When I moved to Vancouver, I lived near Commercial
Drive where Italian coffee bars and markets flourished. I knew
where to get the best cheese, bread and cured meats and which
markets to cherry pick for the best price on fresh fruits and
vegetables. But when I moved less than one block away from North America's second-largest Chinatown, I
felt a little overwhelmed by all the markets with their foreign
sights and smells. From the stinky durian fruit hanging in their
mesh bags to the fish markets with their fresh catches flopping out
from their plastic bins. And with all the herbal shops with bins of
dried seafood and splayed flying lizards shoved onto sticks, I felt
there was much to discover.
On the downtown edge of Chinatown sits the massive T&T Supermarket filled with all kinds of
Asian goods in a very modern setting. While it's great place to
browse and shop for everything from sushi to chicken feet to
imported Japanese shampoo, I like the more traditional family-run
markets with their history and all the bargains to be had.
While there are dozens and dozens of produce markets in Chinatown,
there is only one that I know by name. Hands down, my favourite
store where I do the bulk of my shopping is Sunrise Market (300
Powell Street). This isn't your typical sterile supermarket with
rows of shiny apples and peppers stacked just so. Nope, not here!
Sunrise Market is hectic, crowded, noisy, cluttered, messy, and I
love every second of shopping there.
The outside of the store is jam packed with all kinds
of fruits and vegetables at bargin-bin prices. Where else can you
purchase six BC-grown english cucumbers for $1? What's unusual
about Sunrise is that they mark what produce is locally grown,
something I haven't seen in other Chinatown markets. They also
carry a lot of organic products at prices you just can't find
anywhere else in the city. The quality, variety and price of their
produce is incredible and they even have a separate register for
restaurants, so you know that if Vancouver's chefs shop here, it's
got to be good.
I head to Sunrise every few days and I always leave
with my bags heavy. My last grocery haul at Sunrise included
organic millet, organic free-run eggs, local nugget potatoes,
beets, green beans, radishes, parsley, baby bok choy, black plums,
organic yogurt, corn on the cob, along with a few canned goods and
other pantry items for under $35. Last month, I posted a photo and
list of everything I had bought at Sunrise that day.
The total? $15. Amazing.
If all the jostle of Chinatown is wearing you thin, definitely stop
by the restorative Kam Gok Yuen (142 East Pender), a colourful
little joint for noodles, chili wontons and the best BBQ duck I've
had in a long time.
A few doors down is the always bustling New Town
Bakery and Restaurant (148 East Pender) for some pina-coco buns and
apple tarts. New Town is also famous for their steamed buns (veggie
or BBQ pork) and lures in passers-by with their sign, calling them
"Chinese hamburgers." With its formicia tables, plastic chairs, and
old men regulars, it's a great place for a bit of old school diner
I haven't had the courage to try a durian yet, I still don't know
what powers those dried lizards hold, and one of these days I'm
going to sign up for a "Chinatown Market Experience" culinary tour
offered by Edible British Columbia so I can get the full
Chinatown experience. But right now, I'm more than happy to have
found such a great new shopping world just steps from my home.
Jeannette Ordas is a Vancouver-based Web Designer and Food Blogger who is probably right now thinking
about what she'll make for dinner.
Posted: Fri, Aug 31 2007