Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Crystal Mall Food Court: Family Lunch Time!

Finally, a day where my family doesn't find lunch in the boring Tri-Cities.We met up with my Dad at Crystal Mall for a quick lunch during his lunch break. Since it wasn't quite noon yet, the food court wasn't the busiest I've seen it. Nevertheless, over 90% of the tables were already occupied by people slurping up noodles or shoving rice into their mouths. Most of the customers here are Asian grandparents or adolescence here for good deals, or business men that were brave enough to venture out of the Hilton hotel into a land filled with strange Chinese words and exotic foods. 

Crystal Mall in Burnaby has plenty of great Chinese eats; good because everyone can buy what they are in the mood to eat but bad for those who have a hard time deciding what they want. It would take forever to try and discover all the best dishes, but a foodie must start somewhere, right? So, let us begin! Prepare to see a lot of rice in this post..

Tasty Harmony
Tasty Harmony
On my last visit to the Crystal Mall food court with Peanut Crumpet, the Clumsy One and another friend of ours, I noticed long line ups for this newly opened stall. The cute Chinese font and easy-to-read menu definitely appeals to me. It yells "I'm new and hip!" instead of the run-down stereotypical Chinese food court stalls with menus so large I have to squint to read what's available. Now, not saying that you can't find good food at those places (aka hole-in-the-wall) but a clean appearance is a good way to attract ambivalent customers. As a random note, the English translation is more or less what the Chinese name says.  My Chinese name is also in it, no bias there.. :P

Both my mom and I decided to buy lunch from Tasty Harmony. They serve Hong Kong style cafe foods like chow mein, fried rice, baked rice and spaghetti, milk tea etc. Most meals are around $7. Each meal comes with a choice of soup (they have two available) and a drink. Cold drinks are an extra 50 cents and you can also upgrade to a larger size for an additional cost.

Bitter Melon & Basa with Rice ($6.75)

My mom was immediately drawn to their daily special. Today's special was Bitter Melon and Basa with Rice for $6.75. She paired her meal with a pork bone broth and Hong Kong Style Coffee & Tea (that's both mixed together in one drink). I saw they use Tsit Wing milk tea, which is becoming increasingly popular in HK Cafes in Vancouver. My first encouter with TW milk tea was in Toronto when my relatives took us to a HK Cafe where they rave about the amazing milk tea. It's stronger and thicker, which some like it and some don't. My parents usually prefer watering it down with some plain tea. 

Yesyes, I know basa fish is one of the worst types of fish to eat but it's commonly found in Chinese cooking. It's also the cheapest to buy. The fish is fried and then added with the bitter melon and black bean sauce. However, it wasn't crispy anymore when we brought it to the table. My mom also said it was too salty for her liking. 

Fried Rice with Shredded Chicken in Tomato Sauce and Prawn in Cream Sauce ($7.25)

I got their Fried Rice with Shredded Chicken in Tomato Sauce and Prawn in Cream Sauce (such a long name). In Chinese its the 'Yin Yang' fried rice because half the rice is covered in one sauce and the other half in the other sauce. Not every restaurant offers this rice so I was happy to see it here. It's been too long since I've had this! For the drink I got cold Ovaltine (add 50 cents for cold drinks) and a Borscht soup. When I opened the box to take a photo, I was surprised at how much rice there was. An entire box filled with it! The fried rice has bits of scrambled eggs and it's fried dry so each grain of rice is separated (a good thing). The tomato sauce had chunks of fresh field tomatoes but the base was rather bland and slightly ketchup-y. The cream sauce was packed with shrimp, like the entire section was covered by a layer of shrimp. All deviened shrimp too, yay for no shrimp poop! The cream sauce wasn't very flavourful either, probably just a cream roux that's under seasoned. So the main dish was lackluster and not worth putting on your 'to-eat list'. There is better 'Yin Yang' fried rice to be found elsewhere...

The borscht soup was pretty good; lots of cabbage, carrots, and celery in a sour broth. I watched my Ovaltine drink be made and there are quite a number of ingredients and steps! A bit of hot water to dissolve the powder, a bit of simple syrup for sweetening, some evaporated milk for creaminess and ice cubes to cool it all down. Perfect kiddie accompaniment to my HK cafe meal, yum~

Overall, Tasty Harmony has very good value but the quality of their food is so-so. Not terrible, but definitely doesn't blow me away. Does the trick for lunch. Their drinks are pretty well done and lots of effort and time goes into them. Just be prepared to wait a little bit because food is made to order and there are only two chefs in the back cooking. I will probably come back another time to try some of their other items.

Tasty Harmony 心怡美食 on Urbanspoon

Xu's Wonton House

Xu's Wonton House
This stall has always been famous for their Xiao Long Bao. The original owner that occupied this space was more famous and I've heard the xiao long bao was better then. However there are still tons of customers that travel to Crystal Mall just for the xiao long bao here, new(er) owner or not. I've tried it before a couple of times and they weren't bad, but not amazing. Maybe I just don't have a soft spot for xiao long bao. From my memory, it seems like the buns are not super consistent; sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, the wrapping looks different etc. 

Xiao Long Bao ($4.25)

Xiao long bao is one of my brother's favourite foods, so he was quick to make a decision. There are ladies constantly wrapping these little pork-filled buns and they are steamed to order (which is pretty much constantly). By the time I got back to the table with my own food, my brother had already cleared the bamboo steamer. He said the buns were good because of the amount of soup inside but bad because the wrapper ripped too easily. My dad says the buns are too large and if they were made smaller, the wrapping ripping would be less of a problem. It takes skill to eat one of these buns without loosing a single drip of the juice inside. As Az says, we must be "xiao long bao vampires"!

Xu's Wonton House 白玉蘭麵家 on Urbanspoon

Ipoh Bean Sprout Chicken
Ipoh Bean Sprout Chicken

When we found a table right in front of this stall, my dad was drawn to the little sign sitting on the counter that advertised a Curry Beef Brisket for $6.50. It sounded yummy to him so that's what he had for lunch.

Malaysian Curry Beef Brisket with Rice ($6.50)
I didn't eat too much of this dish but I tried a few tidbits. The beef was a bit tough, probably not slow cooked. The curry looked very oily yet when I tasted it, it wasn't like a POW! of flavour. Heavy with the oil but not with the flavour. I'd skip this.   

The restaurant name is very odd but I believe it's their signature dish. Perhaps that dish will taste better.

Ipoh Bean Sprout Chicken 怡保芽菜雞 on Urbanspoon
Cherry Fruit Juice & Icy Bar

If you've read my first post about Cherry Fruit Juice & Icy Bar, you probably know I love this place. So it's no surprise this is one stop I must make on every trip to Crystal Mall, full stomach or not. 
Mango Grass Jelly Icy ($4.50)
There are a few signs sitting atop their display of mix-ins. In the summer they have mango! This cup of shaved ice is advertised as Mango Tapioca Icy but I swapped the tapioca for grass jelly (no additional charge). The ice is mixed with a bit of mango puree/juice then topped with grass jelly, coconut milk, fresh mango chunks, and a few pieces of coconut jelly. So much better than powder-based bubble teas. This may just be my new favourite icy from them. Looooove it :D

Cherry Fruit Juice & Icy Bar on Urbanspoon  

The verdict? The Crystal Mall food court is a great place to find good Chinese food at cheap prices. One can easily get a massively portioned meal for under $10, with tons of choices to choose from too! From this post, one may become discouraged from the 'mehhh' food I had today. Just know I always get excited when I get to eat at this food court because there is just such a wide range of authentic Chinese food that is totally affordable. It's the closest 'Hong Kong feel' to home without taking an hour drive out to Richmond. 

But a word of warning: the parking lot is busy and super narrow. There are plenty of parking spaces but it's difficult to maneuver around corners. It isn't as bad as Aberdeen Centre (which I hail as the worst parking lot in Greater Vancouver, hands down) but it's pretty bad. By the way, the first three hours are free and pay parking starts after that. No clue how they calculate it, but I doubt one would need more than three hours in Crystal Mall anyways. 

Love from Coconut Crumpet's Corner ♡


  1. the xiao long bao are my must!!!

    -papaya crumpet

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