Food delights you need to try in Pacific Mall
Metro Morning's food guide Suresh Doss joins the program every week to discuss one of the many great GTA eateries he's discovered.
This week, he's bringing us to a well-known place where you can find many new gems: Pacific Mall in Markham.
Below is a lightly edited transcript of Doss's conversation with Metro Morning guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.
Suresh: Objectively this is one Markham's legendary shopping complexes. I remember it opened just when I had graduated high school. A group of us would regularly make trips to the mall, sometimes almost weekly. It's this cavernous building with high ceilings, layed out in this interesting network of corridors with hundreds of small, often times cubicle-sized retail condos. We went here to buy phone cases, electronics, when I needed a new hard drive. It is still one of the largest indoor Asian shopping malls in North America. There are over 700 shops, and I believe close to 75 food business.
Piya: But you're taking us there for food today.
Suresh: After our shopping we would always end up on the second floor, known as Heritage Town, where you'll see this mock bridge setup that leads you to two food courts.There are many food shops in Pacific Mall but this is where I am taking you today.
The mall as you can imagine suffered quite a bit during the early days of the pandemic. These vendors were hit really, really hard. I'm happy to say that the vibrancy is back, and there are a number of new places that have joined the court. So I'm going to share some new spots and some classics.
Piya: Where are we eating first?
Suresh: We're going to do a quick food tour, so lets try to hit as many places as possible. Let's start with snacks. You'll notice a lot of menus are still not in English here, but there are menus with photos. And the cooks are really wonderful and eager to walk you through. There's a lady that runs a small stand, called Yu Shan Yuan Jiang Bing. She specializes in jian bing, Beijing-style crepes that are a very popular street food.
It's a savoury crepe, really thin, cooked on a large cast iron pan. An egg is cracked in the middle which ends up giving this crepe a wonderful crusty membrane. And then you can load the crepe with some vegetables, chili oil, fermented bean paste. Maybe ask her to put a yui tiao in there — Chinese fried dough fritters. And then its wrapped like a burrito and cut into pieces. You've got this wonderful soft exterior with a crunchy centre and lots of umami goodness.
Suresh: Are you a fan of dumplings?
Piya: Who isn't?
Suresh: So there is this new vendor in the building, it's not even listed on Google Maps. He's at the centre of the Heritage Town complex, the stand is called Bei Wei Ju Dumplings. He's got a small menu of steamed dumplings and a separate menu of fried dumplings. It's the kind of place where nothing is frozen, he makes the dumplings in front of you when you order it. I love the Chinese sauerkraut and pork boiled dumplings. And the chicken and pea sprout fried dumplings — my absolute favourite.
If you want a soupy version of handmade dumplings, at the centre of the food court, there is a small stand with red and gold lettering. My best translation is it says Shanghai Siu Mai Yu. Get the dumplings in soup here, really delicate wontons with slippery edges in a sublime broth.
If you want something with more heat and punchier flavours, still he hottest food trend in Chinese cooking is Sichuan's food, food from Chongqing. QQ Noodle King, a husband and wife booth at the very end of the food court, is a must visit. Get the hot and sour noodles here, it is an incredible amalgam of crunch, spice, sour and hearty flavours in a bowl.
Suresh: Do we have time for dessert? So bubble tea, boba, is a really easy move here if you don't feel like a full dessert.
There are now a dozen bubble tea shops in the building, with some really wild flavour combinations. We're going through our third bubble tea renaissance.
Or you can get some sweet waffles from the lady that operates the stand at the snack shop Yummie. I like to get the red bean ice cream waffle.
Or if you feel like you need something caffeinated, I would head to Dak Lak — this is a small Vietnamese coffee shop — and get the egg coffee to go. It's rich, creamy, with a nice roasty base of caffeine, that will surely give you a boost.