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Food Guide By: Joie Alvaro Kent, Jennifer Giesbrecht, Lee Man,and Fernando Medrano
Photos: Christine McAvoy
Filipinos are fanatical about lechon: suckling pig stuffed with aromatics and slow-cooked over open coals. This East Van joint also debones and serves it porchetta-style. Crackling crisp skin and tender meat for the win.
PinPin, 6113 Fraser St., 604-322-3086.
Over 4,000 varieties of potato grow in the Andes, and this classic coastal appetizer pays homage.
Slices of raw albacore top softly whipped cilantro potatoes with unfathomable accents of wasabi cream,passion fruit, and ponzu. Chicha, 136 E. Broadway, 604-620-3963.
A thick tomato-chicken curry gets welcome crunch from sautéed bell pepper and onion. The Urdu/Muslim-originated “leftover” dish is typically served red-hot (although the milder form still does the trick). A huge hit among curry-crazy Brits.
7215 Main St., 604-327-8900
Original Tandoori Kitchen
From the northeastern state of Bahia, fresh shellfish bathe in a coconut milk-laced cassava root purée. Ubiquitous bar snack in state capital Salvador, it’s a treasure for homesick Brazilians and samba fans everywhere.
2545 Nanaimo St., 604-566-9028
Bite-size steamed dumplings stuffed with pork (veg version available too) seem nondescript until dipped in flavourful chutneys like tomato, cilantro, and tamarind. A wallet-friendly neighbourhood addiction.
Café Kathmandu, 2779 Commercial Dr., 604-879-9909
Chef Nico Schuermans’s take on North Africa’s flagship earthenware stew boasts a healthy lamb shank in a fragrant braise of honey, figs, cinnamon, and cilantro. Served with couscous and zalouk (cooked tomato and eggplant salad).
Chambar, 562 Beatty St.,604-879-7119
Fermented young tea leaves are salt-cured for months underground in clay jars, then hand-blended (in typical thoke salad style) with cabbage, fried soybeans, hot pepper, lime juice, tomato, dried shrimp, turmeric oil, and fish sauce. Bitter, salty, fantastically funky.
4910 Joyce St., 604-568-0137
Joyce Way Market
With DatesA crisp, grassy, tea-like infusion of cardamom and lightly roasted coffee beans, poured from a long-necked pot called a dallah into tiny cups, forms the quintessential home welcome when served with dates dipped in tahini.
724 Kingsway, 604-568-7292
Rolls of seasoned beef sausage wrapped in glossy betel (la lot) leaves and char-grilled. The greens-chewed across Asia as a popular stimulant-release a scrumptious, incense-like fragrance as they cook.
Mui Ngo Gai, 2052 Kingsway
Slow-cooked bone-in meat is married with house-blended spices that trumpet the region’s copious global influences. Served tiffin-style with rice and peas or wrapped in a roti.
Calabash Bistro, 428 Carrall St., 604-568-5882
A bar staple in the south, anchovies (normally brown), whitened in a vinegar bath, are seasoned simply with garlic, lemon, and oil. Savour these fishies-a charming rarity on local tapas menus-with beer, not wine.
España, 1118 Denman St., 604-558-4040.
Roasted and rice-batter-fried blossoms give a hearty, sweet crunch to this otherwise classic Thai salad bursting with fresh mint, earthy cilantro, and fried shallots in a tamarind and palm sugar dressing.
Maenam, 1938 W. Fourth Ave., 604-730-5579
Metre-long sheets of rippled, chewy sourdough flatbread emerge from a traditional hot-pebble oven in an overlooked North Van industrial ‘hood to partner with grilled tomatoes and kebabs.
Market and Bakery, 1521 Pemberton Ave., North Van, 604-987-7454
Thick, lightly fried tortilla rounds buttress fresh, regional taco-like toppings (beans in the south, chorizo or chicken in the north). At this hole-in-the-wall, the simmered pork rind version (chicarrón en salsa roja) takes the crown.
The Mexican, Antojitos y Cantina,
1049 Granville St., 604-569-0955
Of the many traditional stone-pot stews (jjigae), this blend of peppery shrimp broth and silken tofu is a family fave. Served bubbling hot right in the cooking vessel, it embodies rainy-day comfort.
1031 Kingsway, 604-879-1515
The common Japanese starter (literally, “vinegared things”) generally floats ingredients in a thin sweet/tart dressing. This new, quirkily appointed sushi joint trades the bowl for a much more refined cucumber-wrapped “salad.” Tokyo Thyme,
5405 West Blvd., 604-263-3262.