Hidden Gems: Cultural cuisines

Local restaurants serving flavour-packed dishes you don’t want to miss

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A collage of food from three different cuisines: banh mi sandwiches; a hot pot spread with sizzling soup, raw meat, and other ingredients; Barbeque chicken on top of a plate of rice.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Marie Jen Galilo

By: Marie Jen Galilo, SFU Student

Rather than eating at the same restaurants all the time, why not discover something new? Don’t miss out on the diverse cultural cuisines Vancouver has to offer!

Pearl Hot Pot
7154 Sperling Ave, Burnaby / 12:00 p.m.–9:30 p.m. daily
Price range: $15.95–$28.95 per pot 

If you’re looking for a place that sells good food and offers a memorable dining experience, Pearl Hot Pot is the place for you. Hot pot is a soup dish in which ingredients are submerged and cooked in a continuously simmering broth. Originally from Mongolia and spread throughout China, the dish has been adopted into various East Asian cuisines.

Like many hot pot places, at Pearl Hot Pot, you cook the ingredients yourself. The tables have electric stoves which are used to keep your soup hot enough to cook your choice of ingredients as you dine. You’ll want to come here when you’re really hungry, because hot pot is a big meal with many components. 

The “main pot combo” is a full package that consists of regular soup, a bowl of vegetables, your choice of noodles or rice, spicy or regular dipping sauce, a drink, and ice cream for dessert! It also comes with other add-ins like seafood and dumplings. Their ice cream flavours differ depending on what’s available, but my favourite is the soft-serve taro ice cream, which is perfectly earthy, fragrant, and not too sweet. For the main pot, I usually order the brisket beef pot with spicy sauce, fruit tea, and udon. You can also choose to add more items on the side, like tofu and fish cakes. Aside from their delicious food, this family business also has quality customer service. You can refill your soup without extra charge, and the restaurant accommodates vegetarian diets.

Hapag Ihaw-Ihaw Filipino Grill
5432 Victoria Dr, Vancouver / WednesdaySunday 11:00 a.m.8:00 p.m.
Price range: $4.50–$8.50 per side dish, $4.75–$13.50 per dessert serving, $18.00–$22.00 per main dish

“Hapag Ihaw-Ihaw” translates to “table barbecue.” If you’ve never tried Filipino barbecue, you have to go to Hapag Ihaw-Ihaw. Trust me when I say your taste buds will thank you for it. They marinate their chicken and pork in Filipino BBQ sauce consisting of soy sauce, lime, sugar, and garlic. 

After grilling the meat, you’re left with a perfectly sweet, tangy, savoury, and smoky barbecue that’s served with a vinegar dipping sauce and pickled cucumbers. This restaurant also has other traditional Filipino foods, like lumpiang shanghai and lumpiang gulay (meat and vegetable spring rolls) pancit miki (stir-fried noodles with vegetables and seafood) and crispy pata (deep-fried pork hock), to name a few. They also sell desserts, like leche flan (Filipino crème caramel), buko (coconut) pie, and ube (purple yam) cheesecake

My favourite things to order are the pork BBQ skewers, sisig, and leche flan. Sisig consists of grilled pork pieces, onions, chillies, and bits of chicharon for crunch. You can mix in an egg for richness and add a squeeze of lemon for a sour kick. The leche flan takes me right back to my childhood with its creamy, sweet, and smooth custard and sticky caramel sauce. Be sure to check this place out on your next food adventure!

Banh Mi Saigon
5397 Victoria Dr, Vancouver / SundaySaturday 8:00 a.m.5:00 p.m.
Price range: $7.50–$8.00 per sandwich, $7.00 per dessert serving

It’s time to say goodbye to plain sandwiches and up your sandwich game with banh mi from Banh Mi Saigon. This quaint sandwich shop sells a variety of flavour-packed Vietnamese subs, all served on a freshly baked baguette that’s crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside, topped with mayo, soy sauce, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and jalapeño. 

For the filling, you can choose to add meat like cold cuts, chicken, pork, beef, or fish. They also have a vegetarian option with tofu and vegetables. For dessert, you can order pandan, water chestnut jellies, or chè ba màu, which is a layered dessert consisting of sweet beans, jelly, milk, and ice. For beverages, they offer cold drinks like teas, coffees, and freshly squeezed juices. They also have special items like steamed buns and rice crackers. I like to order the special banh mi with ham, cheese, meatballs, meatloaf, and pâté. 

The savoury and slightly salty taste of the meat is perfectly complemented by the creamy cheese and the tang of the pickled vegetables. After trying these sandwiches, one thing is for certain: you’ll definitely keep coming back for more!

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