Ginger and Onion 嘉仁宮 (Markham)

Location: Markham, Canada
Address: 7131 Kennedy Road (in Market Village beside Pacific Mall)
Type of Meal: Brunch



I’ve visited Ginger and Onion throughout my childhood and due to its convenient location continues to be my family’s go-to dim sum choice. Admittedly, it’s neither the most delicious or cheapest option, but they are consistent and prices reasonable - $2.80 per dish (certain items such as steamed scallops & oysters cost more) and a $1 tea charge per person.

What attracts me most to Ginger is the variety of dishes they offer - there must be almost 100 types. Since dim sum is served cart style (read more about it here) they often have new "special" dishes adding further choices. They also offer many vegetarian options (a rare occurrence for most dim sum restaurants) so there's always something for everyone.

Of course, you will find steamed shrimp (har gow) & pork dumplings (siu mai) or BBQ pork buns here. These are traditional staple dishes that can be found at any dim sum restaurant. But, there are so many others dishes to try! In this post, I hope to introduce readers to some other common choices and encourage you to order them at your next brunch.

The steamed curry cuttlefish is simply prepared with the seafood marinated in a thick salty curry sauce and then cooked. The curry isn’t spicy and really is more for the colour and aroma. If you’ve never had cuttlefish, it’s similar to squid and octopus – the texture of squid but the thickness of octopus. The dish worth a try if you enjoy seafood. As a warning, sometimes the head of the cuttlefish can be gritty if not cleaned properly; just spit it out and wash your mouth out with some tea.


If you like steamed rice rolls, you’ll find plenty of options at Ginger. Essentially, soft white rice sheets wrapped with a choice of fillings. Shrimp (pictured below), beef paste and BBQ pork (my favourite) are the most popular. At Ginger, they also offer fish (tilapia fillets) and two vegetarian options that I also enjoy (Buddha delight and Chinese greens with prince mushrooms).


An alternative to the above you may want to try is the shredded chicken rice rolls. They’re smaller but has the same steamed rice sheet wrapped around a much bigger portion of filling. Made of tender dark chicken meat, crunchy black fungus and some other ingredients it’s more protein based and flavourful.


The steamed beef tendon takes some getting used to. As a child, I never liked it and found the sticky soft consistency off putting. But, I persisted through the years and it’s grown on me. The tendon is marinated in a savoury gravy/stew like sauce, then steamed until it gets soft and chewy. Plus, it’s rumoured to have beautifying properties from the natural collagen present in the tendon.


Wheeled around in a large clay pot and then spooned into smaller dishes are braised mixed vegetables with gluten. This may only be offered for dim sum at Ginger but can sometimes be found at vegetarian Buddhist restaurants. A mix of crispy snow peas, napa cabbage, earthy black mushrooms, crunchy white fungus and soft sauce soaked gluten pieces are cooked together in a thick flavourful sauce. Another vegetarian friendly choice.


During cold weather, it’s great to warm up with a bowl of steamed dumpling in soup. A silky piece of dough encapsulates ground pork, mushrooms, dried scallop and imitation crab. Everything is cooked in a flavourful seafood consume. Although it arrives with vinegar and ginger, I recommend you eat it by itself first to enjoy the delicious broth without the tart condiment.


You can also get congee at dim sum. It’s not as good as what you’ll find at congee restaurants but still decent. There are limited flavours (pork with thousand year preserved egg or dried fish with peanuts), my choice is the pork and egg. It’s fairly watery, so not as filling, but generally still has a nice amount of ingredients with it. They top it with green onions and peanuts, if you don’t like either just warn the lady to not add it when ordering.

 

For dessert, the egg custard sago pudding is a good choice. Best eaten warm (look for a cart that is filled with them) it’s a thick custard pudding mixed with sago (small clear tapioca balls) and a lotus paste centre. It’s not too sweet but has a rich satisfying quality to it.


When visiting with more people (I’d say at least four) you should try the large deep fried sesame glutinous balls. You’ll recognize them as they’re huge and arrive three to an order, there’s a smaller version of it that come in fours that’s filled with lotus paste. The larger ones are delicious especially when freshly fried. Although they look huge, it’s hollow inside but can still be quite filling due to the thick slightly sweet shell. All in all, a great combination of textures - a crispy sesame covered exterior but then soft and chewy on the inside.


For the dishes below, you can likely tell the picture is taken from a far. Although I’ve tried them in the past, they’re not my favourite so it’s rarely ordered unless during larger gatherings. With the rising in popularity of offal, here is an inexpensive way to try it.  Both are wheeled around together in stainless steel warming plates and are spooned into bowls as ordered to keep them piping hot.

One is a hodgepodge of offals that’s boiled for hours in a fragrant Chinese master sauce (lo shuy). You’ll often find stomach (tripe), liver and tongue in it. Juicy pieces of turnips can also be found throughout soaking up the delicious sauce (actually my favourite part of the dish). Chili oil is served on the side to give it more flavour should you require.


Another is blood jello. I know what you’re thinking … blood? But, it’s becoming a mainstream ingredient – Toronto’s Buca uses it. At dim sum the blood is mixed with a thickening agent so solidifies. Cubes of it are cooked in a thick savoury sauce and served with blanched chives and a liberal sprinkling of white pepper.


After reading the above, I’m sure there are some dishes that sound appealing and others a bit gross. Hopefully, it’s intrigued you enough to try something different on your next visit. My suggestion is try it once. Even if you don’t like it, persist and trying it again throughout your lifetime. After all, you may just develop a taste for something new and find it delicious.


Overall mark - 8 out of 10


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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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