Richmond, B.C., just across the Fraser River from Vancouver, has become one of North America’s top destinations for Asian food. Richmond is the most Chinese city in the world outside Asia, thanks in large part to an immigration boom from Hong Kong in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
“Hong Kong has long been a world-class city for restaurants, and a lot of chefs came here from Hong Kong for both political and economic reasons,” says Alexandra Gill, a seasoned restaurant critic and host of Dine Like a Critic, which offers walking food tours of Richmond. “Cantonese cuisine, which is light, restrained and focused on seafood, seasonality and freshness, is often considered the most refined of the regional cuisines.”
But during the last 15 years Richmond has experienced a second boom, from mainland China, and now boasts punchy flavors from all over the country.
“Richmond was once known for having the best Cantonese cuisine in North America, but it now offers an abundance of regional diversity,” says Gill.
Asian BBQ is an affordable local specialty in Richmond. The Hong Kong style, which features luscious slices of honey-glazed pork and roasted pork belly on big rice platters, is the best known. Gill recommends Parker place Meats & BBQ and Hong Kong BBQ Master. The latter is a casual family restaurant that has been around for about 20 years but recently became famous after celebrity chef David Chang and actor Seth Rogan dropped by during an episode of the Netflix series “Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner.”
Spicy, northern barbecue – featuring skewers of charcoal-roasted meats coated in chili and cumin – is also very big in Richmond. The style originates in China’s northwest Xin Jiang region, which has a strong Turkish influence but has spread all over China. Gill recommends Happy Tree House BBQ for platters of Sichuan lamb skewers, enjoyed on a lively patio, washed down with frosty mugs of beer.
The Richmond Night Market
If you want to sample a variety of delicacies from the 800-plus restaurants throughout Richmond, check out The Richmond Night Market, one of North America’s largest outdoor markets. You’ll find hundreds of stalls filled with mouth-watering Asian treats as well as entertainment every weekend from May to October.
“It’s a big, boisterous, lively event with lots of Instagram-friendly food,” Gill says. “There are young chefs trying out new dishes and some local favorites who come back year after year. James Chen, a chef at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel is very charismatic, like an old-time carnival barker. And he cooks amazing Xin Jiang cuisine from northwest China.”
Last time Gill visited the market she was pleasantly surprised to find hairy crab noodles. Typically, you can only get this kind of crab in China. Other popular international offerings include Taiwanese popcorn chicken and fried tofu, Chicking Korean fried chicken, and Okonomi bites, a delicious Japanese-style poutine with seafood or fried pork on top.
This weekly family-friendly celebration has been a labor of love for Richmond entrepreneur Raymond Cheung since 2000. It started as a small collection of Asian restaurant offerings, many by local family-run businesses, and has grown into a major event, attracting more than one million visitors each summer. Cheung has relocated to various venues over the years to accommodate the growing crowds. It’s now located on 18 acres located centrally near the Bridgeport Canada Line Station. In addition to the vast arrays of food and merchandise stalls, Cheung introduces a new theme each year – everything from colorful dragons, to magical candyland, to swashbuckling pirates.
While most people are familiar with Asian dumplings, the dozens of different kinds available in Richmond can be overwhelming. The Dumpling Trail Guide, put together by Tourism Richmond, offers tips on what to order at 20 restaurants. You’ll find these luscious steamed, fried and boiled dough pockets stuffed with everything from soup to meat, savory to sweet.
“The Dumpling Trail features a multitude of styles, from Cantonese dim sum to Vietnamese rice crepes, which are served like fluffy little cupcakes in a sizzling cast-iron pan,” says Gill, who is offering a guided Dumpling Trail Tour starting this summer.
Asian food in Richmond has become a melding of cultures, well worth exploring during a getaway to the Vancouver area this summer.
If you crave the delight of fresh experiences, flavors, and lifestyles, Tourism Richmond invites you to wander our streets, soak up the sounds and connect with this vibrant community of makers and doers.