Golden Spring – Richmond, BC


Golden Spring Restaurant
Suite 160
4200 No. 3 Rd
Richmond, BC

Golden Spring Szechuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Sichuan food is a bit of an obsession for me. My introduction to this cuisine was not in China, but here in Vancouver at a popular restaurant on the East Side called Szechuan Chongqing many years ago. The first time my parents took us to this restaurant’s original location, I instantly fell in love with the robust flavours and the fierce heat of the food they served. Over the years, this place became a regular spot for our family. We would meet there at least once a month when we were attending university.

It was not until much later when I came to realize that the food I had been enjoying at Szechuan Chongqing bore only a passing resemblance to the cuisine of Sichuan Province in China. What we have been eating was Sichuan  food that evolved in a parallel universe far from its roots.  It is a hybrid of the common “Chinese-Canadian” cuisine with some sort of distant interpretation of Sichuan cuisine. The “Szechuan” dishes that we are most familiar (for example, Orange Peel Beef, Ginger Beef, etc) are very different or is non-existent back in China.

For many years, the real deal was hard to come by in the Vancouver  area where the Chinese food was dominated by Cantonese – and to a much lesser extent – Shanghainese cuisine. Trudeau-era immigration policies and Expo 86 were largely responsible for this predominance. This second-wave influx of  Chinese immigrants (mainly from Hong Kong) elevated the level of Chinese-Cantonese cuisine here. This area has been long famous for having some of the best Cantonese-Chinese food in North America (and some say the world).

As Chinese immigration patterns changed over the last decade, the prospects for Chinese cuisine from other parts of China improved. In Richmond BC, Vancouver’s  Chinese ethno-burb, the changes became slowly apparent. More and more, you started to hear Mandarin and other Chinese dialects being spoken by restaurant staff (instead of the ubiquitous Cantonese). Nowadays this area is blessed with some of the best Regional Chinese food anywhere.

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Golden Spring Restaurant in in the epicenter of one of the best areas to eat in the Lower Mainland – just off the soon to be completed Aberdeen Centre Skytrain Station. I have dined here a number of times now, and I still have barely touched the surface of its extensive and uncompromisingly Sichuan menu. Its menu has many of the Sichuan region’s favourite dishes and a number of unusual sounding dishes that use ingredients unfamiliar to me.

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Today, I ordered fairly conservatively as I was feeling considerate for my rather unadventurous dining companion. We had the Tofu and Century Egg appetizer which not necessarily a Sichuan dish, but I thought it would act as a nice mild counterpart for the more spicy dishes up ahead. It was drizzled with a pleasant, subtly-sweet sesame-oil and chili-oil dressing.

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Century Egg is one of my favourite ingredients (I have it often with congee) so I thought I’d post a gratuitous macro closeup here.

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The Water Convulvus stir fry was simply prepared with dried Sichuan chilies. It was not as spicy as I have had it in the past (dried chili is notoriously unpredictable that way).

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The Twice-Cooked Pork is a dish I often order at Sichuan restaurants. The Twice-Cooking technique involves slow poaching of pork belly or ribs in a flavoured broth. The resultant poached meat is sliced thinly and then wok fried with vegetables and aromatics — fermented Broad Bean Paste, Chile,  and Sichuan peppercorn. This was a very good rendition which included Chinese Leek and firm Tofu.

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I had ordered a Smoked Pork with Garlic Shoots, but we were presented with Slivered Pork with Garlic Shoots instead. No worries, it was good, but I was really looking forward to the other dish. I will make sure to point to the right item on the menu next time. This was not the first time I had experienced a miscommunication due to the language barrier here.

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Finally, Dan Dan Mian (or “Tan Tan Noodles”). The menu listed two types for Dan Dan Mian…one is labeled “Authentic Dan Dan Mian.” Once again, I believe there was a misunderstanding. The last time I was here, I recall that their “Authentic” version is dressed in a “proper” Chili-oil and Sichuan peppercorn-based dressing. This one uses dark sesame paste in its sauce with peanuts and the requisite ground Sichuan peppercorn (an elemental ingredient in Sichuan cuisine.)

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This particular rendition is a common preparation in Sichuan Province (in Chengdu in particular). It is not the most common preparation type of Dan Dan (the version with the Chili-oil dressing is the most common). It was good, so I’m not really complaining.

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Despite the recurring language-based service issues I experience on this day (and on previous visits), I will continue to patronize this restaurant. The food is good and authentic and its menu still still an unexplored frontier to me. This place seems to fly under the radar for some reason….but if you are ever in Richmond and you like Sichuan cuisine, give this place a shot.

Golden Spring Szechuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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6 thoughts on “Golden Spring – Richmond, BC

  1. Mmm the food looks pretty tasty. I’m surprised you enjoy the century duck egg, I usually only eat the skin. I wonder why the restaurant is named Golden Spring, but the chinese title is “little sichuan.” I wish they had a restaurant like this in calgary.

  2. >>I’m surprised you enjoy the century duck egg, I usually only eat the skin.

    I love the stuff. My dad used to served this and salted duck eggs to us as kids. Many people who have not tried it think it is “gross” — but I bet they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a regular boiled egg and a Century Egg with their eyes closed.

    >>I wonder why the restaurant is named Golden Spring, but the chinese title is “little sichuan.”

    That seems to be very common – the English name is very often different from the Chinese name. This often leads to confusion when getting restaurant recommendations from Chinese people. I don’t know why it is called “Golden Spring”. I’m assuming it comes from Chinese mythology…anyone know?

  3. Interesting to examine the effect that immigration patterns have on food culture in North America (a continent built by immigrants from all over the world). Glad you covered this bit of culinary history of the west coast…

    I’m not sure why, perhaps its the color and the texture, but I’ve never been that attracted to Century Egg either like Steven N. The Dan Dan Mian looks really good though!

    Do you have any tips on getting over that language barrier in Chinese restaurants? I know I am always hesitant to be adventurous when its impossible to communicate.

    I’m totally there on the confusion that arises in getting restaurant recommendations, only to find that the English name they give as translation is nothing like the original… happened to me one notable time in Calgary and it turned out it was a place I had passed by many times!

  4. >> Do you have any tips on getting over that language barrier in Chinese restaurants? I know I am always hesitant to be adventurous when its impossible to communicate.

    As a non-Chinese Chinese food aficionado, these communication breakdowns happen to me with regularity. I often carry a cheat sheet with the Chinese characters for a few key dishes. My iPhone comes in handy for that sort of thing. Pointing right at the dish’s Chinese characters in the menu works best for me.

    Some menus have a perplexing descriptions of dishes – often because there is no standardization for dish names – eg Boiled Beef (one of Sichuan cuisine’s representative dishes) is also called Water-Cooked beef or Water-Boiled Beef.

    To further add to the confusion, Water-Cooked Beef comes swimming in Oil (not water). LOL. It all makes sense when you know how it Water-Cooked meats are prepared.

    The Chinese government attempted to standardize the names of various foods in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics (with mixed success, I hear). Here is a list of about 2000 dishes and their “standard names” that I have bookmarked:
    http://youuchina.com/blog/2008/07/chinese-food-menu-translation/

    (There, they called Boiled Beef “Poached Sliced Beef in Hot Chili Oil (水煮牛肉) )

    Anyway, sometimes these mistakes lead to happy accidents. I often get to try a dish I have never had before.

    Also, whenever I see a chalkboard menu on the wall with Chinese only characters, I take a pic and then later ask a good friend to interpret…in case there is anything interesting worth ordering. (She is a Chengdu-trained Sichuan chef who has been working as an Italian cook at a well known restuarant here in town for years. )

    She knows her Sichuan food. I was happy to recommend Golden Spring to her. She dined there with her family and really enjoyed the food.

  5. Ah, Szechuan Chongqing. I remember going there a lot as a kid… I love century eggs, and that pic looked great, even with tofu, which I hate.

    Can’t wait to try Golden Spring on my next trip to Richmond. Thanks for the nice review.

  6. Thank you for this review! I’m going to try and go tonight as we’ve been craving some authentic Sichuanese food for a long time, plus the Canada Line skytrain is open and stops right next to this resto if my map is to be believed.

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