Sunday, September 28, 2008

Oh Shit, We Are in Canada! Part I: Jade Dynasty

So, sorry I haven't been around much. I was in the field all last week with no internet (except on my phone, like I'm gonna blog on that thing), and yesterday Scott and I got a wild hair up our asses and came to Vancouver, BC. In this shaky financial climate I find it most prudent to just get the fuck out of Dodge. (Just joking, we're not rich enough or poor enough to feel any of this foolishness, although our mortgage is now mysteriously owned by another bank.)

We actually did premeditate this trip, in that we bought plane tickets and made hotel reservations a few weeks ago. Other than that, we didn't do diddly shit for planning. We literally stepped off the plane, got a car and a map and started driving around town to find something that looked good to eat. We were pretty tired after only getting 5 hours of sleep the night prior, and ended up snacking on some crappy pizza (think Pillsbury dough, pigeons and a Middle Eastern dude behind the counter). We did find a poutine place that was way too tiny for my tired, bitchy mood, but made a mental note to return to it later this week when the crowds thin.

Today we made our way to Chinatown, and after walking around a bit, realized there are really no restaurants around here. Like in Portland, the Asians here don't actually live and eat in Chinatown, they just own businesses and do their shopping for herbs, produce, bootleg DVDs and unlicensed Disney merchandise. We did, however, get extremely lucky to score a table at the packed little hole-in-the-wall, Jade Dynasty.

Shrimp and mushroom shu mai with tobiko

Soft and fluffy barbecue pork hum bao

Dim sum is a regular Sunday brunch that we enjoy, and while we normally just go straight for our favorite shu mai, hum bao and a plate of gai lan with oyster sauce (the Holy Trinity), this time we were overjoyed to discover xiao long bao on the menu. I think I actually squeed my pants a little when I saw it on the menu.

Xiao long bao are also known as soup dumplings, and are my favorite dim sum small bite. They're difficult to find in Portland; in fact, I only know of one cart downtown that has them, and they aren't that great there. These, though, were succulent and flavorful dumplings of seasoned pork with unctuous broth. You dip them in tangy red vinegar, nibble a small hole in the "skin" and slurp out the broth hiding inside, then eat the rest of the dumpling two or three bites. Making a loud slurping sound will signal to the staff that you are thoroughly enjoying them. I recommend a cold Tsingtao to wash down the hot dumpling.

A guy seated next to us was visiting from Puerto Rico. He didn't know what to order, so we pointed him in the right direction. We shared some of our House Special Noodles with him (he gladly passed along some of his way-too-much salt and pepper squid in exchange). These noodles were pretty good - I liked the crispy bottom of the fried noodle, but parts of it were a little on the over-cooked side and tasted a bit burned. This is probably the point, but I still ate around it. The pork, shrimp and scallops were tender and unassuming with baby bok choy and mushrooms, and the classic Cantonese sauce was a familiar taste of soy, rice wine and garlic thickened to gravy with corn starch.

Caveats: Jade Dynasty was a nice place to sit and get away from the herds of junkies, tranny prostitutes and Asian shoppers of Chinatown, but I hear Richmond is where to go for the real action. The food here wasn't anything you couldn't get in any average-or-better Chinese joint in any town with a sizable Asian population, except for the xiao long bao, which were outstanding (despite the amateurishly clunky appearance of these dumplings, they tasted great).

We were annoyed, however, that insead of wonderful carts laden with tubs of congee, foil-wrapped packages of ginger chicken and stacks of small steamer baskets hiding the soft dumplings within, rolling around for you to lazily point and eat (the instant gratification feels so decadent), Jade Dynasty is far too tiny and cramped to accomodate a single cart, let alone a caravan of them. You make your selections on a checklist, and then wait for your food as you would in any other restaurant. The waitress got our sheet mixed up with our neighbor, and he happily devoured our hum bao before we noticed the mistake and had a painful, Rost in Transration conversation with our waitress to straighten it all out. I forgive them for this, though, and so should you, if you find yourself wandering around in Vancouver's Chinatown on a Sunday afternoon, hungry for dumplings.

Jade Dynasty
137 Pender Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604.683.8816
Dim Sum served all day

Jade Dynasty on Urbanspoon


Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

Glad to see you're enjoying the delights of another Chinatown in Vancouver. your descriptions are hilarious. Love a dumpling and a cold Tsingtao...can't wait for the next excerpt.

Manggy said...

Your guy is a botanist too? That's so cool! (Apologies if I'm misinterpreting...)
I know, I'm missing half my life, never having seen a xiao long bao before (but I do have recipes though... Light bulb over head!). But those fluffy buns with the barbecued pork inside is a perennial (aaah! see what I did there?) favorite of mine!

Alicia Foodycat said...

I have only heard about soup dumpling - lucky you for having some! The lack of carts (and the fact they serve it at dinner) is the thing that kills dim sum in London for me. It HAS to be brunch, it HAS to have carts and they HAVE to cook my gai larn right in front of me. Otherwise I might as well get takeaway.

Núria said...

What an expert you are on Asian food! I would need your advise when choosing my dishes...

Isn't it great to go on a trip just like that... a car, a map and a whole in the stomach ;D

Peter M said...

Welcome to Canada, Thelma and Scott.

Enjoy your stay, don't bring your guns up here and enjoy the ride!

PS. Did you get my Twitter note on who to ask for Vancouver tips?

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I have yet to visit Chinatown in Vancouver. I frequented Toronto. In Calgary we lived within walking distnace of Chinatown which coinsisted of mainly restaurants and had dim sum every Sunday morning. I'll look forward to reading about your other adventures in Vancouver. There is a tour you can take through Chinatown with lunch included.

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

How fun for you guys!!! I used to love to go places and do that. No plans just go where the wind takes you! All changed with kids though!

Love the knowledge you have on Chinese Food!

glamah16 said...

Lucky you to get away. CS has friends in Vancouver we have been meaning to visit. I have heard of these soup dumplings. Steamy Kitchen gave a recipe once that I have yet to 'attempt'.

Anonymous said...

Are you still in Vancouver? If you're there on a weekend you should check out the Richmond Street Night Market - the food selection is amazing! Oh, and the baked goods at Granville Island. And so many others! Have a wonderful time!

Syd said...

You make those dumplings sound irresistible. Sadly, we can't get them here. Nearly every Asian restaurant is of the takee-outee variety. That, or sushi. *sigh*

michael, claudia and sierra said...

no dim sum in nashville worth going near

the end
(but only out of sadness)

Brittany said...

No dim sum in NW Ohio either. FOOLS!

cookiecrumb said...

See, I didn't know you were supposed to nibble and slurp.
I just chomped, and nearly drowned.
But (as they say of moose turd stew), GOOD.

Lo said...

Thanks for letting me slip along in your pocket to slurp around in the loveliness of a nice dim sum adventure!

No dim sum here in Milwaukee either... unless there's some undiscovered delight waiting for me around a dark corner. So sad!!

Heather said...

Petah - The great thing about Chinatown is that I feel the same amount of alienated no matter which one I'm in!

Mark - Oh, no Scott is a software engineer. I was out of town without him last week. :P

Foodycat - I totally agree. If this place weren't so tiny it would have been unforgivable to not have carts.

Núria - I'm no expert, just a fan! :D

Peter the Greek - I didn't bring any guns, but luckily all the junkies here seem too high to be dangerous. :P

Valli - Thanks for the tip! I've never seen a tour with lunch included.

Judy - We're definitely taking advantage of our freedom while we have it. :)

Courtney - You should do the whole Pacific NW! You can visit Portland too. :)

Tina - We'll be gone by next Thursday, but Granville Island is definitely on the list.

Syd - You need to come north sometime. We Yanks can hook a sista up.

Claudia - Well, maybe next time you're on one of your adventures you should schedule it in!

Brittany - I guess your Cincinatti-style spaghetti must be so good that it's worth staying there?

Cookiecrumb - I think the napalm burn would've done me in, but drowning would come close.

Lo - I was wondering what that tickling was! :D

Emily said...

Enjoy your Canadian vacay. I'm very hungry for dumplings right now.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Yum. There aren't too many places in my immediate vicinity that do dim sum, so it's wonderful when I get the opportunity. This meal looked like a wonderful experience. I'm so into those pork bao!

Brittany said...

Fun- I love the couv. I've never had dim sum there though...

Thank you for your informative "nibble and slurp" instructions. I've always just shoveled my xiao long bao in my pie hole. Now I feel like such an oaf.

"Rost in transration" You fucking crack me up.

peter said...

I'm surprised that you could even post at all; I thought that the Canadian interweb used a different gauge of tubes.

NYC has superlative dim sum; the second best I ever had was in Sydney. I bet Vansterdam has more good out-of-the-way joints if you know whom to ask.

Nikki @ NikSnacks said...

Ahhhhh! I love this post! Like for real. OK, #1 so I used to watch Bourdain's No Reservations when I was playing the part of a gluttonous TV whore before Lent early this year and he went to China and ate dumplings and I was jealous and I can't find any of those here. Chinese restaurants suck around these here parts.
#2 I'm planning my vacation for next year as we speak and we're putting names of cities in a hat and Vancouver is #1 of my three choices (I haven't picked the other 2 yet) If I win, I'm going here. #3 I have something for you on my blog. I wish it were a dumpling, a pot of beans. Or just pot. But it's not. It is pretty cool though.

Kyller Cat said...

Glad you enjoyed our favourite hole-in-the wall restaurant. Too bad you didn't ask for advise where to find good dim sum in Vancouver before you came up. If you like Xiao long bao there is a restaurant opened up by a lady who does really good ones on Broadway and near Granville Street(I'm not good with names but can describe how to get to places!). The next time round you come up, let us know and we'll make sure you get some more recommendations.