As xiao long baos and all things Shanghainese and north grow more prevalent and hog the limelight, the won ton, that classic old staple, has been relegated to yesterday’s news. That’s a shame, because the GVRD is home to some of the best won tons around.
What sets Michigan apart from most, though, are their house-made noodles. With Hon’s and other manufacturers distributing egg noodles en masse, it is all-too-infrequent to find a Cantonese noodle shop that still makes its own noodles, particularly as most of them strive to keep costs down to a minimum. Michigan’s noodles are a chewy, elastic, toothsome wonder – so good that they will sell them in bulk to make at home – and alone worth the complexities of driving through Richmond.
We ordered a bowl of noodles, with won tons and seui gau. The former, translated literally to “swallowing clouds,” are the prawn dumplings familiar to most. The latter, translated to “water dumplings,” are of a larger variety, filled with pork, wood ear mush rooms and bamboo shoot. Both were fantastic, encased in thin wrappers foreign to lesser noodle shops, seasoned to perfection. To the discerning, a splash of vinegar provides a good counter to the lye water used to make the wrappers and the noodles: the alkaline ingredient is used in many Asian noodles to enhance that sought-after elasticity. Quite simply, these are the best won ton noodles in Vancouver, and stack up with the top won ton shops in Hong Kong.
Michigan is also famed for its congee (rice porridge), the other staple that all Cantonese noodle shops are measured against. There is a menu page full of congee options, from the classic to the exotic. We settled for a shitake mushroom and chicken congee, which fared well, if not even better, than the noodles. The rice porridge in itself has slowly simmered to become a milky smooth, comforting mix, akin to velvet. Strips of chicken breast were just as tender, a feat in itself when most other places would have overcooked it to oblivion.
We also ordered salt and pepper tofu, served with hot pepper enfused vinegar. The tofu was crisp without being overly dry or oily, but probably not anything overly different from anywhere else.
A word of warning: as with many Cantonese noodle shops, the service is hit and miss. There can be a charm to this if you wish: a mom n’ pop diner or café would be a good Western comparison, service-wise, and you wouldn’t expect Michelin star service at those, either. With that said, our choy sum with oyster sauce, as fresh and light-of-hand as it was, came well after we finished all of the other dishes, with the service at a loss to explain why.
That expected blip aside, Michigan Noodle Shop is still within the top echelon of Cantonese noodle shops: if you’ve lost touch with the won ton, it’s time to get re-acquainted. Cynics everywhere may disagree with Conde Nast’s high esteem for Vancouver’s Chinese fare – yours truly included - but the Michigan Noodle Shop is one of those rare gems that is truly among the better Chinese food the world over.
Michigan Noodle Shop
1160-8580 Alexandra Rd
Richmond, BC V6X 4B3