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Thursday, August 21, 2008

ZEN AND THE ART OF ASIAN DINING


The Ten-Thousand-Hand-Ten-Thousand-Eye Avalokitsvara Bodhisattva

You may not be able to afford a trip to Thailand or Beijing, but for the price of a transit pass or a gallon of gasoline you can experience Asia right here in Richmond.

I started my Asian adventure in a meditative mood with a visit to the Buddhist Temple on #5 Road in Richmond. From the moment you enter the gates into the grounds you are transported into a serene world far from the bustling city. The grounds resemble a scholar’s meditation park with stone carvings and statues among beds of flowers and ornamental trees. Beyond the fences and bordering stand of trees, the temple’s golden-tiled curved roof rises heavenward. You pass through the gates and are transported into the old China of the past.

Inside the temple the awe-inspiring golden Ten-Thousand-Hand-Ten-Thousand-Eye Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva sits before an impressive 85 ft. long Seven Buddha Mural, the largest of its kind in the world. The temple is a masterpiece of meticulous Chinese workmanship, displaying sculptures, painting, calligraphies and carpentry. I heard one man who had been recently to China exclaim, “This is even more beautiful than the temple in Beijing!”

A highlight of my visit was having my oracle read in the room of the One Thousand Buddha Hall. With the scent of incense swirling around me I knelt at each of the stations and contemplated my question to the universe. After the ritual, an old woman holds out a bundle of sticks and I chose my fortune which is interpreted on a yellow paper.

I was on a culinary tour of Richmond that began at the Shanghai River Restaurant specializing in traditional shanghai pork dumplings, 1800 dumplings a day to be exact.
We sat at a round table and tea was poured for each guest then the pot is placed carefully, the spout facing an empty space as it’s bad luck for it to point toward a person. Traditionally, the serving chopsticks are coloured on communal tables, with plain chopsticks for each individual. The oldest male is the host of the table and the eldest person at the table is served first by the youngest female grandchild. You never serve yourself first.

The ‘little dragon dumplings’ (su lung bow) were tantalizingly delicious, filled with soup and pork. Chef Lee, was brought from China to oversee the kitchen. The menu is medium priced at $48 for a five course meal for two including handmade noodles and rice with shrimp as well as other delicacies.

At the POSH Charcoal Collaboration, a trendy bistro-style restaurant, we sampled a different menu which included a Japanese Sukiyaki Hotpot. This is one of Richmond’s newer eateries representing a change in Asian dining. POSH serves authentic Japanese sukiyaki; it’s not a fusion restaurant. The name derives from the British traveler's saying “Port Out, Starboard Home” For the diner watching their calories it’s an excellent chance to fill your plate without guilt as each plate of the fresh home-grown veggies and slender slices of meat tally up to no more than 450 calories!

Richmond has over 400 Asian restaurants and most of them have chefs imported from their home countries, thus there are more authentically Asian foods served here.

Vogue, another restaurant managed by Peter, the young restaurateur from POSH, offers 128 dishes of Taiwanese cuisine. At Jade Seafood, Cantonese-style cuisine is served including hand-made dim sums and fresh seafood that are the specialties of the house.

The young Chinese residents of Richmond enjoy gathering at the Tapioca Express Bubble Tea on Capstan Way. Here they can meet with friends and sip on a variety of tapioca milk teas or snack on crispy chicken or fried fish cakes among the other 200 kinds of tasty snacks served here. There are many different varieties of bubble tea to chose from, (the ‘bubbles” are the tapioca). The Bubble Tea provides cards for kids to play and a safe place for them to hang out with their friends.



Chicken Satay

In between this eating extravaganza I took time to browse around the Aberdeen Mall and the Yaohan Centre shopping malls. I recommend an afternoon at the posh Aberdeen Mall which has a wide range of stores. It’s the first Asian mall of its kind. They even sell Porches there!

Our culinary adventure ended at the Thai House Restaurant where the chefs had prepared a full-course Thai meal that included chicken satay, artistically served salads, a seafood combo, coconut chicken and pineapple fried rice. Try the lichee and coconut drinks. They’re delicious! And for dessert: deep fried bananas with mango icecream.Yum!


Summer Night Market Dragon Dancers
We ended the day at the grand opening of the Summer Night Market where there are over 200 booths selling every sort of merchandise you can imagine from fake designer handbags to electronics. I usually love to snack my way down the row of food stalls that offer authentic Asian cuisine. This evening, after my day-long feast, I passed it up in favour of watching the stage show with the dancing dragons and pretty Chinese girls performing for the crowds. The market is open every weekend from 7 - 11 through to September and there’s ample parking nearby. It’s worth a visit though it tends to be very crowded. The atmosphere reminds me of the P.N.E. so you’ll have lots of fun there.

International Buddhist Temple
9160 Steveston Hwy
www.buddhisttemple.ca

Shanghai River
110-7831 Westminster Hwy
604-233-8885

POSH Charcoal Collaboration
1123-3779 Sexsmith Rd.
604-725-2108

Jade Seafood
8511 Alexandra Rd.
604-249-0082

Tapioca Express Bubble Tea
1438-8388 Capstan Way
604-278-4998

Yaohan Centre
3700 No. 3 Rd.
www.yaohancentre.com

Aberdeen Centre
4151 Hazelbridge Way
www.aberdeencentre.com

Thai House Restaurant
129-4940 No. 3 Rd
604-278-7373

Summer Night Market
12631 Vulcan Way
www.summernightmarket.com
Weekends through to October 5..




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