As we’ve noted before, the Vancouver Chinatown Night Market is bringing a heady mix of time-honoured tradition and new school flavour to the summer festivities on Keefer Street. Check out the teaser video (attaboy Ken, great job!) and read more after the jump… Read more
Tannis Ling, owner of Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, and Ken Tsui, a well known pop-up organizer responsible for popular events like Black Lodge Diner, Eat Together and The Hawker Stand, have joined with the Vancouver Chinatown Merchant’s Association (VCMA) to reinvent the 18 year tradition we know as the Chinatown Night Market.
It’s no secret that the Night Market has struggled in recent years, but with the neighbourhood in the midst of an exciting renewal period and an influx of new businesses wanting to participate, the VCMA, Ling and Tsui see the summer of 2013 as the perfect opportunity to update it. They aim to harness Chinatown’s resurgent spirit while helping to preserve its cultural DNA. The goal is to create a dynamic cultural hub and social space that will appeal to all ages and all cultures.
In such an effort, collaboration is everything. Local design firm Glasfurd & Walker is working with Bao Bei to rebrand the Night Market, and the Street Food Vancouver Society is on board to help diversify and complement the range of food already offered by bringing in a selection of trucks to the market’s western border on Columbia Street. There will be an area for dining set up with picnic tables and chairs, and there’s a rumour going around of new restaurant patios opening for the occasion.
New programming will include outdoor Chinese movie screenings, ping-pong tournaments, cooking competitions, storytelling nights and mahjong lessons. Workshops available for kids could include kite making, calligraphy, circus arts, and more.
Of course, one of the integral aspects of revitalizing the night market is the incorporation of inspired and original vendors. To this end, Ling and Tsui are – starting today – looking for artisans, craftspeople, and food makers with excellent products and accessible price points.
They are making a call out to vendors for expressions of interest. To be clear, this is not a request for commitment. Just acquiring vendor interest will help them move forward and into the next stages of planning.
Booth rate rentals start at $42/night and comes with a 10′ x 10′ tent and 6′ table. Vendor rentals are available for a full season (32 nights), half season (16 nights) or a quarter season (8 nights).
If you are interested in becoming a vendor or a sponsor, please contact Tannis Ling or Ken Tsui at email@example.com.
Andrew Morrison is the editor-in-chief of Scout and BC’s Senior Judge at the Canadian Culinary Championships. He contributes regularly to a wide range of publications, radio programs, and TV shows on local food, culture and travel. He live and works in the vibrant Strathcona neighbourhood, where he also collects inexpensive things and enjoys birds, skateboards, whisky, shoes, many songs, and the smell of wood fires.
by Claire Lassam | I’m still a little new to dim sum. It was introduced to me about five years ago when I started dating a man whose father was born in Hong Kong. Before then, I didn’t know that I wanted soy sauce at 9am and that barbequed meats and green tea would make me so happy so early in the day. It’s undeniably, irreversibly true. I’m completely converted to Chinese brunch now. I love dim sum.
While I love steamed gai ling with oyster sauce and nearly every kind of dumpling I’ve ever tried (I even liked chicken feet more then I thought I would, though I tried it just to be one of the cool kids), what I love most of all are the steam buns. Just a simple package of dough with a healthy scoop of BBQ pork (my personal favourite) steamed until the dough is soft but not sticky and the pork wants to ooze out by way of the X that marks the spot on top. They should be savoury, deeply flavoured with char, and that magical marinade they put on barbequed pork in Chinatown, something that usually involves soy, Chinese cooking wine, hoisin, and a myriad of spices that no butcher I’ve ever asked has revealed to me.
Which is a long way of saying that I really enjoyed researching for this article. A lot. I feel like I started researching years ago. I’ve had the steam buns at sit-down restaurants, which mean they’re steamed to order and usually piping hot and fresh, and I’ve had them “to go”, where they’ve had to sit for a while. I’ve also had them for dinner, and once I even tried to make them at home, a la Momofuku. They’re hit or miss, depending on where you go.
What I learned on this particular mission was that I really want steam buns at night, preferably with a cocktail. Until recently, my love of them was either a morning thing, a break-from-work-to-grab-a-steam-bun thing, or an I’m-super-hungover-and-nothing-will-cure-it-but-a-steam-bun thing. If anyone could convince me of it being a drinking-a-Manhattan-and-eating-a-steam bun thing, it would be the talented Joel Watanabe, chef at Bao Bei. His are rolled differently, with the flap of dough steamed and then filled more like a taco, which allows it to taste slow-cooked from the pork but also fresh from the welcome addition of sprouts, preserved turnips and sugared peanuts. The dough is flawless, too: soft but not sticky, and more flavourful than most. On the menu, they’re known as mantou, the word for steambun in the Shanxi province of northern China. They are exceptional. You can imagine as much just by looking at the photo above.
But if you’re looking for a bun with your dim sum, your best bet is Jade Dynasty, an unobtrusive little spot on East Pender with all around delicious dim sum (the fried taro balls with duck would rank high on my favourites list). The steam buns are delicious, too. The dough is soft and filled with a heap of meat, all held together in a sauce that’s a deep red from the charred skin of the pork.
It’s leaps and bounds superior to the other buns I ate on this mission; better than Garden Villa, where they tasted processed, and the ones at Kam Wai, which had been steaming for so long that the dough stuck to my teeth and I had to go to the washroom to get it off. Jade’s were better than Floata’s, too, although theirs’ were nicely seasoned and had big chunks of pork. Sun Fresh had a good pork-dough ratio, which is to say it nearly burst with pork, but it was also covered in a thick, gravy-like sauce thickened with so much cornstarch that you could taste it. And much to my disappointment, Maxim’s and Streamland couldn’t give me a fresh steam bun. I had to buy them in packs of 8, and they were all of the exact same type. Streamland said they’d steam mine for me a la minute, but then they went ahead and actually used a microwave. It tasted every bit as processed as it was, with small pieces of pork and far too much dough. It was chewy instead of meltingly tender, as they should be when made to order.
The only place that didn’t make theirs’ to order but was still worth it was New Town. I’ve long been a shopper here because you can grab just one to go at a moment’s notice, which is sometimes necessary in my life. Also, their dough is a little firmer. It holds up, and though not quite as hot as the super fresh ones, they give way when you bite in, revealing mouthfuls of well-seasoned, properly portioned BBQ pork.
So perhaps this mission left me with too many options (I did try to narrow it down by only going to places in Chinatown rather than extending the hunt to Richmond). I might grab a bun from New Town on my way to work and take them from Jade Dynasty during dim sum hours, but for the best steam bun in town, I’ll take mine as a mantou with a drink at Bao Bei.
Claire Lassam is a baker, blogger, and freelance writer based in East Van. She has been cooking and baking her way through the city for nearly five years, working in restaurants ranging from Cioppino’s to Meat & Bread. She currently toils at Beta 5 Chocolates and runs the baking blog Just Something Pretty.
The GOODS from Bao Bei
Vancouver, BC | We’re looking for a serious cook to work full time in our busy restaurant. Chinese food experience a plus but not necessary. Successful candidate will be well versed in all aspects of the kitchen and will possess a professional attitude. Wage to be discussed. All intereted parties are asked to contact executive chef Joel Watanabe with their resumes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about Bao Bei after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Bao Bei
Vancouver, BC | We are looking for a passionate, creative, outgoing individual with at least three years bartending experience to work and run our busy bar. The successful candidate will have extensive knowledge of cocktails, wines and beers, and will be adept at making drinks efficiently without surrendering quality in a demanding, fast paced environment. Brass tacks: we need a hard worker who is willing to throw him/herself into this job and excel at creating and maintaining a unique bar program specific to Bao Bei. Email resumes to email@example.com (please no drop-offs).
Learn more about what we do after the leap… Read more
Job posting from Scout supporter Bao Bei
Vancouver, BC | Bao Bei is looking for an organised, hard working cook to run the garde manger station full-time at our busy, award-winning modern Chinese restaurant. 5 years cooking experience desired (Chinese food knowledge a plus but not necessary). Must also be adept on saute section. Committed professionals without attitude need only apply to joelwatanabe2000 [at] yahoo [dot ca]. Find out more about the restaurant after the jump… Read more
Chinatown’s award-winning Bao Bei is now a proud member supporter of Scout. We will be publishing their news on our front page and hosting a page for them in our list of recommended restaurants to check out. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support of our little website. Click ahead to read on or jump directly to their Scout page here… Read more
by Andrew Morrison | As one of several enRoute magazine’s regional advisors for their annual Top 10 Best New Restaurants in Canada issue, I was not a little stoked this morning to find that one of my favourites for 2010 had cracked the top three (they don’t tell us in advance). Our sincerest congratulations to Tannis Ling and her staff at Chinatown’s Bao Bei. Just making it onto this list is an honour, and being named #2 is huge. Comment on whether or not there were other Vancouver restaurants that should have been recognised and find out which other joints made the grade after the jump… Read more
It’s possibly only a matter of a day or two (again, crossing my fingers and knocking on wood) before Vancouver gets treated to Bao Bei. I checked it out again last night in its final construction phase, and I can say without any reservation that’s really looking beautiful (see for yourself below). For those of our newer readers who’ve never heard of the place before, the Chinatown restaurant is widely acknowledged in trade circles to be the city’s most highly anticipated room. Here’s what we wrote about it when we first broke the news of its coming last May… Read more
Returned to Bao Bei in Chinatown tonight for another glance. It’s come along plenty in just the last few days. I’m loving the details that have popped up so far: lots of recycled stuff like unique lamp shades in the bar and stools so grand-maternally homey that they couldn’t not have come from your grandma’s house. All the little design choices that have been made to date have been great, and it is hoped that chef Joel Watanabe should start testing in the kitchen soon. Mmm…soupy dumplings, soupy dumplings, soupy dumplings. I am ready for you. Read more
On assignment for Van Mag last night I interviewed the good folks of Bao Bei again at their Chinatown construction site. While we were walking out of the space I spied this t-shirted character standing guard. They’ve taken to calling him “Wilson”, presumably after Tom Hanks’ volleyball in Castaway. I don’t know…he rather reminds me of Treebeard, the leader of Tolkien’s anthropomorphic tree creatures in the Two Towers (aka “Ents”). Either way, he keeps them company as they toil, is celebrated as their “first customer”, and is about as random as it gets. The restaurant, by the way, is coming along nicely. I’m particularly excited about Joel Watanabe’s menu (which sounds freakin’ awesome), and hope to sup from it before the New Year. Mmm, dumplings…
Paul Grunberg, once upon a time the Chambar general manager who moved on to midwife the successful launch of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Market restaurant in the Shangri-La, is heading for a new challenge: consulting front of house for Tannis Ling and the highly anticipated launch of her new Chinatown restaurant, Bao Bei. An official press release should start making the rounds in the next couple of days. We’ve seen a draft copy (subject to change), and have it excerpted below: Read more
This has already been described as a Sophie’s Choice of sorts by someone following Scout on twitter. I totally agree. Still, it’s fun to throw down with your opinion every once in a while, and anonymity makes it so much easier.
THE CHINATOWN CHOICE…
Bao Bei, the much anticipated 2200 sq ft, 50 seat modern Chinese restaurant on Chinatown’s Keefer St (owned/run by Tannis Ling, lately of Chambar), is still on for the end of November. Aside from killer cocktails, Ling says we can expect “lots of noodles, dumplings, drunken chicken – stuff like that”.
The Keefer also sounds awesome: “…guests mingle with adventurous locals and graze on Asian street tapas, while well versed bartenders spin classic cocktails using fresh ingredients from local Chinatown markets.” Two Chefs And A Table are doing the food, and word is bar manager Dani Tatarin is leaving db Bistro to run the show (confirmed – thanks SB).
I’ll be drinking at both, making my conscience clear. So…
As regular Scout readers and restaurant watchers are keenly aware, bartender Tannis Ling, who was at Chambar from 2005 until just over a month ago, is working on opening a modern, cocktail-forward Shanghainese/Taiwanese restaurant called “Bao Bei” at 163 Keefer Street in Chinatown proper. After getting to know Tannis a little by watching the interview above, read all about her plans here.