Ms. Anderson sampled fermented squid guts at a sushi bar, cubes of congealed pig’s blood in a Filipino stew, and discovered the pleasures of a macaroni-and-spam soup breakfast at a Hong Kong cafe. “I felt like over the course of the year, I rewired my brain in terms of comfort food,” she said.
After just one weekend, I, too, felt Richmond had subtly reconfigured my own culinary neurons. I had a new standard for xiao long bao, soup dumplings steamed with a cube of gelatinized broth inside and chopstick-pierced and -pinched by the topknot to suck out the broth: They had to be as succulent as the ones I’d sampled at Top Shanghai on No. 3 Road. My breakfast repertoire had expanded to include the Hong Kong-style combo served at the Lido Restaurant: a bowl of congee with dried shrimp, served with a sugar-crisped pineapple bun — just out of the oven, so the thick slab of salty, cold butter in the middle is just starting to melt — accompanied by a hot mug of yin-yang tea, a tooth-raspingly tannic mix of tea and coffee.
And I discovered a new pilgrimage spot for future layovers at Vancouver International. Just before my flight left, I squeezed in one last ride on the Canada Line, this one to Aberdeen station. Riding an escalator to the mezzanine of President Plaza, I was hypnotized by the performance of the chef behind the counter of the tiny O’Tray Noodles. After pouring batter onto a circular griddle, he cracked and distributed two eggs over the setting crepe. With a few deft moves of his hands, he dotted it with a fiery chile sauce and scallions, filled it with broken pieces of filo-thin fried dough, folded it into a rectangle, and, with a broad smile, handed it to me in a plastic basket.