4127 Main Street
Tel: (604) 709 8188
With all the talk about doing what’s best for the people on “Main Street” amid the financial meltdown and stump speeches in the American election, it stuck me that I rarely visit the road with the same name on Vancouver’s east side. Neither living nor working in that part of the city, nor having any friends with residences there that I would ever visit, Main Street really is an afterthought for me. However, I did know it is home to many off-the-beaten-track, hole-in-the-wall, beloved restaurants with the locals, and it deserved a thorough investigation. For this, I decided to walk up from the intersection at Broadway and Main, all the way up to 49th Avenue – and on both sides of the street.
It certainly was an education in the range of eating choices available on one single road. Some places peaked my interest, others were not open yet on this late-morning Saturday, and others I just simple brushed off as not worthwhile in my mind after just looking inside the window. Fortunately, Hawker’s Delight was not one of the latter, as the minute I strode past the big open windows and could see into the kitchen in the back of the space full of activity before the doors opened for business, I knew I was to go inside.
Apparently a re-creation of a hawker style spot that one would find in places like Singapore and Malaysia (yes, I am headed there on a trip next month!), this cramped cafeteria-like restaurant is a popular place for locals who have a craving for the taste bud tingling flavors of Southeast Asia. On this day, I was the first customer through the doors before a handful of others followed behind me (for both dine-in and take out). As I stepped to the counter to give my order after scanning the menus on the walls, I noticed how frenetic the pace was inside the cooking area where three people were busy getting ready for the lunch rush. On the immediate right, I spotted this large pot that was bubbling over and giving off an intense spicy aroma – I enquired about it and was told it was a veggie curry. On the grill top was one of my favorite food sights, meat on a stick. This made my opening volley an easy decision, and I asked for a quintuplet of Beef Satay.
The sweet and savory flavors coming from the chewy meat and the accompanying dip of garlic infused oil, reminded me of why I love street food from this part of the world. With just the right amount of charbroiled parts as well, the smoky properties added to the richness of the overall taste. It’s hard to do this kind of thing badly, and Hawker’s Delight obviously did not fail in this regard.
As it was still morning, and given my unfortunate weak stomach for spicy food before the noon hour, I settled on a more milder tasting dish to help fill me up after my long walk down Main Street. Figuring it would be a good test of how well they do a staple of Singaporean cuisine, I elected to go with the Hainanese Chicken Rice. I will never forget the first time I had this in Singapore and ever since then its been hard to compete with that memory, no matter where I have eaten it since that fateful first plate.
Many people have their personal preferences for how they like the meat, but generally I feel its best when its of that silky soft consistency, with just a small amount of gelatinous texture from the skin, which is all jacked up with the trio of dipping sauces such as the powerful dark soya, chili and of course ginger. In fact here at Hawker’s Delight, they mixed the potent chili and ginger together to form one single dip, but lacked the soya much to my disappointment. Back to the meat, it did have a pleasant texture and was not stringy at all, and the poaching liquid it was cooked in had infused some addtional flavors into the chicken. No complaints here, but again, not blow-your-mind outstanding either. The side rice was not as fragrant as I would have hoped and frankly halfway through I was just fine not to eat much more of it at all. This is a stark change to the same rice I’ve had in Singapore/Malaysia in the past, where I could not get enough of the stuff.
Where Hawker’s Delight really did stand out was on the price performance. I do not think I saw anything on the menu that was over six dollars as a main dish. Frankly, I am sure you cannot get a better deal in town for this level of authentic ethnic food. Don’t expect much for service, as its more a case of one of the kitchen workers simply dropping it off at your table once its ready, and water/hot tea is all self service from the station set up near the front counter as well. But all is well, as this is the kind of environment one would expect from a hawker-style setup and one that I will no doubt return to again to try out the other offerings. This is of course, if I am not tired of this food after my travels next month – ooh, what a delight!