Chinese Restaurant Awards signature dishes announced – Georgia Straight

By Michelle da Silva,

there are a hundred ways to prepare a chicken, the HSBC Chinese
Restaurant Awards hope to inspire chefs to discover a hundred more.

“Every chef knows how to make all these different dishes, but usually
they have some special insight into particular ones, and that’s what we
look for,” Stephen Wong, founding chair of the CRA told the Straight. “Then, it’s the same things that you look for: good presentation, smell, look, and taste.”

Wong led the judging panel for the CRA’s critics’ choice signature
dish awards, which highlight dishes at Metro Vancouver restaurants that
are deemed to be the best of their kind—for example, the best chicken
dish, prawn dish, or best appetizer.

There were 25 dishes chosen this year, including executive chef Tony
Luk’s tea-infused Jade Smoked Grandpa’s Chicken from Jade Seafood
Restaurant (8511 Alexandra Road). It was named the best chicken dish of
2011 at an awards ceremony on January 18 at the River Rock Casino
Resort. (Winners of the diners’ choice segment of the awards, which
consisted of online voting in 15 categories, were announced last fall,
and Luk was declared Chinese Chef of the Year after an intense cook-off
in December.)

The critics’ choice panel consisted of 11 judges, each of them chefs,
restaurateurs, or food writers. The judges spent five months tasting
nearly 500 dishes, ranging from basics such as those based on chicken,
beef, or pork, to favourites like dim sum, congee, and noodles, to more
exotic fare including geoduck, Alaska king crab, and squab. The judges
voted by secret ballot to determine the winning dishes, and many of the
winners turned out to be the dishes that showed the most originality.

“There was one dish with B.C. wild rice and Dungeness crab,” judge and local food blogger Melody Fury told the Straight,
referring to Red Star Seafood Restaurant’s (8298 Granville Street,
Vancouver, and 8181 Cambie Road, Richmond) dish that won the Most
Innovative award. “Wild rice isn’t traditionally used in Chinese
cooking, but the flavours are still very familiar. It’s eye opening.”

“I want to encourage people to come up with new things,” Wong echoed. “That is the underlying purpose of the awards.”

The awards featured a new category this year, the Wine & Spirit
Service Award, given to newcomer Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie (163 Keefer

“I want to have a nice glass of wine, a good cocktail, but I feel
like that’s often lacking in Chinese restaurants,” Fury said. “So props
to Bao Bei for incorporating cocktails into Chinese cuisine. I think
it’s a good move, and I hope to see more of that in Chinese

For Wong, the purpose of the CRA is simple—it is all about the
pursuit of deliciously innovative food. “When you eat a good dish, you
want more,” he said. “You put it in your mouth and you go, ‘Wow, this is
really good!’ And that actually captures what we call wok hei or wok qi
in Chinese cooking. It’s that umami kind of coming-together goodness of
it, and it’s kind of elusive.”

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