Chow Town

Richmond, British Columbia, has the best Chinese food this side of Shanghai

Linda Lau Anusasananan

Chow Town Vital Stats

Year founded: Incorporated on Nov 10, 1879; designated as a city on Dec 3, 1990

Population in 1980: 96,000

Population in 2004: 176,000

Average February temperature: 7.5°C (46°F)

Dates of Chinese New Year events: Approximately Feb 2–15 (New Year's Day is Feb 9)

Percentage of Asian Residents: 59% (40% are Chinese)

Number of Chinese restaurants: Roughly 400

Average house/condo price: $300,000 Canadian

Flying time from Hong Kong: About 13 1/2 hours

At our table at Kirin Restaurant in Richmond, British Columbia, the conversation focuses on food, a recurring theme any time Chinese people dine together. "Honestly, Chinese food is better here," says Daisy Wong. "More flavor and freshness."

As we dip thin slices of raw geoduck into seasoned soy, the clean, fresh sweetness of the clam seems to affirm these thoughts. From our table, we can look across the street to see another new restaurant about to open. Miranda Ng says, "My friend is going there tonight." Writer and food consultant Stephen Wong ― no relation to Daisy ― responds, "And by this weekend, the underground pipeline will let everybody know how it is."

"I'm a food spy," says Clara Lau, who makes the 20-minute drive from Vancouver three or four times a week to eat in Richmond. "All Chinese are," says Stephen. Daisy agrees: "It's a Chinese thing."

When it comes to superb food, there's a lot to spy on in Richmond, a Vancouver suburb of 176,000 residents. Located on a series of islands that stretch between two arms of the Fraser River, Richmond has, by general consensus, some of the best Chinese food in North America. And its reputation is growing beyond our continent. "Hong Kong is still the best place for Cantonese food," says Ng, a frequent traveler to Asia. "But we're catching up."

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