Vancouver is a very walkable city, so we headed to Robson St., a street that has tons of commercial activity. Of the hundreds of shops and restaurants, a good chunk of them have authentic Asian food.
First we went to Snowy Village for bingsu (or bingsoo). This is Korean shaved ice. Unlike American shaved ice, which is just shaved ice with fruit syrup, bingsu has a dairy base of condensed milk ice.
This ice is much fluffier and softer than the jagged, crackly American version. The taste of Taiwanese shaved ice is the same, but the textures are different, because bingsu feels like powder snow, the best for skiing, while Taiwanese shaved ice is shaved in very thin strips.
As with Taiwanese shaved ice, you can’t have it without toppings. Jenna and I shared a large green tea patbingsu (red bean shaved ice, $12), which came with almond slivers, green tea cake, sweet chunky red bean paste, and injeolmi, all covered with real matcha. Injeolmi is a rice cake made of pounded glutinous rice flour comparable to mochi. The light brown powder is roasted soybean powder, the most common injeolmi flavoring. I’m guessing it’s comparable to kinako (roasted soybean flour) mochi, which I haven’t tried yet.
Snowy Village was packed with Asians, mostly Koreans of all ages, the entire time we were there, a good sign. I’ll need to come back for the croissant taiyaki! Taiyaki are a Japanese sweet of pancake batter poured into fish-shaped molds and filled with red bean paste or custard, but Snowy Village makes theirs with croissant batter.
After the cold bingsu we walked a minute and got to Chewy Peppers, a tiny hole-in-the-wall place for tteokbokki. Tteok is Korean rice cake. This street food involves tteok, eomuk (Korean fish cakes, sweeter than Japanese and Chinese ones), and gochujang (sweet and spicy red chili paste). This isn’t a dessert but it’s as sweet as one. (Korean cuisine has a lot of sweetness.)
Our order came with a delicious clear seaweed soup. It was nice to alternate bites of the sweet, thick tteokbokki with the mild and savory soup. Unfortunately, the tteok were overcooked and were so soft they weren’t chewy at all, as the name of Chewy Peppers would suggest.
My visit happened to fall upon the day of Vancouver’s Celebration of Lights, a fireworks show on beautiful English Bay. The streets were choked with people for hours after 6 p.m. In Chinese, we have an expression to describe scenes like this: “People mountain, people sea.”
We sought refuge from the human sea at Milano, a well-regarded boutique coffee roaster.
Milano was on Jenna’s bucket list of cafes. She is really into coffee was underwhelmed at the “average” latte. I can’t judge coffee because I don’t drink it but I liked the chocolate sorbetto, which was almost pitch black. The brown in the picture above doesn’t show how black it is, so here’s a better picture:
Ever since seeing black chocolate ice cream at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing as a middle schooler, I’ve wanted to try it because of the visual drama. Taste-wise, it’s not different from any high quality dark chocolate ice cream/gelato, but we eat with our eyes as well as our mouths and I enjoyed it. Something off my bucket list as well.