This Lunar New Year day we were celebrating with a culinary adventure on Robson Street, with the West End BIA. Six stops and five restaurants and cafes recommended ready to help you celebrate the occasion with friends and family.
Our first stop was Noodle Arts, which is my favourite restaurant for hand pulled noodles. A traditional spectacle you can take in from behind the glass window of the kitchen.
If looking for a dish that gives you the best feel of the place, I recommend their “Lanzhou Niu Rou Mian”, which is a clear broth beef noodle soup. With this and any of their noodles dishes you can choose the width of noodle, from regular to extra thin and extra thick, even one shaped like a triangle. Each chewy and cooked just so, a nice starchy base for the saucy noodles and bits of meat and vegetable.
You traditionally eat noodles during Chinese New Year as it represents a long and healthy life.
739 Robson St, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C9
Our second stop was Pho 37, within walking distance. Another hallmark of the Lunar New Year celebrations is spending the day with your family and loved ones, and doing so often means sharing a meal with them. And at this Vietnamese restaurant we were able to share one of their appetizer platters for two.
A collection of their spring rolls, shrimp salad roll, chicken and pork brochette, minced shrimp on sugarcane, beef short ribs, and vermicelli. And best of all plenty of peanut sauce and a help yourself caddy of chilli sauce, pickled vegetables and fish sauce. It was tasty, and as expected, no one had any complaints. All the meats tender, the spring rolls crispy, the vegetable fresh.
Spring rolls are actually considered one of the lucky items to have during Lunar New Year. It is a common sight during Chinese New Year, as they are fried golden and resemble gold bars, which symbolizes wealth.
1578 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2G5
Our next stop was Kosoo, for an amazing selection of their Korean fare, both authentic and traditional, as well as modern fusion takes.
This included their Original Budae Hot Pot with Beef Chunks, Bacon, Sausage, Ham, Bacon, Sausage, Ham, Kimchi, Onion, Green Onion, and Instant Noodle.
Hot stone bowls of rice and various proteins, kimchi pancake, Beef Gimbap (aka Korean sushi) and a very memorable Cheese Dakgalbi (which is Tteokbokki in a truffle cream sauce).
We paid additional attention to the troth of seafood boiling in front of us. A mix of shellfish in shell and fish balls. An awe inspiring dish that helped to invite everyone around the table. Not to mention, fish is another essential dish during any Chinese New Year celebration. It symbolizes surplus and abundance, as the Chinese word for fish, “Yu”, is phonetically similar to the word for “surplus”.
It is customary to leave leftovers for the next day, to represent overflowing good fortune. And this would exactly be the case as we packed up everything to go and headed off to stop number four.
Kosoo Korean Restaurant
832 Cardero St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2G5
Our next destination, would also be Korean. This is Ta Bom, best known for popularizing the Korean style Dak-galbi Hot Plates in the eyes of Vancouver foodies.
This is their Stir-fried spicy chicken option. Served in a cast iron pan, it is fully cooked at the table, using a built in coil.
This also chars the corn kernels on the side and melts the cheese. Both of which offers a change of taste, and a dampen on the spice level as a side and/or dip.
Tå Bom Korean Cuisine
1536 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6G 1C2
We would get a reprieve from our food tour with a pause at the Robson Public Market to catch a elebratory Lion Dance by Angel Entertainment. They are one of the oldest, long term lion dancing clubs, with a highly acclaimed and accredited instructor. They are especially proud of their community out-reach programs carried out throughout the year.
Today we would get to see their playful lion dance performance, ann act I haven’t seen anything like. Their golden lion was playful and funny, more like a puppy. With performance starting with the lion sleeping, and the sound of the drums waking him up. From there he would stumble to his “four feet” groggy, before exploring his surroundings.
The act included him wagging his tail, chasing it in circles, even licking himself with one leg up. Also unique to their act was a summersault he did to close out the show. More familar, and just as impressive is the “lion” walking on hind legs (one man on top of the other), then waving his “paws” to the crowd.
As is customary, the lion “eats” a head of lettuce that is often bound and hung with ribbon and a red pocket. The lettuce symbolizes wealth and good fortune, based on its green colour. The lion “eats” and then spits out the lettuce in leaves, spreading good luck to the spectators. Superstition dictates that the spectators catch this lettuce and keep it in a red pocket in their wallet or purse. And they’re within for the entire year, will generate money for the holder. A chunk flew into my purse, which I take as a sign of good luck and an omen of things to come.
Our foodie walking tour would end at the newer bakery, Unni Pastries. Here, we came to try their featured Lunar New Year Doughnut. A black sesame cream filled fluffy doughnut, spray painted in an edible metallic gold, and topped with a chocolate coin with the Chinese character of “Fu” pipped out on it. This Chinese word means blessings or good fortune. It is often displayed on a red, diamond-shaped paper, and hung upside down during Chinese new year. The significance of the orientation comes from more Chinese words that sound alike. The words upside down and arrive sound the same “dao”, so is used to mark the arrival of good fortune.
As for the doughnut itself, we were surprised by how much cream was stuffed into it at 3:1 ratio. So much that you were actually left wanting more bready dough. As for the flavour, only a whisper of black sesame. This was a very light pastry, the type that would have to accompany tea, or you would offer someone who isn’t familiar to such a normally robust flavour.
1773 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6G 1C9
This was a great way to indulge and celebrate the Lunar New Year in the West End. Happy Chinese New Year.