I recently found myself in the middle of an unexpected and completely wonderful reunion with three ladies I met while studying at the University of Gastronomic Sciences.  Heidi, Wendy, and Samara are fellow UNISG alum, and while I get to see Heidi (of Vancouver) sometimes, I haven’t seen Wendy (of Washingston, DC), or Samara (of New Haven, Connecticut), in ages.  I knew Wendy was visiting, and we’d planned to have lunch, but seeing Samara walk into Deer Garden was a complete and utter surprise!  And a wonderful one at that; she used to live in the Vancouver area and was back for a visit.  That visit wouldn’t have been complete, of course, without some kind of Asian food in Richmond.

Poor Wendy has been fighting a cold – which I believe is against the law in July, isn’t it? – and I immediately thought of Deer Garden.  Someone told me it’s very similar to Cattle Cafe, and we decided a big bowl of spicy broth might help clear her head.

There are two locations in Richmond, and we chose the one on Sexsmith Road, hoping it might be a little less chaotic.  We arrived at 1pm and had to wait about 10 minutes for a table – not bad at all.  Actually, we ended up with a very comfortable booth, and in between my explanation of the menu (“pick your broth, any two toppings, your noodles, and make sure you upgrade your tea!”) we caught up on the last couple months, and years, of our lives.

Unlike Cattle Cafe, at Deer Garden you’re given a paper slip to fill out your order, and while it seemed like there were fewer options than at Cattle Cafe (maybe I’m wrong), I was happy with the selection.  Both Samara and Wendy opted for the malay laksa broth, and Heidi and I went with the peanut and chili oil.  The various fillings picked amongst the four of us were pumpkin, fish fillet, fish puffs, sliced beef, enoki mushrooms, and a few others I’m probably forgetting.

I needed a break from meat, so opted for the pumpkin and enoki; it also came with chopped peanuts on top, a spoonful of ground shrimp paste, bean sprouts, white mushrooms, and the most lovely strands of fresh tofu.  We decided that for vegans, these are the closest thing you’ll get to fresh mozzarella; they honestly had the colour and texture of those milky, stretched curds of a burrata, and had a delicate flavour.  This was my favourite thing in the whole bowl.

Noodle-wise, I went with the udon, and was very happy with my choice; they didn’t absorb too much broth, and were plump and chewy.  Honestly, I don’t think any of us could have enjoyed our soups more; Wendy was wicked impressed, and she knows food, so YES!  We also ordered an appetizer – the pan-fried white turnip pudding – which arrived sometime after our soups.  They were very good; crisp and brown on the outside, with a salty, rich, creamy interior.  They were especially good when dipped into our bowls of broth.

While Cattle Cafe’s soup specials cost $7.95, they’re $8.50 at Deer Garden.  The atmosphere was slightly more refined, and the extra $0.55 doesn’t bother me at all.  I think this is an ideal place to take out-of-town visitors; it’s lively, inexpensive, incredibly tasty, and you’ll never have to worry about leaving hungry.  You’ll just need to make sure you’ve got space in your car to put all the takeout containers!


And now, because I like to bring everything back to baked goods, here’s a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread.  It’s that time of year when your neighbour gives you a bag of them (plus basil, eggplant, and lemon cucumbers, my neighbour is awesome) and you need to use them up quickly.  And deliciously.

This recipe is very moist, and despite being chocolatey, not too sweet.  That feature, combined with the fact that it’s filled with a healthy summer vegetable, makes it the ideal breakfast.  And I mean that.

It comes courtesy of the site SimplyRecipes.com; the only modifications I made were to use vanilla instead of almond extract, and to throw a bunch of dark chocolate chunks on top before I baked it.  Surprising, I know.



4 cups grated zucchini (from about a pound and a half of zucchini

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (use natural unsweetened cocoa, NOT Dutch processed)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup unsalted butter (12 Tbsp or 1 1/2 sticks), melted

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or 2 tsp of vanilla extract)


1. Place the freshly grated zucchini in a sieve over a bowl to catch any excess moisture as it drains, while you work on prepping the other ingredients and preparing the recipe.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle. Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans with baking spray or butter.

3. Vigorously whisk together the flour, unsweetened cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk until there are no more clumps and the ingredients are well combined.

4. In a separate large bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs until smooth, about a minute. You can do this with an electric mixer on medium speed, or by hand with a wooden spoon. (I’m lazy and use a mixer but it’s easy enough to do by hand.) Add the melted butter, instant coffee granules, and almond (or vanilla) extract and beat until smooth.

5. Mix the shredded zucchini into the sugar egg mixture. Add the flour to the zucchini mixture in 3 additions, stirring to combine after each addition.

6. Work quickly, and divide the batter between the two prepared loaf pans. (Work quickly because once the dry ingredients have mixed with the wet ingredients, the leavening has begun.) Place into the oven. Bake for 50 minutes at 350°F, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean and easily. Remove to a rack. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the edges to separate the bread from the pan. Remove from the loaf pans and let cool completely on a rack.

Note that if you try to slice the chocolate zucchini bread before it has completely cooled, it will be rather crumbly. It’s also easiest to slice with a bread knife.

Yield: Makes 2 loaves.


Deer Garden Signatures

3779 Sexsmith Road, Richmond BC


Cash only

Vegetarians options available