Good day everyone, and welcome to the official 365 Days of Dining Gluten-free Day! Think of today’s post as a buckwheat crepe, or finely-whipped meringue. No flour allowed.
You may like gluten, you may love gluten, you may avoid it by choice, or you may avoid it because it’ll give you a tummy ache/kill you. While I personally adore gluten, I’m doing my best to make eating in Richmond accessible to all. Soooo, today I’ll share some of Richmond’s gluten-free treasure, and guess what – there are MANY!
A few weeks ago I asked my friend Megan, a nutritionist who’s gluten-intolerant, to join me for a meal in Richmond. It was then that I started thinking of all the things she’d could have in Richmond, rather than those she couldn’t. Of course wheat noodles, Chinese donuts, dumplings, and some baked goods would have to be avoided, but we were hardly without options. Remember, if you’re celiac and can’t handle trace amounts of gluten, remember to ask your server or the chef for a list of ingredients. Soy sauce and some other sauces, for example, have some gluten in them.
Here’s a small sampling of some of the wheat-free and/or gluten-free dishes I’ve eaten so far:
We were going to try out New Spicy Chili Restaurant, but it was closed for some reason, so we wandered a few doors down instead.
Jubilant Restaurant is located a short walk from the Aberdeen Sky Train station, and it wasn’t very busy when we arrived at around 7pm. Before I go any further, I have a confession: we looked the restaurant up on Urbanspoon, and I completely misread a review on Chowtimes. As I was browsing their description of the Fish and Squid Balls in Noodle Soup, thought I read “there is very little to like about this dish,” so we passed on it. Turns out it actually said “There is very little not to like about this dish,” and it’s an award winner! Oops. My apologies, and if anyone else has had it and wants to share their thoughts, please do!
Anyways, our focus yesterday was ‘what can we get on the menu that doesn’t have gluten?’ and like I said, that’s pretty easy in a Chinese restaurant. We had sauteed vegetables with pork ($10.98, our server was eager to help us order, and that’s what he recommended), a bowl of chicken, ginger, and green onion congee ($5.98), a whole steamed tilapia with pickled mustard sauce ($19.98, at least that’s what we asked for….I’m not entirely sure it’s what we got), and a sweet sticky rice roll ($2.98).
The bright green vegetables and thinly-sliced pork were good, and we finished off almost the entire plate. I actually would have been happy with just the straight vegetables, sans pork.
The congee was creamy and perfect for a chilly night. I especially liked the feathery-thin slices fresh ginger in it….good for a cold.
The whole steamed tilapia was an impressive sight, and its cooked white flesh came away easily from the bones. The sauce, however, wasn’t what we expected. It had chopped green and red peppers, pineapple, and fermented black beans, so we wondered if they gave us the wrong sauce. It didn’t seem particularly pickled or mustard-y at all, and regardless, I didn’t really feel that the strong, fermented beans were balanced out all that well with the other ingredients. I don’t know if we were just unaccustomed to the flavours, but this dish was a disappointment.
The last thing we tried was the sweet sticky rice roll. The soft, very sticky rice was filled with red beans, and came with a side of honey that we drizzled on top. So tasty! So very gluten-free! This was Megan’s favourite dish.
Savouries aside, some of the trickiest gluten-free things to find are baked goods. Most cookies, bread, pastries, cakes, and pies are off-limits to Megan, so I was determined to find her something gluten-free and good. REALLY GOOD. Enter ‘The Baked Goods of Steveston.’
There are plenty of options in Richmond’s southern-most end: Bell’s Bake Shop has gluten-free goods; Alegria Cafe makes gluten-free chocolate chip cookies; Sweet Spot Bakery have gluten-free products including ice cream, creme brulee, chocolate pot de creme, French macarons, homemade marshmallows, and incredible flourless chocolate cookies.
These were such chocolatey, rich rounds of goodness that even I would choose to buy them, and I am a happy consumer of gluten. I got one for Megan, and she couldn’t help but sneak a bite before our dinner at Jubilant.
Another place in Steveston to find gluten-free sweets is Sinfully the Best, whose cookies I told you about in a post just the other day. Yes, those had gluten in them, but most of the shop’s other specialty products – like their handmade chocolates – are entirely gluten-free. I spoke with Sinfully the Best’s resident chocolatier, Doanh, who gave me a sample of all their most popular items. Tough, tough day on the job.
Some of their top-sellers include white chocolate passionfruit hearts (which tasted so pure and natural I believe them to be an acceptable replacement for fruit), Malibu rum with coconut (if you can’t afford a vacation just get one of these instead), Rum ganache with caramel (not too sweet and smooooooth), and the always-classic salted caramel.
There are dozens of other varieties, filled with everything from hazelnut praline to smoked bacon, and on average, they cost between $0.96 – $2.00 per piece. They also carry these darling caramel chocolate mushrooms by renowned French chocolatier Michel Cluizel.
The shop has a variety of gifts, including specialty lines of jams, vinegars, oils, and local and BC-made artisan goods. There’s gluten-free chocolate cupcake mix for sale, and of course, more chocolate.
In addition to several varieties of bars, I was thrilled to discover they carry Michel Cluizel’s ‘Mangaro’ bar, which is one of my favourite chocolate bars in all the lands. It’s not always easy to find, so I’m pleased to know I’ve got a constant supply of MC in Richmond.
They also sell couverture chocolate, which has a higher percentage of cocoa butter and when tempered, has a greater sheen, better ‘snap,’ and creamier, richer flavour than confectionary chocolate.
It’s superior quality, and intended more for use in stand-alone chocolates (dipping, moulding, garnishing etc), rather than being mixed with other ingredients. Do not confuse these little guys with Chipits.
Other things to know about Sinfully the Best: they offer mousse cups to every customer who walks in the store (I tried the lemon mousse in a dark chocolate shell, and it was a knockout), you can book wine and chocolate pairing workshops for you and a group of friends, and they do cooking classes, ranging from $70-75 per person per class. Themes range from French macarons to all-things caramel, but guess what’s coincidentally lined up for this Sunday? Gluten-free desserts! How beautifully timed. Chef Charles Massion, executive pastry chef at The River Rock Casino Resort, will show participants how to make flourless chocolate raspberry cake, mango mousse, and orange creme brulee.
I could go on and on, but I shall end our gluten-free Richmond adventuring here. If you’ve got any other flourless fête-ing tips to share, please do! And for those of you love the gluten, don’t worry. There’s a bread post in your future…..
Vegetarian (and gluten-free!) options available
Cash or cards accepted