It’s the 14th of March, 2013/03/04 – do you know what that means? It means HAPPY PI DAY EVERYONE! Also known to many as Pi(e) Day, it’s the one and only time I happily acknowledge the existence of math.
I was alerted to Pi(e) Day last night by my friend Dominique, who shared this incredible link from buzzfeed.com with my friend Lindsay and me, both of us being insatiable lovers of pie (Lindsay K. in particular). I’m a little disappointed I hadn’t realize Pi(e) Day was upon us sooner, because it would have been the perfect excuse to visit Richmond bakeries all day yesterday and share them on the blog. Instead, at the bottom of this post, I’ll let you know what bakeries do have pie should you wish to seek some out yourself, and will share a few recipe links for pies I want to be consuming right now. Also, this has reminded of the time I got to be a judge in a pie contest. My greatest dreams were realized that day.
Yesterday, I met my friend Andrea for lunch at Ningbo. It’s a restaurant that was recently recommended to me on the blog, and one I’d never heard of before. That’s why I was surprised when I put the address into Google Maps and saw that it’s in Parker Place, a mall I’ve been to at least a dozen times, and yet have never noticed a restaurant called Ningbo.
Curious and slightly skeptical of Google Maps, I cycled to Parker Place, parked my bike at the front, and asked a security guard inside the front entrance if Ningbo existed. He said it did, and told me if I walked directly east through the mall I’d find the restaurant’s entrance on my right hand side. I did exactly that, and ended up at a doorway with plenty of signage, none of it in English.
I went inside, and found it was indeed Ningbo, though I’d come in a back entrance. The main doors (with signage in English) is at the back of Parker Place, an area I’ve never wandered been to since I don’t have a car to park. It’s a medium-sized restaurant, with a few smaller rooms at one end, and plenty of items on the menu I’d never seen before. As with the menus at Bushuair, Ningbo’s menus were huge, and had pictures.
We went with several of the dishes recommended to me on the blog, and a few others that sounded appealing. We started with crunchy salt and pepper fava beans ($5.50), which are deep-fried and addicting – the perfect snack.
We also had the shrimp skin with parsley ($5.24), which was actually tiny dried shrimp (xia mi) with cilantro. I liked this dish for its freshness, but wish the shrimp had been stronger in flavour – these were quite mild in comparison to ones I’ve had before. I wanted a punchier, saltier taste!
We also had Chinese spinach (mustard greens) with pine nuts ($5.72), which was fabulous. Healthy AND full of flavour.
The Shanghai pan-fried juicy crab buns ($4.84) were our favourite thing on the table. The dough was fluffy and fresh, the bottoms were dark brown and crispy, and the filling was just right.
The Chinese mushroom in bean curd roll ($5.50) was good – the mushrooms were tender and the bean curd had a firm, toothsome texture, but again, I wish the flavours had been stronger.
The fried rice noodles were soft ($7.75), and sautéed with bean sprouts, sliced pepper, pork, and shrimp. They weren’t greasy, were seasoned just right, and made for a great side dish.
The last things we tried were the steamed yam buns ($4.36), which left us confused. Truly befuddled. These took a half hour to prepare (which our server warned us about), and looked like dark brown bones.
To us, their name (steamed yam buns) implied they would be soft, or perhaps filled with something, but neither of these assumptions proved correct. They weren’t so much buns as they were sticks, and sticks of hard, chewy ‘dough’ that settled into our stomachs as gracefully as lead. The flavour was decent – slightly sweet – but the texture did not win us over. Perhaps if our expectations had been different, or if we have the opportunity to try these a few times we might come to like them, but the ‘steamed yam buns’ are not something we’ll be craving anytime soon.
Yams aside, I’d certainly recommend Ningbo, and would love to try it again. There were so many interesting things on the menu that I wanted to taste, and hope I will someday!
Now, back to pie. If you’re in Richmond and craving some today, I’d recommend stopping in at Broadmoor Bakery, the Sweet Spot, Diplomat Bakery, or the Steveston Bakery. Sweet Spot who won’t necessarily have pie, but they’ll have tarts, and they’re close enough. You could also pop into Kumare for some coconut pie!
Because I don’t quite want to give up on cream just yet, here’s Bon Appetit’s recipe for Banana Cream Pie with Salty Bourbon Caramel.
Bourbon leads us to another obvious choice – Bourbon Pecan Pumpkin Pie.
Peach pie, via Smitten Kitchen, thoughts of which can get us through these last few winter months.
The best of England – Banoffee Pie!
I am truly in danger of listing several hundred pie recipes here and not getting anything else accomplished today, so I will stop here. Please feel free to share any of your favourite pie recipes, and/or your recommendations for dishes at Ningbo. Thanks very much to grayelf for the recommendation.
A very happy Pi(e) Day to all!
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available