I love food courts.
Never EVER did I expect to say those words. Though I should probably qualify them further: I love food courts IN RICHMOND, BRITISH COLUMBIA. Without a doubt, learning that “I love food courts in Richmond” was one of the greatest surprises of my 365 Days of Dining, and that’s because I’d previously thought of food courts as nothing but fast food pits I’m forced to eat in while shopping. And the fact I hate shopping didn’t help their cause!
So, why do I love food courts in Richmond, specifically? Well, the main reason is because they’re full of ‘mom and pop’ gems. The stalls I’m referring to aren’t New York Fries or A&W; rather, they’re tiny, unglamorous, privately-owned, and run by just one or two people (who are, quite often, an actual ‘mom and pop’ team!)
These pint-sized restaurants make wonderful and inexpensive Asian cuisine, often specializing in one or two dishes from a particular region. While people often say there’s no replacement for a home-cooked meal, you can come VERY close to getting one at a number of Richmond food courts.
Also, if you’re a person who prides him or herself on finding hidden gems, you’ll get HUGE street cred when you take your friends to some of these food courts in Richmond – that’s because many of them are practically hidden!
Here are my top four picks for food courts to seek out in Richmond (plus a few extra stops). So now, instead of going shopping and grabbing something to eat, you can go specifically for the food, then perhaps do a little shopping after!
This stall specializes in food from Tianjin, the largest city in Northern China. Their most popular dishes include a Tianjin ‘burger’ (roujiamo), noodle soups, soft tofu soup, and a crepe-like wrap filled with crunchy ‘crackers’ and savoury sauce. I know how bizarre that description sounds, but trust me, it’s good. I didn’t get to try their burger or soup the last time I was there, so I plan to an in upcoming post – to O’Tray’s I shall return!
This shop is probably the reason I say I LOVE Richmond food courts, rather than just like them. It encompasses everything I described above; it’s run by one person (an older gentleman) who doesn’t speak English, has a lovely smile, and hand-makes hundreds of dumplings each day in a small and very modest kitchen. It’s like discovering a long-lost Chinese grandfather who wants to feed you good food. He just has to charge you for it. That’s the ONLY difference.
Richmond Public Market
This is a great place to checkout because in addition to a meal, you also get an education – in fresh noodle-pulling, specifically.
Most of their dishes feature noodles (called la mian), which are pulled fresh for each order by a man with impressive skills. This is a very difficult technique to master, but he makes it look as easy as making toast!
I’m clearly into noodles at the Richmond Public Market. Noodles Daily is both friendly AND makes a mean bowl of tan tan noodles. The man who served me didn’t speak much English, but the only thing you really need to establish is spice level, which can easily be communicated through sign language. I’d highly recommend this place for quick and hearty takeout.
Empire Food Court
Run by a friendly man and woman, this place offers a variety of dim sum favourites and soup. My favourite dish: their flaky turnip cake, which I think about REGULARLY. It’s one of the first things that pops into my mind when someone says “where should I go for takeout in Richmond?” Honestly, go and takeout all the turnip cakes they have.
This place proves that food court food does NOT have to equal fast food. James Snack is famous for their baked claypot rice, which takes at least 20 minutes to prepare, and requires a $3 deposit for the claypot. That means you can take it home, if need be.
This is where I had my first ever bowl of tan tan noodles, which is exactly the dish I’d recommend from this stall. They don’t exactly rank high on the aesthetics scale (as you can see from the picture), but they’re saucy and spicy and just plain wonderful.
Lucky you! You get to snack on Singaporean-style jerky while in the food court at Parker Place! This tender, sweet/spicy jerky is seriously addictive, and sold by weight, so you can grab a little to eat with your lunch, or take a larger bag home with you.
Other great stops: