There’s a new (to me) Cantonese restaurant in Richmond, and it has the best name: Old Buddies. If you Google “Old Buddies,” some images of the restaurant come up, but mostly there’s a whole lot of pictures of grey-haired, literal old buddies. I don’t know where the restaurant name came from, but I do know I love it.
Perhaps a more important thing to note is that Old Buddies has become known for having some of the best wontons in Metro Vancouver, a pretty high honour considering the number of Cantonese restaurants around.
So, what makes an exceptional wonton? For starters, the texture plays a very important role. The filling is made up of coarsely chopped shrimp mixed with a bit of minced pork, and it should all ‘stand up well’ when bitten into. Ideally, you want a bit of a bounce back, or some crunch. A mushy wonton is no wonton at all.
The wontons should be seasoned well, rich but not fatty, have a delicate but sturdy wrapper, and be served in a mild but flavourful broth that’s usually partly shrimp-based.
The most famous dish containing this style of wontons tends to be wonton noodle soup, which is comprised of 4 or 5 wontons sitting atop a bed of thin egg noodles, all submerged in broth. Here’s the thing: while I like this, I am rather greedy when it comes to wontons, and would therefore way rather have all wontons and no noodles. I like the noodles, but usually they just make me think, “I’d rather be eating wontons.”
So, instead of ordering the wonton noodle soup, I ordered the straight wonton soup ($5.75), which at Old Buddies means I received a bowl with 8 gigantor shrimp and pork baseballs.
Yes, at Old Buddies the wontons are LARGE, 2 or 3 biters each, and they come with a lot of broth.
They were excellent – great texture and flavour, and very filling. I ate them with a side of steamed choy sum, which was good in the sense that it provided me with something green, but it was rather sad looking, truthfully.
For dessert, I told my server I was happy to wait the 20 minutes it takes to prepare the soft tofu pudding (“doufu hua” or “tofu fa”), and ordered myself a barrel. Yes, at Old Buddies it quite literally comes in a tiny barrel, which is half the charm of this dish.
The process by which soft tofu pudding is made is similar to that of fresh cheese: a coagulant is added to boiled soy milk, which separates the tofu curds from the whey. This takes some time, obviously, so guests are reminded they’ll need to wait 15-20 minutes for their dessert to arrive. This is quite convenient, as it allows you to relax and digest all those giant wontons you ate!
Tofu pudding is mild, and therefore comes with syrup (typically ginger-flavoured) to sweeten it up.
Old Buddies’ ginger syrup had a wonderful kick to it, and I went to town pouring that stuff into my bowl.
It was a light and refined way to end my meal, and again, just check out that barrel! There are two sizes you can order depending on the size of your group; I went with the smaller, which serves up to four, and cost $6.50.
While I can’t yet speak to the rest of Old Buddies’ menu, it’s certainly worth visiting for the wontons. The interior is tidy and sleek, it’s affordable, the staff are friendly, and if you need something more hearty for dessert than soft tofu, you can always head next door to Leisure Tea for a mountain of shaved ice, mango, and condensed milk….