[CRA 2010 Signature Dish] Fresh Tilapia with Peanuts, Cilantro & Chili 桂州怪魯魚 from S&W Pepper House, Richmond


Updated: 3rd Nov 2014: This restaurant is closed.

We used to not go back to a restaurant for repeat visits because you know that we always are out looking for new places to eat … so that we have new places to write about. This CRA series gives us that break from doing new restaurants because many of the award winning restaurants had already been covered by chowtimes previously.

This is another one of such restaurant. This is the third time we are writing about S&W Pepper House on No 3 Road in Richmond and this does not even include the other S&W Pepper House in the Crystal Mall. Our first post was three years ago (see link). Earlier this year, I had the privilege of being invited to join several primo foodies in their chowdown. That was the first time I get to meet some of the more renowned food writers in Vancouver (see link).

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S&W Pepper House is like a chain restaurant these days. It is because they have three locations. The first and original S&W is in the Crystal Mall, Burnaby.

The S&W in Richmond is the second outlet and was opened about 3 years ago. They have also opened a third S&W in Coquitlam about a year ago. Very little is known about the S&W in Coquitlam because I could hardly find any reviews of the S&W in Coquitlam on the internet.

This post is based on the visit to the S&W in Richmond’s No 3 Road. You know, having regularly eaten in the Richmond and Crystal Mall restaurants, I personally prefer the S&W in Crystal Mall over the food in the Richmond # 3 Road. I love the Cumin Lamb Rice from the Crystal Mall S&W which is by far better than the one I had on No 3 Road. It is just $7.50 for their lunch special and I had it almost once a week.

So I was just surprised to learned that it is the Richmond #3 Road restaurant that won a CRA award. The S&W Crystal Mall was not mentioned at all. In some of the CRA awards, all the locations of the same restaurant is mentioned (for instance, Legendary Noodle, Sun Sui Wah and Red Star). But for this particular CRA award, only the Richmond restaurant is mentioned.

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The Richmond #3 Road is certainly look more like a full fledge restaurant. This place is nothing fancy. It is clean for sure. The one in Crystal Mall is very much a hole in the wall operation.

Service was good. I think it is mainly because we were the only customer that day. We were there for lunch and it was a weekday. This place is definitely not as busy as the one in Crystal Mall which is always packed during meal times.

S&W is a Sichuan Restaurant. In Chinese, the name is translated as South-West Wind in reference to the location of the Sichuan province in southwestern China. So the food here is expectedly spicy.

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Their prices are very reasonable. I even would say it is unexpectedly cheap considering the location and all.

While they have quite a big menu, you really should just read the one on the far left (click on it to enlarge). This is the section where the “New Dishes” and “Chef’s Top 10 Recommendations” are listed. The spicy dishes are marked with one or two chilis. Look at the first menu and you can see that there are only one dish with double chili marked — that is the dish we had!

On the middle and right most menu, that is the lunch specials. All the dishes are $7 and below. The Xiao Long Bao is just $4. BTW, XLB is not Sichuan, isn’t it?

So yeah, prices are great in S&W.

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For starters we had the Wonton in Spicy Sauce ($6). I like all the sesame seeds and the spring onions on it. While it is really spicy the way I like it, it was also very salty. Of course it is also very oily which doesn’t faze me at all. Overall, it was the over saltiness that makes it less than perfect.

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Chinese Restaurant Award 2010 ♦ GOLD in the FISH Category ♦ Fresh Tilapia with Peanuts, Cilantro & Chili 桂州怪魯魚

The above is the gold award winner in the Fish category. Actually, it is not really the award winning dish.

You see, the CRA awarded them gold for the Fresh TILAPIA with Peanuts, Cilantro and Chili. However, S&W replaced the tilapia with … ROCK COD!

When we asked for this, the manager said that they had “upgraded” the fish because they could not source the right size tilapia. I have no idea the relative quality between the two type of fishes and so I am not sure if this is an “upgrade”. Any fish expert out there care to comment?

Anyway this dish is $17.

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The fish was cut into fillet pieces before deep frying which makes it easy to eat. It was also boneless.

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The fish head is even served. The whole fish is deep fried until brittle that even the head is edible. Yeah, we did eat the brittle parts. It was great … not to be missed!

The sauce is vinegarish.

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I also love the peanut and cilantro that was used to garnish the dish. Maybe garnish is not a good word because this simple combination is very much of the good part of the dish.

I remember having this alone for appetizers ($5, see pic below) the last time I was here with the food writers. That was the first time I tried this and ever since then had fell in love with this.

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The above is the dish with double chili pepper. I asked the restaurant manager if this is the spiciest dish on their menu and he acknowledged with a wicked smile.

This is called the Deep Fried Chicken with Dried Red Pepper ($12).

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OMG. It really is spicy. It is full of chili and I don’t think I saw any peppercorns in it.

There wasn’t a heck lot of chicken in it though. However, the chicken was deep fried until is it very crisp and even the bones are brittle dry.

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Suanne thinks I am crazy eating the chili with rice. But I love it even though I could barely eat more than a few mouthful.

Anyway, am I crazy? How many of you will actually eat it like I do?

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Needless to say, we had lots of chili left.

They are not to be wasted. We asked that they pack it to go so that Suanne can use this to cook other dishes at home.

I was eagerly hoping to have the second round for dinner at home the second day. But guess what? By the time I got home the following day, they were all gone. Suanne had used it to make lunch and she and boys finished it already. Grrrr ….

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This is $40. Oh, the receipt still says Tilapia when they served Rock Cod to us.

S&W accepts cash only, just so that you know. I still prefer the S&W in Crystal Mall over this restaurant.

Anyway, this is the last of the current batches of CRA dishes for now. We’ll get back to “regular” restaurants while we take a breather. We had covered 31 of the 50 dishes already, with 19 more to go. Hey … I was wondering if any of you want to go explore with Suanne and I the remaining 19 dishes? We could do it on some of the Friday and Saturday for dinner. Here are some of the items we have yet to explore:

  • Pork Stomach and Ginko Long-boiled Soup from Bamboo Grove
  • Tofu Skin and Bamboo Shoot Soup from Long’s Noodle House
  • HK Style Beef Congee from Kwong Chow Congee and Noodle House
  • Barbeque Pork from BBQ Master
  • Grandpa’s Smoked Chicken from Jade Seafood
  • Barbeque Duck from Red Star
  • Roasted Squab from Sea Harbour
  • Roast Sucking Pig from Kirin
  • Shanghai Style Braised Pork from Dragon Palace
  • Stir-fried Spiced Lamb from Grand Honour
  • House Special Crab from Negative Space
  • Alaska king Crab Three-Ways from Sun Sui Wah
  • Pan-fried Prawns with Soy from Sea Harbour
  • Sauteed Kung Pao Prawns from Northern Dynasty
  • Sliced Cod Steamed with Ham and Mushrooms from Empire Seafood
  • BC Scallops Stuffed with ham from Jade Dynasty
  • Sauteed Geoduck with Muchrooms from Yan’s Garden
  • Gold and Silver Geoduck from Shiang Garden
  • Nutty Taro Roll from Jade Dynasty

Let me know if any of you would be interested. I think that would be fun exploring these dishes together.

S&W Pepper House (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

12 thoughts on “[CRA 2010 Signature Dish] Fresh Tilapia with Peanuts, Cilantro & Chili 桂州怪魯魚 from S&W Pepper House, Richmond

  1. the squab at Sea Harbour is the best in vancouver, unfortunately, they also win the award for one of the worst services in vancouver. I been there 3 times over the past year and each time service was bad. In addition to that, they limit how many squabs you can order, even if you reserve. I booked a table of 10 once, they said that they would only provide 3 squabs, that was at least a day in advance, their reasoning was that they hold some back for walk-ins…..ridiculous.

    • Hi Koji: Despite your experience, I will still go try the squab in Sea Harbour. I had never been to Sea Harbour for dinner (been there only for the Dim Sum). But really thanks for letting us know about your experience of poor service. We’ll go better prepared to deal with it! Ben

  2. I agree Rockfish is way more delicous,However if you believe in Oceanwise Tilapia is an Oceanwise top choice unlike rockfish which has some issues about its long term sustainability

  3. I still remember when tilapia was considered a bit of a “garbage” fish, and I’ve some mighty muddy specimens of it. There was a great fishmonger in Toronto a million years ago which was the first place I saw it being sold whole.

    I prefer rockfish and would like to try this dish at S&W Richmond. I’ve tried it once at the Burnaby outpost and wasn’t uber excited about the tilapia or the peanut topping. I preferred the peanut dish at Richmond (same meal as Ben went to with the food weasels!). In fact, I preferred most everything there; I find the Crystal Mall location a bit stuffy and smokey. Not that I’d say no to eating there, mind you :-).

  4. Crispy Lechon Actually all the Tilapia here are farmed,Tilapia caught in the wild in the tropics has a muddy flavor,But traditionally Chinese Cooks have shown a biase for Fresh water fish,because ocean fish is “salted” and supposedly doesnt have a pure flavor like Freshwater fish.the reverse is the case in other countries though like the Philippines which prefers ocean fish

  5. Yes I agree with JS. Rockcod is better than tilapia. If you check the T&T live fish tank, rockcods are about 3 times more expensive than tilapia. I’m not so sure but I think tilapias we get here are mostly farmed while rockcod or rockfish are caught wild.

  6. Suanne, please share what you did for the left over chillies. I would love to know so I can ask for take away of the chilli left overs next time I order this dish 😀

    • Hi Callo, I usually pan fry some cubed firm tofu until golden brown and add some peanuts with those packed chili otherwise I will fry with some dry chili with some sichuan pepper corn. I normally season it with some sweet soy sauce and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

  7. Rock cod definitely better than tilapia! Back then, we “tolerated” tilapia, because of the sometimes muddy taste the flesh has. Now, since most of the time the only reasonably-priced fish that you could get live is tilapia, we use it more. 🙂

    I would be interested in going on some of your CRA-dish-excursions.

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