The Richmond BC Dumpling Trail
By foot, car or cab
By: Linda Kissam
Where to enjoy the best dumplings in North America
For those of us living or visiting North America, Richmond BC comes to mind as THE quintessential place to try authentic Chinese, Korean and Japanese dumplings. Just an hour and a half from the Washington State border and 20 minutes from the Vancouver airport the smart smart smart Visit Richmond BC people have created a Dumpling Trail (complete with map and photos and videos) of all the dumpling yum you could ever imagine or crave.
I recently spent two days there sampling 12 categories of dumplings. That’s about a hundred different kinds of authentic creative dumplings and other sides. It’s easy. Just rent a room at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel (which is actually in the downtown Richmond area) and you are set to go. You can easily walk from the hotel to over half of the 20 recommended spots. The rest you can drive or cab to. Each spot represents a unique experience. No two stops will be alike. You’ll find everything from mom and pop to large showcase type places. English is spoken everywhere. It is safe to walk anywhere.
Just plan your sampling event from 10 am to 2 pm. The group I toured with was a party of five. Our total bill for each stop was under $72. That’s about $12 per person at each sitting for the best foodie experience of your life. Bring cash, although some (not all) take credit cards.
Dumplings are ordered in traditionally bamboo trays. So you can say yī lóng (一笼 /ee-long/ ‘one tray’. Popular fillings include the standard minced beef, cabbage, garlic and chives. The number of dumplings in each tray varies by size of dumpling and restaurant offerings. Getting several types to sample at one time is a good way to go. Dumpling tasting is a social event. Relax, take your time, chat.
Typically one more dish is ordered than there are people eating. This often leaves food spare – but that’s a bonus in my opinion. The Chinese custom is always to order too much to show generosity and hospitality. A dish per person is usually enough. There is a Chinese superstition about the number 4, as it sounds like the word for death in Chinese, so four dishes are seldom ordered. Likewise in the Canton area seven dishes are seldom ordered as it is a custom there to eat seven dishes the day after a funeral. Largely such customs are ignored now apart from on special occasions, and Westerners would certainly not be expected to follow them.
Try ordering a range of different dishes if there are a number of people eating, including different types of meats and vegetables. Soup/broth is a customary starter in China. Dim Sum is the perfect vehicle to trying a wide variety of dishes. Sweet desserts are not a tradition in China, but the caramelized banana/apple or steamed buns with condensed milk dip are available at many restaurants and are delicious.
And finally – most people enjoy eating with the chopsticks provided…however if you haven’t quite the coordination for that utensil, ask for a fork. Your host just wants you to enjoy yourself. No judging going on, I promise.
Whether you enjoy your dumplings crispy, chewy, pan fired, boiled, meatless, floating in soup or sizzling on a cast iron skillet, this trail is where you’re going to find the most authentic Chinese food in North America. If you have two days to find the best – try the following. The number indicates placement on the Dumpling Trail map.
17. Samsoonie Noodle & Rice for Mandu dumplings
12. Su Hang Restaurant for Xiao Long Bao dumplings
13. Empire Seafood Restaurant for Siu Mai and Dim Sum
14. Pepper Lunch for beef & chicken Gyozas
19. Xi’An Cuisine at the Richmond Public Market for Spicy wontons in spicy sauce to die for.
7. Shanghai Station for Guo Tie pot-stickers
2. Golden Sichuan Restaurant for Sichuan style spicy water boiled dumplings.