Although it’s a rather old school restaurant, Sing Yee has only been in Richmond for a handful of years. This place began life in Vancouver on Victoria Drive, across the street from my old workplace. I’d drop in whenever I would forget to bring food as not only were the lunch specials friendly to my poor student-working-retail-part-time wallet, but the menu was consistently delicious.
Although the space looks fairly new, Sing Yee is a throwback to a different era of Chinese restaurant that’s becoming increasingly rare these days. While everyone else is trying to stand out from the crowd and reinvent the wheel, Sing Yee, and other temples to traditional Chinese cuisine like it, are content to play the hits and play the hits well. Although the restaurant is packed enough to require a reservation at 9:30PM on a Sunday, it’s not due to any sort of heavy advertising, social media coverage or hype. It’s just that the food here is that good and everyone in town knows it. Don’t just take my word for it… Sing Yee is a go-to for my parents, who are probably far more discerning when it comes to Chinese food than I will ever be.
Sing Yee opens at 5:00PM (they start taking reservations at 3:00PM) and stays open until 2:00AM everyday except Tuesday, when they’re closed. Their special late night “da laang” menu is available starting at 9:00PM. Reservations are highly recommended as their strict adherence to it means drop-in wait times can be very long.
Just like at Hou Lok, ordering $20 of food gets you a free large bowl of plain congee. It’s actually straight up plain white congee here at Sing Yee. No veggies or herbs or meat anywhere in that rice porridge but that’s sort of the point. The bland congee offsets all the salty and spicy dishes that got you the congee in the first place.
While Sing Yee’s is a touch more than the everything-for-$5 menu at Hou Lok, portions are also a bit bigger and overall, the food is a bit better as well. The plates are still meant for sharing but they’re substantial enough that everyone gets more than a bite.
There’s no way you can go wrong with a trifecta (or more) of fried things covered in that addictive blend of hot peppers and salt. Sing Yee ups the ante with their Deep Fried Tofu with Chili Peppers and Salt ($6.95) by tossing in a generous amount of fried garlic chips as well, which you can spoon into your plain congee for added kick.
Same deal with the Deep Fried Squid with Chili Peppers and Salt ($7.95). It’s inevitable that this combination is delicious but I had to make sure anyways. For science.
The Deep Fried Silver Fish with Chili Peppers and Salt ($8.50) is the first dish I picture when da laang is mentioned and it doesn’t disappoint here. These crispy little fish and plain congee are a match made in heaven.
We also got a couple of duck dishes like this Marinated Soy Duck, which we ordered pretty much just because it was on special at only $5.95. To our surprise, it was actually a rather large portion…probably half a duck! Plus it was quite well done. The meat is tender, moist and rich with flavor.
Our second duck dish was a bit off the beaten path: Hot and Spicy Duck Tongues ($8.50). If you didn’t know what duck tongues looked like, now you know! They’re a thin slab of hard cartilage covered in crunchy, snappy meat. It’s a bit strange, I admit, but they’re rather addictive. I did find that the dish had a lot of “filler” though, with way more onions and peppers than actual tongues.
The traditional Chinese idea of “yeet hay” is nearly impossible to explain in English but it basically refers to an “imbalance” in our bodies caused by eating too many fried, salty or otherwise unhealthy foods, a concept that our Chinese parents have tried to convince us of since we were children. Those of us Chinese kids that grew up in Canada have always been a bit skeptical, but there’s no denying that veggies are good for you.
And it’s especially easy to fill your veggie quota with delicious greens like these sauteed Tong Ho, or edible Chrysanthemum greens, with Garlic ($7.95). The sharp, grassy greens are still somewhat crisp, the flavors balanced out by the strong, savoury garlic that permeates everything.
Preserved bean curd is to my liking although several of my friends claim this sauteed Ong Choy, or a water spinach, with Spicy Preserved Bean Curd ($8.95) is their jam. There’s an overwhelming fermented flavour to it for me, which is an acquired taste that I haven’t acquired.
I don’t know why they refer to pork belly as “pork toro” in the Sauteed Pork Toro with Green Beans ($7.95) but regardless of the language mashup, the combination of juicy, tender slices of pork belly and crisp green beans is simple and seriously yummy.
Duck tongues notwithstanding, the menu above is not only delicious but accessible even if you aren’t familiar with Chinese food. Who doesn’t love fried things – and I guarantee the combination of chili peppers and salt they douse everything with is addictively delicious. Da laang is intended as a fun, social late night meal so remember that everything is meant to be shared family style.
As mentioned, Sing Yee is a local favorite, a benchmark when it comes to traditional Cantonese food. I’m all for the exciting and the innovative when it comes to food but sometimes, there’s nothing quite like some familiar comfort food. Is Sing Yee the best place in Richmond for late night da laang? It’s certainly a contender.
Sing Yee is one of those rare restaurants in Richmond that takes major credit cards rather than cash only, slightly ironic considering there’s a TD Canada Trust next door. Reservations are recommended and parking can be difficult in the crowded Continental Shopping Centre.