Being able to make a return visit to restaurants is a welcome change. It is not often we get the chance to go back to a restaurant given that we usual seek out new places to eat just so we have something to write about. We were at the Congee Noodle House over a year ago for breakfast. So this is a return visit.
A few weeks ago we had some time in the late afternoon after dropping off the boys nearby for their meeting. So rather than shuttling between Richmond and Vancouver, we decided to stick around the area and check out the award winning congee dish on the CRA list.
The Congee Noodle House is located on Broadway, near the intersection with Main. It is quite a strategic location given that it is right in front of a bus stop and that they serve Chinese comfort food — noodles and congee.
For those driving, parking surprisingly had never been a problem for us. There is a car park at the rear of the restaurant and even if it is full, there are meter-free street parkings around the block.
There is another restaurant on Kingsway and Joyce called the Congee Noodle King. Are they both related? Both of the Congee Noodle restaurants have the same distinctive green awning and the Chinese logos are almost similar.
The Congee Noodle House on Broadway has a big dining hall. What you see above is just one section of the hall. Most Chinese restaurants half this size would already been considered very big. While the restaurant is busy when we visited, we were wondering if they ever fill up the entire restaurant. For a dim sum style restaurant, I am sure filling up all the tables would not be a problem. For congee and noodle, I would love to see that.
I consider Congee Noodle House non-Chinese friendly. There are a good mix of customers which is an indication that people are comfortable with the menu.
The menu is pages and pages of comfort food. Nothing fancy — congee, noodles, rice and Chinese BBQ mainly. I think that is the appeal of a place like Congee Noodle House. You can’t go wrong with a menu like that but then of course, you can’t really be great with comfort food.
So again, there is a confusion over ordering this. You know, the CRA need to make sure that when they award these dishes, they should do something to ensure that the restaurant train every waiters in the restaurant to know the award by heart. It might do good if they can nickname the dishes or something instead of a generic name. Just a thought.
When we asked for the Pidan, Pork and Dried Oyster Congee AND that it is the CRA award winning dish, this was lost on the impatient waitress. Firstly, she does not seem to know what exactly we are asking for and said that ALL their congee are award winning (saying it in Cantonese). Well, I don’t care for ALL the other congee … I specifically want Pidan, Pork and Dried Oyster.
Our dear waitress brought us the Pidan, Pork SANS Dried Oyster Congee. We dig and dig for that illusive dried oyster and could not find it in our bowl. So Suanne asked the waitress about it and mind you for those of you who know Suanne, she is a sweet nice person. So she really really asked nicely.
Instead Suanne was … talked down by the waitress saying “you should have said so”. I could not believe it when I heard that! It’s that tone I was taken aback by.
We had made sure earlier by saying that we wanted this specific combination and even pointed to the item on the printout we brought along. She wasn’t paying attention. So fine right? We said, just add dried oyster to the congee and we’ll pay for it. She said she can’t do that and when I asked her why not, she said if we add the dried oyster, the amount of ingredient in the bowl is wrong. I think she also meant that she does not know how to bill us.
It is really alright with us but she did not have to be defensive for screwing up the order. After all, we are not the confrontation type of people. We let it slide. He he he … what a rant, huh?
So we ended up accepting fate that we will not have the award winning combination. This version is $5.75.
But despite that annoying exchange, we got to hand it to the restaurant that they make great congee. It is smooth and creamy and is full of the ingredients. We like it a lot. Some congee are so bland that we had to add soy sauce for taste. With this congee, there is no need for that as it is salty enough by itself.
The picture above is the Pidan or better known as Century Eggs. Another name for it is thousand year old eggs. I know many people (particularly non-Chinese) will not even touch it. This is made from preserving the eggs for months. When I was young, my mum told me that it is preserved in horse urine. This is not true. Anyway, the preserving process over months makes the yolk dark and creamy and the whites black and transparent.
Along with the congee, we ordered one more dish. It was the Hotpot Tofu, Mushroom, Fish and Roasted Pork ($15).
It was served boiling hot and does look like they execute this so well.
Since they have roast pork, I think they freshly chop the roast pork from the rack and make the hot pot. So, it was pretty good. I was thinking that since the roast pork was already been cooked, they should have added the roast pork late in the cooking process (or heck, even on the side!). This is because the skin was soaked soggy. It would have wonderful if it is crisp, no?
Besides the roast pork, there is also fried fish in it. We had to order rice separately because who really eats hot pot on its own anyway, right?
Yeah, I was smarting from the way the waitress talked down to Suanne and so am very … errr … “mmm song” if you know what I mean. So am picky here — I felt that the waitress should have asked or suggested that we order rice too. So instead, we had to flag her down again asking for rice, look at her unhappy face and then wait for the rice while the hot pot gets colder.
Trying to get adventurous.
When we spied a dish called Steamed Oyster with Garlic which is a Chef’s Specialty on the menu, we thought we try that too. The reason is I know Chinese does not really like raw oysters and needed it cooked (like stir-fried or something). Steaming would be interesting.
It is $2.50 each with a minimum order of 3. So we got three and made sure that Suanne takes one before I did that. I was not going to eat all three by myself.
It is big alright, really big … with lots of garlic and green onions. While it was quite alright, it is not something I will order again. Some parts particularly the edges were hardened from overcooking. The meat was soft and fleshy but is was not fresh tasting. The garlic helped masked a bit of the unfresh taste. I took one and Suanne took one. We left one untouched.
Their prices are cheap for sure and for this reason it is not a surprise that it is a cash only place.
And then on our way out, we came across a news clipping pasted near the front door. OMG, it was our waitress pictured on the clipping. LOL!
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Looks like you were looking for number 14 in the congee section on the menu. I think you would have gotten the right item!
It’s unfortunate, but at these places, service is never the strong suit. I guess customers are just accustomed to accept this…
If I am served by such waitress, I really would not go back to the same shop regardless of how good the food is, seriously. I feel sorry for you to have to dine in such experience….
I wouldn’t go back either regardless how good it is. It’s only food. There’s always something else to eat.
Its a good thing you posted the newspaper clipping. If I ever go to that place to eat which I highly doubt, I will surely try to avoid that waitress.
Thanks for doing this series on the CRA award winning dishes. I enjoy it a lot.
BTW, if its any consolation, I once tried a congee with dried oysters. I didnt like it at all. The dried oysters made the congee taste and smell fishy. Think of salted fish on fried rice but in a congee form. Not very appetizing.
LOL, I think you mean “tiu hay mmm song”, right? Yeah, I’d be miffed too if my waitress was so short with me.
I’m pretty sure they are related to Congee Noodle King on Kingsway. And the place does fill up sometimes, despite being so big.
OK, what does “tiu hay mmm song” mean?
I know “mmm goi” but I know that isn’t what you meant (thank you).
It is amazing to me that there could be that many kinds of congee and noodle! I have only seen just plain congee, so thought that was all there was.
I think it roughly translates to “unsettled.”
You might have better luck with Michigan instead for congee. They might not have as many options but at least the service is better.
Dried oysters are definitely something that takes a bit of getting used to. It’s something my mom has used in various dishes for as long as I remember.
On that note, re: the roast pork in the hot pot, I’ve only ever seen my folks make that dish if we had leftover roast pork that they needed to do something with. So my guess is Congee Noodle House would’ve done the same.
“Tiu Hay Mmm Song” is Cantonese and I would translate that into “fuming mad” except that it is the kind that makes you to take short shallow breadth and you just cannot let go and you can’t rest if this is not resolved.
Writing about that episode is therapy. I can let it go now and I can move on now. My “Tiu Hay” is now “Song”. 🙂
Yeah maybe I am wrong about the roast pork. The reason why I mentioned that this could be freshly chopped was because of the way it looked. Well, it could be leftover roast pork but the sides looked freshly chopped and had the clean look at the sides. But I know what you mean. Most people will throw leftover roast pork at home for dishes like this. Suanne does that too — which I avoid picking it up if I know it is leftover pork.
It might have been fresh, if they ran out of the leftover ^^
Hi Biki: Hmmm … Now that you mention it, maybe hot pots are created to deal with leftover food. You should know as you are in the business. Yes? No? LOL! Ben
depends on the hot pot? all of our hot pots use fresh ingredients.
But my dad makes the same dish you had for “for gay chan” (employee meal) if we have 3 day old leftover roasted pork LOL~ (cuz you want to “cook” the meat just in case. And if the pork is already chopped up, this is really the only option that tastes good ‘cuz it keeps it moist and adds flavor. At home, my grandma will just steam it, or I’ll bake it but that screws up the texture.
(btw. we don’t serve this at our restaurant lol)
In my opinion, for good Century Egg, Pork and Dried Oyster Congee, you should try “ho yuen kee” on Main St (around 45th avenue) for good congee!!!
Christine, I think you mean Fraser St around 45th Ave.
opps….yes, you are right Marike
Ben,Century eggs are made with salt,ash,lime and mud,We used to make them when I was a kid,defenitely no horse urine involved.I will be having lunch at the place tommorow to try it out.thanks for the heads up
The horse urine thing: that was what I was told too, growing up, about century eggs. I guess it didn’t bother me because I still ate them. I figured the horse urine was on the outside of the egg. LOL
But if you think about it, while the horse urine isn’t touching your egg, the flavor should still soak in… maybe? like salted duck eggs… o.O
According to Wikipedia, it’s a myth. However, given that horse urine is at least mildly basic (alkaline)… I guess you could make century eggs, at least in combination with other alkaline ingredients. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a factual basis for this so called myth.
“According to a persistent myth, century eggs are, or once were, prepared by soaking eggs in horse urine. The myth may arise from the pungent odor of ammonia given off by century eggs, which is reminiscent of urine. Horse urine itself, however, is only slightly basic, ranging in pH from 7.5 to 7.9. Though human urine left standing can reach a maximum pH of around 9.4—the same as a 1-molar solution of ammonia—it is still less than that produced by mixing quicklime (calcium oxide) or wood ash in water.
In Thai and Lao, the common word for this type of preserved egg literally means “horse urine eggs”, either due to this myth or the distinctive ammonia odor of century eggs.”
The Ph level in Horse Urine is too low,You can achieve way better results with lime,But We never tried using Horse Urine which is a sort of Chinese version of a urban legend
Too funny! We go to Congee Noodle House a lot and it’s always a game to see if a) the waitress will come over to serve us, b) if she will take our order correctly and c) if we will receive what we ordered at all.
Always an adventure over there – and I’ve had that EXACT waitress. She’s a nut-job.
Agreed that the service is terrible, but can’t complain if you’re hungry and that’s the only late night restaurant opened around your area for “siu ye”. Other than that, I normally don’t go there even if its up the street from where I live
I voted “never had it but would try it” but if it was really made in any variety of urine I will change my vote to “wont try it!”.
Having good service is really a big thing for me. If the waitress did that, i will never go to the place again unless all of the other restaurants closed down. But hey, there are many other great places so i guess i will have to skip this place.