Food delights you need to try at Pacific Mall

MetroMorning‘s food guide Suresh Doss joins the program every week to discuss one of the many great GTA eaters he’s discovered.

This week, he’s bringing us to a well-known place where you can find lots of new gems: Pacific Mall in Markham.

Below is a lightly edited transcript of Doss’s conversation with MetroMorning 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, laid out in this interesting network of corridors with hundreds of small, often 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 businesses.

Piya: But you’re taking us there for food today.

Steamed dumplings with cucumber, shrimp and pork (Left).  Fried dumplings with chicken and pea sprouts (right) at Bei Wei Ju dumplings.
Left: steamed dumplings with cucumber, shrimp and pork. Right: fried dumplings with chicken and pea sprouts, both at Bei Wei Ju dumplings. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

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 hits 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.

Chongqing style sour noodle soup (left) and Shanghai style cold noodles (right) at QQ Noodle King.
Left: Chongqing-style sour noodle soup. Right: Shanghai-style cold noodles, both available from QQ Noodle King. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

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 who runs a small stand, called Yu Shan Yuan Jiang Bing. She specializes in jian bing, Beijing-style crepes that are very popular street food.

A woman making the jiang bing at YU SHAN YUAN JIANG BING.
Making the jiang bing at Yu Shan Yuan Jiang Bing. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

It’s a savory 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 it’s wrapped like a burrito and cut into pieces. You’ve got this wonderful soft exterior with a crunchy center and lots of umami goodness.

The Jiang Bing, brushed with egg and stuffed with yu tiao - fried dough fritter - from YU SHAN YUAN JIANG BING.
The Jiang Bing, brushed with egg and stuffed with yu tiao, a fried dough fritter. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

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 center 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.

Making the Shanghai style dumplings by hand at SHANGHAI SIU MAI YU.
Making the Shanghai-style dumplings by hand at Shanghai Siu Mai Yu. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

If you want a soupy version of handmade dumplings, at the center 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 hotter and punchier flavours, still the 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’s an incredible amalgam of crunch, spice, sour and hearty flavors in a bowl.

Dumplings in a broth at SHANGHAI SIU MAI YU.
Dumplings in broth. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

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 flavor combinations. We’re going through our third bubble tea renaissance.

Egg waffles at Yummie in Pacific Mall.
Egg waffles at Yummie in Pacific Mall. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Or you can get some sweet waffles from the lady who operates the stand at the Yummie snack shop. 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, which will surely give you a boost.

  The Egg coffee at Dak Lak.
The egg coffee at Dak Lak. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

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