I’m always up for a treasure hunt, especially accidental ones.  I guess you could call this post a Bykle-Upon, though I didn’t set out for it to be.  I was trying to find a bubble tea house, but instead of finding tapioca pearls I ended up in a quiet little food court in the top of Pacific Plaza.  Until then, I’d wrongly assumed this complex just had office space and a few restaurants on the ground floor.

Pacific Plaza is in the area of Cambie and Sexsmith, and in looking at the blue GPS dot on my phone, I was supposedly standing directly on top of the bubble tea shop I was looking for.  But since there was no tea in sight, I wandered into the courtyard of the plaza and discovered 3 new storeys of shops and a signs that read “Food Court.”  I figured this must be where the bubble tea was hiding.

I followed the arrows up a covered escalator, around a few corners, through some doors, down a hall, and ended up in a modest but busy little space.  I hesitate to call it a food court, lest I give you visions of New York Fries and Taco Bell counters serving long lines of bag-laden shoppers.  Nope.  Not here.

There was probably only about 4 vendors in operation (none of which were said bubble tea house), with kitchens cooking up fresh food for customers seated at about a 20 or so tables.

I decided to try Woo Ying Vegetarian, which was adorned with Buddhist informational pamphlets and wall-hangings.  They have a small menu, with several of their features set out for customers to see.  They looked good, so I ordered one of each, though it was a little tricky to get translations of what they were.  One, which appeared to be 3 different preparations of bean curd, was described as “a sweet and sour taste,” and the other was “vegetables inside the skin of bean curd,” which looked like a thin egg omelette.  Both items were served at room temperature, and altogether came to $5, including tax.  SCORE.

The julienned carrot, imitation meat, bean sprouts, and greens inside the bean curd roll were well-seasoned, and I liked the texture of the wrap.

My favourite, however, was the second dish; it had incredible flavours, and even better textures.  Of the three different variations, I was most into the dark, sponge-like squares.

Then I began doubting they were all curd, and enlisted the help of a friend.  She told me this:

“The yellow and red are bean curd (tofu).  This kind of tofu is made by boiling the soy milk and collecting the film that is formed in the surface of the pot. It is known as bean curd sheet like individual sheets, folded against itself to the desired shape/thickness, the layered texture can also help absorb all the sauce.  In many vegetarian dishes different kind of this bean curd are placing together in order to mimic meat texture.  In this photo, the bean curds are marinated to desired flavour and served room temp. BTW, the red is food colouring.  The dark brown one looks to me is gluten (kao fu).  Like the bean curd tofu, wheat gluten is  also used extensively in Chinese cuisine as a meat substitute. It looks like a sponge and when braised can absorb all the sauce, usually served in room temp or even cold.”

So I was halfway there, and lessons to be learned are these:

a) Don’t try this if you’re afraid of red food colouring,

b) I apparently LOVE kao fu/wheat gluten, and

c) I do not recommend Woo Ying to celiacs.  Yikes.

There were several other vendors that looked interesting, so I’ll return to try them.  There’s one that doesn’t sell hot food, but rather bags of frozen, homemade dumplings.  An older lady and young man were filling and wrapping some as I walked by.  Who knows, maybe this secret little food court will turn out to have the best dumplings in town!

And now, not because it has anything to do with food courts or bean curd (segue superstar, right here), I have another fresh berry cake recipe for you.  I assume it’s clear by now that I love cake, and made these luscious, lemon-y beauties the other night after bringing home a box of fresh blueberries.  The great thing about this recipe is that it’s yogurt-based, so you have every excuse to eat it for breakfast.  Not that I’ve ever had a problem justifying cake first thing in the morning, but it’s a good line nonetheless.  Thanks to Smitten Kitchen for this versatile treat.

Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Loaf
Adapted loosely from Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (if you’re skipping the fruit, you can also skip the last tablespoon of flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed (miniature wild blueberries are great for this, and pose the least risk of sinking)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 (+) minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in (a pastry brush works great for this, as does using a toothpick to make tiny holes that draw the syrup in better). Cool.

* I used two round cake pans instead, and sprinkled the blueberries on top, rather than mixing them into the batter.  It needed less baking time, probably about 40 minutes instead.  Also, I found this cake was even better after resting for a day.

Woo Ying Vegetarian, Pacific Plaza

8888 Odlin Crescent, Richmond BC


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