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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Claypot – Dim Sum’ing~

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So it was another one of those days when I had an extended lunch break followed by afternoon lectures. Rich had the evening shift that day, so he picked me up and we met up with Ringo for lunch. Rich was seriously craving claypot rice, and we really wanted to go to Soup.com (best claypot rice!). However, since that’s in Vancouver and our afternoon lectures are in Richmond, we opted for something a bit more local. We had passed the place called Claypot on Alexandria Road many times, but never ventured in as it is an all-you-can-eat hotpot place. Though judging by the name, Rich was convinced that he would be able to find claypot rice here as well.
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Upon entering, we were quickly greeted and led to a table for four that is slightly partitioned from another table. The tables had granite tabletops and a gas burner in the middle, most likely for the hotpot offerings. During the daytime, Claypot is more or less a Cantonese dim sum place. The gas burner was kept at a minimum heat, keeping a kettle full of hot water always ready to refill the teapot. Nice touch! Good use of what’s already there. It turned out that you could actually get individual teas for $1/person, but we were in so much of a rush that we didn’t notice that. Darn! Oh well, we’ll try it next time. :)
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Rich began snapping pictures while Ringo and I perused through the extensive dim sum menu (see the two pictures down below). He left it up to us and just ordered one claypot rice dish as he wanted.
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Our first selection to arrive was the Steamed Egg Yolk & Custard Bun (蛋黄流沙包). Rich got so excited at the sight of food that he quickly grabbed one and took a big bite out before he took a picture of it. :D Hence, the picture only shows two buns instead of the three that arrived. The buns were very plump and fluffy. As this was Ringo’s choice, we were not familiar with this dish. In Rich’s eagerness, the gooey yumminess inside all came flowing out – messy disaster #1! Hehe! Ringo has more experience with these buns, and he was able to deftly eat his bun without dripping it everywhere like us. The filling of these buns is slightly salty but mostly sweet, as it consists of salty duck egg, sugar and cream. Yummy!
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Next came the Deep Fried Pork Dumpling (黄金咸水角). This one is one of our all-time favourite dim sum treats… though not the healthiest that’s for sure! It has pork filling surrounded by a deep-fried gelatinous rice flour dough mixture. The outside is chewy, while the inside was nicely flavoured. Win, win!
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IMG_7384 copy[8]_thumb[2] Now, looking at the picture to the left, you may be inclined to think that we ordered regular spring rolls. The picture above may give you some hints though ;) That’s right, these are Deep Fried Spring Rolls with Seafood Salad (海鲜沙律卷). Of course, this salad is your typical mayonnaise-drenched pieces of shrimp, artificial crab and fruit. This was messy disaster #2 for Rich! He was so eager to cut it open to take a picture of the inside. Unfortunately, there was so much mayonnaise inside that it squirted about 6 inches away from the plate. I must say, I’m a fan of the sweet mayo salad, so this was perfect for me… hit the spot right away!
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Ringo was craving siu mai, so we also got the Chinese Mushroom, Fish Roe, Pork Dumpling (北菇鱼子烧卖), which is probably one of the most famous dim sum dishes. These were nice and plump, with a juicy prawn on top, fish roe garnish and well-seasoned pork and Chinese mushroom filling.
IMG_7398 copy[5]_thumb[1] I personally quite enjoy the dish on the left at most dim sum places. This was the Steamed Spareribs in Black Bean Sauce. The portion size of the version here was a bit lacking. The spareribs weren’t really tender, certainly not the melt-in-your-mouth texture. It was also quite bland, with a very mild black bean sauce flavour. The pork was quite fatty as well. Overall, it was a disappointing dish.
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On the other hand, another black bean sauce dish we got was excellent! This was the Deep Fried Stuffed Eggplant in Black Bean Sauce. I had been anxiously waiting for this dish, so the moment it arrived, I grabbed one and bit into it, before Rich had a chance to take a picture. This was a lightly deep-fried eggplant stuffed with what seemed to be dace fish paste. The black bean flavour was much stronger in this dish, and it complemented the fish paste well. I thought this was a pretty creative idea. Maybe I’ll try this at home some time. :)
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This was another one of Ringo’s choices. That guy really knows how to pick yummy food! It’s called House Special Pork Jowl (炭烧猪颈肉). The Chinese name is much more descriptive of what this dish would taste like. Pork jowl is the cheek of a pig used as meat – it is apparently the fattiest part of lean pork and is often considered one of the better cuts of pork. The flavour was awesome though, slightly sweet, slightly savoury and slightly smoky. Ringo devoured this dish like there’s no tomorrow.
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After >25 minutes of patient waiting, Rich finally got what he came here for: claypot rice! He picked the Steamed Minced Beef on Rice with Egg (窝蛋牛肉煲仔饭). Please note that on their menu, this dish is translated as pork, but it was obviously beef that arrived! The minced beef was combined with ample amounts of cilantro. (Yuck!) In fact, the mixture reminded me a lot of the steamed beef balls at many dim sum places. The poached egg on top was disappointing, as the yolk was already very well done. We were hoping to let the liquid yolk drip into the rice… The rice also didn’t have a crispy bottom like at Soup.com. I guess we have to continue looking for good claypot rice in Richmond. One thing to note, if you visit before 12 pm, there is a spareribs claypot rice for only $2.99. Maybe we’ll try that next time.
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After all the food had arrived, it was obvious that Ringo wasn’t full yet, so we went ahead and ordered another dish: Steamed Pork Roll in Oyster Sauce (蠔皇鲜竹卷). I only had a small bite of this dish, and can’t really comment too much about it. I remember that it was quite flavourful with a good combination of bean curd roll and pork with enough oyster sauce to flavour it. Ringo seemed to enjoy it.

The meal was above average in terms of quality and attention to detail. I wish I had noticed that we could have our individual tea sets. The different dishes range from $3.38 for the smalls to $6.68 for the kitchen special KK dishes and $8.98 for the most expensive fried rice. I suppose this is on the pricier side. I know a lot of people have complained about their service, but it wasn’t too bad on our visit.

There were also options to make your own Mix & Match Congee and Mix & Match Noodles for 2.  The noodles have been popularized all over the place in the lower mainland. However, from what it looks like, the version here seems to be a mini hotpot, where they bring you the broth and set it on the gas range. They would then bring you the ingredients raw, just like how you would eat hotpot. I really want to try this!

The Yummies:
  • Very yummy deep fried stuffed eggplant
  • Hot water on the gas burner
  • Overall good quality food
  • One of the few places on Alexandria Road that takes credit cards!

The Yuckies:
  • Pricey…
  • Parking can be difficult to find during peak dining hours

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