Chinese New Year at Aberdeen Center

February is here, which means exciting times are upon us!  The Chinese New Year is less than a week away, and celebrations are already underway at Aberdeen Centre.

Chinese lanterns at Aberdeen Center

There are hundreds of red and pink Chinese lanterns hung around the mall, and a huge New Years-inspired display in the centre court.  Aberdeen will host a wide variety of activities over the next week and a half, including a New Year’s Flower and Gift Fair from Feb. 6-11th, a countdown to the Chinese New Year of the Snake on Feb. 9th, and performances throughout the day on Feb. 10th and 11th.

Chinese lanterns at Aberdeen Center

All around Richmond I’ve noticed that new lanterns are hung daily, and it’s building anticipation for my first Chinese New Year!

While at Aberdeen, I decided to give a Japanese tonkatsu meal a try, and discovered it appeased my cravings for pork, rice, curry, and crunch all at the same time.

Saboten in Aberdeen Center food court

I went to a place called “Saboten” in the food court, which is the first Canadian location in a much larger worldwide chain.  According to their website, Saboten was founded in 1966 in the neighbourhood of Shinjuku in Tokyo, and means “cactus.”  The name was given with hopes that, like the prickly plant, the shop would remain successful in even the harshest of conditions.  Funnily enough, after reading “cactus,” I first thought it referenced the fine, spiky bits of deep-fried batter on the outside of their cutlets, so I guess the name can have multiple interpretations.  Worldwide, there are over 500 Saboten shops in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and now Canada, all specializing in deep-fried pork known as tonkatsu.

meal examples at Saboten

The shop is sleekly designed, with examples of their dishes displayed in a case at the front.  They’re perfectly-styled, plastic versions of the real thing, and I was fascinated by them.  I found myself staring at a tiny bowl of pickles for far too long thinking “how does one go about making a fake pickle?” and eventually got around to placing an order.  I chose the Tenderloin Katsu Curry (‘katsu’ is short for tonkatsu), which cost $8 and came with miso soup and a small bowl of pickles.

Katsu curry meal at Saboten

How did the real-life version of the curry compare to its plastic counterpart?  Well, it turns out display meals are kind of like Barbies – plastic, perfect, and impossible to compete with.

Katsu tenderloin meal from Saboten

My meal wasn’t quite as pretty, but that didn’t matter because it was SO, SO GOOD.  I was starving when I had it, and the combination of rich, thick curry sauce, sticky white rice, and crunchy slices of juicy tenderloin could not have been more satisfying.

Katsu tenderloin meal from Saboten

I went with the tenderloin rather than the pork cutlet, because the man behind the counter said it was leaner.  It was just the right amount of pork, and the fried, crunchy coating was extremely delicate, even lighter than tempura (leave it to the Japanese to figure out a way to make deep-fried foods appear ethereal and light!).  It was a hearty portion for $8, and the miso soup and small bowl of pickles rounded it out nicely.

Japanese pickles

Saboten is not the place to go if you’re in the mood for a nice, light Japanese meal like sushi, but it most certainly IS the place for Japanese food of the hearty, crunchy, meaty variety.  Whether you choose it or another shop in the Aberdeen food court, I’d highly recommend visiting the mall at some point in the next week.  There’ll be plenty to see, eat, and do.  Happy Monday, everyone!


Saboten, Aberdeen Center

4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC


Cash and cards accepted

Meat heavy menu, not recommended for vegetarians