Mijune Pak

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Rotato at Richmond Night Market

Mijune offering me a bite of her Rotato at the Richmond Night Market. Photo by David Lansing.

I’ve told you that Mijune can eat like she’s a contestant in one of those hot dog chow downs. Last night we went to the Richmond Night Market where there are something like 88 vendors. I was afraid she was going to make me try all of them.

Within minutes she was dragging me over to this vendor called Rotato. “I love these things,” she said, getting in line. “What flavor should we get?”

They had bbq, sour cream & onion, salt & vinegar, roasted garlic & pepper, cheddar cheese, ketchup. Here’s the thing: there were at least 20 people in line ahead of us. And every five minutes, as we edged up a little bit closer to the front, Mijune changed her mind about what flavor she wanted. First it was the cheddar cheese, then the bbq, then the sour cream & onion.

I knew what was going to happen. Mijune ordered all three. “Mijune,” I said, “I’m not even sure I want any. It’s just a potato.”

“It’s not just a potato,” she said, offended. “It’s fabulous.”

Here’s how they make a Rotato: First a woman winds a machine to cut the potatoes into these swirly shapes. Then a guy skewers the potato, fans it out, dips it in a watery batter, and deep fries it. Then a young girl takes the fried swirly potato and puts the seasoning on it. For such a simple concoction, it’s quite a production. No wonder it was taking so long to serve everyone.

So we’re standing at the side and the young woman brings out one Rotato…and then another…and then a third. I held two of them while Mijune sampled.

“The sour cream and onion!” she proclaimed. “That’s the one. Try it”

So I did. And it was pretty damn good.
Richmond Night Market on Urbanspoon

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The Richmond Public Market. Photo by David Lansing.

My favorite thing to do in any city is make a pilgrimage to the public market. This is the way to really get a sense of a city’s culinary aspirations. So I talked Mijune into taking me to the RPM—Richmond Public Market.

She tried to lower my expectations as we walked in. “It’s very small,” she said. “And, really, the market part isn’t all that great.”

She was right. There were a couple of relatively small produce markets on the ground floor but I didn’t see anything there that I hadn’t seen at one of the local Asian supermarkets like T&T or the Osaka Market. Plus the whole thing seemed kind of dingy and tired. It reminded me a bit of the night markets you see in poorer sections of Hong Kong.

Upstairs was a food court and that looked a lot more interesting. There were stalls selling Hong Kong-style milk tea, coconut buns, beef soup, lamb skewers. Nice. But neither Mijune or I really had a desire to chow down. Something about the place just didn’t feel right. So we left.

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Mijune porks out

Parker Place Meat & BBQ

Soy duck at Parker Place Meat & BBQ. Photo by David Lansing.

I don’t know where Mijune puts all the food she eats. I really don’t. I mean, she can’t weigh more than 80 pounds yet she eats more than me. Way more. There was this time when she took me to the Richmond night market and we ate at ten different vendor stalls. Afterwards, I just wanted to find a patch of lawn where I could pass out. But then Mijune says, “Do you want to go to dinner with me?”

Whatthehell? I thought she was joking. But, no, she said she actually had two more dinners to go to that night. Unbelievable.

So yesterday after a huge lunch and then a stop at the Parker Place Mall for some dragon’s beard candy, we’re headed for the door when Mijune spots one of her favorite BBQ places.

“I know this place,” she said. “Great roasted pork.”

I told her just looking at the pigs hanging in the window was making me ill.

“Don’t be a baby,” she said. “They’ll just give you a little bite to taste.”

So we stand in line with a half dozen other people outside Parker Place Meat & BBQ and when we finally make it inside the little store she starts yacking to the guy chopping up a roasted pig in Cantonese and the next thing you know, he’s scooping up a container full of crispy skin pork…and then another container of char siu…and then another container of soy bbq duck. Mijune must have at least three pounds of food in her arms.

“Let me pay for this,” I say, grabbing my wallet. But the guy won’t take my money. Seems Pork Boy has a thing for Mijune. It’s all on the house.

Now, I assume that Mijune is going to take all this food home and share it with eight or nine people for dinner. But Mijune grabs some napkins and forks and heads for an empty table in the food court and soon we are munching away on the crispy skin roasted pork, which has that nice crackling on the outside and is all moist and sweet on the inside, and the sweet, honey-tasting char siu, as well as the salty succulent duck. I can’t even believe I’m sitting there eating it. But I am.
Parker Place Meat & BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Bliss in the form of a Frappé

Mijune shoots our frappe bliss before we devour it. Photo by David Lansing.

I don’t do dessert. I just don’t. So when Mijune suggested that after we finished our chicken feet at Fisherman’s Terrace we head up to the food court in the Abderdeen Centre for some Taiwanese-style shaved ice, I told her to go on ahead.

“You should try it.”

“First of all, I can’t eat another thing. And secondly, the last thing I want right now is shaved ice. I hate shaved ice.”

“It’s not really shaved ice,” she said, grabbing my arm and dragging me towards the escalator. “It’s frappé.”

Whoopy do.

I haven’t known Mijune long but obviously what Mijune wants, Mijune gets. She was going to drag me kicking and screaming like a two-year-old to the food court.

So the Taiwanese-style shaved ice place is called Frappé Bliss. Mijune says in Taiwan it’s called xue hua bing, which means “snowflake ice.”

“But it’s not really ice,” she says as she barks out instructions to some kid behind the counter for what she wants. “It’s actually frozen milk.”

Like that makes it sound any better.

Anyway, Mijune orders a big bowl of green tea frappe with fresh mango, kiwi, and strawberry and a scoop of ice cream on the top. Then, after we get it, she whips out her cell phone and starts taking photos. While the whole thing melts. Which is just fine with me since I’m not going to have any of it anyway. Finally, she dips a plastic spoon in to the bowl and takes a tiny little bite.

“Oh-my-god,” she murmurs. She looks up at me but I ignore her. She plays with the spoon in her mouth, as if she’s licking off every last drop. “Oh, David,” she moans. People are looking at her. It’s like that scene in the diner in When Harry Met Sally—she’s having an orgasm at the Aberdeen food court.

“Fine,” I say, grabbing a spoon. “I’ll take a bite. Just stop moaning.”

The frappé is ethereal. Remember when you were a kid and the first snow of winter would fall and you’d go outside and lift your head up to the sky and catch a single solitary light-as-air snowflake on your tongue and it would instantaneously melt and make you giggle?

That’s what this dessert tastes like. Silky, fluffy, feathery snow. With flavor.

“Stop eating all the frappé,” I tell Mijune, pushing her plastic spoon out of the way. She smiles. “Should I get another?”

“If you want any you should,” I tell her.

And off she goes to Frappé Bliss. While I close my eyes and spoon into my mouth each delightful bite of the green tea-flavored feathery frozen milk delight.

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