I just flew in from four days in British Columbia, but I feel like I've come back from a mini-tour of East Asia—foodwise, anyway—minus the major jet lag. My friends and I started most of our mornings in and around Vancouver with a lazy dim sum breakfast—how I'd opt to start all my mornings for the rest of my life if there were eight dozen hours in a day. While we ate our way through several dim sum spots (both Cantonese and Shanghainese), my favorite was Shanghai River, in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond. I watched cooks in a glass-enclosed kitchen roll out superthin dumpling wrappers to make soup-and-minced-pork-filled dumplings and had two bowls of creamy soy bean soup filled with deep-fried dough.
Our evenings were usually dedicated to Japanese food, including that odd East-meets-West Vancouver hybrid, the Japa Dog. When we visited the street vendor, there was a line of Japanese tourists with cameras slung around their necks waiting to try one of the daikon or dried-seaweed-topped hot dogs. At the sprawling Tojo's, I ordered omakase; more than any of my sushi I liked my cooked dish of pan-sauteed halibut cheek in an orange rind sauce. But what might have been the most surprising dish of the trip was my last: the almost-black ramen broth at Motomachi Shokudo, the new restaurant by Vancouver's ramen king, Daiji Matsubara, whose original noodle house, Kintaro, is just a few doors down on Denman Street. The cause for the disconcerting color: bamboo charcoal, used as a digestive supplement in Eastern medicine. Whether the charcoal soup's healthful properties were real or myth, it was unexpectedly delicious, with fresh noodles, tender pork, and chewy bamboo shoots.