8GTCC Cantonese Cuisine Discovery in Red Star Seafood Restaurant, Vancouver


The third dinner in the Eight Great Tradition of Chinese Cuisine (8GTCC) dinners was the Cantonese cuisine. It was supposed to be the easiest of all dinners but as it turned out, it quickly became the hardest to organize.

All thanks to the hard work and perseverance from LotusRapper and Joe, they managed to pull off the most fun, educational and enjoyable dinner so far.

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One of the problems with organizing a Cantonese dinner is simply bewildering choices. It would have been easier like the Hunan or the Jiangsu cuisine where there are just a handful of restaurants we could plan with. Not with Cantonese. There are dozens of very good Cantonese restaurants in Metro Vancouver. The initial shortlist of restaurants that LotusRapper and Joe came up with was SEVEN restaurants … ranging from homestyle restaurants to the more extravagant ones.

It took them a whole two months with countless visits to restaurants before we finally decided on what we want to do. We decided that it is only right that we host a more lavish one … in line with the reputation of the Cantonese cuisine as the most extravagant of the eight Chinese cuisine.

It is Cantonese cuisine that is well known for excesses like the shark fin soup, bird nest soup, abalone, king crabs, scallops and geoducks. They are the master of cooking the Alaskan King Crab and dishes that costs into the hundreds of dollars. We knew that if the cost of the dinner is too high, it would mean a lower response than the 70 people who attended the Jiangsu cuisine. After long considerations, we decided to pull the trigger and commit ourselves to the plan.

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In all 26 people attended the dinner at the Red Star Seafood restaurant on Granville. It was a 10-course dinner which costs $62 per person (including tips and taxes).

The restaurant pull all stops to make sure we had a good time. We were given an entire private dining room to ourselves which was great because we could interact in ways not possible if we were in the general dining hall. Moreover, the restaurant assigned their manager and top waiter FULL-TIME to our party. That made a lot of difference. Each dish serving was accompanied by witty and educational quips.

Time flew. We did not realize that it took us just slightly over 3 hours to complete the 10 courses! The pace of the dinner was excellent. One dish is brought out one at a time with a proper introduction and follow-on discussions too.

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Dish #1 was the Roast Suckling Pig. We asked the restaurant to bring the entire pig to show us before they take it back to the kitchen to chop it up. It was quite a sight and of course, this drew out a lot of cameras.

Red Star roast the pig in house on the day of the dinner. Each pig costs $280.

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The suckling pig is served to be eaten two ways. The first way is with the crispy skin wrapped with scallions in pancakes. The thing is they have only enough scallions and pancakes where everyone has only two mouthful.

The sauce above is made in house and is meant for the suckling pig. It is a mix of hoison sauce, garlic and red fermented bean curd.

The suckling pig was meant to feed 20 people but since we had 26 people, everyone had a little lesser than what we intended.

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Dish #2 is called the Fuzzy Melon Stuffed with Fresh Scallop with a Light Sauce. Each piece of this costs $6.50 and so we only get one each.

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Someone was commenting that it will be more tasty if dried scallop is used. But then, of course, it would be more expensive.

Question: Why is dried scallop tastier, more desirable and expensive? Is it because it has concentrated flavour and shrinkage when dried?

Anyway, the scallop flavour balance well with the tender fuzzy melon. Like most Cantonese cooking, the emphasis is on … subtle flavour.

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Dish #3 is called simply Soup with Chicken, Ham and Pork. Served from a large pot, we could pick up the smell of the soup as it is brought into the room.

The soup was full of flavour even though the broth is clear. It has that umami-ness that can be brought about with MSG but no MSG here of course.

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We were told that the best part of this soup is the ham from the select part of pig. They boil the soup for 10 hours.

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The meat is served on a plate and the meat is shredded for sharing.

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Dish #4 is the Crab, Hong Kong Style.

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The crab was pretty good but the best part is the “bits” of dried shrimp, chili, onion and garlic. It is quite spicy but this is perhaps what makes this crab so fragrant and delicious.

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What is that stuff on the shell – crab fat? Can’t recall who now, but someone did say that this can be bought from Filipino store and that it is used on pasta. Is that right? What do you call that kind of dish? That sounded delicious.

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The 5th dish, the Steamed Rock Cod with Scallion, Cilantro and Soy Sauce was disappointingly small.

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While it was sweet and tender, it doesn’t go far when shared among 13 people on a table. I remember the restaurant did warn me about the availability of rock cods but I insisted that they must serve rock cod and not substitute this with any other fish.

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The head was served on a plate. I thought it was for show but apparently not …

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… the best part is the cheek. Yeah, it was just that small piece. The rest of the head are pretty much meatless … unless you eat the eyes too.

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#6 was the Sea Cucumber with Chinese Mushroom and Baby Bok Choy with Oyster Sauce.

This is supposed to be a delicacy and each complete sea cucumber costs $98. But am not surprised that this is lost on some people who does not understand the dish. Some enjoyed it. Some just don’t see the attraction here.

Anyway, the sea cucumber is succulent while the mushroom is smooth and slippery as it should be. They cut the pieces quite large too.

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#7 is their award winning BBQ Duck. It was aromatic but I felt that it was not as good as the one I tried a week earlier. I was half suspecting that this might have been because they made it earlier in the day and not just before dinner hours. This time it doesn’t have that moistness and the meat is not as plump. While the skin is crispy, it was not as crispy this time.

Most of the feedback I got, though, called out this dish as being particularly the better one that night.

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#8 dish is the Lotus Wrap Rice. Isn’t it beautifully wrapped. This looked like a mandarin’s hat (like this).

I was thinking that some people who are not familiar with lotus wrap rice finds it quite revolting eating from rice wrapper in dead leaves. He he he … I think people find this more palatable just because it is prettier …

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… and there is a show accompanying it too. Yeah, the restaurant manager warned everyone to get the camera ready.

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The rice was not too bad … lightly flavoured and all. According to Chinese traditions the “starches” are served at the end of the dinner and is usually unexciting. It is meant to be uneaten, believe it or not. Or at least you are to eat a spoonful only. This is to be a sign to the host (we’re talking about you, LotusRapper and Joe) that everyone had enough food already and they can’t eat another bite.

But then I ate this because I like rice.

BTW, I forgot to take a picture of the noodles (dish #9). That was the Noodle Soup with Prawn Dumpling. That was quite well executed even though it is a common dish.

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The last dish was the Tapioca Pudding with Lotus Seed Paste, a very common Cantonese dish. What I like best is the very crispy topping.

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So, there you go … the 8GTCC Cantonese.

The food in general did not completely wow everyone. It was generally good but not quite perfect. But then I know we set ourselves a very high standard. After all, this is a $62 dinner which is not something a lot of people will be willing to fork out. So expectations are high.

However, Suanne and I had a very good time and judging from the interaction among the people who attended, I thought everyone had a great time too. I do think this is a very successful dinner despite that it was not attended by 70 people. This dinner is a lot of fun … it is more intimate … lots of laughs and lots of learning too.

So, I want to say that it was a very good job from the part of LotusRapper and Joe. Not many people would have given so much unselfishly to put this dinner together and despite the ups and downs, they stuck with it and not give up. I must also recognize that they had put in a lot of their own time and expenses too in the many tasting exploration.

Oh BTW, I fail to explain to everyone why the Cantonese treasure the sea cucumber. I know some of you just don’t get it but here is the scientific explanation from Wikipedia. But first you need to look at how a complete sea cucumber look like.

Chinese folk belief in attributes male sexual health and aphrodisiac qualities to the sea-cucumber, as it physically resembles a phallus, and the defence mechanism similar to human copulation as it stiffen and squirt a jet of water at the agitator.

Now you know!

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And to those who took the time to come to the dinner (a couple even drove all the way from Kamloops for this dinner and one all the way from the Big Apple), thanks for coming and making the event so enjoyable. The team look forward to seeing you at the next 8GTCC.

Here is some of the feedback of the dinner.

AC06 of Vanchow: “I think the winner for me was the roast duck (and I don’t even like roast duck usually — too sweet for me).  This one was thin crispy flavourful skin with melt-in-your-mouth flesh.  I think they got an award for it, and deservedly so.  The suckling pig was really good too — served “Peking duck” style with itty bitty crepes, spring onions, and hoisin sauce — as was the fish, which was super fresh and tasty. The soup (which supposedly had been simmering all day) was a consomme and was very good — I would go back for that again and again, except it takes about 10 hours to make.  The sea cucumber.  Sorry, I just don’t see the attraction there.  The starches at the end weren’t too exciting, but maybe they weren’t supposed to be, although the rice presentation was interesting.”

Cassandra of Good Life in Vancouver: Thanks for including me in the dinner.  I found that it took quite some time, and that the food was not as good as I have had at Red Star before.  I really liked trying some new dishes though and look forward to more exploration in the future.

Darlene: Really a nice dinner last night.  Thanks a lot. The pace of food service and the intimacy of the room, made this an enjoyable experience. It was nice to be able to taste, savour and discuss each dish. For me, the real disappointment was the steamed rock cod – the portion seemed so small and I know there were several people who wanted more of this particular dish. The sea cucumber, mushroom and bok choi was, for me, an especially succulent dish and I was surprised that even Westerners enjoyed this too. The duck and suckling pig were also very good. The remainder of the dishes, while good, I did not find exceptional. Joe and Lotusrapper did a great job in the selection of representative dishes and thank them for your and their hard work. I’m looking forward to the next 8GTCC already and meeting up with the other foodies I’ve met during this series. Thanks again, for all your hard work

Red Star Seafood on UrbanspoonBusiness Hour

Mon to Fri: 10:30 am to 3:00 pm; 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Sat & Sun: 10:00 am to 3:00 pm; 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm

40 thoughts on “8GTCC Cantonese Cuisine Discovery in Red Star Seafood Restaurant, Vancouver

  1. Ben, you remember how much at Red Star was for their whole BBQ duck? You had tried their half BBQ duck several weeks earlier for $16.

  2. Pingback: Chow Times » Categories Updated: Chinese Cuisine Broken Down To Sub-Cuisines
  3. Do you have a list of the other short-listed Cantonese restaurants? I am looking for something less up-scale, home comfort food. Thanks.

    • Hi Jan: We don’t have a separate category for Cantonese but instead have the broader Chinese cuisine (you can access that on the sidebar). One other way is to do a search for “Cantonese” on the search widget (top right of the site). It is not ideal I know. If you can let me know more of what you are looking for, I can perhaps recommend a few for you. At the top of my head, for less up-scale and home comfort food, I can think of Lido or any of the many HK Style Cafes. Ben

    • Hi Jan: We had started breaking up the “Chinese” category in the its sub-cuisines. This will take a few days to complete and we’ll post a comment here once it is completed. Ben

  4. Pingback: Chow Times » Crab Paste (Taba ng Talangka) Pasta
  5. Count me in and lets decide on date,menu and place though Pinpin with Manila barbeque lechon and sisig and crispy pata and spaghetti with taba ng talangka with Halo halo for desert looks good,My dietician friend estimates this between 1,500 to 1,800 calories with lots of sodium and fats using this menu.Should I bring my paramedic friend???:)

  6. We did an mini-Filipino Cholesterol ‘Down last Friday at Pinpin: crispy pata, sisig, pork belly, and pork-stuffed milkfish. I would have ordered more pork but my DC’s insisted on some non-pork items. I hope I will be able to join in your proposed cholesterol fest (especially if those deep-fried bananas are turon).

  7. Hi Ben and Crispy Lechon How about a Filipino Dinner themed Filipino Traditions of Cholesterol Sample Menu Crispy Pata Deep Fried Pork Knuckles Lechon Roasted Pig,Sisig deep fried pork bits with lots of fat Taba ng Talangka pasta Crab fat pasta 🙂 ending with Halo Halo and Deep Fried Bannanas 🙂

  8. Awww… this looks like a great meal, and the picture of a few dishes are drool worthy. If only Ricky didn’t go back on the same day as the dinner. I guess we will have to look forward to the next dinner then 🙂

    • Hi Jenny: I think you will like the next dinner. I am looking forward to it. It will very likely be the Shangdong cuisine. Hope you can make it. Ben

  9. I think Kerwin was just fascinated by the camera-power around our table and how everyone jumped up at the same time to take the photos — it was just like a choreographed dance! And yes, we got great stories from LotusRapper and Joe about the food and how they selected the restaurant and from Keev about the next dinner, but we were also trying to eavesdrop on your table:-)

  10. Thanks again Ben, and to Joe and LotusRapper, for a great evening. Even though the sea cucumber didn’t do much for me (I guess I just don’t have the right genes) I really enjoyed the meal and the atmosphere. Can’t wait for the next dinner!

    • Hi AC06: So, did Joe and LotusRapper (and Keev) take good care of you on the table? 🙂 I guess you guys got the better table because Kerwin, the manager, was serving you guys 80% of the time. I think he likes you guys more than us. Everytime Kerwin opens his mouth to say something, I had to lean back towards your table to hear what new wise cracks he was making. Thanks for coming to the dinner! Ben

  11. I’d say your thoughts on dried scallop are correct; it’s kind of the same thing with dried herbs and fruits! I haven’t seen such a lightly colored sea cucumber in my area for a while now either, same thing with the tapioca pudding being baked.

    That lotus wrapped rice has such an elaborate packaging. So pretty! Agree about the rock cod- it is definitely better than other fishes for steaming.

  12. The Roasted Suckling Pig is huge for a “suckling pig”…but it looked crispy!!! Too bad we can’t really get a real size “suckling pig” here…most places they serve it with medium size “teen pigs”…LOL!!!

      • BEN!!! You are so mean!!! Since I can’t eat them…I’ll “look” and smell the aroma…hahahaha! As soon as I am done with my veggie mission, I am going for a MEAT-diet! LOL!!!

    • Hi Elaine: Too bad … we had done 8GTCC Hunan already but we are keeping 8GTCC Sichuan as the “fiery end” to the 8GTCC series. 🙂 Ben

  13. Ben and Suanne and the organizers. Thanks for all of the work in organizing this event. We were so looking forward to the Cantonese dinner and would have gladly paid the $62. Timing was not right for us as we were away on vacation. It is always hard to have events during July and August.

    We will keep our eyes out for the next event.

  14. Great dinner, Ben — and thanks to Joe and LotusRapper for all the work!

    The fish head is reserved for the most senior/eldest person of the table. Lately, I find less and less people who can/are able/would like to eat the fish head. It takes quite a bit of skill, patience, and work.

  15. Hi Ben I can confirm crab fat in pasta has a rich tasty flavor,but its also high in cholesterol.Its called Taba ng Talangka or literally Crab fat,apparently dozens of little crabs are sacrificed to make each can.That is why it is hard to find outside the Philippines.Enjoy it when you get the chance and in case you cant locate it,I can send you some

  16. Thank you Ben, Lotusrapper and Joe for organizing this dinner. It was the first one I was able to attend. The first two were held on my busy night. I did enjoy the dinner a lot specially seating next to accomplished foodies Joe, LR and Keev. Lots of discussions revolving around food. Good food and good fun. I was stuffed somewhere in the middle of the 10 courses. Thanks again guys.

  17. Ben, if you’re interested in the Filipino bottled crab fat, the Filipino store Tindahan grocery along the corner of Minoru and Westminster highway sells them. It costs around 5 to 6 dollars for a small can and its usually displayed in their stand-up cooler. Just ask for canned crab fat. Fmed was the one who said he uses it in pastas. Pinpin restaurant serves a dish of large prawns sauteed with this crab fat. So rich and yummy.

      • He he he … with advice where to get the crab “fat” and a recipe to go along with it, I guess that’s all Suanne needs to get cracking. No more excuses … Right, honey? LOL! I see “crab roe pasta” for dinner this week.

      • Here’s more info on Tindahan Grocery Richmond.

        Tindahan Grocery
        5960 Minoru Blvd, Richmond V6X 3J3, BC
        phone: 604-304-0469
        Open: Mon to Sat. Closed on Sundays.
        Hours: 9 am to 8 pm.

        Its in the same strip mall as Mui Garden and next door to Cronos.

        Tindahan is my favorite Filipino grocery store in Richmond. They also sell cooked Pinoy foods for take out. There is a couple of tables if you want to eat in. Kinda remind me of the setup of Bo Laksa in Joyce. An eatery inside a grocery store.

        Recently they have started selling hot pandesal (hot off the oven Filipino buns.)

      • I get hot pandesal from Aling Mary Store on Park Road, a small groceries store which also sell cooked Pinoy food with a couple of small tables for eating in.

      • Hi Crispy Lechon: So, I got home from work today … opened the fridge and guess what I saw. A bottle with a label that says “Taba ng Talangka”. 🙂 I am a lucky boy. Ben

      • That’s cool Ben. I’m sure you will enjoy that “taba nang talangka” pasta. I can almost taste it. Yummy.

        Suanne, I also buy hot pandesal from Aling Mary. But sometimes when I’m at Tindahan stocking up on Pinoy snacks and groceries, I just buy a dozen or so from them. Saves me a trip. Although I will admit, the hot pandesal from Aling Mary tastes better.

      • Thanks for the geektalk, fmed! We used to just call it “utak” (OO-TAK, brain in English). 😉 Come to think of it, we used to call lots of things “utak,” like the marrow inside beef or veal bones. Utak yummy.

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