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.
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I learned something new today: lacone = pigs’ trotters. I will have to check out Empire one of these days — so may food courts, so little time :-).
Tongue just tastes like meat to me, with the same texture. The only way I can be sure is that tongue has the tough thin membrane on the outside edges.
I love Yung Kee’s offal soup. They used to be in the ground floor of Richmond Public Market across from the fish store. Last time I went there they want to charge me 50 cents for the hot sauce. You probably got charged for it too. Anyway, on your pictures posted above, what you said as lung is actually pork spleen. And the liver is actually the lung. I dont think they use liver in the soup stew. It will easily harden like a cardboard.
Hi Crispy Lechon: Regarding Yung Kee, are they still around? I remember many many years ago there used to be a stall around where the roast pork/siu mei place is where they sell offal soup. They are not there anymore, too bad. Do you know of any other places that sells offal soup?
Hi Ben, my mistake actually. I meant to say Lai Leung Kee and not Yung Kee. I dont know if you know about that food stall in Parker Place food court. They also have offal soup that you can buy with or without your choice of noodle. They have more selections than Lai Leung Kee, with pork intestines (big and small), tripe, spleen, fish balls, tofu, pork blood, etc. You pick your own combination and you can also add curry or satay sauce to your soup. However, I still prefer the soup from Lai Leung Kee. It tastes like Chinese herbal soup.
I think beef tongue tastes a lot better than pork tongue!!!
My favorite line beef or pork tongue,Why would you ever want to taste something that will taste you right back 🙂
I notice that this place uses the “lung-kong” free-range chicken (see poster on glass panel & boxes of chicken on the floor!) from Yau Soon Hong. This is the best variety of free-range chicken in terms of texture & taste & after you’ve tried it, you’ll prefer this variety compared to others. Trust me coz we never use other varieties ever since we were introduced this when they first marketed this! Great for Hainanese chicken!
The price of house special spicy chicken is $13 now. I checked your post again and it’s only 2 days old hmmm. Nonetheless, the food is delicious!
Really, Jem? Did you ask them why the prices is higher now? Although the post is 2 days old, we visited Choi House 2 weeks ago.
Could it be because of HST? Most Chinese food court stalls do not charge tax upfront. It is built-in in their prices. So when HST came out they have to increase their prices to account for the additional 7 percent. What’s even worse some of the Chinese barbq places now charge HST whereas they didnt charge taxes before. I hate HST!! 🙁
Yeah, me too. I’d cut my spending on eating out. I cook more often now.
No, I kept the question for you to probe the price rise yourself. Just kidding! I guessed the HST is the culprit.
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Famous Choi Family Salt Roast Chicken” – translated from Chinese as display in store sign. Richmond, BC ——- Oct.9/10
According to their business sign on top of their store, it reads in Chinese “Famous Choi Family Salt Roast Chicken” but in English it reads “Choi House Special Chicken”.
Salt Roast Chicken 鹽 烘 雞 is one of my flavor foods; I love good salt roast chicken. I accidentally come cross this column; I make a special trip down there to purchase the chicken. It look like they already cut and stored in the cooler in the box, its like a fast food outlet, you don’t have wait, all they do just take it out from cooler and handed over to you for $13.a half chicken.
They service completely difference food from what they advertised, this is not Salt Roast Chicken 鹽 烘 雞, they are selling nothing more than steamed chicken rubbed with spicy salt. They are misrepresenting what they are selling. I get fooled and cheated.
The traditional way of cooking “Salt Roast Chicken 鹽 烘 雞;” calling for using parchment paper to wrap up a whole chicken, heating up the rock salt in a wok, then burying the chicken in the hot salt and cooking on the stove, as most homes in China did not have ovens. The rock salt helps seal the juices into the roast chicken without leaving a heavy salt taste. This chicken is great served when it is still hot with ginger, green onion, oil and salt.
Some restaurant in Hong Kong famous in “Salt Roast Chicken 鹽 烘 雞” still prepared and served their chicken this way.
The modern convenience of having an oven makes it much easier to cook Salt Roast Chicken 鹽 烘 雞. The robbed spices and salt all over the chicken and wrapped the whole chicken in an aluminum foil, cook in oven with control the cooking temperature. Oven-roasting produces a skin that is crisp, golden brown, and mellow in flavor, with exceptionally juicy and flavorful meat. I often buy Salt Roast Chicken 鹽 烘 雞;soyed chicken; BBQ duck and roast pig at Ken’s Kitchen Take-Out Food on 41st at Victoria,
Vancouver inside the London Drugs Center Mall. They are 10X better than the Choi Family Place and only charge $7.50 for half of Salt Roast Chicken. You can buy a whole chicken for less than $13.compare to Choi Family place, what a cheated.
My 76 year old mother’s favorite dish is salty chicken. That is why I made a special trip with her today to visit Choi House Special Chicken which has so many good reviews. I can now conclude that these reviewers are young people who hankers for strong tastes that can come from a can of MSG. We ordered 1/2 salty chicken (their specialty). It came in a styrofoam container, even though we told them that we were not taking out. They refused to give us utensils. For utensils they charge $.50 each. What the F? Do they expect me to eat with my fingers? These are boneless chicken pieces. I could understand if they were whole pieces like KFC, but it wasn’t. In fact, they only use dark meat from drumsticks. Instead of salty chicken, they should have called it fatty skin and cartiledge dripping with MSG and oil chicken. Personally, without any formal training or even the ability to cook, I can give you the instructions to make their chicken. First they steam it a couple of drumsticks, then tear it apart with their hands (maybe washed, maybe not), then cut the pieces really small, sprinkle with package of salty chicken powder you can buy at any chinese supermarket for $1. Voila! Salty chicken from Annoyed House. Why do I call this Annoyed House? Because if you want anything – service, food….they act really annoyed. My elderly mother asked if she could get a cup of water, tea, hot water, anything. They said, “NO” we don’t have it. They clearly had a kettle of hot water 3 ft behind them. We also ordered choy sum, and got cabbage. Same thing? Perhaps to some people I guess. Children under 5 or maybe someone in deep REM sleep. What I don’t understand is how this got the people’s choice award. For this, I will never trust the recommendations of these awards. Shame on you for this rating. Perhaps another visit will change your mind. GO SOMEWHERE ELSE for chicken. No one needs to be that desperate.
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