ChowDown Vancouver en route to India

Post by Michelle Pereira in

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Chili Secret's tea mushrooms are wonderfully chewy with a unique earthy taste

My husband and I had planned a three week trip to Portugal, Spain, and India, for him mainly business, for me a culinary tour. But alas, we ended up on the losing end of Icelandic volcano roulette. Miraculously we got a flight to India via Toronto and New York and so the European part of the itinerary will have to wait. Over the next few weeks I’ll write about my experiences on the road, highlighting the food we encounter.

A few hours before we were to leave, I wanted comfort food to remember Vancouver and so turned to my first love, Chinese. The HSBC 2010 list of award winning Chinese dishes had just come out and Lucky Gate, a few blocks from my home in Coquitlam, made it. I never expected an authentic, unassuming, traditional restaurant right in my back yard. The signature dish, xinjiang chicken with hand cut noodles is the highlight – a delicious concoction of chicken spiced with chilies and Szechuan peppercorns, chunks of fried potatoes, and hand cut thick noodles for soaking up the delicious sauce. There was a wonderful tingle with each bite. We rounded out the meal with hot and sour soup: Rich, thick, and infused with shredded vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu. This was more than ample for two and we left with a pleasant warmth in our stomachs.

On the layover in Toronto, we met up with friends, and on hearing about Lucky Gate, insisted on taking us to Chili Secrets, a Szechuan restaurant in Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto. I was blown away by the quality of food – it’s not for the faint of heart as even the mild dishes have a kick. Our friends chose dishes typical to Szechuan cooking. For appetizers we had potato starch noodles in a chili dressing followed by thinly sliced beef in a marinade of chilies and garlic. After this the food came fast and furious. The pork belly with tree mushrooms had an interesting mix of vegetables. Tea mushrooms are wonderfully chewy with a unique earthy taste. The fried chicken buried in whole chili peppers was a daunting bright red and after only a slight hesitation we began to dig out the chicken. What flavor!!

A wonderful mouth numbing experience and we couldn’t resist having just a bit more chicken. We were stuffed and then out came freshly caught tilapia braised in a broth with pickled Szechuan vegetables. Tangy, spicy, fresh, mouth-watering and a huge portion. And so we sat, slowly taking bowls of tilapia, hunting for just a bit more chicken amongst the chilies, and catching up with old friends. What could be better? Vancouver Chinese will always be my first love but I can tell that Markham Chinese will seduce me to come back for a little fling on the side.

I am writing this on a flight from Delhi to Kashmir, and my next installment will highlight Kashmiri food, something not easily found back home.

Lucky Gate Chinese Restaurant, 1139 Austin Ave, Coquitlam, BC, 778-217-0024. Lunch $10-$15/person.

Chili Secrets, 9021 Leslie St, Richmond Hill, ON, 905-754-9119. Dinner $25/person.

- Post by Michelle

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