Top 7 must eats in Vancouver, Canada – 2017 edition

Top 7 must eats in Vancouver, Canada – 2017 edition

Featured image: Sho Ka Do Bento @ Raisu.

Those who know me would know that I have certain food cravings every time I return to Vancouver. The food scene in Ottawa is not bad if you know where to go, but the selection is definitely not as impressive as that in Vancouver, especially when it comes to Asian cuisine. Here are a few of the items I try to cross off my list whenever I’m back in Vancouver.

1. Sushi

Without a doubt, the number one food craving I always have is sushi! The number of sushi/Japanese restaurants is really astonishing. From the economical and humongous portions found at Samurai Sushi and Sushi California to the mid-range Sushi Aria to the upscale/tapas versions at Raisu/Kingyo/Miku/Suika/Guu, you can get good sushi at any budget. For those who really want a unique dining experience try Sushi Bar Maumi. It is an omakase style meal meaning you are sitting right at the bar with 9 other sushi lovers and the sushi is served piece by piece directly by the chef. The menu is pre-set. There are only 2 seatings per night, so you must make reservations. At the end of the meal, you can also order some more pieces a-la-carte. Be ready to spend $75+ per person, but it’s well worth it!

Mania roll @ Sushi Mania
Mania roll @ Sushi Mania
Deluxe seafood bowl @ Raisu
Deluxe seafood bowl @ Raisu. Photo credit: Aaron.

2. Xiao Long Bao (XLB)

If you hear people talking about XLB and have no idea what they’re taking about, let me explain. XLB (=xiao long bao 小籠包) is a soup dumpling, originating from Shanghai. The soup is first gelatinized and mixed in with the pork filling, and wrapped in a flour skin. The dumpling is then steamed in a (traditionally, bamboo) basket; hence the name, “little basket bun”. To eat, make sure to puncture a hole in the dumpling first and catch the hot, now-melted soup with a spoon. Make sure the soup has cooled down somewhat prior to drinking the soup, or else you will lose all sensations in your tongue for the rest of the week. You have been warned. I have had bad XLB in the past which were shrivelled up with minimal soup. That’s a bad sign. The texture of the skin is also another way to judge the quality of the dumpling. I prefer the ones with thinner skin which is not overly doughy and dry. The most popular chain is Dinesty. They have multiple locations located throughout Greater Vancouver. If in Richmond, you can try Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant or Shanghai River.

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XLB @ Dinesty. Photo credit: Aaron.
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Close up of XLB @ Dinesty (Look at that soup!)

3. Ramen

Another popular choice of food in Vancouver is ramen. Most have a simple menu with a limited number of broth options and a few side dishes/appies to choose from. This only means that they stay true to what they do best. If you are shopping along Robson close and Bidwell, you will find a cluster of these small ramen shops. Popular choices are Santouka (I like their tsukemen option, where you dip the noodles in a concentrated broth), Kintaro (known for their tonkatsu broth), Motomachi (known for their bamboo charcoal ramen) and Marutama (known for their chicken broth). Be prepared to wait in line during peak hours though! These get busy!

Tsukemen and gyoza @ Santouka
Tsukemen and gyoza @ Santouka

4. Beef noodle

Speaking of noodles, those who like tender pieces of beef swimming with egg/flour noodles in a flavourful umami-filled broth, should try the beef noodle houses here. My picks would be No 1 Beef Noodle on Willingdon Ave. and Wang’s Taiwan Beef Noodle on Granville St. I advise you bypass trying to find parking in the tiny lot of No 1 Beef Noodle and just park on the street. Otherwise, you may run the risk of someone double-parking behind your car.

Beef noodle @ No 1 Beef Noodle
Beef noodle @ No 1 Beef Noodle

5. Phnom Penh chicken wings

Alright, I have a confession to make. I was kinda late to jump on this bandwagon. I don’t know how I was not familiar with this place before I moved away from Vancouver. Thanks, “Bear Woman” for introducing me to this! The chicken wings here are apparently famous. These are so addictive that I know someone who needed to bring these with her even when she moved to another province to freeze so she can always have a taste of Vancouver wherever she was. Aaron describes it to have the Southeast Asian flavour, which is definitely appropriate as it reminds me of the chicken wings I’ve had in Malaysia. The batter is light and flavourful and the wings itself is juicy and tasty. The restaurant is super busy and they don’t take reservations except for huge groups (8+) so be patient if you want amazing chicken wings.

Chicken wings @ Phnom Penh
Chicken wings @ Phnom Penh. Photo credit: Aaron.

6. Korean food

I was trying really hard to think of a specific dish instead of using a whole category of “Korean food” but I couldn’t choose between all the deliciousness. The Korean food scene is pretty impressive here. The Korea Town of Vancouver is unofficially along North Road, close to Lougheed Mall, AKA Burquitlam. I’ve been to a few places here with Bear Woman (my personal food guide of Vancouver) and have never been once disappointed. For amazing kimbap (Korean sushi) you cannot just have one of, try Kimbap Cheong Uk. For some makgeolli (Korean rice wine) with nice authentic dishes, try Bukchigo Jangguchigo. If you are downtown, I would recommend Sura for a nicer dining experience or Dae-Ji for a quick no frills experience. If in Richmond, you must try Samsoonie Noodle & Rice for their bossam (sliced flavoured pork belly, that you can wrap in lettuce, cabbage or turnip, along with various side dishes such as kimchi, spicy radish, and raw garlic etc). Remember to pre-order a large and share it with some friends/family. You won’t regret. I promise. If you want just a nice boiling pot of budae jjigae, they have it at Chosun in Burnaby or Midam Cafe in Richmond.

Budae Jjigae @ Chosun Korean Restaurant
Budae jjigae @ Cho Sun

7. Asian desserts/Bubble tea

This is another one where I cannot choose between the various dessert options. Usually even if we’re stuffed after eating a delicious meal of one of the above, we still want to maximize our food adventure fun. We will usually choose amongst one of the following. The classic hang-out place after dinner would have to be a bubble tea shop. These have been around since the 2000’s and they’re still staying strong. These sweet and milky drinks originated in Taiwan but has been a worldwide sensation since then. I always preferred the original milk black or green tea with or without bubbles/pearls/tapoica balls depending on my mood. For those who don’t want a sugar shock to their system, I recommend you get it half-sweet. Those who are more adventurous can try the various flavours available. On this trip, I tried the Okinawa Pearl Tea with roasted brown sugar at ShareTea and I really enjoyed the roasted flavour. ChaTime is another popular chain that is pretty consistent. For a special treat, try the Earl Grey Milk Tea at Mr. Moustache in Marpole. (Note: They are currently closed for renovations). I have never had anything else like it! Another favourite of mine is the Korean bingsoo (shaved ice) at Snowy Village. I even dedicated a full post to this. While you’re there, try the fluffy croissant pastries with various hot fillings – the croissant taiyaki. 

Mango bingsoo @ My Frosty
Mango bingsoo @ My Frosty. Photo credit: Aaron.

And that brings us to the end of my list. If you’re interested in even more food recommendations in Vancouver, let me know! If you have other items you think should be on the list, comment below!

 

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9 practical tips for travelling carry-on only

9 practical tips for travelling carry-on only

It’s been a while. Having to pack again recently inspired me to write this post. Whether you are packing for a 2-week or a 2-month trip, the principles are the same. Earlier this year, I had to pack for a 2.5 month trip across Asia for the 30+ degree celsius tropical climate of Thailand as well as the below-zero weather of South Korea. All I had with me was a carry-on suitcase as well as tiny backpack. Trust me. It’s possible. But first, why travel carry-on only?

  1. Save time – We were able to bypass so many long line-ups at the airport because we did not need to check in bags. Once you get off the plane, you are good to go. No need to wait around at the carousel for your bags.
  2. Save money – Most airlines charge for check in bags now. Sure, for long international flights, there may still be 1-2 free checked bags but this isn’t the case for most domestic flights and short-haul flights between nearby countries.
  3. Save you from missing your next flight – For those of you who are planning to explore many cities in one country or to choose a flight which has multiple transfers, travelling carry-on only will save you a lot of headache. Imagine having the added stress of waiting to pick up your bag to transfer onto a tight connecting flight. Or imagine losing your baggage in transit to Bangkok, when you’re leaving for Chiang Mai in 3 days. What if it doesn’t make it here on time?

If I’ve convinced you that this a good idea, please read on for my tips for travelling carry-on only.

  1. A trusty carry-on luggage

Those who have followed me on my Asia trip adventures might have remembered that my original suitcase was not too trusty. (See post here.) It actually ripped within the first 2 weeks of my trip. I managed to purchase a better one in Vietnam, which lasted me for the rest of the trip. Lesson learned. The suitcase should be sturdy enough to withstand a long journey with multiple stops but at the same time light enough for you to carry around. I considered using a backpack for my Asia trip but then I would need to carry two backpacks and my back would not be happy. If the luggage is light enough, then it should be easy to transport, even up and down stairs in subway stations and easily lifted into the overhead cabins. I find the clam-shelled ones to be more practical and helps with organization. I got a small hard-shelled one (similar to the one below) and Aaron had purchased a soft-shelled one from MEC (no longer sold) for quite a decent price right before we left.

Hard-shelled carry-on suitcase

2. A trusty “personal item”

Check the different airlines you are flying with for the weight and size limits. Some of the more discount airlines have very strict limitations. The 9kg backpack you were allowed to carry on in Canada might be overweight for the smaller airline in Vietnam. I used a tiny little backpack for my travels but found it was very annoying to, for example, have to take out my medications, toiletries, and sunglasses, etc. to get to the headphones I needed at the bottom of the pack. If possible, get one that has many compartments so you can access your belongings easily. I really liked the MEC packpack that Aaron got for the trip. It looked really compact. You can even wear it on the side and say it’s a laptop bag. It has a lot of compartments, including a nicely padded section just for your laptop.

3. Pack for 1 week

It doesn’t matter how long your trip is. Just pack as if you’re going on a 1-week trip. I.e. only pack enough underwear, socks, outfits etc. for 7 days. You can always do laundry. You’re always on the go, so no one will know you’re repeating outfits (except for your travel companion, who should not be judging. And if they are, you need to find yourself someone else to travel with).

4. Pack versatile clothing

Don’t pack those trendy yellow jeans that only matches that one white top. Pack items you can mix and match. That racer back tank top is not only for the hiking in Chiang Mai. Layer on a cardigan for the breezy evenings in Hanoi, and add on a scarf and toque for the snowy days in Seoul.

One thing I wish I had brought on my trip was a sarong. Not only can you use it as a cover-up on the beach, you can use it for modesty at temples as well as a scarf in colder cities, or maybe even a towel or a blanket, if needed! It is a great alternative to having to wear jeans when it’s hot and humid. (Read about my struggles in my Wat Pho post.)

And don’t forget about the tourist pants. What’s that you say? I’m talking about those thin, loose-fitting harem pants you see many backpackers and other casual travellers wearing nowadays. I know… I know… before you start judging that these will only make me stand out as a tourist, I’m sure I already have other features which make it obvious that I’m not a local. For example, my language, my mannerisms and the fact that I constantly have a confused look on my face while starting at Google Maps on my phone. In all seriousness, these pants are great for modesty in temples, just roaming the streets or even as PJs. For example, I did not want cause myself to have a heat stroke hiking in long pants in the mountains of Chiang Mai but I knew we were going to make stops at temples along the way and wanted to be respectful. I kept my tourist pants in my backpack and threw it over my shorts once we got to the temple grounds. Keep in mind these are not the best quality since mine had a big hole in it by the end of my trip but no complaints given I got it for only a few Canadian dollars from a market in Bali!

Tourist pants

5. Leave the bulky clothing at home

The best investment I made for this trip was probably my Columbia Women’s Mighty Lite Hooded Jacket. My biggest dilemma for this trip was how to stay warm in South Korea without having to lug around a huge winter jacket for the entire duration of my travels. My friend suggested I look into compressible jackets. (Thanks Vanessa!) It kept me warm and I was able to compress it down to the size of a thin sweater. It was amazing!


Compressible jacket

For those who are more risk-loving, you can purchase seasonal items en route so you don’t even have to carry it around with you. Aaron purchased this compressible winter jacket from Uniqlo while we were in Seoul.

6. Packing cubes and organizers

Organization is key when it comes to packing light. Packing cubes allowed me to create little dense packages of clothing. I rolled them up tightly and was surprised how much I can fit in each of these.


Packing Cubes

For bras, I put them in a little laundry bag and stuffed it with socks to keep the shape. This bag was handy to double as a laundry bag for delicates during the trip.


Bra laundry bag

If you have some items which seem to take up a lot of space, try compression bags. These are also great for packing away dirty clothes. These ones we got don’t require a vacuum to release the air. Just put your clothing in, zip it up to leave a small hole, push all the air out and then zip it all the way. Alternatively, just get some heavy duty ziplock bags!


Compression bags

7. Wrinkle-free

Try to avoid clothes that easily wrinkle. With all the rolling and compressing (see above), it’s best to bring clothing that is easy to care for. Leave that cute blouse at home. If you are presented with a few wrinkles, try to hang it in the bathroom while you shower. The steam can sometimes help to release some of the wrinkles.

8. Travel-size toiletries

If you are travelling carry-on only, you must adhere to the liquid rules. As such, it’s important to either shop at the travel size aisle for teeny tiny version of your favourite toiletries or just get some reusable toiletry bottles and fill them up with your products of choice! Be sure to test for leaking extensively though! Even if they spill or if you did not bring enough, that’s ok! Unless you are travelling to remote areas, chances are you can always just pick up some toiletries along the way (especially when travelling to countries known for their great skin care products – e.g. Korea and Japan).


Travel bottles

9. E-travel books

I purchased only 2 travel books for my 4-country trip. For the other 2 countries, I found that electronic resources actually handled the job quite well. I mostly relied on Mark Wien’s travel guides as well as the Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet Guides. Please refer to my previous post for a more in-depth review of some travel apps.

So those were the lessons learned from my travels. I would love to hear about any other suggestions you may have. Happy travels!

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