Bring On the Chinese Street Food and Diners – Curry Fish Ball Spaghetti!

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Break out the Chinese street meat because it’s curry fish ball time!  Curry fish balls and I have a long history and we’ve made some wonderful foodie memories together over the years.  In a nutshell, curry fish balls are a popular snack in Chinese street food culture and they are often served on a stick in sets of five or any other number the vendor happens to be selling them at.  They are covered in spicy curry sauce that is absolutely delicious, and depending on the consistency of the sauce, you’ll usually get a little container to hold them while you eat them off the skewer so the sauce doesn’t drip all over the place.  And by that, I mean all over your hands and clothes! 

In addition to fish balls, there are beef, pork, crab, and lobster balls and they’re all available to buy in Chinese supermarkets.  I’ve enjoyed them in their traditional Chinese street meat form on a skewer (and we all know how gaga many of us are over food served on a stick!), I’ve ordered these on a whim in Chinese malls as my afternoon snack (and loved every minute of it), and have even witnessed some high school friends selling homemade ones at school for a business project!

Even though I’ve never experienced Chinese street food culture in Hong Kong or China firsthand, I have had the pleasure of enjoying many of the foods in the comfort of my own home since I was a little girl.  I would eat them whenever my family and I would do Chinese hotpot, and my mum would go grocery shopping at some of the Chinese supermarkets and pick up fresh fish paste and fish balls.  She would either make them into crispy fish cakes or put them in soup broth to hang out with my soup noodles.  One of my favourite Chinese comfort foods growing up was a warm bowl of ramen noodles in soup with green onions, and dumplings, wontons, or fish, beef, or pork balls with a little red vinegar drizzled over top.  This meals still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy till this day.    

Even though I’m no stranger to the Chinese fish paste and fish ball market, I don’t eat curry fish balls very often and I almost always take advantage of the opportunity to have them when I can.  Enter my beloved Chinese and HK style diners, specifically the one my family and I have grown to be quite fond of over the past couple of months: Ho Garden Chinese Restaurant located in the plaza at Woodbine and 16th Ave. in Markham.  From the outside, Ho Garden looks completely unassuming.  I can say for a fact that unless you went right up to the front window and saw the large poster advertising some of their HK style dishes, you wouldn’t know what was inside.  Often times, diners will have big front windows so that those from the outside can easily see how busy it is inside with customers eating, dishes of food on the tables, tall glasses of drinks, the whole bit.    Ho Garden is a little different because their front window is much higher up which doesn’t allow you to see customers inside enjoying their food, and for another, the restaurant signage up in thr front isn’t flashy and could easily be missed.

Hainanese Chicken Rice (Ho Nam Gai Fan)

Baked Seafood Spaghetti

Ho Garden is often very busy though and one of the draws is its location.  Being a part of the large plaza with a number of dining options, at a busy intersection (it’s literally seconds away from the highway exit), and surrounded by a huuuge residential neighbourhood, has attracted a local neighbourhood which just continues to grow.  You would think that the other dining establishments would pose some stiff competition but the beauty of it is that the plaza’s offerings are so different and multi-faceted that they really don’t step on each other’s toes.  You have a Greek restaurant, an AYCE sushi restaurant, a wings and ribs sports bar, an ice cream shop, a pizza shop, a Chinese congee, rice, and noodle restaurant, and a coffee shop, literally all inhabiting the same space.  Which works perfectly for me because this foodie paradise isn’t too far from home! 

Another one of the enticing draws is the price range of food.  Now, Chinese and HK style diners aren’t all that expensive to begin with (ordering a dinner meal and a drink that comes up to less than or around $10 is awesomesauce in my book), but Ho Garden does one better by offering plenty of meals for $4-$6 and combo meal sets that come with a main, a drink, and a soup for around $7-$8.  Granted, of course there are more expensive menu items, but those cater to the large family crowd with dishes such as multiple course dinners, whole steamed fish, and several others.

I saw curry fish ball rice/spaghetti on the menu and for the first time in goodness knows how long, I didn’t need to pull my hair out over deciding what I wanted to order.  Done and done.  Finally I wasn’t the last one to decide what she wanted to eat!  I love spaghetti to pieces and this meal didn’t disappoint at all.  It was so delicious and satisfying and I am so happy I had it.

The curry sauce was savoury and spicy (not tears-streaming-down-my-face spicy, but definitely “Ooo, my tastebuds just got punched and my cheeks feel a bit warm now” spicy), the fish balls were super soft and moist with great flavour (they can have a tendency to taste rubbery), and the chunks of potato mingling with the fish balls were fantastic.  Many Chinese curry dishes include potatoes (such as my classic favourite Chinese Portuguese chicken dish, and my dad’s classic favourite, curry beef brisket) and I absolutely LOVE it when they use nice starchy potatoes because they hold up really well in sauce.  They were yummy and they absorbed and sopped up the curry sauce real good!

Even though Phoenix will always hold the number 1 spot in my foodie heart, the food at Ho Garden is great and I have yet to be disappointed with anything that I’ve eaten here.  The portions and prices are terrific, there’s a good selection of HK style and Cantonese dishes, and it’s a great local place to have a wholesome good meal.

*****

Ho Garden Chinese restaurant is located at 9255 Woodbine Ave. at the corner of Woodbine and 16th Ave. in Markham.  They serve and are open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea time, and dinner.

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Foodie Childhood Memories – Crackers, Vanilla Creams, and Deb’s Favourite Chinese and Asian Candies and Snacks!

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I know going to the supermarket may not be up everyone’s alley (“do we have to go near the smelly fish tank?”; “why are people fighting over the corn over there?”; “why is this line-up moving so freakin’ slow?!”), but I bet you the one thing that gets everyone off their bums and into the store are the snacks!  A lot of us may be all grown up now, leading hectic lives with schedules all over the place.  But that doesn’t mean we forget the simplest pleasures in life.  For me, one of the most nostalgic, happy food pleasures is walking down the candy and snack aisles at the Chinese grocery store, or looking up at the dizzying array of sweets and crunchy munchies before me in the candy stores in Chinatown or in Pacific Mall, Market Village, and First Markham Place in Markham. 

I don’t go the Chinese grocery store as often as I used to.  For one thing, as I grew older, many of my weekends were spent staying at home doing homework as opposed to accompanying my parents during outings.  And for another, a lot of my childhood was centered around doing things with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle, so after my aunt and uncle moved to Australia and after my family and I moved further away from my grandparents, the time spent with them inevitably shrank.  And so did my time going to Chinese supermarkets.

A few weeks ago, I sat around pondering about a new series to introduce on the blog.  Something fun and something to ignite the childhood memories and experiences with food we all adored so much.  During a trip to Pacific Mall and Market Village, I thought, “why not do a Chinese and Asian candy and snack series?”  The idea got me all in a tizzy.  I hadn’t done anything like it on the blog yet, I knew a lot of people would enjoy it, and hell, it would give me and excuse to buy and eat all the snacks I used to love (and still love) so much!  We’re talking about the infamous Pocky, Hello Panda chocolate-filled biscuits, Yan-Yan, Hello Kitty candies, gummies, jellies, chocolates, crackers, and all that good stuff.

One of my earliest memories of eating Chinese snacks was from kindergarten.  My mum gave me these Bin-Bin rice crackers to take with me to school (I don’t have a photo of them right now, but Google them and you’ll see which ones I’m referring to) along with my Vita-Soy drink box, and Teddy Grahams – how’s that for east meets west?  I remember my dad picking up some fruit gummy snacks for me when I was 5 (the ones shown in the first photo) during his trips to pick up Chinese “copy books” for me at the convenience store (little books that helped me practise my handwriting), and I’ll always remember the yummy dry seaweed packs I’d eat during recess at school and the chocolate and strawberry Yan-Yans that were so fun to dunk and eat. 

I love the feeling I get looking at all these snacks I used to enjoy so much.  And that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy them now.  Sure, I’ll snatch up a little box of Pocky every once in awhile, or I’ll stop to quickly look at a few things while I’m passing by an aisle or store.  A few months ago I even tried the new mango Yan-Yan just for kicks!  But those isolated incidents are just that – isolated.  It isn’t until you fully immerse yourself in it again that you remember what a happy part of your life it used to be.  So I hunted down some of my favourites to share with you guys – and of course, stuff my face in!  I have plenty more where this came from, so we’ll start with two of my favourite snacks, one of which is savoury and the other, sweet.  Behold, the shrimp crackers and vanilla cream Collon biscuits!

Oh man.  These shrimp crackers are even better than most types of potato chips.  I know it’s a bit of a misnomer considering they don’t look like the typical rectangular, square, or circular cracker, but they’re a savoury snack that crunches just the same!  They look like little corkscrew fries and they melt in your mouth like butter.  Is the shrimp flavour really that pronounced?  Not really, but it’s subtle, it’s in there and damn, are these shrimp crackers ever good. 

And my vanilla cream Collon biscuits!  I don’t know if the manufacturers have just stopped shipping out as many, but these were a little harder to find which made me sad because I love them so much.  The vanilla ones are just slightly easier to get your hands on than other flavours like chocolate and the vanilla with chocolate varieties.  But they are amazing.  These are tiny vanilla cream filled wafers that are thimble-sized and look like little cyclindrical logs.  The outer layer is crunchy vanilla wafer while the inside is super smooth and creamy vanilla.  The filling tastes like frosting and if you think eating bar nuts or popcorn is bad once you get started, you need to eat these.  You will hug them.  And love them.  And want more.  I’ve been saving my box for a cozy, rainy, lounging-on-the-couch-watching-tv kind of day.  And whaddya know, this whole weekend is supposed to be rainy!  It looks like I have a yummy companion for the next few days – no promises that the box won’t be finished before Monday.          

Mooncakes in Celebration of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival!

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Happy Mid-Autumn/Moon Festival!  I know I have the last part of the Vegetarian Food Fair to post, but my timing is a bit off so my posts are going to end up overlapping a bit for today.  I didn’t want the day to come and go without at least showing you all pictures of the mooncakes at my house 😀  I explained the Mid-Autumn and Moon Festival a little bit in the Food Calendar, but basically I’ve grown up understanding it as a festival to celebrate family, friends, togetherness, and of course, the symbolic importance of the moon in the spiritual context.  My dad would tell me stories of his childhood living in Hong Kong, going to the parks and lighting lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (jong chow jeet), and running around with all his cousins.  It’s funny, because when you’re little you go about your innocent, childhood years not really understanding the reasons why you celebrate a particular occasion, just that you do.  All you know is that it’s a custom and after awhile certain aspects of the occasion become very familiar to you, almost natural even.

This was me growing up.  I would celebrate all Chinese occasions with my family, aunts and uncles, and my grandparents but rarely would I question what we were celebrating and why we did the things we did.  I have seen mooncakes come and go since I was a tot, my family and I would sit down to a dinner of bbq meat (siu lap, or lechon as it is otherwise referred to in English), and Chinese vegetarian (jai) complete with bean curd, seitan, and a host of other veggie goodies.  It’s only been in the last maybe 5 years that I became very curious and started asking my parents questions about customs and origins and food, and paying much closer attention to what my grandparents would do during these occasions.  I’ve learned a lot just by watching and listening and being more aware all-around.

Here’s a secret though: I don’t actually like mooncake.  I KNOW.  I’ve tried it and I can honestly say I would much rather eat a lotus paste steamed bun, but I know a loooot of people who thoroughly enjoy these so I’m just joining in on the fun by posting photos!  My sweet hairdresser (who has been a family friend and my mum’s best friend for 14 years) gave these mooncakes to us (it’s customary to give and receive mooncakes as gifts; my grandma has given us mooncakes in the past) and she made a special order just for us as there are four different kinds!  We have the white lotus with one egg yolk (meant to symbolize the moon), the white lotus with two yolks, a nut-filled mooncake, and a green tea mooncake.  Even though I’m not a fan, I might take a tiny wedge of the green tea one but that’s about it!

I have stories from my grandma of her chastising my grandpa for gorging on these cakes many moons ago (no pun intended) and I know my dad has eaten some mooncakes in his time as well.  Nobody in my house would ever down an entire mooncake on their own these days though (I can’t even say we’d eat a quarter of one) which is why my mother cut each mooncake into 8 pieces.  We have 32 pieces of mooncake in our house.  God help us.

    

Beauty and the Bubble Tea – Red Bean Mocha and Green Tea Noodles at Ten Ren’s Tea Time, Part II

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When you come to Ten Ren’s, you realize right off the bat that they take their tea seriously.  Their selection is mind-boggling with everything from fruity bubble teas with tapioca pearls, green, black, and oolong teas with fresh fruit, milk and ice, fruit ices, fruit slushes, coconut milk teas, horoscope drinks, and a plethora of hot teas including ginseng, chysanthemum, blooming flower blossoms and herbal combinations in charming tea pots. 

Think mango, peach, strawberry, mocha, coconut, taro, red bean, banana, grape, lychee, passionfruit, peppermint, kiwi, lemon, green apple, honey, grapefruit, almond, papaya, watermelon…and everything in between.  You wouldn’t expect anything less from a sit down tea house.  What you might not know is that they also do FOOD very well.  Each time I come to Ten Ren’s, I’m reminded all over again why I love it so much.  I am head over heels for their desserts (especially their cute little cakes) and their warm bowls of steamed rice and noodles are a warm, familiar comfort.

Ten Ren’s and I go way back and I love this place to pieces.  For one thing, it’s a gorgeous place to be in.  It’s open and spacious with high ceilings, bamboo and wooden accents, large windows, traditional Chinese scrolls and ink drawings on both the walls and glass, soothing neutral colours, and trinkling water fountains.  It’s so wonderfully relaxing having a meal here.  Ten Ren’s has this peaceful, soothing tranquility to it much like King’s Cafe in Kensington Market; it’s like being in a food spa and the atmosphere adds so much to the dining experience here because you don’t feel rushed, or confined, or caught up in the hustle and bustle.  You relax and you enjoy.  And if you order a teapot of blooming flower blossom tea, you sit back and quietly watch your blossom and tea do its thing as it gingerly opens up.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Ten Ren’s food is a fusion of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese with many items infused with tea.  They have steamed rice and noodles with both meat (fish, chicken, beef, and pork) and vegetarian options.  Meat items are things like curry beef, spare ribs, breaded fish fillets, seafood dumplings, black pepper chicken, crispy chicken, pork and chicken cutlets, and bbq meat (siu lap).  Vegetarian items include lots of steamed Chinese vegetables (gai lan, for example), pickled vegetables, tofu, cabbage, winter melon, Chinese style boiled eggs (cha yeep daan and soy sauce eggs), and others.

It’s one of those perfect places for a bubble tea date, a drinks and dessert date, and a lunch or dinner date.  Basically, for any part of the day except breakfast!  This is one of their strengths though because when you come here, you’re not obligated or relegated to having an actual hearty meal.  You can come in here with a friend or group of friends and just have a drink, or just order a soup or dessert.  You don’t feel that pressure to order whatever you don’t want to order because their menu is flexible.  This also means that you decide on how much you want to spend.  Granted, you obviously decide how much you want to spend any time you dine out, but you get what I mean.  When you go to certain places you KNOW that you’ll be putting down $20, for example. 

At Ten Ren’s your meal could be anywhere from $4-$20.  Drinks can be be anywhere from $3-$8 (don’t forget, this price range includes pots of tea as well), desserts come in at $4-$6, and food will run you an average of $3-$15.  Lesser expensive items include soups, steamed rice, dumpling dishes, and small mains.  Mid-range food items ($6-$10) are dishes like bowls of soup noodles, larger rice dishes, and things like sharing plates.  At the highest end of the price range are the $13.99 and $14.99 meal sets (combos) that include a main, a drink, and a dessert from a list of choices.  In a nutshell, I’d say an actual “food” meal would come to around $10-$12 because you could honestly mix and match menu items till the sun comes up.

The last time I was here, my longtime friend Katrina from The Demure Muse and I had ourselves a summer bubble tea and lunch date.  I love this girl.  I have known her for nearly 7 years now and she’s one of the few people in my life that I can yak about everything with, from clothes to food to crafting to relationships.  Throughout those 7 years, we were all over the place with both work and school and I feel so lucky to have her as my friend because we never once lost touch and we always had each other’s backs and I can say with certainty that we always will.  We both ordered bubble teas and food and it was actually a first for the both of us but for different reasons.  It was Kat’s first time ordering “food” food at Ten Ren’s and it was my first time ordering noodles.  And I am happy to report back and say that I loved my noodles and enjoyed a bubble tea I wasn’t sure I would enjoy!

Remember how I said I’ve never been the biggest fan of red bean?  And remember how I said that I’ve recently changed my tune and have been purposely eating red bean things so that I would increasingly warm up to it more and more?  Well, that’s what I did this time too!  It took me forever and a half to decide on a drink, but I finally settled on a red bean mocha drink with green tea matcha powder sprinkled on top.  I really enjoyed it!  Granted, I wish there was more green tea matcha, but for the most part, it was a delicious drink and I adored my giant red straw and lime green skinny spoon!  You know how I feel about colourful utensils 😀  There was a very generous amount of red bean and the mocha had a yummy coffee-mixed-with-chocolate flavour that wasn’t bitter from the coffee part of it. 

And to eat, I had myself a hot (and I mean hot as I had to take my glasses off while I ate because they were fogging up!) bowl of green tea noodles with shrimp wonton dumplings.  The green tea noodles were pale green in colour and although the herbal flavour was very subtle, they were super smooth and soft and they were scrumptious.  My shrimp dumplings were juicy and savoury and I loved the shredded seaweed and adorably shaped carrot slices.  To finish off the bowl, bean sprouts (which I actually don’t care for but ate anyway) and some lettuce and napa cabbage.  It was my first time trying their noodles and I’m looking forward to trying some others, but probably sans the bean sprouts, ha.

Ten Ren’s has given such sweet memories over the years with all the tea and lunch dates I’ve had with close friends and in many ways, I feel like this is still just the beginning.  Even after all the visits, the menu is dizzying to me all the same, so I guess that just means I’ll have to remedy that by going again.  And again.  And eating cake and drinking awesome drinks.

*****

Ten Ren’s Tea Time is located at 111 Times Ave. in Richmond Hill, Markham.  Ten Ren’s sits at the corner of Hwy 7. East and Times Ave/Valleymede Drive (Times Ave is the southern portion of the street and Valleymede is to the north of Hwy. 7).  They are open for lunch at 11am 7 days a week and they stay open into the wee hours of the morning (1am-3am).  For more info, click here.

A Mountain of Bubble Tea, Noodles, and Sweet Cakes & Desserts – It’s Tea Time at Ten Ren’s! Part I

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I love the way bubble tea gets everyone animated, excited, and talking.  There’s the ubiquitous “with or without tapioca?” question (or debate depending on how passionate you feel about this issue) and hundreds of different flavours and combinations to consider and try if you’re ambitious.  Everyone has a bubble tea story whether it’s a story about their first time trying it (and developing that love or hate relationship early on), going out with friends on countless bubble tea dates, or nearly choking on a tapioca or boba pearl from slurping too fast.  Whatever the story is, bubble tea has played a part in many of our social lives for at least the past ten years.  During high school my friends and I would even use bubble tea straws and lid domes for art projects!  I can’t pinpoint the exact moment the bubble tea explosion happened but what I can tell you is that I’ve been slurping up a storm for years now at beautiful tea houses like Ten Ren’s.

And have I ever enjoyed myself thoroughly here!  Over the years I’ve had rice and noodles, crispy fish fillets, a beautiful tea pot of blooming chrysanthemum tea, giant glasses of slushes and fruity bubble teas, and many dishes of dessert!  I am especially gaga for their little mousse cakes and freeze cakes and I’ll even be so bold to say that these are my favourite items at Ten Ren’s.  I’ve had 3 flavours of their little dishes of cakes and I am always wanting more.  They’re so cute and they’re yummy to boot with different layers of texture and flavour to them.  I’ve had their mocha freeze, mango mousse, and their strawberry green tea mousse cakes and I’ve loved all 3 of them.  Their freeze cakes are similar to ice cream cake and their mousse cakes are exactly that, cubes of whipped creamy mousse that are airy, super soft, and that are almost like meringue in taste and texture at times.  Even if I don’t end up ordering any during my visit, I always look forward to the prospect of having these in my mouth and tummy. 

Ten Ren’s Tea Time is one of my favourite places in Markham and I feel so incredibly lucky that the only dine-in, sit-down tea house location is in Markham.  Ten Ren’s has a number of locations around Markham and Toronto, but most of them are shops that either just make and serve bubble tea to go, or shops that have both bubble tea booths and a retail section of tea sets, accessories, and take-home tea.  I’ve been going to Ten Ren’s for years and I feel almost spoiled because of its accessibility.  I’ve literally hopped on the bus to and from school to meet up with friends for a tea and lunch date because the bus literally drops me off right outside their doorstep.  

Ten Ren’s is a staple in my foodie book.  The tea house is gorgeous, the menu is so extensive it makes me dizzy with indecisiveness, and I am just in love with the atmosphere and desserts.  I have a nice big, pretty post for you all tomorrow, so enjoy the teaser photos in the meantime!          

*****

Ten Ren’s Tea Time is located at 111 Times Ave. in Richmond Hill, Markham.  Ten Ren’s sits at the corner of Hwy 7. East and Times Ave/Valleymede Drive (Times Ave is the southern portion of the street and Valleymede is to the north of Hwy. 7).  They are open for lunch at 11am 7 days a week and they stay open into the wee hours of the morning (1am-3am).  For more info, click here.

Amazing Chinese Breakfasts, Rice, and Ramen Noodles – Pulling Into Our Next Stop at Station Asia!

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It really wasn’t that long ago since my first visit to Station Asia at Market Village, but looking back, it feels like a lifetime ago.  I had just started grad school, I had a short haircut that would get shorter over the months ahead, and a whole new chapter of my life had started with new friends, new people in my life, and a new outlook on what I wanted out of life.  I remember coming here for the first time during my second month of grad school in October 2008 with my best friend and I remember the chill in the air, how beautiful the fall season was, and how DELICIOUS my lunch was!  

What I really like about Station Asia is how they touch on and incorporate so many different kinds of Asian and Chinese cuisine.  It’s a Chinese style diner with a lot of ethnic diversity and variety, and sometimes these differences in cuisine are so subtle you’d only know it if you had the knowledge about the different countries and regions and if you ate enough of the differerent cuisines to know.  I know I can’t speak for all Canadian-born Asians, but growing up, I went through the trials and tribulations of being born into and raised in a Western and Asian culture simaltaneously.  Sometimes one overshadowed the other and other times one or the other felt completely foreign.  I grew up eating the EXACT same food you’d find in Station Asia, especially when I lived with my grandparents when I was first born.  My great-grandmother would make me “baby congees”, Chinese bakery buns and cakes were staples in our home, dim sum was lovingly ingrained in my tastebuds and in my heart, and I would make homemade wontons and dumplings with my grandma in her kitchen.

Food isn’t just food; it’s a part of our upbringing, our ethnic identity, and so many other facets of life.  It sounds weird, but when I eat at Station Asia, it comforts me and makes me feel like I’m outside of the box at the same time.  In other words, I can eat here and be completely familiar with much of what I eat and see, but I am also reminded of how much there is for me to know and keep learning.  I want to know more about the subtle differences in regional cuisine and I want to know more about the food I grew up on but was too young at the time to appreciate.

Station Asia is great if you want a bit of everything.  If you feel like the HK style diner dishes, they have baked rice dishes, baked fish fillets with sauce, black pepper chicken steak with rice, and a host of cold drinks including ices, slushes, and bubble teas.  They touch on Korean style bibimbap, Chinese Portuguese curry, the incredibly popular Chinese and Singaporean Hainan chicken and rice (hoi nam guy fan), spicy Malaysian style noodles, and plenty of tradtional Cantonese food including congee (or as I like to call it, rice porridge), vermicelli, stir-fried noodles, and steamed rice with lots of fish, mushrooms, preserved vegetables, chicken, beef, oysters, pork, dried scallops, black bean, and many others.  They serve breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner, and they have different menus during different mealtimes over the course of the day.

The lunch and dinner meals will run you an average of $5-$11 and they offer many of their menu items as a part of a combo which includes a soup (ba wong fa soup!), an appetizer (which could be pickled vegetables, sliced chicken, salad, or a number of other things), and a hot or cold HK style drink of your choice with an additional charge for the fancier slushes or ices.  Breakfast at Station Asia is their strong suit.  Not only do I love the menu, but I love the prices even more!  Their breakfast, if you can believe it, is around $3.50-$5!  They have a whole menu full of breakfast items for $3.80, $4.50, and $4.99 and they are fantastic because the portions are BIG for a lot of them.  Think noodles and rice and sandwiches! 

Ordering food here is also a bit different from other places because everything is written down on an order form on a piece of paper where you specify the menu item number, the quantity you want (for example, if two or three people want the same dish or drink), and specific notes such as your choice between rice, ramen, noodles, that kind of thing.  There’s a section for food and a section for drink, so all you really have to do is just note the item number because the dish and drink you want.  Easy peasy!

I’ve been to Station Asia a handful of times and my favourites have to be their baked rice dishes, their rice with seafood and sauce, their breakfasts, and their ramen noodles!  I absolutely LOVED the first dish I ever had here which was a hot stone pot of rice and seafood (prawns, scallops) with snap peas and Thousand Island dressing.  It was delicious and I would order it again in a heartbeat.  Which reminds me that I should really take note the next time I’m there and make sure they still have this item! 

 

I am also a huge fan of their ramen noodles and their different kinds.  Yes, they have different flavours of ramen noodles!  I’ve had their regular, the spinach, and the tomato and hands down, my favourite is the tomato one.  The regular is delicious too and although I enjoyed the spinach, the spinach flavour was a little lost on me and I much preferred the tomato one for its flavour.  But I have to say, ordering the spinach ramen is really fun because you get to eat green noodles, ha!  I’ve had their ramen noodle breakfast with their breaded crispy fried fish fillet and their shrimp and scrambled egg sauce.  If I was to translate that it would be “wat daan ha yun mein”.  I know, I know, my spelling is probably completely off but it’s the best I can do!

I always look forward to coming here (Pacific Mall, Market Village, Splendid China Tower, I love them all), especially for the breakfast and the tea time menus, and it’s a comfort to me knowing there’s always something new to try and old favourites to come back to.

*****

Station Asia has two locations.  One is located inside Market Village closest to the north entrace (4394 Steeles Ave. East by Kennedy Rd.) and the other is located inside Splendid China Tower, closest to the north entrance (4675 Steeles Ave. East just east of Pacific Mall and Market Village on the north side of Steeles Ave.).  They serve breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner.   

All I Need Is Cheese – Red Bean Ice Drinks With Whipped Cream and Cheesy Pasta Hong Style Dishes at The Phoenix

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Okay, so that statement isn’t entirely true.  I need more than cheese to complete my life.  But I do love cheese a whole lot!  And what better way to spread my love for cheese than to show you all some insanely delicious cheesy pasta HK style dishes from Phoenix restaurant!  Phoenix is my favourite Chinese diner to eat at and I’m really lucky that all of their locations are in and around Markham – one of the locations is actually just a 10 minute drive/bus ride away!  I can’t believe it’s already been so long since my first post on Phoenix way back during Ate by Ate’s first week on the internet.  That was the first week of December and here I am enjoying my last month to month and a half of summer and so much has changed since I started the blog.  For one thing, I graduated from grad school with my MA and am no longer a student and for another, I’ve never felt like I’ve learned as much as I have this past year and I have so much to take away with me.  And to think it’s all because I love food as much as I do!

I have always loved pasta, cheese, and numerous kinds of seafood and it’s one of the things I enjoy the most when I eat at HK style diners.  Of course I enjoy my rice dishes, but more often than not, I gravitate toward the spaghetti, the macaroni, the rotini, and any other type of pasta that happens to be on the menu.  Aside from the drinks, it’s one of the things I look forward to the most when I know I’m coming here!  I’ll probably sound like such a simpleton when I say this, but I get SO excited at the thought of spaghetti 😀  And because HK style diners like Phoenix have so many different spaghetti and pasta combinations, I get to pick and choose to my heart’s content!  They have everything from pasta with sausage, pineapple, mushrooms, sauteed veggies, and fish cutlets to dishes with sauces like tomato, black pepper, white cream, garlic, and mushroom.

It just so happens that these two delicious dishes I’m showing you today both have seafood and cheese: 1) a spaghetti dish with baby clams, cream sauce, a little bit of baked, melted cheese on top, and a giant puff pastry to go along with it! and 2) a HK style macaroni and cheese meal with incredibly soft macaroni covered in ooey gooey pull-apart cheese, served with crab meat, squid, and shrimp.  Not only do I adore how fast Phoenix dishes out their meals, but I’ve loved everything I’ve ever eaten here and these meals were no different.

The quality is bang on and they set themselves apart from others with such a large selection of menu items that have both HK and Chinese staples (chow mein, ho fun, tong mein) and unique, unexpected dishes (c’mon when have you EVER been to a place that served puff pastry with clam spaghetti?!).  Everyone has their own version and definition of comfort food, and this is definitely one of mine.  It warms, it satisfies, and it makes me feel wiggly happy all over.  Pasta and cheese – it doesn’t get any better than that!

I may have stuck with what I knew I loved when it came to the food, but I did the unexpected when it came to ordering my drink: I ordered red bean.  Let’s put this another way: DEB DOESN’T LIKE RED BEAN AND NEVER HAS.  So why in the world did I order it?!  Because after all these years of wrinkling my nose and puckering my mouth, I’ve given red bean another shot, the same way I’ve given chocolate mint a whirl and the same way I’ve done a complete 180 when it comes to bell peppers.  Growing up, I would always turn down the red bean dessert that came at the end of the Chinese restaurant dinner (tong sui), I wouldn’t touch the pineapple red bean buns with a ten-foot pole, and I would ignore the red bean drinks on the menu and pretend they weren’t there.  To say the least, I was not a fan.

But I’ve had a change of heart as of late (and by that I mean in the last few months) and it’s been growing on me.  There aren’t a lot of things I don’t like to eat (healthy things, of course!), so I make a conscious effort to give the things I used to dislike a shot and I realize that I rather enjoy them now.  And it feels great opening myself up to it all.  Thus, enter the red bean ice slush drink with the sweet whipped cream on top.  I liked ^_^ 

These photos, and the meals they capture, are special to me.  Not only do these photos depict two different meals that have two very specific things I love in common (seafood and cheese!), but they also tell the story of a girl simaltaneously branching out and staying in her comfort food zone.

*****

Prices for mains range from $6-$9 and many meals include your choice of drink, with an additional charge added for special drinks like slushes, floats, and ices.  Phoenix serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with a selection of appetizers, snacks, desserts, and tea time specials.  Phoenix’s 3 locations are in Markham and Thornhill:

  1. 1 Raymerville Drive, Markham.  Intersection of McCowan and Raymerville Drive south, located north of Hwy.7 and Bullock Drive, south of 16th Ave.
  2. 7155 Woodbine Ave., Markham.  Intersection of Steeles and Woodbine, just north of Steeles.  Off the 404 Steeles highway exit
  3. 8190 Bayview Ave., Thornhill.  North of John St, south of Langstaff Rd.