“Oh, it’s just a supermarket. How good could their ready-to-go food really be?”
When you walk into most supermarkets, there’s usually a “grab and go” section. Maybe it’s at the deli, where you can pick up a pre-packaged sandwich and a cup of soup. It’s rarely ever something particularly special; the point is that it’s convenient and ready to go. Supermarket sushi is never going to be that great, but you know, it’s there if you want it. Most people would place supermarket food at a tier below the mall food court, and well below what you’d find at a “real” restaurant. Right?
That’s still mostly true (with the notable exception of good sushi from Fujiya), but the Asian Street Food section at the new T&T Supermarket in Lansdowne Centre definitely shakes things up. And it’s super cheap to boot.
I didn’t really think anything of it at first. We’ve been shopping at T&T Supermarket for years. And while the prepared food has always been fine, it’s never been especially special. (Though I really like the custom sticky rice when they first started selling it.) And when you’re in Richmond, you’ve got no shortage of affordable Asian food options.
On a busy Sunday afternoon, the place was bustling with activity. The Asian Street Food section is in the back left corner (if you’re coming in via the mall entrance). There’s some seating (probably enough for 40 or 50 people?), but we had a tough time finding a spot. It’s probably not as busy during the week.
Only two entries on the menu cost more than five bucks: ten pieces of salted and pepper fried prawns, and the lamb soup with sesame crispy cake combo set. For super cheap eats, you might pick up the stewed pork on rice for three dollars. That’s half the price of a Big Mac at McDonald’s!
And I didn’t notice until afterwards that I could have added an iced lemon tea to my order for only another $1.50 or so. Regrets. I’ve had a few.
What you see here is about $15 worth of food; it was enough for me, my wife, and my four-year-old daughter to enjoy for lunch. Let’s go through each of the items.
- Popcorn Chicken on Rice ($5): The portion size here was far larger than I had anticipated. The shallow circular bowl was probably about seven inches in diameter, and it was completely covered in chicken nuggets, plus veggies and an egg. I would have liked if the chicken were crispier on the outside, but they’re certainly passable for the price. You can also get the chicken without rice for $4.
- Takoyaki ($3): This was both a little disappointing and a little deceiving. You think you’re getting six takoyaki balls. However, each “ball” is only a hemisphere; they don’t seem to do the usual “roll around” in the machine to create a sphere. Hardly any octopus either.
- Taiwanese Rice Noodle Soup ($3): This is a plain bowl of lai fun noodle soup, topped with a sprinkle of dried/fried shallots. Best enjoyed with something next to it, like the…
- Taiwanese Sausage ($2 each): Selling for more or less the same price you’d find at night market, these Taiwanese sausages naturally don’t hold a candle to what we had at Jiufen Old Street. Tender and flavorful, nonetheless, though the outside skin lacked a crispness.
My suspicion, as is the case with so many supermarkets and food courts, is that the food just sits there to perish in the warmer. Turnover is fast while the Asian Street Food section is busy, but you’re naturally not getting anything made to order. That would probably explain the lack of crispness on the popcorn chicken and the sausage. I doubt the chicken was twice-fried either.
If you want better food, Richmond is home to hundreds of restaurants. And you’ll probably find better stuff to eat at the food courts in Aberdeen Centre or Parker Place. Get the xiaolongbao at R&H in the Lansdowne Centre food court. If you want to eat on the cheap, though, you’d be hard-pressed to do better at five bucks or less.
I’m fairly certain that my general attitude toward supermarket meals changed when I visited the downtown H-Mart back in 2007. Most other supermarkets don’t live up to that. The Asian Street Food section at T&T Supermarket may not be jaw-droppingly spectacular, but I was pleasantly surprised by both the quality and particularly by the price.
It’s worth a visit. And you don’t need to bring much money to enjoy it either.