8/2 - Eating China in Lulu Island

Aberdeen & Yaohan

Richmond is a city located on Lulu Island, at the very center of Canadian multi-culturalism where east meets west. It has several places in which you can get all exotic products in the island. First, I am going to introduce to you a couple of well known Asian malls in Lulu Island. One is Aberdeen Centre and the other is Yaohan Centre. Both are located near Cambie Street and Three Road.
(Picture underneath displays food I consumed in Aberdeen & Yaohan for the past few weeks).


Aberdeen Centre is located in the Golden Village district on Hazelbridge Way, bordered by Cambie Road to the north. It primarily serves the Asian-Canadian population in the Greater Vancouver area, but is striving towards an appeal to Western customers as well. It was named after the famous Aberdeen Harbour of Hong Kong. Aberdeen Centre is also in the process of constructing a condominium complex attached to the mall itself. The mall's homepage states that Aberdeen is an alternative to Chinatown in Vancouver, and the enclosed layout of Aberdeen Centre was a totally new concept in the early 1990s. The mall was designed as one-stop shopping with Asian themed retail stores, herbal tea shops, restaurants, cinema and a bowling alley as well as continuous weekend entertainment. It was built to cater to the blossoming Asian society.  There has been rapid growth in skillful and rich Asian immigrants under the government policy since 1984. When the construction of Canada Line subway is completed in 2010, Aberdeen station will start operating by the Mall.

The mall is owned by the Fairchild Group, a company that also owns and operates many of the Chinese-language television channels and radio stations in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.

The second Asian mall, Yaohan Centre opened in 1994. It is another Asian-themed shopping malls in the Golden Village district, a neighborhood in Richmond best known for its high concentration of Asians. It also caters mainly to Asian ethnic groups, mainly of Chinese and Japanese descent. It is located in Richmond's busy Golden District shopping district, and Aberdeen Centre is next door or right across from Cambie Street.

Yaohan Centre was owned by the Japanese company Yaohan until the company's demise in the late 1990s. The President Group, a Taiwanese company which also owns the President Plaza mall next to Yaohan, took over the management of the mall ever since. It is anchored by Osaka Supermarket, which belongs to the group of T & T Supermarket chain stores. Although the original company of Yaohan in Japan ceased to exist nearly ten years ago Yaohan in Lulu Island continued to be present as a center of Canada's Multiculturalism for over a decade, becoming a local brand of Asian style shopping malls. Both Aberdeen and Yaohan will gain great benefits from the Canada line which is scheduled to open in 2010.

The food court of Aberdeen is located on the third floor of the mall, serving a wide variety of Asian food but predominantly Chinese. A week ago, I ate a shrimp dish with eggs on rice in the food court. The price was only $6.77 and very reasonable for the quantity and quality I enjoyed. The meal had a generous portion of fresh and chunky shrimps.

Then, after church on Sunday, July 27, 2008, I went to Richmond again and dined in the food court of Yaohan Centre. Unlike Aberdeen's, Yaohan's food court is located in the bottom of the building. I ate a combo meal with three items and rice. It included mapo dofu or spicy tofu with meat and vegetables, beef and tofu skin dish and fried smelt fish. The food was reasonably good and the price was $6.99 including a can of diet coke.

After that I went to T&T's Osaka Store located in Yaohan, bought fried tofu with spicy sauce and stewed pork with mushroom, takuwan or pickled daikon radish, boiled eggs and a few pieces of firm tofu on rice. The second one is a kind of fusion cuisine something like "Chinesish Japanese food or Japanesish Chinese food".  It was similar to Japanese butadon or stewed ground pork on rice, but modified to the preference of Richmond's Chinese population. Japanese butadon does not contain mushroom, takuwan, firm tofu and boiled eggs, but the Chinese add them. The firm tofu on rice was strictly Chinese style and I have never seen it in Japan. Japanese tend to prefer softer silky tofu while Chinese tend to like firmer tofu.
(The picture underneath is Natto Spaghetti, my own fusion food).


I also bought Natto (Japanese fermented soy beans), two packages of sushi and a can of Calpis Soda (well known yogurt based Japanese soft drink) and some others I don't remember. I forgot how much money I have spent (except a Chinesish butadon at $3.99) and carelessly lost a receipt simultaneously. I decided not to worry about the price because it wasn't necessary to keep track of every single detail of personal budgeting and food wasn't that expensive. But what made me worry more than money was the amount of carbohydrates and cholesterol I consumed. I have to confess that I indulged a little too much and without control that day.


 Famous Hakka Restaurant on No 3 Road

The day before yesterday, on July 31st, I went to Richmond again. This time, I ate something I never had in my life. It was Hakka food in Famous Hakka Restaurant on No 3 Road near Aberdeen Mall. I found the sign of Hakka restaurant when I was walking along No 3 Road. It drew my attention because I have never seen such a restaurant in my life. I went inside and told a waitress that I have never ate Hakka food, but want to try something there. She said most dishes there are too big for one person, but chow meins are small enough for one customer. She said that it was quite a new restaurant operating only for few months.

She recommended Hakka Chow Mein a new item that wasn't even on the menu yet. It was pork based chow mein and the taste was fabulous. Ingredients are pork and Chinese vegetables. The waitress also gave me garlic and chilli sauce that was quite spicy and very strong tea that I never found in any other Chinese restaurant. She said stronger tea goes well with Hakka food because it is meat based. While I conversed with the waitress, I quickly finished the meal because it tasted so good. Price was $12.08 not including gratuity. I thought it was extremely reasonable because the food was excellent and very authentic. Besides that, it was the best area of Richmond in which rent is extremely expensive. As I left, I told the waitress that I will bring some other people next time, so that I can order larger dishes to share.

Hakka cuisine is the cooking style of the Hakka people, who are primarily found in south eastern China (Guangdong and Fujian), but also may be found in many other parts of China, as well as in the Chinese diaspora. The skill in Hakka cuisine lies in the ability to cook meat thoroughly without hardening it, and to naturally bring out the proteinous flavour (umami taste) of meat. Most of the Chinese restaurants in the United Kingdom are Hakka owned.

According to the waitress Hakka are originally mountain people, thus Hakka cuisine is predominantly meat oriented, with only few items containing seafood. However, Famous Hakka Restaurant has a fish tank for live fish, lobsters and crabs like any other fine Chinese restaurants in the region. It seems customers in Richmond prefer seafood rather than meat.

Spirit of Lulu - Pricking out eyes of a live horse & Shrewdness of Serpents

Above all, what I like most in Richmond is an aura of creativity and spirit of innovation all over the city. I feel very refreshed whenever I visit there. Ambitious and entrepreneurial people in the food industry there earned my respect because they created manifolds of fusion or hybrid cuisines that no one ever made. They have the same adventurous and pioneering spirit as the Starship Enterprise to boldly go where no man has gone before. I sometimes wonder that Starship Enterprise is indeed an icon of today's business success, since we live in a century that innovation and creativity are constantly required for survival. There is a grin reality that those who are only concerned with retention of old traditions and cultures of any kind will go extinct very quickly and be eliminated from the business world. In fact, creative and innovative people are 100 times more attractive than fossils, folks who live in the past and bound by the old cultures and traditions.

The Chinese food industry on Lulu Island is so creative and innovative that customers continue to go back to the island to eat the great food or sometimes even to the point that they are extremely full and cannot even drive home. We can safely call it a fatal appetite to make them irresistible or deprive their self control. Although I admit that overeating or indulgence in food is not desirable, I highly honor those who might create a fatal and irresistible appetite.

There is a proverb to "prick eyes of a live horse out" in Japan and China. It is similar to English proverb, "catch a weasel asleep" or performance of something nearly impossible. However, the Asian proverb to "prick eyes of a live horse out" is often used in a context of surviving or even thriving in a very difficult business environment with extremely tight competition with others. In Richmond, competition is very tight and everyday's life is like a sumo match. In my conclusion, business people dealing with food in Lulu Island are required skills to "prick eyes of a live horse out" and living in a competition in a daily base. We can learn a lot from them because they are energetic, bold, innovative and as shrewd as serpents (Matthew 10:16).

(The last picture displays the building of Famous Hakka Restaurant on No 3 Road, Hakka Chow Mein I ate and special garlic sauce).



Last updated Aug. 3rd, 2008 by Isao Ebihara