A Great Soulful Soup
Powers the good eating at
Downtown’s Big Bowl Rice
A different route back to the office from Pacific Centre, lead me to Big Bowl Rice. The odd name and the Taiwanese beef noodle being advertised on the storefront peaked my curiosity. Rents are expensive downtown, so you don’t expect to see a lot of mom and pop places in the area.
Big Bowl Rice is a classic hole in the wall; sparsely decorated and seats about 20. Given the traditional Chinese on the menu and the Hong Kong drama blaring on a TV in the corner, I think the owners are from the first special administrative region.
The place seems popular with students as for $10.50 one can get a combo of a large soup noodle and a small snack (veggie spring roll, fish balls, or chicken wings). I don’t think I spotted anything more than $11 on the menu, which for lunch is a pretty good deal downtown.
On my first visit I went with the Taiwanese beef noodle & veggie spring roll combo. The spring roll was a little too oily for my liking. However the enjoyable filling was earthy and sweet containing fresh cabbage, carrots and shiitake mushrooms. On a subsequent visit the spring roll was less greasy.
The beef soup noodle was fantastic mainly due to the flavourful savoury broth. On the wall of the eatery there is a sign lauding its soup.
The Chinese reveals more insight to the broth. It proclaims the delicious soup is created from beef, chicken and other ingredients. It is the star of the dish.
Bathed in the soup was Shanghai Bok Choy, very tender stewed beef, al dente thin flat wheat noodles, diced pickled mustard greens, cilantro and a dollop of chili bean sauce.
Thanks to the chili bean sauce, the Taiwanese beef noodle has a spicy kick, which paired with the rich umami soup, made the soup noodle complex and delicious tasting. Big Bowl Rice’s version isn’t refined like Chef Hung’s or Fat Mao’s but it is savoury, hearty, very satisfying and a complete meal.
Impressed by my first visit, I went back for the Hainanese Chicken. I have a soft spot for Hainanese/White Cut chicken. Personally I think it’s the best way to understand what chicken is about from its flavour to its texture.
This time it was a take-out situation so I’m giving it a bit of leeway. I was quite concerned with how dark the skin looked. It also didn’t have the gelatinous layer under the skin but this could be due the take-out situation.
It was not pretty to look at but the meat tasted great. In the order, there was a drumstick, thing and wing which all exhibited a strong chicken flavour. Making the meal even better, the meat was deboned so it was easy to eat.
Another surprising aspect of the meal was the chicken rice, which was actually very flavourful.
The soup also had an unexpected element to it. There were black eye peas and peanuts in it which is very not traditional but added great depth of flavour.
I love the fact Big Bowl Rice uses black eye peas in its soup because it’s an inexpensive way to increase the umami and complexity of a soup without resorting to MSG. I’m going to assume this is why the soup I tasted in Taiwanese beef noodle was so impactful.
The only issue was the dipping sauces. There was a soy sauce and a combined the ginger & chili sauce. Both were lackluster.
It was not a perfect version of Hainanese chicken but it was a tasty lunch. It seems this eatery likes to add Shanghai Bok Choy to all its orders, paired with the pickled daikon and carrot, which was underneath the chicken, this was a well round and healthy lunch.
There was one last item I wanted to try on their menu. It was the curry fish ball noodle soup. I really like curried fish balls at the night market so I wanted to see how this would work in a noodle soup. This was probably the dish I was the most disappointed with. I expected the dish to have a more aromatic curry smell and flavour. I didn’t actually detect any curry flavour.
However the soup tasted different; it was still very savoury but was a little sweeter and more consistently spicy (perhaps from the curry). All the ingredients were similar to the Taiwanese beef noodle – very fresh and delicious. The fish balls had a nice bouncy texture. The thin square noodles were nice and chewy.
I like the soup noodle but I didn’t think it lived up to its name. However if it was called, “The Spicy Fish Ball Noodle Soup” instead, then Big Bowl Rice would have nailed it.
I love that fact I was able to find a hole in the wall eatery serving wonderful filling simple food in downtown Vancouver. I highly recommend Big Bowl Rice for a satisfying and inexpensive (by downtown standards) meal.
Big Bowl Rice
505 Dunsmuir Street
604 620 8038