Sun Yee Cafe on East Hastings and Lakewood Drive, Vancouver

We get quite a number of emails from readers who are too shy to comment on chowtimes. At days the emails we receive are more than what I get at work. However these are emails that we enjoy receiving because it is always about things we enjoy doing.

Oliver was one of such readers who wrote to us. He is a fan of Hong Kong Style Cafes and he does seems to know a lot about this genre of Chinese restaurants too. We exchanged a few emails and he picked up on the fact that there are quite a number of Hong Kong Style Cafes that we had not blogged about.

We like HK Style Cafes because it is cheap and I know a lot of chowtimes readers love HK Style Cafes for the same reason too. Not everyone reading this blog are serious foodies. Seriously, I can’t think of any other type of restaurants in which you can consistently get a full meal with drinks and soup for $7.

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I think I mentioned this before … there doesn’t seems to be many new HK Style Cafes opening nowadays. Most newly opened Chinese restaurants are Taiwanese, Shanghainese, Sichuan, etc. I think it is partly because that HK Style Cafes margins are razor thin given the prices they charge and that the trend is to move away from such concept.

But Sun Yee Cafe is new. I think they had only just opened sometime this year. Oliver told us that this location had constantly changed ownership the past while. Sun Yee is located on East Hasting right in the middle between Victoria Drive and Nanaimo. It is easy to locate because their bright yellow and red awning is still new. Sun Yee is actually located next door to Thai Hang where we had the 7 Courses of Beef.

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Fearing how busy HK Style Cafe could get during peak lunch time, we decided to go a bit later after having called them to confirm that they are opened between lunch and dinner times. We got there after 2PM and was surprised that it was still quite full of customers. We did not have to wait for a table though.

This place is painted bright orange and it does have that new look. They even have a couple of flat screen TVs installed too. You don’t see a lot of these in a HK Style cafe.

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They have the chef’s specials written on a whiteboard but as always we don’t know what they are. You can click on the image above to show it larger.

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Instead we had to rely entirely on the menus they gave us. There are LOTS of menu and I am sure there are other menus too that they pass out at different times of the day. The menus we were given were the All Day Specials menu and the Lunch Specials menu (valid from 11 Am to 6 PM). Beside that we also had their regular menu.

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You will like their menu as much as I did. The two on the left is the All Day Specials and the other two on the right is the Lunch Specials.

The All Day Specials are mostly around $9 with a couple of dishes that are $10. The price includes steamed rice or spaghetti … and soup … and a hot beverage.

If you think that the All Day Specials is cheap, wait till you look at the prices on the Lunch Specials. The price ranges from $5 to $7 only and that comes with a drink also. There are 60 dishes to choose from too. Dirt cheap! What is there not to like with menus like these, right?

I heard that all dishes from this menu is $5 from 3 PM to 5 PM. Is that true? Can anyone confirm that?

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Some of the dishes we ordered from the All Day Specials came with soup. They had two types of soup available that day: Chinese soup or Cream Corn Soup.

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I had been feeling “soupy” these days and I thought that the Vermicelli with Ranch Chicken in Singapore Herbal Soup ($7) sounded really good. I don’t see this kind of soup dish a lot in HK Style Cafe a lot (ever?).

I like the big serving and the broth looks inviting. The noodles served here is thick vermicelli which I felt is kind of the right type of noodles to go with the herbal soup.

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They did not skimp on ingredients for a $7 dish. The chicken was … good and with bone in. The bowl also has pork meat in it too.

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I like the nice flavourful herbal soup with mushrooms, red dates and some other root like herb (dong sum?).

This is one dish that I would go for again if I ever return.

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Nanzaro had the usual stuff. Suanne and I are surprised because he was going for more “exotic” dishes for a long time already and now he said he wanted the Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice ($7). The reason he gave us for wanting this is just one word: “because”.

I think “because” is because he smelled the salted fish from the other tables. It does smell really nice. It is also a big plate. Yup, he enjoyed it. We tasted a spoonful and it was pretty good. The salted fish is really “heong” … fragrant … and they fried the rice dry enough.

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Arkensen ordered the Hainanese style Chicken Rice ($8.50).

This came along with a soup and a drink. The server told us in advance that they don’t have oil rice, just steamed rice. Arkensen hesitated for a while but went ahead anyway. And then he later complained about not having oil rice. He complained to US, not the waitress. Why us? LOL!

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The big saucer of ginger sauce was just OK but I had much better ones. Arkensen did not care about this at all even though we keep telling him that this is the essence of eating the chicken with.

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Call me whatever but I really like that the chicken is fat and plump, not one of those skinny free range chicken. Yeah, the chicken was great but the bad thing is the absence of oil rice somewhat ruined this.

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Here are the drinks we got. Only the hot beverage is free with the food order. It is 50 cents extra if you want it with ice.

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Suanne had the Stir Fried Spaghetti with Black Pepper Shredded Beef Tenderloin($9). It was served sizzling hot on a hot plate.

I always thought that these kind of dishes are just for show. I think that they cook the food separately and they put it on a hot plate just before it is served. And you pay $1 extra for the show. It does make it look a lot more enticing for sure than have it served on a normal plate.

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Suanne said she did not mind it but I thought the noodles has this strange bitter after taste. We can’t put down to what exactly it is. Maybe it is bitter melon but we can’t see it here.

Nope, this was not a good dish.

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As expected this is a cash only restaurant. As a whole, the prices are cheap and the servings big enough to satisfy a hungry person. The quality of the food though is kind of hit and miss.

I am gonna get Oliver to show me around some of the other HK Style Cafes. I think I had covered everyone of them already in Richmond but there are lots of others outside of Richmond. Stay tuned!

Check out their takeout menu and see for yourself what else they have to offer here.

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Sun Yee Cafe on Urbanspoon


This Post Has 41 Comments

  1. Elaine

    I am like Arkensen I don’t eat the ginger either hahaha!

  2. Thomas

    So easy to make a decent Ginger/Chili to go with the chicken… Why places don’t put any effort into it, I just don’t understand.

    A mini survey of Van. HK style coffee shops is a great idea. I love HK tea & given the cost of ‘Starbuck’ type coffee, think it is one of the more underrated experiences in the local foodscape.

    1. Ben

      So Thomas. You want to join us in discovering HK Style Cafes? Oliver just emailed me another list of restaurants to check out. 🙂 Ben

      1. Thomas

        Ok, Christmas chaos is out of the way at last. I would be up for some HK Cafe review action!

        TR

        1. Ben

          Hi Thomas: You want to join us for lunch in New Town in Chinatown? The joint is a bit dicey but we would love to go and write about it here. Weekends works best for us. Let me know? Anyone else interested? Ben

          1. Thomas

            Sun Sing (New Town), sounds great. I’m ready when you are, since they are right around the corner from me.

            TR

          2. Ben

            Hi Thomas: Will Saturday, 08Jan at noon work for you? What about the rest of chowtimes readers? Anyone wants to join us? Ben

          3. Thomas

            I’ve added this to my calendar. Hope we can fill one of the bigger tables!

            TR

          4. Ben

            Great Thomas. I’ll hang on for a couple of days and then will try to see if anyone else is interested to come along. Ben

          5. Thomas

            Just confirming I’ll be there at noon tomorrow, in my gai fong jon.

  3. Oliver

    Great write up Ben!

    1. Ben

      Hehehe … your first comment, Oliver! Ben

    1. LotusRapper

      And preferably without some micro-managing bystander telling me how to use the condiments !

      1. Ben

        This part I don’t understand, Lotus. Please explain more.

        1. LotusRapper

          Sorry, I was jokingly referring my link above of the video clip of Anthony Bourdain being told by the young lady what is the “right” way to eat chicken rice (time 5:10), LOL

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z80QdmRNDws

    2. Ben

      Drool! Yeah, that’s right, Lotus. That is THE way to have ginger sauce and chili … thick soy sauce.

      1. LotusRapper

        Is that thick soy sauce available commercially, here in Vancouver ? Anyone know what it’s called ?

        1. Ryan

          If you get the Prima Taste HCR mix it has the thick soy sauce if not you can use Kecap manis. We add a few drops of dark soy to thin it.

          1. LotusRapper

            Thank you, Ryan.

  4. These days it seemed like all my lunches and dinners outside the house are in HK-style cafes.

    1. Ben

      Hi JS: Where is your favourite HK Style Cafe place(s)? And what do you usually order? Ben

      1. We usually go to Alleluia for lunch on Westminster, although I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite of the bunch. The selling point of Alleluia is they offer unlimited refills on drinks. I haven’t had a dish here that I would say is a standout but the curry is nice.

        Second on the list in terms of frequency would be Bauhinia on Granville/St Albans. I like it since it seats more comfortably, the place seems cleaner, more ambience. I’ve had the Crispy Pork Hock there which I thought was quite good. We’ve had the steaks here and they are better than the standard steaks you get at HK-style cafes. IIRC, they mention that they don’t use tenderizer on the steaks, which is always good.

        I like the Portuguese Chicken on rice at Silver Tower — although I don’t know if I like it because that’s the best so far I’ve had and I really haven’t found one that a standout. Any ideas where to get a standout Portuguese chicken on rice?

        Slightly different, but we went to Cattle Cafe over the weekend and I thought the food has gotten better than when last we went. I had the Cajun chicken here and it was not bad.

        HK-style cafes are usually where we go now for lunch because it’s quick and the service is quite efficient and professional.

        1. Ben

          Hi JS:

          When I asked you the question, I was not expecting a list of Richmond HKSC restaurants. 🙂 I actually expected you to give me a few restaurants in Vancouver or Burnaby.

          So Alleluia gives unlimited refills on drinks huh? Wow, that is cool. I need to go back there and check it out. It had been a while. Bauhinia is expensive … sort of a higher-end HKSC. You want Portuguese Chicken on Rice … not exactly that but close … you have to check out Amigo. Go ask for their “African Chicken”. See this link. I think you will like it.

          Oliver told me of one relatively unknown HKSC on 202-7080 River Road in Richmond, the Seaview Cafe 202. We are definitely going to check it out one of these days.

          Next time you come near Metrotown for HKSC lunch, let me know.

          Ben

          1. Crispy Lechon

            Hi Ben, I googled Seaview and it looks like they serve Canadian style soup and sub/sandwiches. Not really a HKSC.

          2. Oliver

            I found their advertising in the Chinese newspaper and they advertise themselves in Chinese as a HK style cafe. It was a fairly small ad. They may be wanting to be all things to all people.

  5. Jenny

    Hey Ben!
    That’s great you are doing more on HK cafes…Food there is always yummy!
    BTW does anyone know how to make the cream corn soup that they serve in HK cafe? Not the egg style type…my bf loves those and I wanna learn how 😀

    1. Oliver

      I wonder if you can just open a can of “cream style corn” and add water to it? Treat it as a can of Campbell soup (add one can of water to one can of cream style corn).

      1. LotusRapper

        I’ve been doing that for > 20 years, Oliver. And for the record, Green Giant is still the best brand (don’t buy Del Monte …… terrible, just terrible).

        After the mix comes to a boil, I put in a beat-up egg and let it sit for about 10 secs before stirring the soup, to get that “egg-drop” effect. Top up each serving with some chopped cilantro or green onion and you’re good to go. My son loves this soup.

        1. Winnie

          Yeah. Love the corn egg drop soup with Green Giant cream corn as well! I usually add some white pepper and a small drop of sesame oil to make it more “Chinese” as well.

      2. liz

        My aunt uses a can of creamed corn plus a can of chicken stock then swirls a beaten egg into it. It’s really that simple. You can then garnish with diced chicken or seafood. But be careful of the salt in canned chicken stock; you might have to water it down a bit.

        1. LotusRapper

          Or use reduced-sodium chicken (or vegetable) stock.

    2. Winnie

      You need frozen or canned corn. Then I think the rest is chicken powder/bullion and lots of corn starch. I think these “white soups” in Hong Kong Style cafe contain no or very little milk/cream.

      1. Winnie

        OK. Found some simple steps on a chinese forum. They use oil, flour and water (stir fry until it becomes very thick and fragrant). This “flour mix” (麵撈) is used as the base for “white soups” and “white sauce” in most HK style cafe. So the stock (with chicken and corn) gives the flavor and the “flour mix” gives the creamy texture of the soup.

        1. LotusRapper

          “They use oil, flour and water (stir fry until it becomes very thick and fragrant). This “flour mix” (麵撈) is used as the base for “white soups””

          Wow. I kind of don’t want to go near the stuff now. Doesn’t sound particularly healthy. But then, neither is sweet & sour pork 😉

        2. Jenny

          Then they must have used lots of that flour paste to achieve that white colouring…I guess not as healthy as the egg drop way. I normally drink the egg drop version, but I want to try making this version as well. Do you mind directing me to the exact recipe? Thanks so much!

          1. Winnie

            Sorry, Jenny. The information I found online isn’t really a recipe. It was just a forum reply to someone who wants to make the white soup and followed some recipes online but couldn’t get the HKSC version. So this cook who claimed to work at a HKSC told her how it’s done in just a few lines. (Similar to what I’ve posted) The person said the “flour mix” is usually done in large portion and be ready in the kitchen for the rest of the day. I really doubt any cook from HKSC is willing to share this recipe.

          2. Winnie

            I think if you want to try it at home, prob some milk/cream in addition to the flour based soup may be nicer. I believe some HKSC do put milk/cream in it. Some version I saw in HK definitely didn’t look like they have any cream in them.

  6. Nancy L

    I’m salivating. It’s been a long time since we have been to any new ones let alone the old ones. Can’t wait to see more posts.

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