Richmond still has a few madly awesome tricks up its sleeve, and Chuan BBQ is one of them. My friend Carl and his sister were the ones to ‘discover’ it, and they’ve been several times over the past few weeks. Chuan BBQ specializes in charcoal BBQ, and while some of their dishes are in the more traditional styles of Beijing and Sichuan, the chef also incorporates a number of other culinary influences, including Korean and Japanese. It’s fusion, but not in a “kimchi quesadilla” kind of way.
The space is fairly large, and filled with the smoky aroma of BBQ. The menu was full of meaty options (including BBQ’ed rabbit), but it was long and rather daunting, so we asked Roger, the owner, for his recommendations. That’s excluding for the roasted half-lambs they’re known for, however, which require a crowd of at least 15 people to tackle. It’s an experience I would like to have though, and don’t think it’ll be too hard to cajole a crew of meat-hungry friends to come along.
While we couldn’t quite handle the half-lamb on our first visit to Chuan BBQ, we did manage to try a lot. We started off with two cold salads: a smashed cucumber salad with garlic and cilantro, and black fungus in mustard oil.
Both were phenomenal, but I especially loved the first one; the cucumbers were smashed to better absorb the vinegary dressing but they were still crunchy, and the garlicky dressing was perfect. PERFECT I tell you!
Then meat-fest began, first with a very traditional Beijing-style hot pot that I haven’t seen anywhere else in Richmond. It’s fuelled by charcoal at the bottom, which heats a central, cone-shaped metal structure in the middle surrounded by water.
Rather than the broth, food is cooked in the water, which is simply flavoured with green onion and ginger. This being what people used to do when they couldn’t afford the more expensive, meat-based broths.
We cooked slices of lamb, frozen tofu, vermicelli noodles, and Napa cabbage in the water,
then dipped them in bowls of slightly spicy peanut sauce with cilantro.
It was a wonderful way to begin the meal. With the hot pot, we snacked on deep-fried stinky tofu that had been fermented in-house, which Roger referred to as “Chinese cheese.”
Honestly, it did smell rather mushroomy and cheesy, and we loved it. I was rather afraid to take my first bite since I didn’t LOVE the stinky tofu I had at Boiling Point, but I think deep-frying it makes all the difference. Or, maybe if you just attach the word ‘cheese’ to something, it becomes instantly irresistible to me.
Next came chicken teriyaki skewers, which upon first bite we all remarked were beautifully smoky from the charcoal.
There were also Korean-style BBQ short ribs, which were flavourful, though not quite as tender as at a place like Haroo. Roger said he learned the Korean technique while working as an airline catering company that served a Korean airline!
For me, the pièce de résistance was the cumin-encrusted BBQ’ed lamb loin, which was tender as butter and earthy from the cumin seeds. Unreal.
We also had spicy BBQ’ed squid with Korean chili oil,
skewers of grilled enoki mushrooms coated with a smoky chili paste,
and a pan-fried, pork-filled pancake, which was like a giant dumpling.
Close to the end of the meal, Roger also brought out steamed dumplings filled with pork, fennel, and dill.
Green, herbacious, and amazing!
There was only one dish that scared me, and that was the bowl with a fish COVERED IN SICHUAN PEPPERCORNS AND CHILIS.
This is me, afraid. We later realized this picture is hilariously reminiscent of my 365 headshot.
Remember at Bushuair, when we also had a fish covered in chilis? That was spicy. I was sweating. So was this dish, but in the most wildly flavourful and delicious way. My friend Richard, who was there for the meal at Bushuair and loves spicy food more than anyone I know, was in heat heaven – he was eating the chilis straight up, for Pete’s sake! Spice-fiend or not, it’s impossible not to love this.
We washed this epic meal down with cold bottles of Yanjing beer, which the restaurant sells cheap (8 for $20!). They’re the perfect pairing for BBQ’ed meats.
After Chuan, we headed to Bubble Waffle Café, because the perfect follow up to a grilled meat-fest is sweet, crunchy batter.
Emily had never had a bubble waffle before, so we ordered the original and chocolate, both of which were consumed quickly and enthusiastically.
If you’re a fan of BBQ but looking to branch out from the more standard BBQ’ed duck and pork, you should check out Chuan BBQ. It’s different from anything else you’re likely to find in Richmond or Vancouver, and is a great place to bring a group. This was a meal my friends and I will be talking about for awhile, and if anyone beats us to enjoying the lamb-roast, send me pics, please!
Richmond, I have no doubt you have even more tricks coming my way. I’m still waiting to find a 24 hour bakery that specializes in cake, giant cookies, and gin-based cocktails, but feel confident you’ll deliver on that.
Cash and cards accepted
Call at least a day ahead to request their roasted lamb
Not very vegetarian friendly
*Many thanks to Emily Teel for contributing the cover photo and many others in this post! It was so nice to have a second shooter.
Hot Pot: $5
Sliced lamb: $12.99
Napa cabbage, frozen tofu, vermicelli noodles: $2 each
Dipping sauce: $6 for 6 bowls
Lamb loin: $18.99
Stinky tofu: $5.99
Spicy fish pot: $15.99
Stuffed pancake: $6.95
Grilled short ribs: $5.98
Squid with chili oil: $5.98
Chicken skewers: $5.98 (for 2)
Black fungus in mustard oil: $$4.99
Cucumber salad: $5.99
Dumplings with dill: $4.50
Grilled enoki mushrooms: $5.38