Vancouver is a mecca for food lovers due to the vast diversity of cuisines, and Chinese culture plays an integral role in our food scene. From dim sum to bubble tea to Hong Kong style cafes - Vancouver has a lot to offer. Today, I want to share my favourite places for dim sum, xiao long baos and bubble tea. These three places fly below the radar but are fantastic in terms of taste and value.
Starting off with dim sum, I’d like to introduce you to a local gem called Dai Tung. While there are hundreds of places to eat dim sum with varying price ranges, Dai Tung still stands out as one of my favourites. They have been in business since the 1980s and are still standing. The dim sum here is made to order and is quite fresh compared to many other dim sum establishments. I use hau gau (shrimp dumpling) as my general guide to freshness at a dim sum place. The best ones have a slightly translucent skin, a good portion of shrimp inside and a fresh taste to them.
Another stand out item is their chicken wings. They definitely rival hot spot Phnom Penh as best in the city (at least in my opinion anyway!). They’re tender and juicy on the inside, crispy with a slight hint of garlic and ginger on the outside.
Dai Tung is always very busy, especially during dim sum so you may be waiting for a bit for a seat. The service here is much better than the majority of Chinese establishments, not only from my personal experience, but watching how the owners and servers interact with their guests. It's rare to find a Chinese restaurant that has the right balance of good eats and good service.
Xiao Long Baos (also known as Soup Dumplings) take real craftsmanship to get right. The xiao long bao is considered perfect when the dumplings are pinched at the top, cooked well in the middle with the delicious soup surrounding the filling. My favourite place in the city for XLBs is Dinesty.
Traditionally, xiao long bao is filled with pork but there are so many great variations, especially at Dinesty. Of all the places I've had XLB, this has been consistently the best place to have them. If you visit their Richmond location, there is clear glass that separates the kitchen area and the dining area, so you can even watch them craft these little dumplings. Other must try dishes? Their beef roll and spicy peanut noodles.
Finally, onto one of my favourite treats – bubble tea. Bubble Tea originates from Taiwan and consists of the staple ingredients: tea (black, green or red), milk and the signature tapioca balls. More recently, you can substitute tapioca with grass jelly, coconut jelly, mango stars to name a few. As there are many health conscious folks out there, most places have options like half sweet or unsweetened.
Again, there are many places to get bubble tea around the lower mainland and all are about in the same price range. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, I’d suggest checking out Bubble Queen. The cafe is very small and in the summer time, line ups can be long but there’s a good reason behind it. Asides from their normal flavoured bubble tea and hot tea, they have speciality dessert bubble teas.
When in season, their Mango Bubble Tea is second to none, made with real shaved mangos in store. Other treats include Ferrero Rocher, Strawberry Kit Kat, Coffee Crisp and Almond Roca. The Coffee Crisp is definitely a favourite of mine.
Another popular item at Bubble Queen is their Bubble Waffles. Bubble Waffles are a great snack and has been a favourite for many generations. Through the years, bubble waffles have evolved to include different flavours. At Bubble Queen, their most popular has got to be their Oreo Bubble Waffle.
With so many delicious places to go in Vancouver, I hope that this has given you some insight on where to eat when it comes to Chinese food. Be sure to check out all of Vancouver’s local food blogs for the latest and greatest in and around our city, including mine - gastrofork.ca! Eat well and be happy!
This Vancouver edition of Restaurant Roundup was written by Dee de los Santos, Gastrofork’s founding editor. Dee lives for new experiences – especially that of the food variety. Follow her food journey through Gastrofork, a food blog featuring restaurant and product reviews, recipes and tips. Follow Dee & Gastrofork on Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.