Changes on Chowtimes

Updated 30th Oct 2014; this changes no longer applicable to

I love the long weekend with nothing to do but tinker around the blog.

A few months ago, we starting having problems again with our shared hosting facility. The traffic on chowtimes had been growing so fast that we knew that gone are the days when we only have to pay $7 a month for shared hosting. To deal with the performance issues, we started to strip functionality. Despite all the changes, that did not quite do it for the hosting company.

Two months ago, we pulled the trigger and migrated the site to a Virtual Dedicated Server. The performance improvements were obvious. The very day we went live, the traffic jumped 15% and since then we are nearing a quarter million pageviews a month. I guess people are reading more when the site is faster and more responsive.


With enough processing power at our disposal now, I have made some changes to the site and wanted to let you know what they are. Here it is …

The Wibiya Toolbar

First of all, we had removed the Wibiya Toolbar which we used to handle search, translations and other fancy stuff. Many people were not aware that the toolbars are there. Well, we are not surprised because it was tucked at the bottom of the site. We had been monitoring the use of the toolbar and on a good day, only about 20 people accessed it. Moreover, I did not like the way it is integrated to the site.

So, good riddance.

Google Custom Search

We reinstated the Google Custom Search which is tightly integrated to chowtimes. The search results remain displayed on the site without throwing the searcher to Google’s own site. What I like best is that the search widget even does AutoComplete like it does on Fancy!

Go ahead and check it out. It is on the top right hand corner of the page.

Google Translation

I also re-included the Google Translation widget. I know it does a horrible job in translations but still it is the best there is out there. It’s amazing … it can translate into 60 different languages.

Wunderbar … 素晴らしい … чудесный … رائع … Kahanga-hanga … आश्चर्यजनक … maravilloso … 훌륭한

Slide Deck

I miss the Slide Show. Those of you who remember chowtimes in the early days would know that we had a slide show in the header section. It shows pictures of food and does not do much else.

I found this nice little WordPress plugin called SlideDeck today and decided to put this up. It is a lot more easier to manage and configure. Clicking on the picture will take you direct to the featured post. I like it.

This will be useful for me to call out some of the more popular old posts.

Printing The Page on

This update will not be apparent to most of you. You see, the site had been horrible when it comes to printing. Many people wrote to us complaining that each time they wanted to print a recipe, the site spews out 3 pages of data and 9 pages of info they don’t need.

I finally figured out how to deal with this. It is done via CSS. So, now when you print SINGLE posts, the output is much cleaner. You can use Firefox to check this out by doing a Print Preview.

Let me know what you guys think of these improvements.

This Post Has 0 Comments

  1. Marc

    Good job! I like the search at the top much more.

    FYI, Slide Deck on the main page is not working for in Opera 10.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Crispy Lechon

    I like the new search box too. I have used the old toolbar at the bottom but very sparingly. As for the slide deck, I like it too. The speed is just right now. It doesnt make me dizzy anymore. But I noticed its only displayed on the very first page. Is that intentional?

    1. Ben

      Hi Crispy: Yes, I made it to display only on the first page (homepage). My rationale is that most of the new visitors to chowtimes will probably find this useful as opposed to existing readers. I also wanted to keep the SINGLE post cleaner. Ben

  3. Crispy Lechon

    One thing that might be useful is to have a sidebar showing the top ten most popular posts. Similar to that in Eating Club Vancouver. Just a thought.

    1. Ben

      Hi Crispy:

      I have tried putting in a “top ten most popular posts” on the sidebar before. The problem is that it is very static and over time, it quickly became stale. You see, the top posts are recipe posts and they have so many hits that they will remain at the top for a long, long, long time. Here is the top pages year-to-date:

      How to Cook Basmati Brown Rice – 13,316
      Steamed Banana Cake – 10,544
      Fresh Fruit Cake – 9,076
      Steamed Rice Cake – 8,386
      Chinese Sponge Cake – 8,146
      Wilton Cake Decorating Level 1 – 8,101
      Moist Chocolate Cake – 7,981
      Steamed Rice Cakes (Pak Thong Koh) – 7,723
      Cassava Cake (Kuih Ubi Kayu) – 7,640
      Sushi Garden on Kingsway, Metrotown. – 6,440
      Pineapple Bun (Polo Bun) – 6,257
      Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle in Aberdeen Centre, Richmond – 5,795
      Old Fashioned Beef Stew Recipe for Slow Cooker – 5,393

      I tried tweaking it to show “ten most RECENT posts” but that did not work too because, well, the top pages are always what is posted in the week. This is something that is almost similar to what you see on the homepage.

      Good suggestions … please keep that coming.


      1. Crispy Lechon

        Yes I see what you mean. Although I enjoy the recipe posts, I’m actually curious as to what restaurants you have reviewed that are popular with your readers. Anyway , if I think of anything else, I’ll let you know. Thanks.

        1. Ben

          Well, Crispy … if you are interested in the top restaurants list, see below. So what can you deduce from this? I think it has to do with three things (1) How excited Ben was when he wrote the post and (2) how cheap the restaurant is and (3) how controversial the restaurant is. Agree? 🙂 Ben

          Sushi Garden on Kingsway, Metrotown. 6,440
          Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle in Aberdeen Centre, Richmond 5,795
          Santouka Hokkaido Ramen on Robson, Vancouver 4,194
          Starry Night Restaurant in Richmond 4,115
          Bo Laksa King’s on Joyce and Wellington, Vancouver 3,846
          Toshi Sushi on East 16th Ave and Main, Vancouver 3,815
          Shoryumen and Fumisen and Bakudanyaki Food Trucks in Richmond 3,691
          Toyotomi Japanese Restaurant on Anderson Road, Richmond 3,364
          Tenku Bakudanyaki — Richmond’s Answer to Vancouver’s Japadog? 3,172
          Meok Ja Gol (MJG) Korean Barbeque Restaurant on Kingsway and Nelson, Burnaby 3,171
          New Lao Shan Dong Restaurant — The One Restaurant on Kingsway Near Intersection with Imperial, Burnaby 3,017
          Les Faux Bourgeois on Fraser and 15th Ave, Vancouver 2,932
          Fatty Cow Seafood Hot Pot on Victoria Dr and 35th Ave, Vancouver 2,929
          Green Lemongrass Vietnamese Cuisine on Kingsway, Vancouver 2,785
          Lin Chinese Restaurant on Broadway and Granville, Vancouver 2,743
          Samurai Sushi House on Cambie Near 41st, Vancouver 2,668
          Thien Kim Vietnamese Restaurant on Nanaimo and East Broadway, Vancouver 2,615
          Japadog in Downtown Vancouver 2,614
          Shanghai River on Westminster Highway, Richmond 2,613
          Sunway Restaurant on No 3 Road, Richmond 2,596
          Beefy Beef Noodle on Main and King Edward, Vancouver 2,592
          Nine Dishes on 960 Kingsway, Vancouver 2,559
          Taiwan Beef Noodle King on Oak St., Vancouver 2,545

          1. Crispy Lechon

            That’s quite interesting. As for your top popular restaurant review, Sushi Garden, I think its because of the popularity of sushi in Vancouver area. If you do a search of the word sushi in your site, the first restaurant that comes up is Sushi Garden. The others as you noticed appear to depend more on the price and the controversy surrounding the restaurant.

  4. martha

    Hey Ben! Is the mobile version of your website still available?? It hasn’t been loading as the mobile version on my iPhone today and yesterday. Just wondering and it is a whole lot easier to read with the mobile version on a mobile lol! Thanks =)

    1. Ben

      Hi Martha: Yeah, it happened to me too yesterday and I did not know what triggered that. Anyway, there are a few things you could do … close your browser and then create a new page again to That should take you to the mobile edition of chowtimes. If that does not work, then you can go to the bottom of the post … you should see a switch at the bottom that you can select to tell your iPhone to display the mobile version. Give that a try and let me know if it works. Ben

  5. martha

    Hey Ben, the step of creating a new page again for opening seemed to work. Thanks!

  6. Ryan

    Hey, is there a way to disable the slide deck ? It doesn’t display properly in my browser (it turns into the grey and white sliding parts, but without any pictures, and it’s about 1000 pixels tall, and stretches the page horizontally like nothing else), and it’s also a lot slower on my slow connection.

    1. Ben

      Hi Ryan: What browser and the version are you using? I’ll try to replicate this and see if there is a solution. Ben

      1. Marc

        Probably using Opera 10 as mentioned in the first comment 😉

        1. Ben

          Hi Marc: OK, I went to chowtimes Analytics and check … see this image. Sorry to say Opera is a minority with just 0.61%. LOL! I am just too lazy to deal with this. I think you should use Firefox or Chrome. LOL! BTW, I just downloaded the latest Firefox 4 Beta 5. It is pretty and I like it. Use Firefox? Ben

          1. Marc

            Lol! No problem Ben. Here’s my take on Firefox…too resource hungry and with Chrome the reason I stay away from Google is that they are getting too big and collecting too much information on people. Check the wireless data theft lawsuits while gathering Street View.

            Keep up the good work! Marc

  7. Ryan

    Oh, I didn’t see the first post there. Yeah, it’s opera 10 (10.6 to be exact). old habits die hard, I guess.

Leave a Reply