On Cafe D’Lite and Danger Bargain Shopping at Daiso

I found myself near Aberdeen Centre again the other day, and kept thinking “Hainanese Chicken.  I must try the Hainanese Chicken.”  Why?  Because after I went to Aberdeen Center the last time, so many of you said “you HAVE to go back and try the Hainanese Chicken!”  So I did.

I started with some research on this dish, because up until then – through brilliant deductive reasoning – the only thing I knew about it was that has chicken in it, and is from Hainan.

Hainan is the smallest province of the People’s Republic of China, located on the South China Sea, and is the birthplace of this dish.  Basically, it’s made by stuffing chicken with ginger and green onions, then gently poaching it.  The resulting broth is used to cook the accompanying rice, and the meal is served with a chili dipping sauce.  It’s simple, delicately flavoured, and well-loved in many southeast Asian cuisines.  The dish, as it’s known to many today, apparently evolved when the Chinese brought it over to Singapore, where it’s now considered a national dish.

Apparently, the place to try it in Richmond is at the Aberdeen food court at Café D’Lite Express.  It’s an offshoot of Café D’Lite in Vancouver, specializing in Malaysian and Singaporean food.  Their main offerings are laksa and the Hainanese Chicken, which you can order in various sizes.  I opted for the quarter chicken with rice ($7.25) and a $1.75 iced Ovaltine (you know, to get my vitamins), and it was ready in about 2 minutes.  The meal came with slices of fresh cucumber, a small bowl of brothy soup, and two sauces – chili and fresh ginger – on the side.

I sat down nearby so I could watch the endless stream of muted Korean pop music videos above Jang Mo Jib, a vendor next to Café D-Lite.  The videos are all pretty much the same, spectacularly cheesy, and totally entertaining!

So what did I think of the chicken?  For starters, I was surprised upon first bite to realize it’s served at room temperature; the rice is hot, but the chicken is not.  The quarter bird had been chopped into pieces, with the thick skin still attached, and the meat was impossibly moist.  It had a very mild flavour and sat in its own gingery, soy poaching liquid.  I mixed the chili and ginger sauces with the rice, scooped it up, and ate it with the meat.  It was light and tasty, though I had one problem which I’ll probably get a lot of slack for:  I had a really hard time eating the soft chicken skin.  I’m all for chicken skin if it’s been roasted to a crispy, salted crunch, but when it’s soft and the plucked-feather bumps are still apparent, I have huge issues with the texture.  Perhaps sacrilegiously, I removed the skin and ate the chicken on its own.  That I could handle, and that I enjoyed!

Then there were the many suggestions to check out the Japanese superstore Daiso, so I did that too.  It’s located a level below the food court, and let me just say this:  if your Achilles-heel is bargain shopping, you should NEVER ENTER DAISO.  This place is awesome, and this place is trouble.

Headquartered in Japan, the Daiso empire spreads across Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea; the store in Richmond was their first in North America, and is still the only one in Canada.

It’s packed with products, and is perfect for rainy day entertainment; you can wander endlessly, finding all kinds of goodies you’ve never seen before, then become utterly convinced you need.  There are dishes, kitchen items, home decorating goods, packaged food, stationery, and thousands of other products to peruse.

I (somehow) managed to get out of there with only four things:  a pastry cutter (we’ve needed one for ages and pie season has arrived), a small cooler bag, and two bags of prawn crackers.

It was Roxie, my Grandmum, who first got me hooked me on prawn-flavoured snacks; she used to serve them to my brother, sister, and I while we sat in her small apartment, waiting for the roast beef dinners she served when we were visiting.  Salty prawn crackers + chilled cranberry juice to drink – ah, the memories.

For me, one of the best things about travelling is exploring foreign stores, so another fun thing about Daiso – especially the food aisle – is that is also feels like you’ve left the country.  If you have a chance to visit, let me know what you turn up!

I will leave you with the only Korean pop song I actually know: “Nobody” by Wonder Girls.  I had a good chuckle after googling “Korean pop music videos” and finding this, because we listened to it one day at my friend Suzie’s apartment in Italy and I’d forgotten about it entirely.  Even though we tried, we never did get the dance down.

 

Cafe D’Lite Express

Daiso - Aberdeen Centre

4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC

604-270-1234

Cash or card.

Not really vegetarian friendly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 Comments

  1. J

    My life is now complete. Thanks Lindsay.

    Reply
  2. 3rdRock

    Haven’t been to Café D-Lite yet. I would certainly want to try them out. That 3 pieces of veg in your soup looks like “winter melon”. :)

    I just returned from a trip to Asia including Singapore, where chicken-rice at food courts go for as little as $3 and up to $30 at some hotels.
    http://www.soshiok.com/article/16148

    The difference of the Singapore version is in the spices that include blue ginger (nam keong).

    Enjoy reading your blog very much. Love your other blogs too.

    Reply
  3. Winnie

    Hainan chicken, Daiso, and funny videos are some of my favourite things! Thanks, Lindsay!

    In addition to cheesy videos, Jang Mo Jib next to Cafe D’Lite Express has yummy jap chae (sweet potato noodles) and seafood pancake.

    About Daiso, I’ve bought stationary, bowls, reusable silicone lids to cover bowls (instead of plastic wrap), origami paper, insulated lunch bags, shopping bags, reading glasses for my father, toys and more!

    Reply
  4. Suzie

    Linds! As soon as I read “Korean Pop Videos” I had this song in my head. Next time I see you we will eat a mountain of Chicken Rice and practice the dance together. btw, in Singapore many Chicken Rice stalls in hawker centres sell a roasted version too – the skin is crispy and delicious!

    Reply
    • Lindsay365

      Well perfect! I CAN have it all! I will start practising the dance now, so I have it somewhere near perfection when I see you….

      Reply
  5. Laurette

    that video is too funny. Take off on Dreamgirls. Keep up the great work

    Reply
  6. Alan

    Cafe dLite is my favorite! Too bad you don’t like chicken skin. They are the best part of the chicken…

    Reply
  7. Rachel B

    Prata Man has really good Hainanese chicken rice, if you like cold chicken.. I go there for the beef rendang, chicken satay and the sinapore noodles.. skip the prata it’s kinda disappointing …also it’s a little bit of a hole in the wall..no frills but the food is good.

    Reply
    • Lindsay365

      Great advice, thanks Rachel. Chicken satay is one of my favourites, so I’ll have to try it here.

      Reply
  8. zitarowena

    I have tried Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore and the chicken is really served at room temp. Because after you’ve cooked the chicken in dunk it in cold water and cut it into pieces and served with Kecap Manis a sweet soy sauce. You could really see the bumps in chocked because the way it was cooked, but it’s healthiers than fried chicken. I have to try it my self and I will let you know if it’s close to the authentic Hainanese chicken rice, visit my blog at foodiesfoodquest@wordpress.com.

    Reply
  9. GS

    Love in!

    Reply
  10. Kathy

    I love Cafe D’Lite and Daiso!! I go to Aberdeen quite often. Now, you’ve got me craving for some Hainanese chicken!

    Reply
  11. Lydia

    No judgment on taking off the bumpy chicken skin! It’s kind of gross.

    FYI, Yokoyaya 123 in the Tinseltown mall is owned by Daiso and is basically a smaller version.

    Reply
  12. Valerie

    hi lindsay!
    fyi: daiso isn’t the only one in canada, yokoyaya123 in tinseltown mall in vancouver is also owned by daiso canada LTD. it’s a smaller version, but basically carries the same things, and rather than it being $2 per item, they do have different costs per item, some up to $3 from what i remember.

    Reply
  13. Nicky B

    For satay Kari House in Steveston is my favourite – and I love the little family who own and run it….. try it…you’ll love it.

    Reply
  14. grayelf

    I’m with ya on not eating the poached chicken skin — gives me the willies, as does the gelatin just below it, which is highly prized by the HCR aficionados around me who tut when I shudder :-). If you want to try a version made with free-range chicken that has yellower, thinner skin and very little gelatin, check out M&W Food Kitchen at Admiralty Court on McKim Way. It’s my favourite version yet. And be sure to order the rice WITH OIL in future so you get the lovely, tasty yellow stuff instead of the plain white. It is item F on the menu at M&W.

    Reply
  15. KimHo

    Unfortunately, your dislike towards the texture of the chicken skin in this dish might be one of the reasons why you might not be able to fully appreciate Chinese cuisine. Unlike Western cuisine (either haute or “normal”) which relies more on visuals, Chinese cuisine also focus on texture. There are times when ingredients are added for that sole purpose, yet not necessarily add flavour. For example, in some types of dumplings, water chesnuts are added. Tastewise, they don’t contribute much; however, when you bite into it, there is that “crunch” factor it creates.

    Reply

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