Travel

How to do Richmond, B.C., like a local

Famed for its authentic dim sum, also home to the wildest playground and poshest pool you’ve ever seen

By JiaYing Grygiel June 13, 2023

Dinesty Dumpling House

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

THWACK-THWACK-THWACK-THWACK-THWACK. The butcher only pauses to sharpen his cleaver, because the line at HK BBQ Master never lets up. The famed BBQ joint is tucked in the parking garage in the underbelly of a Real Canadian Superstore (actual name). It feels like I’m here to meet Deep Throat. Instead, I discover something far juicier than a political scandal: slabs of char siu pork.

Butcher at HK BBQ Master at Real Canadian Superstore

Photo by JiaYing Grygiel

Welcome to Richmond, B.C., a city geographically in North America but whose heart and soul directly channel Asia. Almost 70 percent of the population of this busy suburb of Vancouver is Asian, according to the 2021 census. The Chinese community alone accounts for 54 percent of Richmond residents.

What’s the star attraction here? Eat, digest, repeat. Come with baggy clothes and Canadian cash, go home with a fresh ’do, and a full belly. This is the place to go for Asian haircuts and to satisfy your palate for Asian food.

The hub of Richmond’s dining scene is the imaginatively named No. 3 Road, where Asian restaurants are world class. You can’t go wrong. Locals swear by Sun Sui Wah or Kirin for dim sum. Go to Top Shanghai for the most authentic food, right down to the surly service. Try the fish balls and noodle soup at Neptune Seafood Restaurant, and xiao long bao at Dinesty Dumpling House. Kam Do for not too sweet pastries. Just don’t look for a P.F. Chang’s.

Eating at Top Shanghai

Photo by JiaYing Grygiel

Most establishments are open long hours, typically 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Parking is a breeze; this is the suburbs, after all.

Commitment shy? Don’t settle on a single restaurant. Wander through the Aberdeen Centre food court so you can pick and choose. A stop at T&T Supermarket in Yaohan Centre yielded a solid breakfast of soy milk and fan tuan. The $5.99 CAD made-to-order sticky rice roll comes with your choice of four fillings. My selection — preserved pickles, dried pork, Chinese donut, marinated eggs — tasted like home.

To go at T&T Super Market

Photo by JiaYing Grygiel

 

Produce stall at The Crystal Mall

Photo by JiaYing Grygiel

For a fully immersive experience, The Crystal Mall, in neighboring Burnaby, is stepping straight into Asia. Travel agencies, dentists, produce stalls, an amazing food court — everything and anything you need to conduct life, entirely in Chinese. If you don’t speak Chinese, just point. If you don’t know what’s good, look for a long line. Like the one at the tofu shop on the ground floor, always a reliable sign. The Crystal Mall has not one, but two $15 CAD haircut salons. We spotted frozen dumplings, 40 pieces for $18 CAD, a steal of a price but too risky to bring across the border.

Haircuts at The Crystal Mall

JiaYing Grygiel

Only because it is physically impossible to eat nonstop (believe me, I’ve tried), take a break between meals at Terra Nova Adventure Play Environment. If anything, running around this nature-themed playground will help you work up an appetite. Terra Nova, a 12-minute drive west of Richmond’s central eating district, looks unlike any other playground you’ve been to. Features include a 115-foot long tandem zipline and a 30-foot-tall spiral slide. Cue parental heart attack.

Terra Nova Adventure Play Environment

Photo by JiaYing Grygiel

Do not go home without going for a swim. I’m not kidding. If you are used to freezing and dilapidated city pools with a perennial lifeguard shortage, you will never swim anywhere but Richmond’s Minoru Centre again. Repeat after me: Posh. Public. Pool. The water is warmed to a cozy 89.6 degrees, it’s open every day except Christmas Day, it’s $4.70 CAD a person for a family. There’s a lazy river, a leisure pool with a double-wide slide, Canada’s largest hot pool, a drop slide with a 5-foot freefall. The changing rooms are individual stalls with showers in each, filling this mother of boys with gratitude. Seattle, I hope you’re taking notes.

Minoru Center Public Swimming Pool

Photo by JiaYing Grygiel

 

JiaYing Grygiel is a photographer and writer in Seattle. Her work has been featured in The Seattle Times, Seattle’s Child, ParentMap, JoySauce, TODAY Parents, and more. Find her on Instagram @photoj.seattle and at photoj.net.

 

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