Richmond’s Asian dining scene is often celebrated as the best in the world outside of Asia. But many visitors find the huge array of international eateries here a little hard to navigate.
Step forward Vancouver Food Tour. This popular operator—with a long track record of foodie-focused Metro Vancouver guiding—recently launched an escorted walk for ravenous Richmond explorers. Their new Dumpling Trail Tour (based off our popular self-guided Dumpling Trail) covers five temptingly diverse city centre eateries.
Your guide does all the work, such as ordering dishes and explaining what you’re eating, and you’ll be walking for no more than a few minutes between mouthfuls. Which could be a problem, since there’s easily enough food to leave you feeling like an overstuffed dumpling yourself.
On a recent morning, we booked an 11:00am tour—being sure to avoid breakfast before meeting our friendly guide. The tour recently launched, so we were the only participants on the day. But future dates are booking up fast, and you’re advised to reserve ahead as soon as possible.
Enjoy a variety of dumplings on the tour. | Photo: John Lee
Dim sum and more
Our first Dumpling Trail stop was a great find that most visitors wouldn't discover on their own. 4 Stones Vegetarian Cuisine mastered meat-style veggie dishes long before it was a hot foodie trend. Famous for everything from kong pau ‘chicken’ to ‘beef’ noodle bowls (they also make amazing meatless gyozas and wontons), we dove into their bestselling BBQ cut buns—a soft, pork-like slice slathered in sweet sauce in a house-made bread roll.
Then it was time to walk to nearby Empire Seafood Restaurant. One of Richmond’s largest and most popular Chinese restaurants, the multiple tables here are often packed with chatty diners. And at this time of day, dim sum is on every plate. We sampled several delicious dumplings here, from velvety shrimp dumplings to juicy soup dumplings to crunchy wu gok taro dumplings with crispy, nest-like exteriors.
One of the benefits of being guided by a local foodie is that you get to visit great restaurants while also learning about the scene and gathering hot tips for other places to eat during your stay. For many visitors, our guide explained, that’s just as important as the tour itself. But there’s also plenty to eat on the Dumpling Trail Tour, so you likely won’t need to worry about dining again for the rest of the day.
Stop three was nearby Tsim Chai Noodles. Many of the tables were full at this Cantonese home-style restaurant, but we slid into a vacant spot and ordered a round of crunchy-coated shrimp wontons. The perfect snack food (who needs chicken wings when you can have crispy wontons?), it was hard to resist eating a few too many of these. But they were also very hot, so after the first bite we left them to cool a little.
The shrimp wontons are hard to resist. | Photo: John Lee
To market to market
The final two stops on our tour took us into the Richmond Public Market. This lively place is full of busy produce, live seafood, and BBQ meat stands on the ground floor—we took a few minutes to circle the area and peruse the vendors—as well as an upper floor food court that’s one of the city’s best for Asian food fans. Each counter here is a mom-and-pop style delight for foodies, and there’s a wide diversity of dishes available.
Our guide led us straight to Xi'an Cuisine, a counter loved by in-the-know locals. We were not lucky enough to catch the owner hand-pulling noodles here—a sight many visitors snap photos of—but we soon found a table and tucked into two of his most popular dishes: pan-fried pork buns and silky-smooth, soft wontons swimming in a spicy sauce. Both were delicious.
Not that we were finished. After packing much of the previous two dishes to-go, we found room for a sweet dessert. Peanuts Bubble Tea is another Richmond Public Market legend. And while bubble teas are their staple, their other popular must-have was just the right size for our well-filled stomachs. A delicate little Taiwanese wheel cake—we went for the coconut version—turned out to be the perfect finale to a great culinary exploration of city centre Richmond.
Cap-off the tour with a sweet treat, such as wheel cakes. | Photo: John Lee
If you go:
Vancouver Food Tour’s Dumpling Trail Tour typically takes around three hours and visits five restaurants. The route and restaurants can change but food at each stop is included in the price. The tour costs $60 + tax per person, and the starting point is the lobby of the Vancouver Airport Marriott Hotel at 7571 Westminster Highway—an easy eight-minute walk from the Canada Line’s Richmond-Brighouse Station. Tours generally have four to 12 participants, but private tours can also be arranged. For more information—including how to book—visit Vancouver Food Tour’s website.