logic says that James Snacks will win this award again next year.
You know what I am saying?
But in any case, I gotta to hand it to James Snacks. I like their claypot rice (which they call it Sand Pot Rice) and they are good. I just hope that the CRA would have spread their love around a bit more.
So we got this year’s award winning dish which is the version with chicken and sausage. Listen to this … last year they won the CRA award with the same dish except that it was with ostrich meat. Sooooo … does that mean that chicken and sausage is better this year than ostrich. Will we see the version with frog and ginger sauce win next year?
You know what I am really saying?
The claypot rice came with suey choy and shiitake mushrooms. It has a gingery flavour. The best part was the chicken. The Chinese sausage (lap cheong) was steamed.
You know, when I was young I made this at home. My version is different in that I pan fry the Chinese sausage separately until it is crispy and then I add it on the rice. It made this a million time better. :-)
Apparently there are TWO versions of the award winning Chicken and Sausage Rice. We were told that we can have the chicken with bones or without. Gosh … that got us thinking hard and fast. So which version is really the award winning version? Boneless or with bone?
You know what I am saying?
So we made a fast guess. We think the award winning version is the chicken with bones even though it is cheaper at $6.75. The boneless option is a dollar more.
What makes this great is that James Snack make you wait at least 30 minutes for this dish. You can call in to pre-order to cut down on the wait. James Snack will only start making the claypot rice from scratch upon order. This will ensure that you will get a steaming hot pot of rice.
Hey here is a tip … do you know where you can buy a claypot like the ones above for just $3? Or if you are too cheapskate to even spend $3, you can rent it for free?
You can do that in James Snacks!
You see, you can order these claypot rice take away from James Snack. Even if you have it take away, they will NOT take the rice out from the claypot and put it into a styrofoam box for you. No. They will give you the entire claypot so that you can properly retain the heat and all … for a $3 deposit. Fancy huh? So next time you want a claypot just remember to thank Uncle Ben for this brilliant idea.
You’re welcome, in advance.
We already knew about the wait time and we were OK with that. It was good time too to chat while waiting. Even when we got the claypot rice, we tipped the lid slightly and then let it sit for a lot longer while it cook further. We like drier rice and the extra patience will pay off!
The crust is the part I enjoy immensely. Charles said that if he is to make it at home, he will add Chinese wine at the end … hmmm … sounds good to me.
Nope. The above is not finished food. We had not even touched it yet.
It is James Snack other dishes. As a matter of fact, I prefer this over the claypot rice. This is called the Steam Rice with Lotus Leaf with Spare Ribs in Black Bean Sauce ($6.25).
The food is served in a dim sum steaming basket and wrapped in dried lotus leaf.
Although a lot, the spare ribs were boney with little meat but it is delicious. The rice is also fragrant from the lotus leaf. Yeah, you gotta inhale the steam from the rice and you will catch a whiff of the lotus leaf.
Charles and us talked a lot. It is to be expected. We were reminiscing about the food in Malaysia and how many different type of food that Vancouver had not tried before.
And of course, we talked about my dream to open a Bah Kut Teh shop one day. Just a pipe dream but I enjoy conjuring in my mind what a perfect BKT shop would be like … from self-serve individually packed tea, to choices of pork cuts, to types of soup, to condiments and most important of all, all you can drink soup. LOL!
Charles and us had a lot on common. We were frank talking about his Mamak Cafe and the challenges he is facing and also the successes he is having too. For me, I enjoyed hearing about these things because it does give me a different perspective of a restaurant operator.
Truth is, I have great respect for people who work in the restaurant industry. Sometime people look at them as the “enemy” and passes judgment left right and center. But I do know too that they are some of the hardest working people around … long hours, no holidays, facing ire of customers. Yeah, maybe I will talk more about this next time … or maybe some of you who runs a restaurant can share with us here in the comments below.