I love street food. Street food - oftentimes derided for being unhealthy, unrefined, and dirty - excites me in a way that haute cuisine oftentimes fails to do; the very fact that street food is generally honest and unpretentious, quickly prepared and easily consumed, and also extremely tasty means that it is ironically worth more to me than, say, an expensive dish cooked by a celebrity chef at a posh hotspot (coughcoughMomofukucoughcough*).
My love for street food is the reason for why one of my favourite activities to do in the summer whenever I visit family in Vancouver is to head to one - or both - of Richmond’s night markets.** Last night, along with other intrepid
gluttons adventurers, I decided to venture to Richmond Night Market along No. 3 road. (I decided to go this market rather than the International Summer Night Market on Vulcan Way because it was more accessible and offered free parking; I will try to go to the other market to compare food offerings at some point). Clad in stretchy yoga pants, I was ready to eat until walking became difficult.
Upon arriving,we opted to get the lay of the land by walking rapidly through all of the different rows of food stalls. After all, my stomach only has so much room so I needed to make sure that the food I end up buying is the food that I want to eat. You may laugh at such vigilance but it is so easy to be overwhelmed by all the choices in front of you! Take V for example. V is the type to quake under pressure in such situations so he always ends up ordering the worst dishes; last week, for example, when we were at Aberdeen food court, V was so overwhelmed that he ended up buying tepid noodle soup with big pieces of Spam (!) while I, being the strategic glutton, had the delicious rib-eye beef and rice from Teppan Kitchen.
After plotting our plan of attack, we ended up eating takoyaki balls (meh), different types of deep fried squid (good), mango with coconut and tapioca (ok). pork ramen (a notch better than Ichi-ban), Vietnamese spring rolls (fantastic), and chocolate bubble waffles (soggy and gross). The dishes and the stalls that were the stand-outs for me, though, were the following:
1. Bakudanyaki (Daikishi)
Looking like the love child of okonomiyaki and takoyaki balls, bakudanyaki is described as a “grilled Japanese fritter” and is the size and shape of a baseball. I opted for the original. Inside the ball, you can find cabbage, ginger, green onions, octopus, and squid which all nicely mesh together. The ball is then generously doused with mayo, okonomiyaki sauce, and bonito flakes. At $5, the bakudanyaki was well worth it. Not only did the flavours and the competing textures of the ingredients complement each other, its hefty size ensured that one portion is more than enough to satiate even the greediest foodie.
2. Barbecue beef ribs (Finger Ribs)
Not since my trip to Black’s Barbecue at Lockhart, Texas have I tasted beef ribs this succulent. For a mere $6, I was able to consume one of these babies. Barbecued to perfection, the beef was just tender enough to easily fall of the bone and had a smoky juiciness to it that was very enjoyable. My only quibble was the addition of barbecue sauce which I generally don’t like on ribs. The beef ribs here were certainly good enough to eat on their own without the sauce!
3. Seared foie gras on toast (Finger Ribs)
When I first saw the sign for pan-seared foie gras, I did a double-take. I associate foie gras with high-end restaurants, not street markets! Did this mean that the foie gras being offered was of poor quality? That each dish was only $7 further fuelled my skepticism.
Being a lover of foie gras, though, the prospect of $7 foie gras was too appealing. And, readers, this was by far one of the best pieces of seared foie gras I’ve ever tasted. It was just as good as the seared foie gras I’ve ordered at Montreal’s Au Pied De Cuchon (my favourite restaurant) and even better than the one I recently ordered at Toronto’s La Palette. The crispy fat on its surface paired well with its creamy and tender interior. It was so good that I went back to the stall to order another one before leaving.
There were other dishes there that I wanted to try but couldn’t, from the German pork hocks to these Slavic crepe-like cones filled with ingredients like Nutella and cream. That I wasn’t able to eat these will serve as further incentive for me to go back.
*I recently ventured to the Momofuku in Toronto and I just don’t get the hype. And I say this as someone who was willing to spend lots of moola to experience the best that the restaurant had to offer.
** Interesting factoid: different Asian countries first started holding night markets because it was too hot during the day for people to shop. The night markets in Richmond are meant to replicate night markets found in Asian countries, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.