Maji offers more than a passing nod to Ocean Wise.
In the best of all possible worlds, every restaurant I walked into would adhere to Ocean Wise. I know that to realize such a dream may take a while. Ongoing over-fishing, by-catch and compromised habitat threaten seafood stocks that we continue to take so much for granted.
Vancouver Aquarium’s game changing program addresses the issue of serving only sustainable seafood species. And puts it right where it belongs: on the table and in the kitchen. The people who can really make a difference are you, me and the chefs who cook for us.
One restaurant in Richmond is going a long way to make Ocean Wise a reality.
Last night I hopped the Canada Line to Richmond to check out Maji. The occasion was the launch of Maji’s Ocean Wise menu, one of very few in the City of Richmond.
That 20 minute trip from downtown Vancouver on the more patriotic version of SkyTrain leads to another universe. Richmond is a fascinating place. It adds up to a seismic shift, in some ways light years away from the broader mosaic of downtown. But it’s also far from being a culinary monoculture.
Years ago I used to drive there to shop at a shiny new supermarket called T&T. It turned out to be the first of many. The main draw was the expansive array of live tanks holding the cheapest fresh crab in town. There was also plenty of other seafood, likely not very Ocean Wise. But there was also the lure of things unseen on ‘regular’ store shelves (outside of Chinatown) like fermented black beans, or frozen pot stickers or gyoza. It whet my appetite for what was still to come.
Today’s Richmond is home to what many well traveled folk will attest is arguably the best Chinese cuisine on the planet. An immense diversity of styles ranges from Cantonese to Szechuan, Hunan and more. Not to mention other Asian cuisines from Japanese to Vietnamese, Korean and Singaporean—and Taiwanese.
However, ask the Ocean Wise web site for Richmond recommendations and the list of Chinese options is short to non-existent. Like most of my friends, and anyone else who’s eco-aware, I’ve stopped patronizing restaurants who don’t offer any Ocean Wise certified items.
Maji looks to be a worthy trendsetter.
Maji: Taiwanese Stir Fry
This bustling, laid back room, sports a warm and welcoming atmosphere with a funky, woodsy feel. The Taiwanese cuisine style lends itself well to Ocean Wise ingredients. Dishes are relatively uncomplicated and allow the ingredients to shine through.
Here’s a sampling of Maji’s Ocean Wise offerings, as well as some more land-based tastes…
Available for much of the year, mussels are an Ocean Wise no brainer.
I usually like my oysters on the half shell, but these crispy critters had me part way being a convert. But I was still craving a glass of crisp, dry Riesling.
Mackerel is also a plentiful species. Maji chef Markx Wu knows how grill it just perfectly.
The seafood hotpot brings shrimp and salmon in a slightly sweetened sauce.
Manila clams are another Ocean Wise ingredient that a lot of people don’t always think about. They’re plentiful in our waters and popular in all kinds of cuisines.
Pan fried pink salmon is a smart Ocean Wise dish, delicately flavoured with the flesh delivered still truly moist.
Grilled swimming scallops, lavishly anointed with garlic butter, are another delicious, sustainable option.
Leaning more towards sweeter palates Maji’s grilled salmon is bathed in a special sauce with onion and sesame seed garnish.
Alt Seafood: the meat of the matter
Not only about seafood, the menu also offers a range of classic dishes, many with the central stir fried theme, and all well spiced, though not excessively so.
One of the hits from the land based side of the menu was this assertively spiced pepper beef.
Here’s a dish to please the strictly carnivorous, a variation on pork belly you likely haven’t tried: dongpo pork is a tasty, well textured rendition, very tender, easy to slice—and delicious..
Yet another treat for the seafood resistant, Maji’s deep fried chicken is mildly addictive and decently garlicky.
When I asked Maji owner Ian Tsai how well he thought the Ocean Wise menu would be received he said his customers were only too keen to learn about it. And discover how they could eat more sustainable seafood.
Maji Taiwanese Stir Fry
On Alexandra Road, across from the Four Points Sheraton, about 8 minutes walk from Lansdowne SkyTrain station.
Open daily from 5.30 p.m.
#1180 – 8391 Alexandra Rd
Richmond, BC, V6X 3W5
T / 604 – 270 – 3100