Mamak Cafe Event

Updated: 4th July 2012; This restaurant had closed according to

The response was beyond everyone’s expectation.

When we put up an event for chowtimes readers, we thought it would be great if we could get 20 people to attend so that we can fill up the small dining area in Mamak Cafe. The response trickled in hour after hour and when we surpassed 20 people I sent an email to Charles asking him if I should stop accepting more. He wrote back saying “the more the better, the entire place can take 120 people”.

Charles is the man behind Mamak Cafe. He opened this new Malaysian eatery in Gastown and ran it with his wife, Julie. They were the same people who used to operate another Malaysian restaurant called Jonker Street in Yaletown.

Since Charles were confident, Suanne and I went on accepting requests. We began to get concern when the numbers went past 30. I wrote to Charles again and this time no response. I guess he was busy and not an email kind of person. I was concerned because the Mamak cafe is not a very big operation and I was worried that they may not be able to handle such a large group. We had organized an event in a small ramen place with 25 people before and it was quite chaotic when the kitchen was not able to handle the group fast enough and the quality of food suffered.

When the count passed 40, we desperately needed Charles to respond. He was not aware that we are reaching 50 requests and that is when Charles said we better stop at 50. Even though we posted the message that registration closed on chowtimes, at the end we had over 70 requests which we had to put some on standby.

We realized that this is not a simple event even with a dozen people. So, Suanne and I went a week before to meet Charles and his team of volunteers to sort out the logistics, the menu, the program. It became a full fledged project – I was not expecting that!


Thank goodness we had Ada and her friends helping with all the heavy lifting. That makes my work so much more lighter. I am just amazed with Ada … she totally surprised me what she did for the event. For her it had to be top quality work. She even thoughtfully put up a sign outside the restaurant to welcome the guests! I like the red chilli. 🙂

The sign was needed actually and Ada had the hindsight to make it on her own. You see, Mamak Cafe is located in a place that you would least expect to find a Malaysian restaurant. Mamak Cafe is located inside a pub called Pub 340.


The week prior to the event, Charles were still deciding how to setup the dining area. Because of the large number of people, Charles had no choice but to take over part of the pub for the event. There was also the issue of having enough tables and chairs conducive for a sit down meal. I was worried (I worry about everything!) but Charles was cool.

When I showed up early on the day of the event, the place was all set. I was quite pleased with it considering that this is actually a pub.


Needless to say, Charles and Julie was super busy that morning. He was the main man whipping up all the food for 50 people. And it is no joke too that each of the menu items are individually and laboriously prepared.

That included flipping the roti canai dough above, grilling the satays, boiling the bak kut teh, cooking the rendang, simmering the curry chicken, preparing the acar, making the prawns sambal, steaming the coconut rice, frying the mee goreng, and pulling the teh tarik. It is not easy especially he had to do that for 50 people.

Charles was handling it very well under pressure. I popped into the kitchen once and see if I could help but seeing the kitchen hard at work, I thought I better stay out and let the man do his thing.



Ada even prepared a nice write-up of the event and the dishes of the courses of the event. I expected something word-processed and printed off a laser printer.

My jaws dropped when I saw the output … fully desktop published and printed in full color. Yeah … next time chowtimes have an event, I am going to see if I could get Ada to do this sort of stuff for me. LOL!

I think one of the reason for the good response was that it was a good deal given by Charles and Julie to chowtimes readers. Charles created a menu specifically for the event which he charges only $12. The menu are spread over 4 courses and includes: (more…)

Continue Reading Mamak Cafe Event

Fried Magu Rice Vermicelli

With soup and chicken already on the menu, Joanna completes the meal with a carbohydrate dish. She made a Fried Magu Rice Vermicelli.


Joanna used a lot of chilis for this Fried Magu Rice Vermicelli. It was a little too spicy for some of the members but I love it.


  • 1 pack Magu rice vermicelli
  • 1/2 pound of beef
  • 2 red and green chilies, julienned
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-inch ginger, cut into slivers
  • salt and soy sauce to taste


You can substitute the Magu Rice Vermicelli with any vermicelli, preferably from Jiang Xi.


Joanna is from the province of Jiang Xi. According to Joanna, the above vermicelli is produced in the Nancheng County, under Mountain Magu, the famous taoist mountain.

On the package:

It is said that after Fairy Maiden Ma became a fairy, she used the rice to make radiant silver thread rice flour noodles. Then Fairy Maiden Ma presented it to the mother of the King in the heaven, on her birthday. Ever since then, it has be contributed to the courts of different dynasty.

Magu rice flour noodles, are all made of Magu silver pearl rice, based on traditional craftsmanship. It is a green food. The product is pure white, tasty, soft but flexible, durably cooked and fit for being fried and coldly dressed with sauce.

Source: Joanna; Serves 4 to 6

Continue Reading Fried Magu Rice Vermicelli

BBQ Chicken Drumsticks

BBQ Chicken Drumsticks are Joanna’s family favourite, especially in summer, when she will barbeque them on the grill outdoor.  In winter, these BBQ Chicken Drumsticks can be baked in the oven.


The BBQ Chicken Drumsticks has crispy skin and the cut up drumstick is very easy to eat.


  • drumsticks
  • chilly powder to taste
  • seasoned salt to taste
  • Montreal steak spice mix to taste
  • soy sauce to taste


Source: Joanna


Continue Reading BBQ Chicken Drumsticks

Pork Neck Bone with Corn Soup

In the Caring Place Community Kitchen, Joanna shared some very homey Chinese dishes.


The first recipe is a simple Pork Neck Bone with Corn Soup. You may use pork rib to make this soup for a meatier cut of meat. Pork neck bone is very cheap, 99 cents per pound.


  • 2 pounds pork neck bone
  • 4 corns, cut into chunks
  • 3 to 4 slices of ginger
  • 8 to 10 cups of water
  • salt to taste


Source: Joanna;  Serves 6 to 8


Continue Reading Pork Neck Bone with Corn Soup

[CRA 2011] Steamed Tilapia with Egg from Bing Sheng

Suanne and I met up with Novi and David for dinner. Novi has a blog. She doesn’t blog about food but I had been following her series on her month long vacation China. There are many travel blogs out there but for some reason I can just relate to her stories.

Novi’s blog is creatively called Novi On The Go. She doesn’t always blog about travel. Instead it is more of a blog of her creative projects. Every Thursday, she will blog about her trip.

If there is one place we want to visit this summer, it would be a trip to China. We are not sure if that is even going to happen because the boys doesn’t want to go to China. They want to go to Europe because they say they can’t speak Chinees. We are just trying to figure out what to do this summer. We did not go anywhere last year and so this year we are going to make it happen!

Regardless whether we are going to China or not, we wanted to meet up with Novi and David and hear first hand their adventures.


It was easy to pick a place to meet. Armed with the 2011 CRA Critic Choice list, it was just a matter of choosing a location convenient. We went to Bing Sheng and the object of the visit is the winning dish in the Fish category, the Steamed Tilapia with Egg.

Bing Sheng is located quite far from home. The restaurant is located on Renfrew on 2nd Ave in Vancouver. We had heard good things about this restaurant but had never been here before simply because of the distance from Richmond. So this was a good opportunity to come here.

Parking is not a problem here. Bing Sheng have their own underground car park. I drove directly to the underground parking but was confronted with a totally empty car park. I had half of mind of turning around and park on the street (which felt safer!) but we were already running late. We totally misjudged the distance and time taken to drive there. It was Friday at 6PM. Traffic was really heavy.


I was impressed with the interior of Bing Sheng. It has a nice traditional setting quite unlike many of the Chinese restaurants in Richmond which are more modern.

But we were also surprised that the restaurant was so quiet. I expected that they have more customer for Friday dinner but instead there were just 5 to 6 tables taken the whole evening we were there. Moreover, since Bing Sheng has just won an award winning dish I thought perhaps it would draw a bit more customers. So I was thinking how much impact would winning a CRA award have to a restaurant … like how many people would know or care? I would.


We were chatting the whole time we did not quite notice the service and all. I guess it was good because it was unobtrusive. We had everything we needed at the right time.

There were some mix up with the tea. We first ordered the Chrysanthemum and then seconds later we decided to change it to Jasmine. They brought both but I am not complaining. It was because I was totally unaware until Suanne told me.

What do I know about tea, right? For me, I only thought the teapot was really nice.

Oh, I can’t find the reference on the internet right now but if I have not confused myself here is some tips about Chinese tea for you. OK, I am sure you had been confronted many times in Chinese restaurant when asked what tea you want to have. So what do you normally order?

If you want to impress people, ask for Longjing or Dragon Well. Most restaurant will tell you they don’t have it and at that point you have to feign you are disappointed (shake your head side to side if you want to). After that you can ask for a cheaper tea. People who knows about tea will nod in approval with your choice of Dragon Well. Find out more about Dragon Well here. Yeah, this is the tea that dignitaries to China are served. It’s the best. Say that you learn this from chowtimes. Chowtimes learned this from Doesn’t Tazte Like Chicken. 🙂


The above is the award wining dish – the Steamed Tilapia with Egg. It is amazing and … (more…)

Continue Reading [CRA 2011] Steamed Tilapia with Egg from Bing Sheng

Chinese Restaurant Awards 2011 – Critics Choice Winners Announced

Of all the restaurant awards that are out there, there is only one that I am personally interested in. I have great respect for the awards that the Chinese Restaurant Awards (the CRA) give out, particularly the awards known as the “Critics Choice”. I particularly like this award because this is awarded by a panel of the best food experts in Vancouver and they identify the best of Chinese DISHES of the year, as opposed to best Chinese restaurant.

Suanne and I had a great time with the last year’s CRA 2010 Critics Choice Award list. We went to try most of the winning dishes over the course of a few months. We summarized all of the 2010 award winning signature dishes in this blog post. You really got to check that link out … it is a massive 50 dishes all together!

So we were excited … waiting for the announcement of this years winner.

I don’t know how to say this better … when I saw the list, I was taken aback by all the changes and I felt that it was a bit of a step backwards.

CRA 2010 CRA 2011
50 dishes awarded:
– 25 Gold award
– 25 Silver award
25 dishes awarded:
– 9 Gold with Distinction award
– 16 Gold award
8 restaurants with 2 awards 2 restaurants with 3 awards
5 restaurants with 2 awards
Separate award for Cantonese Noodles and Northern Noodles Single category for Noodles
Hot Pot category Eliminated: Hot Pot
Vegetable category Renamed: Vegetarian
Clams, Oyster and Scallop category Renamed: Scallop
New category: Rice
New category: Lobster

In 2010 there were 50 dishes awarded gold or silver in a 25 categories. For this year, there were only 25 awards given – the number of dishes were halved. I was really looking forward to an equally long list of 50 dishes last year so that I have more to try. LOL!

I somewhat understand too that it is no joke identifying 50 dishes year in, year out. I can imagine the number of dishes that had to be tasted just to get down to the final 25 dishes.

I still wish that there are 50 dishes! What I find hard to understand is that new award called the “Gold with Distinction” award. These are awards given for the dishes that won the same award last year. Does it send a message that the Chinese restaurants had not progressed the past year by not being able introduce new signature dishes in these nine categories? So in effect, we do not really have 25 new dishes, we only have 16 new ones. Sigh … from 50 new signature dishes to 16 new signature dishes this year.

Sea Harbour - 3 Dim Sum, Prawn, Squab
Sea Harbour – 3 awards
Dim Sum, Prawn, Squab
Landmark Hot Pot - 3 Geoduck, Congee, Rice
Landmark Hot Pot – 3 awards
Geoduck, Congee, Rice
Alvin Garden - 2 awards Beef, Appetizer
Alvin Garden – 2 awards
Beef, Appetizer
Jade Seafood - 2 awards Crab, Chicken
Jade Seafood – 2 awards
Crab, Chicken
Rainflower -2 awards Dessert/Pastry, Lamb
Rainflower -2 awards
Dessert/Pastry, Lamb
Shiang Garden - 2 awards Lobster, Pork
Shiang Garden – 2 awards
Lobster, Pork
Good Choice - 2 awards Scallop, Duck
Good Choice – 2 awards
Scallop, Duck

For the first time, two restaurants swept three awards. Both of these restaurants, Landmark and Sea Harbour also … (more…)

Continue Reading Chinese Restaurant Awards 2011 – Critics Choice Winners Announced

Villa Vietnamese Cuisine on Bridgeport, Richmond

I think this is it.

This is the last restaurant in Richmond that everyone in the family will have no objection going to.

For those of you who does not know by now, the only places that Arkensen and Nanzaro wants to go dining out is to any Vietnamese or Japanese restaurant AND that it must be in Richmond. They hate driving far from home. They just want to go eat and be done with … and then go to Best Buy or Future Shop.

And then Suanne does not like Japanese, particularly sushis which the boys love. So that ends up with a choice of only Vietnamese restaurant in Richmond.

I think we had visited every single Vietnamese restaurant in Richmond already … except for this one. I think this is the last of it.


The Villa Vietnamese Cuisine is located on Bridgeport Road just east of where The Brick is.

We spotted this restaurant a couple months ago while driving past this area. We couldn’t find any reviews on the internet at all then and soon after we forgot about this. It was Suanne, who was confronted with going to a Japanese restaurant, brought up this place.

So we went. It wasn’t too good when we pulled into the small strip mall with a virtually empty parking lot. This was supposed to be peak lunch time on a Saturday. At this time the restaurants in Richmond are full and bustling.


However, the insides is very unlike the typical Vietnamese restaurants we had been to. This one is modern and clean. At a glance one would least suspect this is a Vietnamese restaurant.

The restaurant is rather small and seats about 24 people. They can surely fit more people but instead chooses to give a wide space in between tables.

This is a new restaurant. They had just been opened for 8 months which partially explain why they are … (more…)

Continue Reading Villa Vietnamese Cuisine on Bridgeport, Richmond

Comparing Cost of Hot Pot in Chez Suanne with AYCE Hot Pot Restaurant

Chinese food is generally cheap. We can often get a good full meal for just $15 and that will be better than average. But there is one type of Chinese food that is uncharacteristically expensive.

It was just last week that I blogged about a hot pot restaurant and I suddenly realized how expensive it had been eating out at hot pot restaurants. So I did a bit of math out of curiosity. I wanted to see how much it really is for one person.

This is how much we spent averaged out per person (before tips):

So I was wondering how much it would cost to make it at home … like, much cheaper compared to eating out.


So that was our weekend project to get to the bottom of this question.

We did not want to go scouring around town for the best and cheapest ingredients. We took the easy way out. We went to T&T and try to get everything we need in one place.

We realize that some stuff in T&T are more expensive and that we don’t normally get some of the stuff we need here.


Hehehe … I did not bring my big camera into the store. Instead I brought a point and shoot so that I could steal a few shots of the inside. If I get caught taking pictures in the store, I would probably get thrown out.

We got a few of everything. We got … (more…)

Continue Reading Comparing Cost of Hot Pot in Chez Suanne with AYCE Hot Pot Restaurant

Weekend Musings: Chowtimes Picture In Williams-Sonoma Cookbook

Yeah, I know.

I know it feels kind of weird writing a Weekend Musings post when we just have mere hours left of the weekend. But then it is better late than never. Anyway, I got three more things to get off my chest.

The Williams-Sonoma Breakfast Comfort Cookbook


Guess what got delivered to us last week.

We were puzzled why anyone would ever want to send us a cookbook at all. It was a beautiful newly published Williams-Sonoma cookbook called Break Comfort.


It took us a while before we realized that a publisher contacted us a few months ago asking if they could use one of chowtimes’ photos for their publication. We get a few requests like that every now and then and so never thought of it. We don’t care so much for people using our photos just as long as they do the right thing to ask and let us know what it is for. If anyone tries to hotlink our photos without telling us, we will ask the site to take it down. But if they ask up front we are cool with it.

Flipping to page 87, there it was. It was the photo of … (more…)

Continue Reading Weekend Musings: Chowtimes Picture In Williams-Sonoma Cookbook