©©© 1/2 | (604) 647-0464 | 99 cents (plus tax)

Mexican Taco purists wouldn’t come near Taco Time with a ten-feet pole but I’m not one of them. Taco Time Crispy Tacos reminded me of the good ol’ North American hard tacos I grew up with. The corn taco shells were crispy. The savoury ground beef was seasoned with Mexican spices, though a bit too salty for my taste. Diced tomatoes and grated cheddar enhanced the beefy flavour very well. The julienned lettuce added refreshing crunch to each bite. Taco Time offers three varieties of sauces to go with the tacos: The Original (medium) was my favourite. Its tangy and pleasant kicks complemented the savoury fillings very well. The Diablo (hot) packed even meaner kicks though not as flavourful. And the Mild was just a ”Meh.”

Make sure to check them out on Tuesday when the beef and veggie (refried beans) tacos are on specials for just under a buck each (regular price is $2.19 plus taxes).

 

©©© ½ | 604-687-4422 | $8.50 (plus tax)

Sushi Den Seafood Don is one of my go-to dishes after a yoga session. It’s neither too heavy nor too light – perfect for the occasion. For under nine bucks, you get a bowl of white, fluffy Japanese rice topped with a variety of fresh fish, shrimp and octopus cooked in a spicy sauce. The light crunch of the cabbage was nicely contrasted with the seafood textures. The sweetness of onion complemented the fiesty little ninja kick very well. Best of all – thanks to the generous portion – I usually have enough leftovers to make a small bowl of seafood ochasuke (Japanese green tea rice soup) the next morning. This, my friends, is what I called a Cheap Appetite.

©©© ½ | 604-683-8816 | $3.75 each (plus tax)

I’ll admit it. I’m a meat-lover. But every now and then I like to challenge myself with veggie dishes. When I saw a “Vegetarian Dim Sum” signage in front of Jade Dynasty on Pender, I knew I had to give it a try.

Turns out Jade Dynasty restaurant is not exclusively vegetarian. In fact, most dim sum selections contain meat. For a reluctant veggie-eater like myself, this could be my back up plan.

Dim sum prices range from $3.25 to $5.95. Below is what I ordered (the numbers are as indicated on the order sheet):

No. 8: Steamed Diced Carrot and Green Pea Dumplings ($3.75 plus tax) – ©©© ¼
The fillings were the best part of this one—nicely cooked and perfectly seasoned. The daikon radish absorbed the natural yummy goodness of the carrots, peas, bamboo shoots and bok choy. The dumpling wrapper, however, was a bit too thick for my liking.

No. 9: Bean Curd Wraps with Enoki Mushroom ($3.75 plus tax) – ©©© ¾
The tofu wrapper was chewy but not leathery. It soaked up delicious brown sauce throughout. The mixed mushroom fillings were full of an almost meaty flavour; the resilient texture contrasted well with crunchy bits of water chestnuts. The enoki mushroom flavours were quite subtle and delicate. I didn’t miss meat at all with this one.

No. 36: Deep Fried Tofu with Mixed Vegetables ($3.75 plus tax) – ©©© ½
The deep-fried egg tofu had light, crispy crust. The mixed mushrooms were nicely cooked in subtle, yet mouth-watering brown sauce. The only complaint is that it tasted too similar to the bean curd wraps above.

Overall, I was pleasantly satisfied with my meatless meal. Perhaps this could be my first step to becoming a pure vegetarian… Not!

©©© ¾ | 604-688-8303 | $2.99 (plus tax)

This no-nonsense soy sauce chicken bowl is an all-day special (eat-in only). For just under three bucks, you get several chunks of chicken on top of fluffy steamed rice. The skin-on white meat was soft and tender, but a bit dry for my taste. The ginger and green onion dipping oil helped make the meat juicier and more flavourful. Chicken drippings were poured over rice to add more chicken fat goodness to the dish. If you’re a daredevil for heart attacks, ask for an extra spoonful of this yummy sauce. Your tongue will be happy. Oh, by the way, Hon’s also served complimentary hot tea. I LOVE FREE STUFFS!

©©© ¾ | 604-662-3444 | $5.45 (plus tax)
 
The best part of this one was the battered oysters. The batter was light, crispy, and not greasy. The oysters were fresh, tender and juicy. When I bit into one, it was like a big wave of ocean flavour hitting my tastebuds. The sweet and tangy tartar sauce complemented the briny flavour of the oysters very well. The chunky coleslaw added even more crunch. 
 
The only so-so ingredient was the store-bought bun. I couldn’t help but compare it to the Oyster Po’ Boys I used to eat when I lived in the Deep South. Down there, they served the battered oysters on French baguettes. Oh man, just thinking about them makes my mouth water even today. However, considering its affordable price, this oyster burger was pretty darn good.

©©©3/4 | T: 604-568-4211 | $6.99 (plus tax)
 
One of my readers recommended this Japanese Egg Benny to me a few years back. But not until recently that I finally had a chance to taste it. Boy, now I know why Cher wishes she could turn back time.
 
The egg benny was very well priced. For $6.99, you get two eggs on English muffins with generous portions of smoked salmon in the middle. The eggs were perfectly poached; the yolks were beautifully runny. The Japanese-style Hollandaise sauce was dynamite. Even though it was neither as tangy nor buttery as the European sibling, the creamy sauce complemented the golden egg yolks very well. The smoked salmon was light and flaky, though a bit too salty especially with the sauce on top. The crispy hash browns added pleasing texture to each bite. Overall, this dish deserves the title “Breakfast of Cheapos.”

Shanghai Xiao Long Bao Restaurant – Pan-Fried Pork Buns

©©©© | T: 604-669-8816 | $6.99 (plus tax)  

These buns were one of the highlights of the recent holidays. For $6.95, you get six two-inch buns, just enough for a light brunch. The buns are slightly crispy on the bottom and soft on the top. Savoury pork broth oozed out when I bit into them. The ground pork filling was beautifully seasoned with ginger, rice wine and just enough salt. The texture of the filling was smooth as silk.

The best way to tackle these bad boys is to first bite them open close to the edge of the buns; let the pork broth seep into your mouth; then enjoy the rest of them. That way you won’t burn your tongue or lose a drop of the yummy broth in the centre. Enjoy them with the complimentary tea. A great way to start the new year.

Zac Zac Japanese Curry House – Japanese Beef Curry with Korokke.

©©©© | T: 604-608-2887 | $9.48 (plus tax)

If you’re a fan of Japanese curry, you’re in for a treat. At Zac Zac (located in the H-Mart food court – @ Robson & Seymour), you can choose different toppings each day for a week without repeating once.

For those who feel adventurous, try the natto, cheese or eggplant curry. Look for the daily lunch special sign before you order (from 10:30 am to 2pm). The day I visited, the beef curry was on special for $6.78 ($7.98 regular). So I went for it and used the money I saved to add extra Korokke  ($1.50). The curry sauce was savoury with a subtle sweet undertone and a little spicy kick. It helped bring out the beef flavour really well. The Japanese croquettes (Korokke) were lightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Small chunks of potatoes in the croquettes added an enjoyable texture to each bite. The rice was nicely cooked. At the end of the meal, my belly was full with great flavours and happiness. What more can you possibly want from an affordable Japanese comfort meal?

Save on Meats (Take-out Counter) – Chili and Herb Biscuit

©©©© | T: 604-569-3568 | $4.25 (tax included)

This combo is a match made in spicy food lovers’ heaven. For $3.50, you get a 16-ounce bowl of mouthwatering chili that packs just enough kick to live up to its name, but not so much that it TKOs your tongue. The tangy tomatoes enhanced the spice very well. The combo of kidney and black beans made things pretty hearty. The corn added a subtle sweetness and an interesting texture to the ensemble. If you have an extra 75 cents, I’d recommend the herb (rosemary) biscuit to go with. It was lightly toasted and came with two kinds of melted cheese on top. A spoonful of the chili and a bite of the biscuit together were enough to send my tastebuds to cloud nine. My only complaint: they only gave half a biscuit with the order. 

New Peace Chinese Restaurant – Beef Roll

©©©© | T: 604-488-0399 | $6.95 (plus tax)

This restaurant was formerly “Peaceful” restaurant on Davie Street, an offshoot of Peaceful restaurant on Broadway. Although the name, and perhaps the owner, has changed, their beef roll is still as awesome as ever.

I was pretty much in love at first bite. The pan-fried Chinese pancake sported a flaky crust, yet was soft and chewy on the inside. The marinated beef was thinly sliced and almost melted in my mouth. The sweet and salty hoisin sauce enhanced the flavours of the dish well. The julienned green onion added a nice “bite” that contrasted with the richness of the other flavours. A great appetizer to share with your dining partner(s).

Ebi-Ten – Morning Special Combo (Mon-Fri, 9am-11am)

©©©1/4 | T: 604-689-9938 | $2.50 (plus tax)

In the mood for an alternative to the good ol’ Western breakfast? Ebi-Ten’s Morning Special could be what you’re looking for. The combo comes with an 8-piece California roll and a small bowl of miso soup to warm up a chilly morning.  
 
The pre-made sushi rolls were nice. I liked Ebi-Ten’s imitation crab flakes instead of the typical crab sticks. The guacamole added creaminess, yet it wasn’t too heavy for breakfast. The wasabi and pickled ginger were great eye-openers, perfect for Monday mornings. The miso soup was well-seasoned and comforting; it came with several pieces of seaweed at the bottom. Overall, a good, simple, wallet-friendly breakfast with an Asian flair. Check it out!

Nu Modern Greek (Gastown) – Octopus Lunch Plate

©©©© | T: 604-558-2022 | $7.50 (plus tax)

This place is my most recent favourite healthy fast-food joint. The lunch plate will come with your choice of one meat skewer (octopus, salmon, lamb, and chicken – ranked in the order of my preference), or a grilled veggie skewer. You also get Greek salad, chickpea salad, satsiki (tzatziki) and your choice of one freshly-baked, homemade pita bread (plain or whole wheat – sometimes even more varieties). That’s a whole lot of food for just under eight bucks.

This Octopus Lunch Plate was a smorgasbord of mouthwatering flavours and pleasing textures. The octopus was chewy, yet not rubbery, on the outside and tender on the inside. It was perfectly seasoned with salt, garlic, oregano and a touch of honey. The Greek salad was delicious. The cucumbers were fresh and crunchy; the tomatoes were juicy; the Feta and whole black olives added a touch of saltiness to the acidic salad. The chickpea salad was simply amazing. Its bright flavour from the lemon juice dressing complemented the Mediterranean spices very well. The garlicky satsiki was light and refreshing. It helped round out the entire dish. Last but not least, the homemade whole-wheat pita bread was soft and warm. It was miles ahead of the usual store-bought stuff.

For the gluten-free/wheat-free food lovers, you can opt for the “wheat-free plate” for 50 cents more. Basically they’ll swap out the pita and give you an extra skewer of meat/veggie instead.

If you’re in the mood for healthy, cheap food with loads of flavour, check Nu Modern Greek out.

Golden Wheat Bakery – Ground Pork Rice Rolls

©©©© | T: 604-893-8892 | $2.25 (tax included)

One of the best kept secrets in Chinatown. Rice crepes were soft and tender. Ground pork was so velvety even a grandpa with no teeth can enjoy. Green onion added more depth to the flavour profile. If the sauce were a tad sweeter, it would have been a perfect Cheap Appetite. 

Cheap Appetite is moving to Tumblr

Please click here to redirect to the old Cheapappetite.com blog 

Hello my beloved readers,

It’s been almost a year since my last post. I think it’s about time to blog again. But I’d like to start fresh. So I decided to move Cheapappetite.com to Tumblr. The content of the new Cheap Appetite will be concise, straight-to-the-point and mobile-friendly. Stay tuned for the brand new look of Cheap Appetite

Thanks for your patience,
Tana