I recently returned from a 4-day trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. For a $13 Amtrak ticket, it couldn’t be passed up. Once I decided to go, I discovered my Dutch CouchSurfing host from Amsterdam last year had just moved there, a Chinese surfer I met in Bellingham could host me and there were a few CouchSurfing meetings organized for the Cherry Blossom Festival and Vancouver’s 125th Birthday Celebrations! I knew the four days would be packed with CouchSurfing activities, but in the end, the focus was all on food.
$3 Chinese Steam Bun Lunch
My trip to Vancouver started off by grocery shopping. But not just normal, run of the mill grocery shopping. I went to T&T Supermarket in Chinatown to the one of the largest Asian food stores I’ve been to (it’s second only to Uwajimaya in Seattle).
Besides the yummy stuff I bought for later (pumpkin Pocky and mango marshmallows) I discovered a hot food cart with steam buns. The were cheap and I’d never had them, so I gave them a try. They were all good, but the pumpkin steam bun was my favorite! It actually looked like a pumpkin!
$10 Ukrainian Dinner
My first fantastic sit-down meal was with my host from Amsterdam. We met on Denman Street at Ukrainian Village Restaurant for potato and fried onion perogies (dumplings). Topped off with some Ukrainian Iced Tea (iced tea with red wine added!), it was a delicious meal and a good welcome into Vancouver’s food scene. Our evening concluded at the Beaver & Mullet Bar enjoying a Granville Island beer and watching the Canucks loose to the Oilers (sorry, Canucks!).
$4 Belgian ‘Lunch’
The next day didn’t start off very healthy. I was planning on meeting CSers for a Cherry Blossom Walk & Talk, organized by Vancouver for their Cherry Blossom Festival. I decided to swing by Commercial Drive on the way and spotted Belgian Fries.
I had just enough time to try what I had enjoyed in Belgium: fries with amazing mayonnaise sauces. I’m not really one for mayo, but you usually can’t go wrong with any of the sauces the Belgians put on their fries. I opted for the chipotle sauce as two employees said it was their favorite. Yummy.
$7 Chinese Dinner
After the cherry blossom walk (in the beautiful sun!), Vancouver’s 125th Birthday Celebration was on! Food trucks lined the road and, in the post-sunset cold, I enjoyed a cup of warm Indian Chai. After defrosting myself by the then-lit Olympic Cauldron, I wandered over to the Dim Sum cart and ordered spring rolls and chow mein.
Since I’m obviously not Asian, the server handed it to me with a fork. I’m decent with chopsticks, so I handed back the fork. Bad decision. Even if you’re good with chopsticks in normal circumstances, your abilities certainly begin to suck more and more as your fingers get colder.
I think it took me about 45 minutes to eat my portion and it took a serious effort. Please learn from my mistake and if your hands feel cold, save yourself the embarrassment and just use a fork!
$8 Mongolian Lunch
Bellingham has a lot of cool food options, but I have never seen a Mongolian grill restaurant, so I was excited to head to a Mongolian grill restaurant my friend recommended. It was just ok. I remembered Mongolian grill as being much better, but maybe mine just needed more sauce. Filling and relatively cheap (here, you pay by the bowl, not the weight).
$15 Chinese Dinner
One strong pull to Vancouver was to meet up with my Chinese friend to talk about my upcoming move to China. Finally, on my last night we went out for a nice Chinese dinner! Somewhere out near Fraser and 47th (Ho Yuen Kee, I think), there is a delicious Chinese food!
Luckily, I was with three Chinese people, so I left the ordering to them and just sat back and relaxed. There with six of us total, so we ordered six dishes and shared them. Three of the most memorable dishes were chicken, duck and tofu. There were so many good things to try, I’m glad we were 6 people so we could legitimize ordering 6 different things!
$8.50 After-dinner Drinks
After returning from dinner, we decided to go out for a pint. We headed to St. Augustine’s near the Broadway Skytrain station. For only $8.50, I tried four beers including Storm Brewing’s 12-year Black Current Lambic. It tasted almost like a fruity brandy. A great way to finish off the night.
$7 Canadian Lunch
Back to Belgian Fries. It was my last day and I had to try west coast poutine. Poutine is a Québécois (French Canadian) dish of fries topped with cheese curd and beef gravy. Heart attack on a plate and if it doesn’t kill you, it is delicious!
I returned to Belgian Fries because it seemed to be well-visited by locals and it was on my way to the next food stop (yes, this trip was all about food). Seriously, this was the only Canadian food I had (besides the local beers) and my giant bowl of poutine in the sunshine was a good farewell to Vancouver.
$8.50 Crazy Dessert
I don’t think anyone should go to Vancouver without having dessert at La Casa Gelato. This place (ready for this?) has 218 flavors of gelato, sorbetto & yogurts.
I went out of a limb and tried saffron, lá dứa (a plant from Southeast Asia) and durian.
Now, durian is a disgusting fruit that a lot of Southeast Asians like. If a hotel forbids durian from even being brought on its grounds, it can’t be good.
I’ve been too scared to buy durian as it’s quite large and would probably take me a lifetime to finish, but for some strange reason, I found myself compelled to try durian gelato.
Well, it wasn’t that bad at first and the flavor changes a lot after you eat it. I recommend eating it fast to get it over with and so the gelato doesn’t melt all over other flavors (you’ll need their purity for a chaser!). But DON’T get durian on the bottom because you don’t want to finish with it! Trust me.
Even several hours later, I could smell the durian on me!
Just thinking about it now I can smell it!
But, all in all, the gelato was delicious and the choices were endless.
$15 Sushi Dinner
A trip to Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without sushi and in VanCity, you can’t go wrong. I met up with my parents and two of their friends for sushi in Gastown and a lift back home. The portions were enormous and I was left full and content for the hour drive across the border and home!
I knew Vancouver was an international city, but I had no idea that my eating would be affected so much! Even on a budget, I was able to eat a wide spectrum of food and never go over $15 a meal! Vancouver cuisine definitely has something going for it and I believe that alone is a reason to go to Vancouver! Bon appetit!