Truong Tranh – Vancouver, BC

Truong Tranh
Kingsway and Victoria Dr
Vancouver, BC

Truong Tranh on Urbanspoon

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It is heartening to see the signs of a maturing ethnic restaurant scene. To me, one of the first real indications of maturity is the emergence of regional cuisines within a dominant national cuisine. Vancouver has been experiencing this type of emergence in its Chinese scene for quite a while. Restaurants that serve Hunan, Sichuan, Hakka, amongst others having been coming out of the woodwork over the last decade. Much more recently we have been seeing regional Italian – wooing diners from the typical “red-sauce” joint.

Vietnamese regional cuisine isn’t very common here in Vancouver. Here, this cuisine has been defined (and caricatured) by pho joints. However, if you dig a little deeper, you will find these little places that serve regional specialties front and center in their menu. Truong Tranh is such a place. Here, pho takes a back seat to Northern specialties such as banh cuon, xoi, bun rieu cua, and bun oc.

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Truong Tranh has a section of their menu reserved for xoi – Vietnamese sticky rice. My particular favorite dish here is their xoi thit – or — to use the more familiar Colonial name — Porc au Caramel. The pork (belly in this case) is tender, deliciously fatty (“unctuous” would be the ideal description here), and the sauce is an intensely flavoured concoction of fish sauce, black pepper, garlic, and caramel sauce – nuoc mau. This caramel sauce imparts a sweet and pleasant bitter undertone to the dish. It is a great accompaniment to the xoi.

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Banh cuon is a common breakfast dish in Northern Vietnam. I reported about another restaurant — Trahn Xuan that serves an authentic example of this dish. Like at Trahn Xuan, the banh cuon‘s rice wrapper is made fresh to order here. Most Vietnamese restaurants are content to serve this dish using store-bought Chinese-style rice rolls.

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The banh cuon pictured here comes with cha lua (pork loaf)  and pork floss (looking a lot like burlap). It always comes with an herb plate and nuoc cham.

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Bun oc (fresh water snail soup) is a dish that is difficult to find in Vancouver (and in most cities in North America). The examples of this dish that you do find are often made with canned snails (Truong Tranh is no different). This particular example is strongly flavoured with pickled bamboo shoots – very tasty to those who are accustomed to it – but oddly medicinal to first timers.

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There are so many Vietnamese restaurants out here in this city. I’m sure that there are a number that have surprisingly regional menus.  I am hoping that these places are just the tip of the iceberg. This refrain rings familiar — Vietnamese is so much more than pho — (remember when we used to say Chinese restaurants are more than just chow mein and sweet and sour pork?).

Truong Tranh on Urbanspoon


Faux KFC – Inuvik, NWT

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) @ The Northern
MacKenzie Road
Inuvik, NWT
(857) 777-2582

I love traditions. To me, they are like the signposts of life. They remind you of things from your past, and give you something to look forward to. Out of all the “traditions” that my friends and family have established, one of my favorites is the KFC meal.

I grew up eating KFC as a treat. There was no extra crispy, or other wacky options. It was original or original. I remember the days my father would come home from work with a bucket of KFC. If i could get to the first drumstick, those were good days indeed. KFC was a part of my childhood, and even as i grew older, still held a lot of nostalgia for me. Besides, KFC tasted really good as a kid.

Fast forward to University. It’s my best friend’s birthday, and slightly short on money, and definitely short on ideas, we decide it’s a good idea to split a 20 piece bucket of chicken. The folly of youth. We each eat 10 pieces, partly because it tasted good, and partly because of bravado, and we proceeded to throw up. The human body just wasnt designed to handle that much grease – without copious amounts of beer anyway.

We couldn’t eat KFC again. Until the following year, when, on his birthday, we decided “why not”, and ordered a 20 piece bucket again. I believe i was the only one purging that year. My best friend had somehow developed a better resistance to the grease.

We do it every year now, for his birthday. It’s the only time each year that we eat KFC. I look forward to these times, as it’s part nostalgic, part good story, and really, i do look forward to eating my KFC once a year. Until i got ripped off this year.


My best friend’s birthday found us in Inuvik. Thankfully, there is a KFC in town, so we were able to continue our tradition. Inside a department store, i waited at the KFC/Taco Bell combo. 15 piece bucket (we’re a bit older now), gravy to go. They throw chicken into the oven and start baking it. This isnt right. What’s going on here? Maybe they’re trying to defrost it, then toss it in the fryer. Who knows.

30 minutes later, our bucket is given to us, with our large side of gravy. The gravy is definitely KFC gravy – thick, clumpy, congealed and fatty, it’s heaven in a bowl! The chicken, however, does not come in the requisite Colonel Sanders bucket. It’s some strange “chicken” bucket.


I get the receipt. Apparently i ordered a KFC Large Gravy, and miscellaneous, proprietary, 15 piece baked chicken! This wasnt KFC – this was Faux KFC! They were selling their own chicken, not calling it KFC to avoid getting sued, and adding it to the bill, fooling unsuspecting people. This story was later confirmed – it was not real KFC – it was my very first fake KFC.


Not really wanting to relive another fried chicken experience, we decided this one would count. We ate the bucket. Surprisingly enough, the chicken was decent. Ok really. Didnt taste like KFC, but it wasnt terrible either. Especially in Inuvik, where the choices are extremely limited. A solid 5 out of 10.

While the pieces we order each year are decreasing, and the likelihood of vomitting these days is generally very slim, i’ve found the onset of age brings practicality and wisdom. I look forward and enjoy this tradition each year, fake KFC or not. It is a unique and interesting tradition that only my best friend and I share.

How about you – do you have any food traditions you can share with the rest of us? We’d love to hear about them!