Review: Uncle’s Snack Shop serves up fun, fast-ish pan-Asian food


The millennial partners at Uncle’s Snack Shop in Richmond share their favourite ‘uncle’ and ‘auntie’ dishes

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Uncle’s Snack Shop

Where: 8180 Westminster Highway, Richmond.

When: Daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Info: 604-270-6188. Instagram:@unclessnackshop

Word of the day: Avuncular. Uncles — they’re everywhere here, starting with Uncle John, who ran Green Lemongrass Vietnamese restaurant at this location for 18 years until COVID-19 came a-trampling. He considered closing down with a year left on his lease.

Meanwhile, nephew Patrick Do, whose family runs the vegetarian Do Chay restaurants, and his two partners, Kevin Lin and Osric Chau, had been waiting five months for the City of Vancouver to process permits for their gestating Saola restaurant on Main Street. So the trio took over Uncle John’s lease, promptly got Richmond permits and opened Uncle’s Snack Shop in March.

As kids, the place was just ‘Uncle’s’ for Do and his sister and they went there after school, snacking, doing their homework and preparing, in retrospect, for careers in restaurants. And what do you know? Do is about to become anuncle himself. Uncle John still helps out in the kitchen.


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Uncle’s Snack Shop is takeout only, but there’s a patio where you can have your meal. The minimalist room could have been built from an IKEA kit and an adjacent space, partially painted bubblegum pink is set to display the owners’ art works. Uncle’ and ‘auntie’ honorifics dot the menu, describing the origins of a dish. Uncle Kev’s OG Chicken Sandy, for example, is Kevin Lin’s sandwich creation.

Lin comes with management experience from the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore and the Glowbal Group in Vancouver and has culinary training as well. At Uncle’s, he’s immersed in the kitchen but when Saola sees the light of day, he’ll be fluffing up the front of house again. Partner Do will bring his vegetarian and vegan Vietnamese magic. Chau is a friend, ideas guy and actor, known for his role in Supernatural.

The menu maps out Asian-Canadian millennial owner nostalgia imbued with “mom made me that growing up” pan-Asian food. It’s casual, fun and inexpensive fast-ish food.

Let me start with the weekly staff meal which is a menu item, not literally the staff meal. Running from $8 to $12, items reveal the state of Lin’s mind. “It depends on what I feel like cooking and what I’ve found at the market. For staff meals in restaurants, you use what you have including trimmings. We take that philosophy and do it nicer,” Lin says. In the beginning, staff meals changed daily with no repeats, but he changed that to weekly to appease customers who couldn’t get to it on the one day.


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Patrick Do, Osric Chau and Kevin Lin of Uncle’s Snack Shop present a united front.
Patrick Do, Osric Chau and Kevin Lin of Uncle’s Snack Shop present a united front. Photo by Stephanie Lin

When I visited, the staff meal was a super yummy chicken rendang over rice, joined by eggs with a jammy yolk, and sauteed mushrooms. As I’m interviewing Lin by phone, he’s working on a play on satay chicken made with tahini rather than peanuts to be served with a tamarind dressing.

As for that Uncle Kev’s OG sandy, it could stand for ‘Original Gangster’ or for the green onion and ginger sauce vamping up the sandwich? You choose. It riffs on Hainanese chicken with micro-greens, cucumber, the OG sauce and fried chicken, not poached like traditional Hainanese chicken. I love all those flavours. The buns for several of the sandwiches are trundled over in a trolley every day from Wheat Garden Bakery across the street. 

Uncle Hing’s Hot Chicken Sandy gets rambunctious with the vegan sweet and spicy sauce Do uses in the mushroom ‘wings’ at Do Chay. This sandy isn’t a tidy eat but delivers on flavour.

Chicken is the only meat protein on the menu because it began as a fried chicken joint, hence the chicken logo. But it morphed to five sandwiches ($10 to $12), some favourite childhood snack foods ($6 to $8) and a lovely salad with pickled watermelon rind, jicama, seiton and spicy tamarind dressing. The other sandwiches are: Uncle Pat’s salty chicken fry bread with salted egg yolk chicken; Uncle O’s housemade egg tofu with katsu sauce on milk bread; and Auntie Steph’s with portobello, cheese, apple and tamarind jam.

Uncle Hing’s (left) and Uncle Kev’s OG Chicken Sandy are just two of the tasty sandwiches on offer at Uncle’s Snack Shop.
Uncle Hing’s (left) and Uncle Kev’s OG Chicken Sandy are just two of the tasty sandwiches on offer at Uncle’s Snack Shop. Photo by Mia Stainsby

Uncle Scott’s Shake-Shake are resistance-proof tater tots. Choose your seasoning and you shake it up with the tots in a bag — we chose truffle parmesan which required pre-shaking in the kitchen. While I was working on my sandy, my partner across the patio table ‘disappeared’ most of the tots.


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Chicken skin ‘chickarron’ riffs on chicharron and comes with Ish sauce, a vegan Vietnamese sauce developed for Do Chay mushroom wings — it’s tempting to eat like it like popcorn, but don’t!

Auntie Liv’s Pom Pomelo Salad is just plain delicious and should you be revelling in chickarrons and shake-shake tots, it’ll cleanse you with sour, sweet, fresh and hot flavours of tamarind dressing, pomelo segments, pickled watermelon rind, jicama and puffed tofu.

The very mild Auntie Mandy’s Mapo Impossible is madewith vegan ‘meat’ in place of pork. It didn’t do much for me as I missed the spice and fire of chile oil, doubanjiang or fermented bean paste, and peppercorns you’d find in this Szechuan dish.

A Taiwanese sausage corn dog comes with brown sugar garlic chili sauce. “At Disneyland, corn dogs were absolutely my favourite,” Lin says. “I kid you not, I’d eat two or three a day. This one uses grilled Taiwanese sausage and in Taiwan, garlic is in your face so we have a raw garlic chili sauce dip.”

These guys are gutsy. They opened this place during the pandemic, they’re waiting for the go-ahead to open Saola, and they’re looking at a location in New Westminster to relocate Uncle’s Snack Shop when the lease expires. Saola, he says, will have modern Asian food “with a little bit of pasta and Italian, a bit of me and a bit of Patrick.”

Editor’s note: Due to recent provincial health measures related to COVID-19, indoor dining has been temporarily halted. Please check with the restaurant directly about current takeout and delivery options. 


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Spot prawn season opens Friday, May 14.
Spot prawn season opens Friday, May 14. Photo by Frederique Neil

Side Dishes

Spot prawn season opens May 14, and that means Spot Prawn Festival soon follows. It’s scheduled for May 29, and I don’t have to tell you it’ll be virtual this year. But as per usual, chefs will be cooking and you’ll be eating.

One proviso: you’ll be doing the cooking with video assistance from some great B.C. chefs. Participants receive a grocery list (for four) and video links to the cooking tutorials by Angus An (Maenam), Ned Bell and Stacy Johnston (Naramata Inn) and Ken Nakano (Aura Waterfront Restaurant at Inn at Laurel Point, Victoria).Then at 7 p.m., guests chow down in the virtual company of the chefs who will assail you with their knowledge about spot prawns, cooking them and shopping tips.

The event will be hosted by Lien Yeung, CBC TV anchor and reporter. Spot prawns will be available at Vancouver’s Fisherman’s Wharf as well as other seafood sources. Tickets are $25 and available through Eventbrite.

And here’s another option. As of May 14, you can order a spot prawn and seafood Manhattan style chowder through Legends Haul or Organic Ocean. Funds raised go to Chefs’ Table Society.

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