Khyber Pass

As Ben from Chowtimes was headed off to Beijing for an extended work stint, a bunch of us got together for a send-off. The original plan was for a spicy feast at Aree Thai. Turns out they were closed that night so I put out a call for some different options. The ever-intrepid Fmed came up with a very unique suggestion…Khyber Pass.

Khyber Pass is right near Kingsway & Victoria in East Van in what was formerly the Red Fort. They offer Afghan and Pakistani fare in a cozy, kitschy, old-school dining room.

Not the most modern or elegant of settings but a nice sense of comfort sets in immediately. We had originally planned for a dozen or so diners. Fmed had wangled us a set rate of $14 a head. Come mealtime, we were down to seven folks. Not sure if the kitchen got word of the down-size because we got hit with a massive amount of food.

We had a rough idea of tonight’s menu…some kebabs, some curry, some rice. The appies, however, were to be a mystery. The first plate was a simple form of spring roll.

About as simple as you can make it. There’s cabbage, carrot, pepper and a bit of seasoning. A mildly spicy tamarind dip alongside.

The Mantoo are Afghanistan’s (and neighbouring regions’) dumpling. They are full of spiced beef or lamb and covered in a minty yogurt sauce. They’re then topped with a ratatouille of beans, corn, peas and peppers. Not sure why the addition of the stewed veg…seems to obscure the mildly flavored dumpling and delicate sauce.

The Naan was hot, fresh and tasty…just a bit flat. That’s flat as in not quite leavened enough. A bit too chewy, not very flaky. It is, however, a great vehicle for this:

Bouranee Baunjan (Afghan Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce). A nice, rudimentary sauté of eggplant, tomato, onion and garlic. The minty yogurt sauce makes another well-placed appearance.



Grazing Through Crystal Food Court

Crystal Mall, for those of you that haven’t been there, is a circular two-level Asian shopping center in Burnaby. On its street-level perimeter and on its inner concourse, are a plethora of small (some very good) restaurants. On the upper level is the mall’s food court, a wonderland of various Asian food stalls. They are all primarily Chinese-run and most offer Chinese fare. There is a smattering of Japanese and one that serves up Thai and Malaysian. All told, there’s about thirty vendors to pick from…they run the gamut from so-so to darn impressive.  When lunchtime rolls around and I’m not 100% sure what I’m hungry for, I head to the food court and start grazing.

Today’s first stop is Red Persimmon Taiwanese Cuisine for their Gua Bao (刮包) aka the Taiwanese Burger. This pick was due to a tip from Kim from I’m Only Here For The Food.

It doesn’t look like much…kinda boring actually. But that’s far from true. The big chunk of pork has been braised a good looong while…very tender, very moist. The massive, pillowy steam bun has nice chew, slathered with sugary peanut powder and crunchy pickled greens. Excellent value at $3.50.

After perusing around the net awhile, I came across this mouth-watering post from eatingclubvancouver as well as a great recipe page from nibbledish.

Seems most recipes call for cilantro. That particular fresh herb would have livened things up nicely.


Nine Dishes

One night, a few months back, I told my chef and sous chef about this place that serves up meat skewers for a buck and Chinese beer for two bucks. I knew they’d be hungry and thirsty after toiling in the kitchen for eight hours, so I dragged their tired butts to Nine Dishes for a load of cheap beer and very spicy food.

I’d arrived just past 11. While waiting on the boys, I started taking shots of the exterior. Within a minute, or so, a tall, lanky, bald fellow comes out to clear off the sidewalk tables. Right away I knew that was If, the owner.

I first learned of this spot from Dylan at Jiaoqu. His very well-written post not only intrigued a load of foodies, it told the tale of a man who really, seriously wants to bring authentic Chinese fare to the working man.

If presides over an ultra-casual and partially do-it-yourself room. You’re handed the menus and an order pad.

The rice is free. It’s on a table over in the corner. Help yourself.


Abdul BBQ

I’ve always wondered what, exactly, is the difference between a shawarma, a donair and a gyro. It turns out, not much. All three terms refer to “turning” or “rotating” spits of meats. Trencher Man summed it up nicely in a forum on There are, however, variations in sauces used. Gyros, typically have tzatziki. Donairs may come with a creamy, garlic sauce. Shawarmas may be laced with tahini. Recently, I checked out Abdul BBQ for his version of Lamb Shawarma.

Abdul, the affable owner is also its only employee, as far as I can tell. After many visits over the years, I’ve yet to see anyone else helping out. It’s quite a busy shop with a steady stream of regular clientele.

This is a man who takes great pride in his work. It’s probably more to do with him being the owner…not a hired hand on minimum wage that has no real stake in the business. You can see the result not only in his food but the general cleaniness of the establishment.