Kuo Hua: An All-Taiwanese Supermarket

After trying for the first time in my life Ba Wan in Yuen-Yuen, Suanne and I decided to drop by Kuo Hua on the way back home. We wanted to come here to buy pre-packaged Ba Wan to try at home. It was 4SlicesofCheese who told us that Kuo Hua carries it in the new refrigeration sections that they had installed.

Taiwanese-Ba-Wan-Yuen-Yuen-68

I don’t think many people who doesn’t live in Richmond knows about Kuo Hua. I could be wrong. This is even though they are located on No 3 Road just next to the Real Canadian Superstore.

Kuo Hua is one of many Asian supermarkets in Richmond. Can you name all of them? Let me try:

  • T&T in President Plaza: Undoubtedly the most well-known of all supermarkets which had recently been sold to the Real Canadian Superstore
  • Osaka in Yaohan Center: Affiliated with T&T; it’s like T&T with a Japanese twist.
  • Rice World on Garden City: Mostly products from Mainland China
  • Big Crazy on No 3 Road: Mostly products from Mainland China
  • There are many smaller ones like Supermarket 2000 on Union Square, Great One and Wah Shang on Park Road, Empire Supermarket on Empire Square, City Fresh on Ackroyd, Grand Value Asian Supermarket on Westminster Hwy (across Richmond Public Market) and Jia-Jia (various locations).

Kuo Hua is new and different from all others. For one, they sell products exclusively from Taiwan. Kuo Hua is certainly a supermarket that resonates with the Taiwanese community.

I once assumed that Kuo Hua is a chain of supermarkets from Taiwan. However it is not. It is very Canadian, having started their business in Markham, ON. However, this store in Richmond is their flagship store. Quite bold of an Ontario company opening a store in Richmond, huh?

Taiwanese-Ba-Wan-Yuen-Yuen-67

Once you step into Kuo Hua, you will notice a big difference. It is bright. It is very clean and the aisle is very wide. What I like especially is that they are constantly arranging the shelves so that it look neat and tidy. There is also an absence of smell! LOL!

It is definitely enjoyable shopping here.

We immediately headed to the newly installed refrigeration section. We looked high and low for Ba Wan but nyada … we can’t find any. We looked twice. Maybe they sold out already. [Hi 4SlicesofCheese, it was the fridges on the right side of the supermarket right?]

Dashed!

Taiwanese-Ba-Wan-Yuen-Yuen-69

So we ended up picking a few simple stuff.

The Traditional Pork Stew Sauce is awesome. We just had this in Yuen-Yuen ( here). Now we can make it at home which Suanne did a few days ago.

It was very good and I thought that the home made version with this sauce was better than the version we had in Yuen Yuen. The sauce is a bit thicker than Yuen-Yuen’s.

It is simple to make. Just fry some … shallots with minced pork and then add the above sauce. That’s it. Yum … am looking forward to more simple “jhup and rice” the next little while … until I get sick and tired of it.

Taiwanese-Ba-Wan-Yuen-Yuen-70

These cookies looked delicious and the packaging looked so big too. When we got back and opened it up, we found that each of the five different types of cookies are individually packed in smaller packages.

It was quite good. I have a couple of this stashed in my office drawer in case I need a snack.

Taiwanese-Ba-Wan-Yuen-Yuen-71

We don’t see a lot of Bah Kut Teh flavoured instant noodles. So we bought it to try. I don’t think it will be any good seriously. Most instant noodles doesn’t taste like what they say it will. Most, not all. Let’s see if this is really BKT flavoured.

Taiwanese-Ba-Wan-Yuen-Yuen-72

Bah Kut Teh is popular also in Taiwan, not just Singapore and Malaysia. We had always used the Malaysian brands but wanted to see what the Taiwanese one taste like. Hehehe … I don’t think it will measure up to the Malaysian version.

There are generally two type of BKT mixes. One type will contain the actual herbs and some will have grounded ones in a spice bag. This one felt like the ones with real herbs.

Here is one of those BKT that Suanne makes at home.

Taiwanese-Ba-Wan-Yuen-Yuen-73

We finally found this! We had been looking for this for ages ever since Siao Ching made this during a picnic. This is used to make the refreshing winter melon drink.

Suanne had been looking for this in the Chinese Herbal Stores but couldn’t find it. We now know where to get this. Try this … you will like it.

But we have not tried this yet. You see, Suanne always buy and buy and buy stuff and then she stashes it in her store and forgets about it. So this post is a reminder for her. [Honey … ahem!]

Taiwanese-Ba-Wan-Yuen-Yuen-74

Nanzaro loves crispy chili oil. When he is hungry at home he will quietly make his own fried rice. He will always add chili oil to spice it up. And he doesn’t go around asking the family if we want any. He will quietly fry the rice and when we finds out and pop our heads into the kitchen, he will shout “go away!”. He knows we are there to steal some from him. If he is in a happy mood, yeah, he will share … but that is rare.

We bought this for Nanzaro and guess what … he refused to use it. We were very surprised. He told us he doesn’t want this because of the word “soy” on the bottle!

Anyway, Kuo Hua has a website here but it is in Chinese. Go check out this place when you are around the area. I think you will like Kuo Hua.

They are located on No 3 Road in the block just north of the Real Canadian Superstore. They are also across the road from King Buffet and also right where the Grazy Dog G-Wagon is.

This Post Has 41 Comments

  1. I go here to do my shopping more than T&T, they have a pretty good variety.
    You have to buy their Honey! I believe their honey is from Taiwan. It is very different from the one in Canada. Much more fragrant, great to just drink (healthy and good for you).
    I love their chili/hot sauce isle. So much more variety than T&T and have more spicier variety.

    1. This place does carry some of the harder to find stuff from Taiwan. I’m Taiwanese so my family does shop there. However, have to say that the brands that they carry are not exactly the most popular ones nor the best ones from Taiwan. The only thing that I can come closest to generalizing is that they import some of the cheaper stuff.

      BTW, Yaohan was owned by T&T and now by Loblaw’s. The days of it being a Japanese supermarket is long gone. Hehe dating myself lol. You can see that the merchandise between the two are almost identical now.

  2. Hi Ben
    Yes they are in the fridges to the right when you enter the store..
    Believe it or not I was there the day you guys went.
    That is me in the first picture with the black jacket lol
    I have been immortalized in a Chowtimes post. My life is compete.

    I am guessing they were sold out that day 🙁
    Glad you guys liked the shop, I go about once every two weeks to refill snacks hehe.

    1. Oh that was you? LOL! I took a number of shots of the inside of the supermarket and picked this one and thrashed the rest. Maybe you are also in one of those — at least I know what you look like. Did you see the Ba Wan in the fridges? We can’t find it at all. Ben

      1. No I did not see any that day, I assumed they were sold out. I should have asked!
        I have to get some of that pork stew sauce!

  3. As an, ahem, old-timer, I’ll tell you guys a trivia. This exact store space was the original location (down to the step-up front entrance) of IKEA. Yeah, that IKEA. I was there many times even before they moved to their current location on Bridgeport.

    And no, I don’t have an old B&W photo of it.

    1. ha ha LR…I was thinking exactly the same thing when I read Ben’s post. I just didn’t want to say anything….hate it when people call me “old” 🙂
      Richmond has seen many changes too!

  4. Actually I also went there to look for Ban Wa. I asked the store clerk stocking the fridge and he told me they were sold out.
    I just bought some munchies instead. Ive been here a number of times mostly to buy Taiwanese snacks.

    BTW, be careful when shopping in Big Crazy. I’ve found that most of their sale items are already way past their expiry dates. I approached the cashier about this and she claimed that the date on the package is the manufactured date. I find it hard to believe because usually food products will either have manufactured date and expiry date or just expiry date but never just manufactured date.

    1. It’s Ba Wan Crispy, not Ban Wa. LOL!

      Yeah, we don’t like Big Crazy. It is so dusty and disorganized that it’s sometimes like a warehouse. So we hardly shop there. I think once they were closed for sometime … not sure why but we thought it odd. Ben

    2. They do put the manufacture date on stuff from China. I threw away a brand new hotsauce I bought cause I thought I got scammed by being sold an expired bottle.
      No idea why they do this and how do you tell when it expires @_@.
      Scary stuff haha.

  5. Kuo Hua is Taiwanse snack heaven!

  6. I love Kuo Hua! Generally I am the only white person in there, burrowing diligently through all the cool stuff. This is where I buy my jelly for home-made bubble tea (litchi right now) because they sell it in small tubs — everywhere else I’ve found it, they are barrels or buckets! There is also a great array of instant teas in tasty flavours here, lavender being my favourite so far.

    PS the overwriting on the first response is still happening, though luckily I can just make out this one which is about honey at KH. On my to try list for next visit…

    1. Hi Elf (much easier than to type Grayelf!):

      Here … trust me on this … click on this link and download Google Chrome. You will love this browser. It is cleaner and much faster in rendering: http://www.google.com/chrome/intl/en/landing_chrome.html?hl=en

      Oh yeah, now that you mentioned it, we also saw a lot of bubble tea supplies in Kuo Hua — right down to the machine that seals the cups.

      Ben

      1. I’m also using Google Chrome and I love it. It takes a little while to get used to it if you’ve been using IE for years but once you become familiar with it, it is actually better than IE.

        1. Funny you guys are talking about Google Chrome. I’ve been a Firefox (and previously Netscape) user for years (I hate IE). In the past 6 months I’ve become more and more frustrated with Ffx after getting affected by spamware and malware. Also Google Images (new version) takes forever to load in Ffx. So I’ve started using Chrome. Not only is it waaaaay faster than Ffx, it also uses about 1/3 – 1/4 of your RAM memory.

          Much simpler interface, takes awhile to get used to. But easier to configure.

          Crispy, here’s some useful Chrome tips:

          http://mashable.com/2010/09/09/chrome-tips-tricks-shortcuts/

          http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/web/30-google-chrome-tips-tricks-and-shortcuts-462663

          1. Lotus: Good tips. Thanks. Ben

  7. CL,Actually many stuff manufactured in China only have the manufacturing date,I used to think all the stuff in groceries in China was old until this was pointed out to me.But you cant always be sure eat safe

    1. Hi PG, some of the items there have dates later than the current date. And those are the ones that I bought. This really convinces me that the dates may really be the expiry date.

  8. Hi Ben,

    Man, I’m always in search for a great chilli oil. Do you find the one shown in the pic flavorful? What’s in there…like any garlic, shrimp, or goodies like that in there? I just might drive out from the tri-cities to pick that up!

    1. Hi Eric Y: We have not even opened that bottle of chili oil yet. Reading the tag, it doesn’t say it has garlic and shrimp … it does mention soy beans oil, chili, soy protein, sesame, salt, sugar. Ben

  9. they opened the store on the west coast mainly cuz they want to get taiwanese goods distribution right for canada~ and they’re fighting with T&T basically :p they were told that they need to have west coast location too in order to even compete for that
    SO YAH~ the more people shop there the better 😛 i don’t think T&T should get the rights~ or at least they should have competition

    and i’ve personally noticed ~ when they opened their store~ or around that period~ i noticed that T&T started to put little paper tags stuff saying product of taiwan ~ to indicate which drinks or food is from taiwan~ 😀

    1. First time posting a comment on Chowtimes’ blog. Not based anywhere near Vancouver(never visited Western Canada before in fact).Piggyback on Carol’s response. Ben, you mentioned that it’s quite bold for a Ontario company(Kuo Hua) to open in Richmond. I’m guessing you don’t know, that Markham(Kuo Hua’s HQ)is very much a Chinese town like Richmond. In that area, of Greater Toronto they’re several Chinese towns. Rows & rows of Chinese restaurants for miles & miles. I think the greater Toronto-area, has more Chinese people, than the greater Vancouver-area. Even heard some people say, the Chinese food in Toronto is better than in Vancouver. I don’t live in either city(I’m in Montreal). Maybe some of your very informed Chowtimes readers, who have experienced dining at Toronto Chinese restaurants, can give an opinion who has better Chinese food(Vancouver or Toronto).

      1. Hi WS: Great to see your comment on chowtimes after exchanging emails for sometime. That is a very interesting question you posed there. Does greater Toronto have better Chinese food than Metro Vancouver? For sure, Toronto has more Chinese than Vancouver simply from the stand point that it’s the center of the universe. But not by much … and from the individual city perspective, nope … Markham’s Chinese population (62K) is lower than Richmond (64K). Anyway, Conde Nast proclaimed that “Vancouver has best Chinese food IN THE WORLD”. Hehehe … eat your heart out Ontario! 🙂 Just remember that it’s British Columbia “The Best Place on Earth” you are dealing with here. 😉

        http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/Conde+Nast+Traveler+magazine+says+Vancouver+best+Chinese+food+world/2491872/story.html

        1. Thanks for your response. I even got the Conde Naste Traveler article that you refer to, when it first came out(at that time, I knew very little of the Chinese restaurant scene in Vancouver). About the only Chinese restaurant in Vancouver I knew was Sun Sui Wah.

          I’m still a newbie to your Chowtimes blog, but I’m catching up fast going through many of your blog posts. Only found out last weekend, you originally from Malaysia(as I finally went through your Kuala Lumpur travel entries, & some of the Malaysia restaurant reviews). How long ago, did you move from KL to Vancouver(Richmond specifically)?

  10. one of my favourite taiwanese snack is fong li su-“pineapple(Taiwanese ‘ong lai’ tart”. not sure if kuo hua has the specific brand. but it would be in the back where they have boxes of sweets and treats that are very nicely gift wrapped and individually sealed. one of the popular brand is Chia Te. do you know if they carry this?
    it is better than the malaysian/singaporean version.

    1. I love pineapple tarts. I’ll drop by this Saturday to check out this store.

  11. Hahaha! Ben, are you going vegetarian??? The “traditional pork stew sauce” and the instant noodles are vegetarian…hehehe…that’s what I buy when I cook Buddhist vegetarian meals at home!!! Hehehe!

    The wintermelon “brick” wasn’t very good. I tried it…too light and tasted very “commercial”. I have tried making the “wintermelon tea” from scratch at home…it’s do-able…but it took so long!!!

    1. Hi BuddhaGirl: Oh? Those are vegetarian? How can you tell they are vegetarian? For the pork stew and if my memory serves me right, there is another version which is vegetarian and we (meatatarians) picked this one. Ben

      1. Hi Ben:

        It says on the packaging with the word “素” (su). In Taiwan, the word “素” (su) is referring to the product being vegan-friendly.

        Sometimes the packages will say “素食” or “可素食” or “素食可” or “全素”, these all mean vegan-friendly.

        Some common terms in Taiwan for vegetarian packaging:

        奶素 = suitable for ovo-vegetarian
        蛋素 = suitable for lacto-vegetarian
        奶蛋素 = suitable for ovo-lacto vegetarians

        http://www.vegetarianvegan.com/Vegan_Vs_Vegetarian.html

  12. I can only speak for the SoCal and old school chinatown markets and restaurants in the US, but back in the day they used to be so grimey and smelly, especially the markets. Ever since suburban sprawls have been popping up in the US, like Monterrey Park and the San Mateo area with new establishments, the cleanliness factor has definitely gone up.

    Even in US Chinatowns, something of a mini-revival is starting to happen because no one wants to shop or eat in a grimey place unless they have something really good to offer.

    BTW in SoCal we actually have a cleanliness rating for our restaurants with A being the cleanest. There is an inside joke, that if the Chinese restaurant isn’t C-rated then the food probably doesn’t taste good and not very authentic. That says something about the difference between Chinese and Western preparation of food I guess.

  13. It’s not just the Richmonders that knows about this place, I live in Burnaby, and I knew it before my Richmonder friends (Hongers), mainly cuz I am Taiwanese. Words travels fast in the Taiwanese community. A friend of mine that lives in Langley was the one that told me about this store. 🙂

  14. I love this supermarket!! Not only is it big, clean, and cheap, but they have so many yummy snacks =D

    Have you been to the newly open Japanese market yet in Richmond on Alderbridge way? I believe it is next to Tri-pot if I’m not mistaken.. They have lots of great stuff too =D

    1. Hi cL: Yeah, we had been to the new Japanese market on Alderbridge. Frankly I wasn’t impressed. I thought the shelves looked empty and the place too big for what they carry. I can’t remember the name now … anyone? Ben

      1. Izumi-ya is the place. Although they expanded the physical space, the number of items they carry haven’t increased that I can see. There’s now a chocolate store though. My complaint about the place is that they put all the freshly made warm food in the fridge so it goes cold. Even getting there at 10:30 isn’t usually enough to save the food from the fridge.

  15. Thanks so much for this post. I have been avoiding Richmond but with these specialty markets, I will have to check it out. I like the garlic and fried rice ideal — so simple and it sounds deeelicious.

  16. Hi Ben,
    The Wintermelon tea isn’t very good, can’t compare to the freshly made ones in Taiwan.

    Also, you can easily find Ba Wan in the Crytal Mall Market. There are two or three shops that sell frozen steamed buns and frozen dumplings, they always have Ba Wan; just ask for 彰化肉圓.

    1. Hi Celina: Suanne made the wintermelon today. She added one lou han guo in and it made it more fragrant. I like it. Thanks for letting me know about Crystal Mall Market. Since I work around that area, I’ll go check it out one of these days. Ben

      1. Hope you like it.

    2. Celina,
      Buddha Girl agrees with you, she tried it last year and hated it. When I was in TW last year, she made me bring back a few blocks back. I felt like a drug mule bringing those back.

      1. Buddha Boy,
        Ha ha… yeah, I always bring some back from Taiwan too; a perfect summer drink. I think the best one is the 義豐冬瓜茶… just the thought makes my mouth water.

  17. Gee, those aisles are very, very wide! It seems like a big warehouse…probably because it was an Ikea before.

    About China, they seem to put manufacturing dates on many products- even things like water and shampoo. It seems like Hong Kong is starting to do it? In China, it’s a nice thing as you can see how recent the product was made. However, sometimes the manufacturer does not write the expiration date, instead they tell you how many months/years you have from the manufacturing date where the product will then be expired.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu