This restaurant had been replaced with a new restaurant, updated on 11th Oct 2008
When Suanne and I started blogging on chowtimes, we just did it because, well, it was an in-thing to have a blog. One thing led to another, today we have over 700 entries. We are still amazed at how the site had grown and that people actually find the blog interesting enough to return to the site. We still have not quite figured it out why chowtimes readers comes back.
What really kept us going is that we found that there are actually quite a few loyal followings of the site. I think it was sometime in October or so, I volunteered to organize a Chinese banquet for readers of chowtimes. Frankly, Suanne and I were pleasantly surprised to find that there are actually people who were interested — and that too, from readers who we don’t know.
In all, 9 people attended. Of everyone, LotusRapper, who came with his lovely wife, is the only person I had ever met. I had not met Ed from ededition.com but had been following his blog for sometime already. Then there was this gregarious Tiffanie who owns a chain of ice cream parlours — yummy, Suanne and I is going to check it out someday. Joseph, a true foodie, was also there. And the charming couple, Cissy & Henry … people Suanne and I would want to be like when we “grow up”. Two (Jennifer and Gigi) of my favourite bloggers could not make it.
The choice of going to Tong Kung Chiu Chow Restaurant boils down to one thing … snakes. More about that later.
One thing about Chinese banquets, you really need a lot of people. For the uninitiated, many formal Chinese restaurants offers 8-10 course dinners. These are mainly for weddings or celebrations. The menus are a fixed price for a table of 10. Most of the good menus will start from $180. I had seen one menu that costs $998!!
Selection for the restaurant was quick and easy. For us, the criteria was simple, we wanted to not spend not more than $200 and it had to be a Chinese Banquet. We gathered the menus from a few restaurants and selection was made within a week. For some of us, it was the “Snake and Shark’s Fin Soup” that led us to choosing Tong Kung.
Tong Kung have three standard menus that costs $168, $198 and $238. We chose the $198 menu which has 10 courses on it.
Tong Kung is a Chiu Chow (Teochew) cuisine restaurant. It is located on Park Road in Richmond, just a ear shot away from the Richmond City Hall. We decided to meet early, at 5:30PM. We were the only people there then but it soon filled up very fast. We told ourselves that since there are so many people, we can’t be wrong choosing this restaurant.
I know very little about Chiu Chow cuisine. Here are MY perceptions … Chiu Chow cuisine is really big on seafood, maybe because the region is along the coast of south east China. It is generally bland and devoid of spiciness, unlike other Chinese cuisines that have stronger flavours and spices. I would say that it is very close to Cantonese cuisine.
The Cold Crab was the first dish and an excellent choice for starters. The way the Chiu Chow prepare the cold crab is that they steam it first and then served it chilled. I have no idea why they do that and what it does to the flavour … anyone knows?
Seems like crabs are big in Chiu Chow cuisine. We loved it. For me, I put aside the eating utensils and just used my hands. Using hands is OK because this does not have sticky gravy, sauce and stuff all over it. Don’t know about you all, but eating with my hands is the ONLY way to handle crabs.
The roe is purportedly the best part of the Cold Crab. It is OK taste-wise, I guess … but it sure does not look good.
Next came the Assorted Meat and Duck Platter in Chiu Chow Special Soy Sauce. I sure don’t know what “special sauce” is but the Chinese word for it is “low sui” which is roughly translated as “old water”. I am guessing that this is stocks that had been thickened over and over again.
Being a meat person, this was awesome. The duck wings though, I could not understand because there are so little meat to it. The pile of meat was heaped high … great stuff.
Next came the Crab and Prawn Balls. They are basically minced meat and shaped before being deep fried. Another meaty dish. I love the springy texture.
Well, the Snake and Shark’s Fin Soup was supposed to be the star of this dinner but when they came, we cannot see any evidence of snake meat let alone taste it. Anyway, I don’t even know what snake meat look and taste like … like chicken? Moreover, we could not really see shark fin too.
Lotus Rapper mentioned there is a strong orange peel taste. Suanne swore that there is that taste but to me I would not have known until told.
The next dish was simple. It is called Three Kinds of Seafood Stir Fry with XO Sauce. To me it does not look like there is XO Sauce in this but it tastes great. I like it better if seafood is cooked without strong sauces like XO Sauce anyway. It is a good dish to clear the palate from the previous dishes.
By this time, everyone should have felt full already … I sure was myself but we had just barely passed the middle course. The Spiced Ginger Chicken, we think is the air dried. We did not eat a lot of the chicken although it looked tasty (it was).
Following is the Braised Mushroom with Goose Feet in Oyster Sauce. The mushroom and bak choy was good. In particular, I love the huge mushrooms. We had quite a few goose feet left — I think it is not everyone’s favourite. For me, I prefer chicken feet over this … this one has more bones and very little meat and skin.
The Steamed Fish was great. What fish is that … I have no idea. I can’t tell one fish from another. So, is this a pomfret? or a tilapia? or is pomfrets the same as tilapia? I have absolutely no idea. One thing I do know, the soya sauce poured over the white fish meat is always good.
There were two steamed fishes. Fantastic dish.
The second to last dish was the Chiu Chow Fried rice. None of us could eat anymore and we ended up asking for a doggy bag for this and other left overs. The tenth dish was the Red Bean Soup.
Overall, all the servings were huge. Certainly value for money. My only beef about this dinner was that whilst the service was great at the beginning, by the 4th dish, they had been taking out one dish after another way before we had started on the previous one. It is best enjoyed if they had only timed it better. I do think that the kitchen was not able to cope with all the people coming in and thus just messed up with the timings.
The damage came out to $27 per person including taxes and tips.
Suanne and I really enjoyed ourselves, although admittedly I was dead tired that day. For us it was great meeting the people who cared enough for chowtimes that they took time off to come to the banquet (some even drove all the way from North Vancouver to Richmond!). We would love to organize another event sometime in the future for sure.
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I visit your blog because I’m a huge fan of asian cusine.
Unfortunately the true restaurants that serve Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Mayalisian dishes are in Boston. None in my neck of the woods.
I think snake is supposed to taste like chicken…I tried it several years ago and that is what I remember about it 🙂
The dinner looked tasty and sounds like you guys had fun! Hopefully, Jenkins and I can make it to the next one!
I chanced upon your site and love it! I am glad I found it, we love to explore new food adventures!
the dishes seem very unauthentic, cantonized…
I just wanted to say I really enjoy your blog. I’m personally a huge fan of the traditional chinese restaurants in Vancouver.
We have posted a few of your reviews on our recently launched social news aggregator- http://www.vancouvervibe.ca. Feel free to check it out. Our goal is to help drive up traffic and bring more awareness to the local blogging/social news community.
It was great meeting you again Ben, your wife Suanne for the first time, and all the other Chowtimes devotees. Boy you folks are one serious foodies group, I was truly impressed.
I agree with your impression of Tong Kung.
Looking forward to the next CT group excursion !
I would like to join the next time. Han Ju hotpot anyone??
Hi Ben and Suanne, that was really a good dinner we had that night. Everybody had a great time with good food and good company. Count me in again for sure for the next Chowtimes foodies get-together.
You mentioned the duck feet, I was trying to convince Ken to try it but I wasn’t successful. It was actually delicious for me anyway.
We’ll see each other again this weekend for the Vancouver dine-out dinner.
I love reading your blog site because I love looking at the food pix! LOL!! I also enjoy reading and trying out new recipes and new places that you have on your site! 😉
Hey, the entry for that dinner!
I am very backlogged with your blog, hehe. I’m still at the Han Ju Hot Pot entry.
And oh, “gregarious”, eh? ;P
HI Ben & Suanne,
The reason why i keep coming to your blog is your style of writing w/ nice pics and it’s all about FOOD:P
echo what Lotusrapper wrote. The only thing i don’t agree is the Charming couple part,hehehhe:P
Han Ju Hot Pot sounds good to me too.
In fact I’m trying to hook up with two friends to go there in the next week or two. I will report back to you all on our experience.
The picture of the greenish crab ‘roe’ isn’t actually crab roe for your info. That greenish stuff is crab fat. It can be eaten and taste good especially when the crab is super fresh. Crab roe is orange red in colour, pretty much like the yolk of salted duck eggs. The texture and taste (to me) of egg roe is very much like duck egg yolks, possibly because of the high fat content like that of ducks eggs.
Chao Zhou (Chiu Chow or Teow Chow) cuisine actually has a lot of spices. They actually create “satay sauce”. Though never as spicy compared to Szechuan cuisine, but just as good. The thing that differentiates Chao Zhou cuisine to a lot of others in Chinese cooking, is the fact that almost every dish has it’s own sauce.
“The duck wings though, I could not understand because there are so little meat to it. The pile of meat was heaped high … great stuff.”
– The part of the wing with less meat is actually the most popular part to eat when it comes to “low siu” goose or duck. The reason why is because of the texture of the infused “low siu” meat. People would actually fight for that part of the goose! If you have goose meat, it’s the neck meat thats the most tastiest.
As for snake meat- I’ve eaten snake meat at Chao Zhou, China and it taste like a cross between chicken and pork. but they way they cooked it was in a hot pot and with the skin on …which made it very chewy.
Also, you’ll find a lot of Cantonese restaurants actually have a lot of Chao Zhou dishes in their menu, for example, braise abalone and shark fin soup originated from Chao Zhou as well as the deep fried long chinese doughnut, rice noodles, and pork and fish balls, to name a few. Chao Zhou people even use Fish Sauce!! I think the reason why is that in places like Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and even Singapore/ Malaysia have a huge Chao Zhou population due to migration for trade. Ask any Chao Zhou person and they’ll tell you they have at least one relative residing in one of these places. 🙂
Anna: You sound like you know your food. Do you know of other good Chao Zhou restaurants in Vancouver?
Would you say there’s a lot of chiu chow restaurants in Vancouver?
Enjoyed the review, keep up the good work.
Hi Deanna: There are not a lot of Chiu Chow restaurants in Vancouver. You should take a look at this recent write-up of a Chiu Chow restaurant called T-Hut. I think you will like this one. http://bit.ly/d6JWsf Ben
There are quite a few chiu chow dishes with snake. My favourite is deep fried. I think the use the same kind of seasonings/spices as the deep fried squid you get at dim sum.. mm so good. I had it last in shanghai. Its just like chicken except way too many bones.
Looks a lot more Cantonese than Chiu-Chow to me!!
The cold crab, assorted meat and duck platter in Chiu Chow special soysauce (“loh shui”), steamed fish dishes are legitimate Chiu-Chow dishes.