My Lunch: Cumin Lamb on Rice in Alvin Garden

Wanted something spicy for lunch today. Was thinking of Spicy Cumin Lamb on Rice. Some thing I like very much from S&W Pepperhouse. This time I thought I’ll try the one in Alvin Garden.

The Cumin Lamb on Rice is a lunch special. Just $7.98. All other dishes are cheaper. $6.98. But I want Cumin Lamb.

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Busy lunch crowd even though Alvin Garden is quite a bit away from the lunch resto actions around Metrotown.

This place is chili heaven. You cannot take hot spicy food, stay away. This is considered the best of Hunan cuisine in Vancouver.

Waitress asked me “How spicy for you?”

I said “DA LA!”. She laughed. Could see her crooked teeth but she is sweet. Hehehe … need braces?

Am the only one … (more…)

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My Lunch: Chen Shanghai’s XLB at Xu’s Wonton House

This is another blog post done entirely with the iPhone, including the pictures and video.

It came as a shock to many people to learn that Wang’s had closed. I found out only last week. The new place is called Xu’s. Apparently new owner. The new lady in charge look very familiar but I just can’t remember where I had seen her before.

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So here I am trying Xu’s XLB. They call this the Baiyulan XLB which is $4 for a basket of … (more…)

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JB Malaysian Cuisine on Kingsway and Royal Oak, Burnaby

Updated 13th Oct 2014; This restaurant is closed.

We are getting increasingly more emails from our readers recommending restaurants. Since we do not eat out everyday, it is getting harder to follow every recommendation.

However, there is one that came from Audrey that got my attention. It was the mention of Hokkien Mee with Jee Yow Jar. Jee Yow Jar is the Cantonese word for fried pork fat. That sure got my attention!

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It is a Malaysian restaurant and for me I will find it hard not to check it out. Moreover this restaurant is just walking distance from my office.

Well, the sad news is that this new restaurant takes over the place vacated by Miki Ramen where we once held a chowtimes event. See what I mean? For every new restaurant that opens, it mostly mean that it is the closure of another.

JB Malaysian Cuisine is located on Kingsway by Royal Oak. For those of you who are familiar with the stalls in the Crystal Mall Food Court, it is the same people who is behind the Triple One Malaysian stall. Yeah, they closed the stall in Crystal Mall and re-opened as JB Malaysian Cuisine.

The word JB refers to the southern city of Johor Baru which borders Singapore. JB is popular with day trippers from Singapore because everything is cheaper there. Singaporeans will go over to JB to eat and shop. They will throng the supermarkets in JB and will buy all sort of things … like toilet papers, cooking oil, etc. Just like we Vancouverites go over to Bellingham for the same thing.

Malaysians always call Singaporeans as Kiasu (scared to lose out), Kiasi (scared to die) and Kia-jingfu (scared of the government). For being Kiasu, they will … (more…)

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Bowl of Stars: $6.00 Cilantro Fish Soup Noodles for Lunch

Updated 07 Sep 2011: This restaurant is closed.

As you know, Suanne and I get emails recommending that we try out restaurants. Many of them are from people we do not know. So we are also sometimes quite careful about this because we do not know if the recommendation came from people related to the restaurants or not.

Regardless, please keep the recommendations coming. The recommendations are valuable to us as there is only so much we know about what’s new and good out there. I want to say also that it is OK if the recommendations came from people related to the restaurant. What I would like is if everyone is open about it so that not only Suanne and I know what we are into but also I think chowtimes readers will appreciate knowing too. Thanks for taking the time to write a personal to us about your favourite dishes and restaurants.

It was David who emailed us the recommendation to check out Bowl of Stars. I like his recommendation because he was very specific about what he liked. He told us that we should check out their Cilantro Fish Soup with Vermicelli. Yeah, the way David wrote the email, it did not sound like he is related to the restaurant. Whatever right?

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The Bowl of Stars is located on Kingsway. It is just a little west of Boundary into the Vancouver side. I have passed by this restaurant before but I had no plans to check this place out given my already long list of restaurants to try.

One of the other reasons why I did not think much about this place is the words “WIFI” on the signboard. When I see the words “WIFI”, I think of restaurants where people spend their time for hours here surfing the internet … and definitely not for their food. If a restaurant has good food, they will not want to give people the chance to hang around surfing the internet. Agreed?

But I went nevertheless. It was one of those days that I needed to get out of the office to take my mind off work. The Bowl of Stars is near the office and yet far enough from the office. LOL! I think I am confusing you but I hope you know what I mean.

I don’t know why the name Bowl of Stars. For some reason, I think the Chinese name could be something more meaningful. Can someone please translate the Chinese name for me?

Parking is easy here. There are a lot of spaces (free too!) on Kingsway right in front of the restaurant or on the side streets. There are not many restaurants here and so yeah, it is not busy.

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I was there early. It was just past 11:00 AM. It was quite empty when I got there and took the picture above. At noon, every table was taken up and it was bustling with customers. Most of them looks like they are from the nearby office on a lunch break. I bet half of these people must be from the Telus HQ across the street. LOL!

The restaurant is spanking clean and looked polished. It was a nice atmosphere … and quite when I got there. They play Cantonese music here.

Service was very good. The waitress even asked me if I am here for the first time and when I told her yes, she proceeded to walk through the menu for me. That was even before I fish out my camera. You don’t see many restaurants doing it, granted it was not their busy hour at that time.

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I don’t know how to categorize this restaurant. Should I call this a HK Style Cafe or is this more like a Taiwanese style restaurant. For those of you in the know, help me with this nagging question I have in my mind.

You see, Bowl of Stars is like Cattle Cafe and Spicy Stage Cafe. These restaurants have the mix-and-match, make-your-own-noodles concept. This is where you select the broth, the noodles and the toppings giving you virtually limitless possibilities. Is these concept from Taiwan? Is it from Hong Kong? Or what?

I want to categorize this better. I can’t call Bowl of Stars a HK Style Cafe because it does not have Milk Tea and the normal offering up front and center. I can’t call this a Cantonese restaurant too because well, it is not at least like Lucky Tao or Hou Lok.

I was pleased to know that the combo noodles that David suggested is just $6.00. I mean that is really cheap. As a comparison, Cattle Cafe’s combo noodles are $7.25. The noodles combo is on the top row, middle picture. Click on it to show larger.

On the top row, left is the Appetizer section while on the right is the dry noodle version of the noodles combo. The larger horizontal picture above is the menu for those of you who don’t want to deal with making decisions on what combo to choose. These are $7 which gives you an option to choose 2 dishes from the appetizer and a pop for $3 more. Choices, choices!

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My mind was set on what to get. I am going to get what David recommended and that is:

  • Soup Base: Cilantro Fish Soup
  • Noodles: Vermicelli
  • Topping: Pork Intestines and Beef Tendon

Strange thing is I was told by the waitress that they don’t have … (more…)

Continue Reading Bowl of Stars: $6.00 Cilantro Fish Soup Noodles for Lunch

Szechuan House: I Wonder What They Do With So Much Leftover Chili

It had been a long while since we had Sichuan food. The last time was at Mr Zhang. It was a good meal at Mr Zhang and we enjoyed it a lot. A few people did go after I published that post but some ended up very disappointed with Mr Zhang. There you go … taste are so subjective, isn’t it?

Anyway, in that post on Mr Zhang, Alleycat left a comment recommending a Sichuan restaurant called the Szechuan House Restaurant. Alleycat, who came from Sichuan, vouched that it is authentic compared to many other Sichuan restaurants in Vancouver.

That, coming from a Sichuanese, I had to check out.

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The Szechuan House Restaurant is located on Imperial at the intersection with Sussex in Burnaby. This is on a small strip mall of seven businesses only with nothing else but residential units within that whole block.

Because of the relative quietness of this area, parking is readily available on the street.

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Szechuan House is very much a hole-in-the-wall. It is a simple no-frills setup.

As we walked past the other tables, we noticed that everyone had the Boiled Sliced Fish just like what Lissa said she had. So we already know one of the dishes we wanted to order.

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Service? Well, it did not get to a good start. I did not want to go over the menu and instead wanted to ask the waitress about the menu on the board. I mean, I am sure those dishes are worth ordering and all.

So I asked the jeh-jeh what those dishes are and if she could translate that to me explaining that I can’t read Chinese. She just said they are specials!

I know they are specials … but what is it?

I think she did not know how to translate the dishes or she was not keen to do that. So we left it at that. She does have a glum look. So, yeah, the service is not good.

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So instead, we turned our attention to their menu instead. I can’t get any help from the waitress who I don’t like already.

Grudgingly I must say that their menu is very interesting. Just look at the first page where they lists the “New To The Menu” dishes. Don’t you want to order them all? I did!

And the on the 2nd page above, there is the “Chef’s Special” … and that too we want to order them all.

I hate the service but I love the menu. Actually, I meant I don’t like the waitress.

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This is it … the dish that every table ordered. When they served this, I can immediately see why this is such a hit.

This is their specialty and it is called the Szechuan style Boiled Sliced Fish on the menu. It is not cheap at all. This one is …

(more…)

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Fraser Park Restaurant — Hard to Find in Burnaby

ChowtimesNoWord32x32Complete Disclosure:
We did not pay for the food in this restaurant as Anton was expecting us.

“Difficult to find. Hard to forget.”

That is how I would sum up this place.

It is the character behind the Fraser Park Restaurant that I find very interesting. It is this interesting character of this place that the a popular TV show from the Food Network is going to feature this nondescript restaurant in the coming spring.

I just don’t know where to begin telling you about Anton and the Fraser Park Restaurant. LOL!

I wish there is a way you could meet Anton … get to know him and see what goes on inside his head and you will know what I mean.

I met Anton in his restaurant over a year ago. He first contacted me because he saw that I had been planning dinners (the 8GTCC dinners) and he thought that it was fun and wanted to talk about doing something like that. At one point, he was thinking of getting people to come together to cook together in a afternoon and the sitting down to enjoy the fruit of the labour. At another time, he was thinking of getting his chef friends together for a cook off and then invite people to come and pay-what-they-want. All for the love of food!

I like Anton. He did not come across to me as someone who would want to do this just for publicity for his restaurant. As a matter of fact, he told me way up front that he did not want me to write about his little restaurant because he has way enough customers already than he can handle.

That was then … one year ago. All that initial brainstorming was not carried through. He got busy and I got busy with other things in life. And I did not blog about the restaurant.

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Out of the blue, Anton wrote to me again. He was telling me that the TV show had identified his restaurant and planned to shoot in his restaurant over two days. I can’t tell you what the TV show is but I think some of you can guess which show it is. Don’t ask me because my lips are sealed.

Anton asked me if I could meet him so that he could pick my brains on what he needs to do to prepare for the TV shoot. It is not that I am an expert in this sort of things but I would love to go and catch up with Anton again and bring Suanne along to try his food.

So where is Anton’s restaurant? The Fraser Park Restaurant is not exactly unknown. Many people knows him and loves his simple authentic German food. It is located in an area you will least expect. As a matter of fact, it is one restaurant you will not go into if you saw it by chance.

And that is the beauty of it. Sometimes one should not judge a book by its cover. As I mentioned up front … it is the character that makes this restaurant that I think many people should experience. You might hate it … or you might just love it. I love it.

It is “difficult to find” as I said. Fraser Park is located way down the southern most part of Byrne Road in Burnaby. There is virtually nothing here except for lots of industrial buildings. Oh, I think there is also a correctional facility nearby too! There is also a nice park that I used to walk along after lunch when I was working in the area.

Outside the restaurant and in the general area, don’t be shocked with rusted cars and vans parked haphazardly around.

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Anton’s specialty is his German lunches. He is after all a master butcher and a master sausage maker. He studied food science in microbiology. So he knows his stuff. You can see his credentials on the walls inside the restaurant.

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He changes his menu every week and serves different things everyday. However, there are days that he will feature something standard because people loves that:

  • On Wednesday it is his famous German lunch
  • On Thursday it is lamb based
  • On Friday it is salmon day

We picked Wednesday to visit Anton because we wanted to eat his German lunch.

See the menu above. Don’t you just love him putting in a smattering of German words on his weekly menu? You can click on it to make it more readable. He emails the menu of the week out to his customers so that they can plan to come in for the specials of the week. It is hard to get bored with his food when he tries to vary it every day, every week.

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Anton is a crazy nut if you ask me. He is a perfectionist and he insists on making his food from … (more…)

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Accord Food House on Kingsway-Metrotown, Burnaby

Updated 23rd Oct 2014: This restaurant is closed.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. That’s what we often hear.

At my place of work near Metrotown, there are quite a lot of nice places where I could go for lunch. And they are inexpensive and good too. Often when I go out for lunch, I don’t really have to decide what I want to eat. I’ll just take a mid-day walk and stop by a restaurant I fancy.

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But there is one place I never stop at until recently. I did not even realize that it’s restaurant at all until I take a second look. And I had been working in this area some years now and I walk past this place three or four times a week too.

Nestled between a payday loan store and a sex shop (what a name, Male and Female Harmony Store) is a small lot. It is oddly smaller than the rest in the row of shops. That small lot has the words “Music School” in the weather-worn awning. Obviously this is not a music school but it wasn’t obvious too that this is a restaurant.

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I would have never paid much attention to this place. Not many people would. Even the cracks on the windows were just crudely taped up. There were metal bars on the windows and the doors.

Not many people would have paid much attention to this place. Not when there are a lot of other restaurants around too.

So much for the cover.

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A few weeks ago, I peeked in through the curtains and I thought it was sort of neat. I decided to chance it and have lunch here. Pushing open the door, I had a very pleasant surprise. Very very much unlike the outside, the inside was much better. It was very homey.

It was very clean, very tidy. It is also very small. They only have seats for 20 people max. They played soft classical music which I enjoyed a lot. Lunch time is not just a sustenance time for me. It is often a decompression time too. It is a time where I get myself cocooned in my little world with something to read in my hands and just enjoy the food. I like times like that and this was just what I like.

The other popular restaurants around this area was just too busy and too bustling. Some of you will know what I am talking about … Sushi Garden, Green Basil, Lao Shan Dong, S&W Pepper House and the Crystal Mall Food Court … some of my usual lunch places.

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This nameless restaurant is apparently called the Accord Food House. I only got to know the name after I saw it on the receipt.

While this place is small it is homey but also basic. They make it as homey as possible and takes the effort to make it like you are dining in their home.

I asked for permission to take pictures of the restaurant. They said OK but asked that I don’t take the picture of their kitchen. It is an open kitchen and I am very impressed with the setup. One just don’t see a lot of that in a Chinese restaurant where everything is so neat with a place for everything. The ingredient containers were very clean and arranged very nicely. Everything is in its place and there is a place for everything. You just gotta see it to know what I mean. The best “viewing point” is the two counter seats. Go for that seat and observe them work.

Service was very good. They are nice humble people who seems contended with what they are doing. From what I see, it is suggested to me that they care a lot of doing things right than doing it big.

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You may click on the menu above to enlarge it.

It is a very simple 1-pager menu. When I asked them if I could take pictures of it, they were quite hesitant because they said it is so simple. They also added that they had some special dishes that they introduce once in a while and it is all written on the board in the dining area (see the third picture from the top).

One-pager menus is not a problem with me. I had eaten here several times already before I took my camera along last week. Their food is good and that is what matters. So far I had tried two dishes and both of them were excellent.

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The beef noodle seems like their specialty. It is the item on top of the menu. This small restaurant is also filled with the aroma of beef noodle soup. And most tables had their beef noodles too. So yeah, this has to be their specialty.

On the menu, they listed “Beef Noodle $7.50” and “Beef Tendon Noodle $7.50”. No mention of beef flank. All TBN has a beef flank option. They told me they have been flank too, just that the “Beef Noodle” is meant to refer to both flanks and tendon.

But you know what? What scores for me is their … (more…)

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Pinoy Pork BBQ from Georgio’s

Updated: 29th Oct 2014; This restaurant is closed.

I am not sure why … not sure if it is coincidence or what.

You see, some of the most passionate foodies I know are of the Filipino heritage. It is strange because the Filipino cuisine is so under-represented in Metro Vancouver. If you think about it, Filipinos makes up a significant percentage of the visible minorities in our city. If I am not mistaken, they are the third largest minority group after the Chinese and the East Indians.

My impression is that Filipinos are shy and private people, event timid. As a people, they tend to blend into the fabrics of society rather than sticking to their own — unlike the Chinese and Koreans, for instance. While one may think that the Chinese are everywhere in the world, I think that in terms of sheer percentage of the Filipino population, there are more Filipinos living outside of the Philippines than the Chinese outside of China. The Chinese is just greater in numbers because of the sheer size of their population.

Yet, the Filipinos seems to have so small a voice compared to the other communities. But one thing I see too … they are proud of their heritage … and even more fiercely proud of their cuisine! Go ahead and ask any Pinoy. Ask them if the Chinese Roast Pig is better or the Filipino Lechon (see pictures) is better. They will go and describe to you twenty different ways why the lechon is more superior. He he he … if not for the fact that they are so mild mannered, they would probably say that the Chinese Roast Pig skin is laughable.

Ask them also about the Crispy Pata (see pictures). I bet they will tell you there is no equivalent in the world … and I have to agree to that.

While we would shirk from even looking at the balut (see pictures), let alone eat it, they might be thinking “What is the problem? It is delicious”. LOL!

I learned a lot about the Filipino people, the culture and cuisine only in the last year or two. I remember the first time I was properly introduced to the Filipino cuisine. It was Pinoy Gourmet who brought us to a feast at the Little Ongpin restaurant in Richmond. What a feast it was!

The Filipinos love their pigs! Many of their best food resolves around the pork.

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Pinoy Gourmet told me about the pork barbeque recently. The thing is, there is no Tagalog name for this pork on skewer. I think it is just called Pork BBQ. The Filipinos should coin an official name for this to make them uniquely Filipino.

I was quite intrigued by what he was telling me. I remembered the BBQ on skewers that I had in Little Ongpin and thought at that time how similar it is to the Malaysian Satay and at the same time I had to grudgingly admit it was better than the Malaysian version in some ways.

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The Filipino meat on skewers are definitely bigger than the satay … way bigger, way meatier. In terms of juiciness, they are are much more moist. What I like is that they uses pork. They have no religious inhibition to pork. Pork satay is virtually unheard of in Malaysia — he he he, no one dared to advertise they have PORK satay in Muslim Malaysia.

The only way that the Pinoy Pork BBQ is inferior to the Satay is the absence of the peanut sauce. LOL!

Oh … you will be shocked when I tell you what the secret ingredient is … (more…)

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Having Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle (过桥米线) the Right Way

OK, here is the right way to be served the Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle.

I think.

“I think” because I had obviously never been to Yunnan. I am going by the detailed description of this uniquely Yunnan dish from this post yesterday. Here is the description again. If you had read it yesterday, it’s the same.

Cross Bridge Rice Noodle is a special dish of Yunnan. It is originated during the Qianlong period, nearly 200 years ago. There is a popular legend regarding its origins.

It is said that a scholar in Mengzi, who was preparing for the Imperial examination, went to an island in the Na Lake everyday to study. His wife went across the bride to the island to bring his meal to him. Owing to the long distance, he had to eat the meal cold everyday.

Accidentally, his wife discovered that a greasy chicken soup is not easy to get cold. What’s more, fresh ingredients, such as seasonal vegetable, fresh meat and so on, can become edible by putting them into this kind of boiled soup.

From then on, the scholar could have a delicious and hot meal everyday. Because his wife went across the bridge everyday, the rice noodle made this way was named as Cross Bridge Rice Noodle.

By now, the Cross Bridge Rice Noodle has a distinct development. The most important factor in this noodle is the soup. It was made with natural hen, pig bone and ham. It needs to be boiled for over 6 hours until the soup become savory and the oil from these are distilled.

The next thing worth mentioning is the ingredients. There are two kinds of rice noodles. The proper kind is the slim one, which is good at keeping the flavour of the valuable soup. The ingredients can be divided into two categories: vegetable and meat. The vegetable used are dependent on what is in season. The meat is focus on slice. The thinner the better, so the slice meat is one of the characteristics of the Cross Bridge Noodle.

Last but not least, the process of eating is special. The right orders are as follows: firstly, put the meat slice in the soup, then the vegetable, the last one rice noodle. Minutes later, a hot colorful and delicious Cross-Bridge Rice Noodle is ready.

So yeah, I was quite disappointed with the new stall in the Crystal Mall food court who profess to serve Crossing Bridge Rice Noodles and yet do not serve it the way it is supposed to be. They are supposed to make you feel like a scholar served by the wife … just like the legend says.

But I know of a place that serves it the correct way … the way that the legends says it should be. LOL! So, I made my way to this restaurant yesterday and took some pictures so that I can show you how this restaurant does it.

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I actually had it earlier in 2006 and blog about it. It was one of the “charter posts” of chowtimes. This is offered as a lunch special. See how they do this right? The first thing they did was to bring two plates of ingredients. Just the two plates … separately served.

I shall call the first plate above “The Fiber”.

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The second plate is more important. I shall call this “The Protein”.

Right in the middle is the quail egg … served raw, as it should be. In the Crystal Mall food court, they cheated. They gave me a hard boiled one. No, no. *finger wag*

Then there are … (more…)

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Yunnan Cross Bridge Rice Noodle from Xiang Yuan Qiao in Crystal Mall Food Court, Burnaby

Let’s take a closer look at one of the lesser provinces in China.

I am talking about the province of Yunnan.

Here. See the map. Yunnan is the southern most province and it borders the South East Asian countries of Burma, Vietnam and Laos. If you are familiar with geography in the area, it is green and forested … more forested than anywhere else in China.

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And yet it is a poverty stricken province. One third of the population are made up of several ethnic minorities which has a lot of cultural similarities to the South East Asian countries. As a matter of fact, Yunnan has more ethnic groups in the whole of China. Because of its natural beauty, this province thrives on tourism. Most of the tourism are internal. The world is still too focused on the Shanghai, Beijing and Xian.

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If there is one dish that is unique to the province of Yunnan, it is the “Crossing Bridge” Rice Noodle (过桥米线). You can get it throughout the province.

I went to a stall just last week and came across the board above. Did you notice the headgear of the figures above. That is not Han Chinese but is of one of the ethnic minority groups.

I like the way they narrated the origin of the dish. It’s kind of hard to read the small print, so, I had reproduced it below:

Cross Bridge Rice Noodle is a special dish of Yunnan. It is originated during the Qianlong period, nearly 200 years ago. There is a popular legend regarding its origins.

It is said that a scholar in Mengzi, who was preparing for the Imperial examination, went to an island in the Na Lake everyday to study. His wife went across the bride to the island to bring his meal to him. Owing to the long distance, he had to eat the meal cold everyday.

Accidentally, his wife discovered that a greasy chicken soup is not easy to get cold. What’s more, fresh ingredients, such as seasonal vegetable, fresh meat and so on, can become edible by putting them into this kind of boiled soup.

From then on, the scholar could have a delicious and hot meal everyday. Because his wife went across the bridge everyday, the rice noodle made this way was named as Cross Bridge Rice Noodle.

By now, the Cross Bridge Rice Noodle has a distinct development. The most important factor in this noodle is the soup. It was made with natural hen, pig bone and ham. It needs to be boiled for over 6 hours until the soup become savory and the oil from these are distilled.

The next thing worth mentioning is the ingredients. There are two kinds of rice noodles. The proper kind is the slim one, which is good at keeping the flavour of the valuable soup. The ingredients can be divided into two categories: vegetable and meat. The vegetable used are dependent on what is in season. The meat is focus on slice. The thinner the better, so the slice meat is one of the characteristics of the Cross Bridge Noodle.

Last but not least, the process of eating is special. The right orders are as follows: firstly, put the meat slice in the soup, then the vegetable, the last one rice noodle. Minutes later, a hot colorful and delicious Cross-Bridge Rice Noodle is ready.

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It is not a fancy place where I got the Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle. I came across this in the food court in Crystal Mall in Burnaby.

This stall is new. I think this stall used to serve Korean food. Anyway, you won’t miss it because it is located right on top of the escalator. I was more drawn to this place because of the story behind the dish.

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While their specialty is the Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle, they have other dishes too. I thought that the Cucumber with Spicy Sauce was particularly cheap at $1.75 and so I got one to try. I like this and often order this in Sichuan restaurants.

The cucumber is fresh … crunchy and cold. It doesn’t look spicy isn’t it? There are no tell tale chili flakes. The sauce wasn’t even red. But it is spicy alright. Real nice spicy.

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I was kind of disappointed when they served the Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle. They dump everything into the hot pot. No fun!

They should have served it in the traditional method … (more…)

Continue Reading Yunnan Cross Bridge Rice Noodle from Xiang Yuan Qiao in Crystal Mall Food Court, Burnaby