Yuen-Yuen Cafe: Ba Wan and Other Taiwanese Food

In the past couple of months we had quite a bit of attention put on Hong Kong Style Cafes, Malaysian Cuisine and Filipino Cuisine. I think I had neglected Chinese Cuisine somewhat but I think it will pick up again next month when I set my focus on getting the 8GTCC project going again.

But there is one cuisine I am not very familiar with and it is the Taiwanese cuisine. This is despite that we had 41 dine out posts categorized under the Taiwanese keyword. Quite a lot isn’t it?

My curiosity was piqued last weekend when Suanne blogged about a dish she learned from the Richmond Community Kitchen called Ba Wan (link here). I had never heard of that dish before – not even after blogging on 41 Taiwanese restaurant. What caught me by surprised is the reactions from readers on that post.

We often get dozens of comments for restaurant posts but recipe posts doesn’t draw nearly as many comments. On a very good day, it will draw about 5 comments but the post on Ba Wan drew 20 comments. So I guess this particular dish does resonate well with a lot of the readers.

[Yeah, recipe posts are very different from restaurant posts. While restaurant posts have a lot of reactions, the comments will die down very quickly within a week of two. However, recipe posts have the greatest staying power as it provides a steady trickle of readers, mostly from Google. That is why recipe posts have the highest hits by far. Just that is draws very little reactions].

So I was really keen to learn more about Ba Wan and what the whole deal is with that simple dish. Crispy alerted us that this dish had actually been reviewed before on 604foodtography.

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We went to the restaurant that Kevin blogged about. It is Yuen-Yuen Cafe and is located on Cambie and 41st in Vancouver. They are actually located just next door to Samurai Sushi … and that is an important point to note!

You know my boys right? They have this thing about driving across bridges. But at the mere mention of the name Samurai Sushi, they have no issues. They love their ridiculously House Roll. Have you seen how big they are? See this! It is so big you have to eat this resting on your palms.

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Yuen-Yuen is basically a bubble-tea house. It is small, clean and neat like most Taiwanese restaurants. Yeah, I noticed that Taiwanese restaurants are generally much well-designed and modern than HK Style Cafes for instance.

They have a funky seating arrangement with a unique wavy table. It is sort of like forcing people to look at the sample photos taken by someone with a photography business. Maybe the owner of Yuen-Yuen also has another wedding photography business or something.

It is self-service. You order the drinks (and food) from the counter, pay for it and when it is ready they will call you over to pick it up. Business was quite empty during that Saturday afternoon. There is an occasional customer who comes in to get bubble tea but no one stays for long. We felt kind of odd coming here for a family meal … to eat and not to drink.

They have limited food available but of course they have Ba Wan. Because of the small selection (which had pictures posted on the wall next to the counter), we practically ordered every food item they have. The prices are quite cheap too but they are mostly snack food rather than full meals.

Oh, cash only also.

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Nanzaro and Arkensen does not fancy bubble tea. They prefer Coke (and water!) over bubble tea. Neither does Suanne, strangely for someone with a sweet tooth.

But we still ordered one to share just because this is a bubble tea house. We got the Mocha Milk Tea with bubble ($4.75).

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This is the reason we are in Yuen-Yuen – the Ba Wan. Their English translation for this is … Meat Ball in Rice Wrap and is $3.50.

This is served in a combination of sweetish sauce.

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It is basically a glutinous rice ball wrapped with fillings of pork, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. The wrap is thick and chewy and the sauce does do a lot to the flavour profile. But by and large, it wasn’t really fantastic personally to me.

Maybe it is the way it is made here. I read somewhere that this street food is steamed first and they poach it in oil to keep it warm on the cart. Maybe it will be much better seeing it served that way.

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The Minced Pork with Rice and Meat Balls in Soup Combo ($6.75) was more of my kind of food … you know, “jhup and rice”. This is a good combo for the price. For that, you get half a marinated egg and four meatballs.

The portion is small as such dish usually are. Minced Pork with Rice is one of the dishes I would have for lunches during workdays. It is delicious and light. But best of all, I can usually get this for $5 or less. This one costs more because it’s a combo with meat balls on the side.

I like the meatballs – two each of beef and chicken. They are bouncy but I am not surprised that it is from T&T or something.

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For less than $5, the Minced Pork with Bean Thread in Soup is more than good. You can’t pick on food at this price expecting this to be gourmet but it is more than decent.

It is served with tofu puff  and 1/2 a marinated egg. What I like is the loads of shallots which makes the soup so fragrant.

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The noodles are bean thread noodle or glass noodle.

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We are so sorry we ordered the Popcorn Chicken ($4.75). LOL!

No good and not crispy. It looked like the cheap ones we buy from supermarkets to bake or microwave at home. And the ketchup too … enough said.

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But at least the Taiwanese Style Tempura ($3.50) was pretty good and again I am not surprised this came from the supermarket. I don’t know why they call this “tempura”. Should it instead be called oden?

Anyway, it has fish ball, tofu, fish cakes and daikon.

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The sauce is similar to the Ba Wan. I am not sure what it is but it looked like some sweet and chili sauce mixture.

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The Baked Egg Pudding was $3. The texture was firm but other than that it was just that … baked pudding on caramel.

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After the meal, we went next door to Samurai Sushi. It was a long wait because it was lunch time and there are many people ordering to take away. The boys didn’t mind having to wait for 20 minutes. I wished we could go, but a promise is a promise.

No, they did not get the big House Roll because they were full already.

So there … I know what Ba Wan is now … tried it … been there, done that.

Guess where we went next. We went looking for more Ba Wan. This time we went to a store to get some so that we can also make it at home. More in the next post …

Yuen Yuen Cafe on UrbanspoonBUSINESS HOUR

Monday to Friday: 11:30 am to 10:00 pm
Saturday: 12:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Gloria

    You finally tried the bawan!
    Although it can’t be compared with the ones in Taiwan (it seems like their skin is too thick, and not too “QQ) But it’s still better than nothing.
    You should try their “Green Apple Tea” I quite like the one they have there. I always get it as I wait for Samuarai Sushi hehe

  2. TimeToChow

    iirc, taiwanese use tempura(ie fishcakes) in the oden and sometimes it’s just confusing.

  3. Nong

    Hi Ben, I just wanted to say thanks for the great setup for feeds! I’m glad that your posts are not cluttered and there’s an actual comment link on each post! What a life saver for Google Reader! 😀

    1. Ben

      Hi Nong: Glad you like the feed. I like the consistent clean layout. Am using a plugin called Ohz Better Feed but it’s for WordPress. Ben

  4. grayelf

    Hi Ben:

    I just wanted to say that lately there have been some issues for me with reading your posts. The main one is that the first response in Comments is typed over top of the pictures associated with other recommended posts. A newer and less annoying thing is that the links you post all have a line through them. Is it just my computer that needs adjusting, do you think?

    1. Shmoo

      Hmm, I do not have the comments overlapping the recommendations, but I do have the links in “strikethrough” font.

      Ben, I’m using Firefox on (sigh) Vista SP2 [Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-GB; rv:1.9.2.12) Gecko/20101026 Firefox/3.6.12 (.NET CLR 3.5.30729], if it helps with debugging.

      1. Ben

        Hi Grayelf and Shmoo:

        Thanks for letting me know.

        Regarding the strickethrough issue: I think I know what happened. I installed a plugin yesterday which scours the entire site to look for broken links. When it finds a broken link, it will alert me to fix it and at the same time it will show the link with a strikethrough to indicate to the reader that the link is broken. However, for some reason the plugin reported ALL links as broken and thus you see all links with strikethrough. I had just nuked the entire checking process and re-initiated it. This will run for the next few hours. Let’s hope it works … if it doesn’t work again, it will show the strikethroughs again (in which case I’ll abort it completely).

        As for the overlapping comments: Grayelf, can you tell me what browser you are using along with the version? I have a suspicion that it might not be because of the version of browser you are using (caused by the markup tag I used for the blue boxes). Let me know and I will try to replicate that problem you reported.

        Ben

        1. grayelf

          IE8, and it doesn’t happen all the time (argh, intermittent problem!).

          1. Ben

            Hi Grayelf: Good. Seems like you’re back in action. Next time you see that happening, can you print screen and email me how it looked like on your computer? Ben

          2. Michelle

            Hi Ben,
            I’ve been getting the same thing happened with the first comment….it’s written over. I’m terrible with computers so hopefully Grayelf can send you over a copy of what we’re talking about.

          3. Ben

            Hi Michelle: Do you know what browser and version you are using? I have IE9 and I so see that the blue boxes did not render correct but when I refresh (pressed F5), it shows correctly the second time. Very odd. I use Google Chrome at home … it’s a great browser … very fast. Suggest you try using that while I try to figure out what is wrong. Ben

          4. Michelle

            Hi Ben,
            I’m at work right now and the computer here has IE8. When I refresh, it clears. At home, I use Mozilla and don’t recall having a problem there.
            Thanks…:-)

  5. Carol

    Hehe~ i’d rather that you didn’t try that thing…. they call ba wan~
    it’s just not good at all compare to what it suppose to be~
    there are 2 different style of ba wan actually~ one is just steamed and the other is steamed then fried~

    anyways~
    as for why tempura is called tempura and not oden~ the one they served was fried and not cooked in broth

    by the way~ i was reading up on tempura~ and it’s interesting that it’s not an original japanese invention, but they’ve certainly made it their own.
    the idea and technique actually was introduced to japan by the portugese

    can read up on it on wiki or just search tempura history online :p

  6. joyluckclub

    I am not familiar with Ba Wan, but it looks very similar to something Cantonese called a Cha Gor. Only difference is Cha Gor is not usually served with a sauce and the fillings can either be savory or sweet.

    My mom makes these, so I will get her recipe and post to my blog.
    It is very similar to the recipe Suanne posted with the addition of shitake mushrooms. The Cha Gor is wrapped in the same leaf they use for joong and then steamed.

    Did a search and found this, but it’s in Chinese and I can’t read it 🙂
    http://whiska.mysinablog.com/index.php?op=ViewArticle&articleId=147198

  7. Hmm, I actually really like Taiwan/Taiwanese food, but it seems it’s harder to find really good ones here in Vancouver/Richmond. Maybe it’s just me…

    1. Carol

      it’s all of us … 🙁

  8. Kevin

    There’s also ba wan that is red, not sure what it’s called but I know I’ve had it at Danshui, Taipei, Taiwan.

    Anyone know what I’m talking about?

    1. Carol

      Yes~ that’s hong zhao (紅糟) ba wan (by the way~ ba wan is actually Taiwanese… mandarin is actually ro yuan)

      Hong Zhao is essentially lees which is the fermentation left over from shaoxing wine, and in this case used as a marinade

      1. LotusRapper

        And “ro yuan” is “meat round”.

  9. Eric

    There’s a restaurant beside Samurai Sushi!? My eyes immediate go to Samurai Sushi and I’ve never noticed this place! That minced pork rice looks really good! Do they have braised pork on rice?

    1. Ben

      Hi Eric: No, I don’t think Yuen-Yuen have braised pork on rice. we practically ordered everything they had on their limited menu offering. Ben

  10. smh

    LOL at your kids being afraid to drive over bridges.

    I mean, come on.

    I enjoyed this post besides that part.

    1. Ben

      Hi smh: No, my kids are not afraid of driving over bridges. They just want to eat within Richmond and does not want us go to Vancouver or Burnaby. That was what I meant. Ben

  11. LotusRapper

    A quick side note: the baked custard topped with caramel is popular in Taiwan due to the island’s former Spanish, and Portuguese, influence, hence Taiwan’s other name Formosa.

    It’s derived from the Portuguese dessert “pudim flã” which basically means flan pudding, and “leite-creme”

    1. Ben

      Thanks Kevin. You sure know where to find good Ba Wan. Say, one of the places I plan on going to next is Kalvin which I learned from 604foodtography is a Taiwanese restaurant. We’ll order what you ordered!

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