With 800+ restaurants, Richmond has an endless menu of international dine-out options. But you can also exercise your adventurous appetite at the city’s numerous food courts. These fancy-free spots are a budget-friendly way to sample authentic, often unexpected dishes. And one of the biggest of the bunch is inside Aberdeen Centre mall.
Steps from the Canada Line’s Aberdeen Station, there are dozens of stands here, ranging from rare outposts of big Asian chains to independent mom and pop operations with legions of loyal followers. If you’re a first-timer, start by circling the food court and perusing the menus, noting which dishes seem particularly popular with customers. Still unsure of what to try? Don’t be afraid to ask what the most popular dishes are and dive right in.
Keep in mind that weekends and lunchtimes can be especially busy here—eating off-peak may be a good idea—and many stands only accept cash or cash and debit.
Saboten Japanese Cutlet
The first Canadian outlet of an Asian chain with 500+ location, you’ll likely spot the lineups at Saboten as soon as you step off the escalator. The queue moves quickly though, and it’s well-worth the wait for a range of Tokyo-style comfort dishes centered on what may be the best tonkatsu breadcrumb-fried pork you’ve ever tried: perfectly crisp coatings enclosing velvet-soft boneless meat. There are several set menu variations—including Japanese curry and fried-shrimp versions—but the detailed plastic models of several options make choosing easy.
Don’t miss: the Tenderloin Set includes three freshly-fried breadcrumb pork medallions, along with rice, miso soup, and finely shredded cabbage. The only problem? Three might not be enough…
Tender Loin Set from Saboten Japanese Cutlet. | Photo: John Lee
Wu Fung Dessert
Wu Fung Dessert is known best for their celebrated street-style chicken wings. Fresh-cooked (let them cool before you tuck in; they’re really hot), glazed to perfection, and served in portion sizes from 3 to 12 pieces, you’ll wish you’d ordered the next size up, no matter which option you choose. But a small order is a great side for a larger Wu Fung main: consider a brothy bowl of tofu skin with noodles.
Don’t miss: the crispy-skinned, crunchy-coated chicken wings are almost legendary—add a little bit of sweet hoisin sauce for the full effect.
Chicken wings from Wu Fung Dessert. | Photo: John Lee
Not to be confused with the nearby Lung Kee congee and noodle stand, one of Aberdeen’s busiest food court counters (hence the large TV screen announcing orders ready for pick up) specializes in popular Cantonese dishes from shredded pork chow mein to stir-fried beef in black bean sauce. It’s easy to find something you’d like on Leung Kee's extensive menu, but why not combine it with a side order from nearby Bubble Waffle, where Asian street food snacks include shrimp balls and the infamous stinky tofu.
Don’t miss: the Yang Chow Fried Rice. For under $10, you’ll receive a gigantic serving full of meat, shrimp, and veggies. It’s easily enough for three or four diners to share if you plan to get a few dishes from different food court stands.
Chef of Dumplings
There’s an authentic hawker stand feel to this unassuming, easy-to-miss option in the middle of the food court. But when you’re craving comfort food, Chef of Dumplings is worth finding. Dumpling combos are the menu’s foundation but there’s an even better option loved by in-the-know locals: tortilla-like Chinese pancake wraps stuffed with meat (your choice of lamb, pork, or beef). As befits the best comfort dishes, they’re naughtily greasy, but you’ll be offered the handy option of a disposable plastic glove when you collect your order!
Don’t miss: the crispy, crunchy, and delicious hot lamb pancake wrap is a great small lunch.
Lamb pancake wrap from Chef of Dumplings. | Photo: John Lee
Located among several of Aberdeen Centre’s busiest food stands, Mambo Cafe is one of the mall’s comfort food kings. Like a Hong Kong hawker stand with a seemingly endless menu, you’ll find hearty dishes ranging from breaded pork chops to egg and luncheon meat on macaroni. There’s a fusion-feel to many of the dishes but whatever you decide to try, be sure you add—for just 50 cents more—a cup of hot, creamy, sweet HK Milk Tea. If you need to fuel up on a cold day, this is a great place to dive into a large, well-priced dish.
Don’t miss: the baked pork chop—breaded and cut into thick slices, it’s slathered in sauce, cheese, and veggies, and served on a layer of rice. It’s a wonderfully gloopy mess to keep you going for a full afternoon of Aberdeen Centre shopping.
Baked pork chop from Mambo Cafe. | Photo: John Lee
From crepes to frozen yogurt, there are plenty of temping desserts at Aberdeen’s food court. But the best of the bunch for sweet treat fans can be found at Snowy Village. Its Korean shaved ice bingsoo will make you question your previous love for all-things ice cream. Order a serving for yourself—a shared order will only lead to fisticuffs—and you’ll soon be diving into a deliciously cold and creamy confection, with topping options ranging from mango to Oreo cookie crumbs.
Don’t miss: the strawberry bingsoo, topped with whipped cream and sliced fruit, is enough to send you into a revelry of delight. In fact, you’ll soon be wondering how long you have to wait until ordering your next one.