The word ‘mochi’ often thought of as those squishy, chewy, sweet little rice cakes beloved by many. It’s also the name of a fusion and bubble tea café in Richmond, located on the second floor of a mall on McKim, overlooking Garden City Road.
Mochi Fusion Cuisine is in the same mall as my favourite courtyard, Fraser Deli, and Garden City Hot Pot, though I’d never before ventured up to the mall’s second storey. I had expected it to be more of a casual bubble tea café, but it turned out to be a large, modern restaurant with an enormous menu.
They weren’t kidding around when they used the word ‘fusion’ in their name; the menu has everything from HK-style baked dishes to hot pot, Thai/Taiwanese/Korean/Japanese dishes, snacks, entrees, soups, every kind of bubble tea imaginable, and desserts like “green tea tiramisu.” Something else they serve that you wouldn’t find in many other Richmond bubble tea houses? Alcohol! Rounds of shots seemed especially popular on the menu.
When I arrived, I noticed other customers were in both small and large groups, and of varying ages. That made sense quickly, because Mochi seems to have something for everyone. The menu suits all tastes (as long as you like Asian food), and there were also multiple TVs playing sports, so no one was put out from watching The Game while out for dinner. I sat next to a huge window overlooking a soon-to-blossom Magnolia tree (so there are views other than sports, if you wish).
It took me awhile to navigate the big menu, but I eventually decided to try something I haven’t yet had: chicken ginseng hot pot.
This traditional soup came with a side of steamed rice, and arrived madly simmering over a hot coal.
The broth was clear, and there were slices of ginseng, strings of ginseng ‘beard,’ chunks of chicken, and two types of red ‘berries.’
The latter two I discovered the names of just by googling “ginseng soup.” I found that almost all the recipes asked for the same six things: chicken, ginseng, goji berries, Chinese red dates (also known as jujubes), a sprinkle of salt, and water.
This mixture of ingredients makes a soup renowned for its healthful benefits. Ginseng has been revered for its medicinal qualities for thousands of years, and is known as a stress-reliever, fighter against signs of aging, mental stimulant, weight controller, and others. There are a number of ginseng varieties available, each with slightly varying properties. One of the most popular being American ginseng, which is commonly used in tea (check out Ten Ren to buy some!).
Both Chinese red dates (jujubes) and goji berries are said to also have medicinal benefits, so when combined with ginseng and all the goodness of chicken soup, I was probably eating the most healthy meal I’ve had in 305 days!
The flavour was certainly an acquired taste, however. The herbaceous broth was mild, but the ginseng was quite bitter, which is not a flavour I’m traditionally drawn to. The jujubes added some sweetness and the chicken was juicy, but this hot pot is certainly not something I’d order because I’ll crave it anytime soon. But who knows, maybe I’ll learn to! As far as my palate goes, this was certainly packed many with an interesting new flavour, all with millennia of history behind them.
My slightly less healthy accompaniment to the meal was a mango Calpis drink, which is a type of uncarbonated Japanese soft drink that tastes mildly of yogurt. The mango flavour was sweet, and while I couldn’t finish all of it, it was sort of like having dessert. I bet Japanese kids LOVE this stuff.
I’d recommend heading to Mochi if you’re in a group of people with varying tastes. And if someone doesn’t love what they’ve ended up with, you can buy them a shot!
Do you use ginseng regularly? What are your favourite ways to prepare it?
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available