After reading Vancouver Magazine's "Best Things to Eat and Drink in Vancouver 2009", I decided to pick my favorites among this extensive and interesting list of food and drink encompassing a multitude of cuisines. Besides the strong Asian influence in Vancouver cuisine, it seems that Vancouverites appreciate creative comfort food as well. Check out http://www.vanmag.com to see the full list for yourself but here are the ones that I would be thrilled to try when visiting Vancouver.
The first dish that truly caught my eye is called "Paan". Paan is unlike anything that I have seen in cuisine. Based on East and Southeast Asian tradition, Paan is served before a meal as a symbol of hospitality which cleanses the palate and freshens breath. There are different variations of this offering ranging from Tobacco Paan, a betel leaf (a minty leaf) filled with powdered tobacco and spices to Areca nut Paan, a betel leaf filled with a mix of chopped areca nuts and spices. The tastiest sounding of the bunch has to be the Sweet Paan usually filled with coconut, fruit preserves and spices. The East African style restaurant, Jambo Grill and Goodmorning Paan, serves this intriguing appetizer among many others.
Poutine, the Canadian specialty consisting of French fries, cheese curds and gravy is number one on my list of Canadian things to eat. Some say it is more difficult to find quality poutine in Vancouver than the eastern Canadian cities like Quebec where poutine originates. However, Vancouver Magazine says the place to go for poutine in Vancouver is Belgian Fries. Belgian Fries offers a menu item called "Deluxe Poutine" which is traditional poutine with a rich meat gravy and roasted veggies. Any place that just specializes in fries is a place worth checking out.
Dosa, a traditional South Indian dish, is a crepe made from rice and black lentils. Variations of dosa are endless including fillings of potato, cheese, vegetables, Chinese noodles, chutneys, or spices. Many of these variations include cooking or topping the dosa with ghee, which is a form of butter originating in Southern Asia. At Saravanaa Bhavan in Vancouver, you can find Giant Dosa. The large dosa are 2 feet in length and are filled with potatoes, onions and spices covered in ghee. Chutneys of tomato, mint and coconut are served with this creation. Dosa sounds like the perfect combination of a sweet French crepe and the flavors of savory and spicy Indian cuisine.
Simple but one of my favorite things to eat, Pork Gyoza is one dish of many that encompasses the Asian influence in Vancouver. A gyoza is another word for a Chinese dumpling, which I had the pleasure of sampling many times when I visited Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics. "Handmade Pork Gyoza" filled with pork and shiitake mushrooms are just one of many snacks that you will find at The Diamond in Vancouver.
"Crispy Ceci "(chickpeas) at the casual Italian restaurant, Campagnolo, is a dish that I would to sample or even try to prepare at home. Chickpeas alone are one of my favorite snacks, so this special spin on ceci sounds out of this world. After deep-frying the ceci, they are tossed with arugula, mint, lemon, chili flakes, and perperoncini. This dish gives me ideas of the many ways that chickpeas or ceci could be delicious.
As a lover of all noodles, the "Delux Tan Tan Noodles" would be right up my alley from Szechuan Chongqing. Another sign of the Asian influence, this Szechuan restaurant makes this dish super spicy with ground pork and pickled vegetables tossed in a chili and peanut sauce.
Another dish that I would have to sample would be the "Vietnamese Submarine Sandwich" from Au Petit Cafe, a cafe specializing in Vietnamese and French fusion. "Prawn Crab Rolls" from Pattaya Thai Restaurant sound amazing with their crispy rolls filled with prawns, crab meat and cream cheese. From Dundarave Fish Market, Vancouver Magazine recommends the "Riptide Squid". Cuttlefish is used instead of squid tossed in Thai and Korean flavors of spicy chili, rich oil and sweet sugar, and then deep fried of course. Finally, my last of the top picks from Vancouver Magazine's best things to eat in Vancouver has got to be the "Dungeness Crab Hot Pot" from the fantastic Chinese restaurant Sea Harbour. Long crab claws are soaked in a mixture of kabocha squash, black beans and garlic.
Any of these dishes sound like the perfect finale to any fun, busy day in Vancouver. I can just imagine indulging in the "Dungeness Crab Hot Pot" after a long day on the slopes in Whistler or at the lodge watching others injure themselves on the slopes. Either way, the cuisine in Vancouver seems just as innovative and intriguing as the city itself. To those of you who are enjoying the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, then check out Vancouver Magazine's, "Best Things to Eat and Drink in Vancouver 2009" before making your dinner reservation. Or if you are envious of those in Vancouver and cannot be there like myself, check it out anyway to see the amazing culinary surprises that Vancouver offers.
-The Editors of Vancouver Magazine. "Best Things to Eat and Drink in Vancouver 2009" Vancouver Magazine. February 20, 2010. http://www.vanmag.com/Shopping/Food_and_Wine/Best_Things_to_Eat_and_Drink_in_Vancouver_2009