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Gung Hay Fat Choy!  The first day of the Chinese New Year is upon us, and yesterday I celebrated with a whole lot of hockey, food, and by consuming my first fish eye.

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With plans to spend the afternoon at The Oval, I first grabbed some lunch at Aberdeen Centre.  That’s because I knew it would be quick, and I wanted to get a sneak peek at the celebratory setup, which is impressive; the entire mall has been taken over by markets, lanterns, a live stage, and thousands of people.

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Unsurprisingly, the food court was packed, but I didn’t have to wait long for a fried pork cutlet sandwich from Strawberry Cones.

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While that name you might cause you to expect this Japanese chain to sell snow cones, or something sweet, they specialize in pizza, pasta, and sandwiches (no, I didn’t see that coming, either).

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My sandwich kind of looked like a Japadog, but didn’t taste as good, unfortunately.  The long white roll was filled with lettuce, tomato, pork, mayo, teriyaki sauce, and nori strips, but the pork cutlet was incredibly chewy – almost to the point of being inedible.

I didn’t eat the whole thing, but what I did love was dessert: a mountain of lychee-flavoured shaved ice, fruit, and mango ice cream from Frappe Bliss.  I’ve had similar dishes before, but always found the ice was coarse and difficult to eat.

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This one, however, was so very different.  The ice had been shaved so finely it practically had the texture of frozen cotton candy, and melted quickly and easily in my mouth.  Add to that the creaminess of mango ice cream and chunks of fresh fruit, and you’ve got yourself the ideal summer dessert.  That I will continue to eat regularly in the winter.  Unreal.  This is a must-try at Aberdeen.

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Next, I made my way to The Oval for the second annual Richmond Celebrates Hockey Day.

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There were vendors selling all kinds of memorabilia.  Meet my new favourite player.

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There was also live music, an autograph signing by Guy LaFleur and and Canucks alumni, endless games/activities for kids, and plenty of exhibition games, including these tots.

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I love watching little kids play hockey – they skate so furiously down the ice, falling every few feet and celebrating dramatically on the rare occasion a goal is actually scored.

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One of the day’s big draws was a Canucks alumni vs Richmond Sockeyes alumni game at 4pm, which I caught the first part of.  Some of those guys were……well….not so young anymore, but man can they still play.  I’m sure at 95 they’ll still be able to skate better than I can now.

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The crowd was enthusiastic, and it was a really fun game to watch.  Especially for this little guy.

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After celebrating hockey, I went back to Aberdeen to join a group of visiting media for a Chinese New Year dinner.  At 8pm, we sat down to a 10-course dinner at Fisherman’s Terrace, which was packed.  I’m always impressed with the hard work and efficiency of staff in big Chinese restaurants, but I was especially in awe last evening.

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They put on enormous meals for hundreds of people, and pulled it off (fairly) seamlessly.  It made me tired just watching them.

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Our dinner at Fisherman’s Terrace included suckling pig cold cut combination,

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braised dried oysters with fat choy; deep fried shrimp balls with salad,

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vegetable soup,

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lobster with consommé sauce,

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sautéed scallops with vegetables and mushrooms,

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crispy whole chicken,

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steamed whole rock cod,

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shrimp fried rice in lotus leaf wrap,

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stewed e-fu noodles with crab meat,

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and for dessert, tapioca custard and twin sweet pastries.

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For me, some of the highlights were the braised dried oysters which, when re-constituted, have a much meatier, denser, and less chewy texture than a fresh cooked oyster.  The deep fried shrimp balls had been coated in sliced almonds and baked – I especially liked them with the addition of toasted nuts.

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The fruit salad they came with was dressed in mayo, which may sound unappealing, but tasted wonderful.  I found the lobster to be overdone, but the scallops were decent, and I appreciated the amount of fresh vegetables served with the meal.  The crispy whole chicken was unreal – one of the most tender pieces of chicken I’ve ever had.

The steamed whole rock cod was similar to other fish dishes I’ve had in Richmond, but last night was significant because I got to eat one of the eyeballs.  It was softer than I expected it would be, with a fairly neutral flavour.

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My friend Reena, a great lover of fish eyes, will be proud.

The stewed e-fu noodles looked rather like German spaetzle.  They were soft, with bits of shredded crab mixed in.  Long, uncut noodles denote a long life, and when paired with crab meat, represent regeneration.

Dessert was baked tapioca pudding with sweet red bean paste, almond cookies, and glutinous rice coconut rolls.  The almond cookies were my favourite part, and now that I finally know how delicious they are, I’ll be forced to buy one from each bakery I visit from now on.

The dinner was big, but not overwhelmingly so.  I didn’t feel the need to roll out of the restaurant, and instead walked comfortably around the mall before I went home.

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With this post to write by 8:30am today, I didn’t feel it wise to stay out too late, though I was sad to leave the sweet, anticipatory air of Aberdeen.  With celebrations continuing for the next nine days, however, I have more to look forward to!  Also, many more almond cookies to eat.  Happy Chinese New Year to everyone in Richmond, and beyond!