Hangin' out at the Mall - a Chowdown at the Asian Food Court in Crystal Mall (Burnaby)
Crystal Mall's Food Court isn't your typical Food Court. You will not find a New York Fries, Orange Julius, or a Starbucks here. Instead, this Food Court offers a tantalizing survey of regional Chinese cuisine all under one roof. Cuisines of Guizhou, Dong-bei, Taiwan, Sichuan, Shanghai, Guangdong, Hong Kong are all represented.
This past Friday, I met up with three Chowhound diehards to introduce them to my favorite stalls here. There was a lot of ground to cover, so we (mostly by chance) did quick "Northern" (as in North of Shanghai) tour of Chinese food. We each all dispersed and ordered somewhat randomly at the following stalls: Wang's (Shanghai), Beijing Restaurant (Dong-bei treats), Northern Meixi (Heilongjiang).
Wang's specializes in Shanghai cuisine. Wang's, to the unfamiliar, is one of THE places to get Xiao Long Bao in the Vancouver region. So of course, we ordered one order to share and one order of their Beef Roll.
Beijing Restaurant is a relative new comer here - taking over the stall that used to occupy a Xi'an cuisine stall (which incidentally used to serve a good sliced "pancake noodle" dishes from the Shaanxi region). Beijing Restaurant specializes in Beijing streetfood - typified by food from Dong-bei (the provinces of Northeast China - Heilongjiang, Jilin, Shandong and Liaoning ). We ordered two types of Chinese "hamburgers" - both were very good and authentic...and their (quite large) version of the Beef Roll.
Northern Meixi serves food also from Northeast China - but with a particular specialty in pulled noodles from Heilongjiang (where the proprietors are from.) I ordered a plate of their handpulled noodles with "meat sauce" - a sweet, spicy, full of umami sauce topped with slivers of cucumber. I also ordered some Shandong-style buns and Pumpkin Pancakes to round out the survey.
We didn't end up ordering from another of my favourite stalls - Huaxi Noodle Specialists - because we already had waaay too much food. This particular stall excels in noodle soups from Guizhou - a province that borders Hunan, Yunnan, Guangxi and Sichuan provinces. The cuisine of Guizhou is typified by hot and sour flavours in a sort of amalgam of flavour profiles found in surrounding provinces. (Called "Qian" - it is also one of the Eight Traditions of Chinese Cuisine). They also serve up some very decent renditions of some Sichuan classics such as Twice-Cooked Pork. (I think we will leave this stall for extra credits.)
All in all a very filling meal. And the food, I might add, is excellent (if somewhat rustic), and cheap - and considering that it is all prepared at the back of tiny food court stalls, it really is nothing short of phenomenal. (The food court also offers Sushi, Malaysian, Hotpot, HK BBQ, Teppanyaki, Bubble Tea, Beard Papa, Japanese Waffles...if regional Chinese isn't your thing)
I was in that area today so I thought I'd pop in and have Guizhuo Style Beef Noodle soup at the Huaxi Noodle stall. (#8 or #9...they were out of tendon so I ordered a #8)
I usually order it "very hot" and I make sure to add some of the fresh minced garlic/oil condiment from the tray of condiments next to the cash register.
They use nice yellow wheat noodles that are cooked to order (it takes 15 minutes to prepare). The soup was nice and hot with a hint of star anise (think salty, hot and slightly tart Pho or Taiwanese BN broth - with an earthy-fruitiness from the chilies and a big raw garlic kick from the mince-garlic condiment ). The chunks of fatty and gelatinous beef were meltingly tender).
If you like spicy soups...give this one a shot.
( Guizhuo cuisine Wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guizhou_... )
Those look like professional photos! Nice! While I have never been to Crystal Mall, my son frequents it quite often. I asked him what I should have if I go there, and he said, "Milk honey tea". I don't know why, but I found that very disappointing! :-) Wish I could have joined you all!
I know that much. My son's friend has been taking him there as long as I can remember. For them, mostly because it's cheap and good, me thinks. I just asked him why he only can only recommend tea to me and he said because his friend always orders for him and knows what's good, he can't say more than it has rice in it! He said the tea is iced though and he loves it! I will ask his friend what he likes next time he phones here...I'm not such a fan of of Northern Chinese, at least I think I'm not!
I think you might like certain Shanghai dishes and some of the Dongbei dishes. Neither region has the hot, "strangeness" of Hunan or Sichuan food.
Also - you might be liking Chinese regional food without even realizing it (eg the popular Kung Pao Chicken comes from Gungbao Chicken from Guizhou).