From Lucky’s Doughnuts to Chinese fritters, doughnuts make the world go 'round in Vancouver
The display case at Lucky’s Doughnuts (2902 Main Street) makes you want to order a dozen and ravenously consume all of them in one sitting. If doughnuts were works of art, these would be at the Met: they’re perfectly shaped, with shiny glazes and aesthetically pleasing toppings. Owner Vince Piccolo says it took a solid year of testing for his team to create the ultimate North American doughnut. Say goodbye to your waistline: Lucky’s is just one stop among the many multicultural doughnut options to sample in the city.
Out of their rotating selection of 12 doughnuts, Piccolo’s favourites are a yeast doughnut filled with coconut custard and topped with coconut shavings—called the Coconut Bismarck—and a pistachio-orange cake doughnut that contains orange juice and orange zest and has chopped pistachios on top. Over the phone, Piccolo explains why using fresh, real ingredients was so important: “We wanted to be able to taste what the doughnut is. We wanted to taste orange. We wanted to taste pistachio.”
Everything in the display case has been made within the last hour and a half. If you want the freshest of the fresh, though, order the New Orleans–style beignets and wait 10 to 15 minutes for them to arrive steaming, along with milk chocolate, sour cherry, and vanilla dipping sauces. They’re light and easy to gobble up. (Just don’t burn your tongue.)
“Don’t tell my wife, but I’ve eaten six straight doughnuts with a cup of coffee in the morning,” admits Eppy Rappaport, owner of Omnitsky Kosher Delicatessen (5866 Cambie Street), during a phone chat. Rappaport has a weakness for sufganiyot (Jewish doughnuts), which he eats in the lead-up to Hanukkah. During the month of December, he sells these deep-fried, jelly- or custard-filled treats to celebrate the holiday. Sabra (3844 Oak Street) makes sufganiyot from November 11 through Hanukkah in mid-December.
If you can’t wait until then, you can visit Rappaport’s doughnut supplier, Garden City Bakery (9100 Blundell Road, Richmond), where owner Ivan Gerlach starts on the sufganiyot at 6 a.m. year-round. When they’re ready depends on the rabbi, Gerlach explains, so call ahead. According to the rules of this kosher establishment, “the rabbi has to come in the morning to turn on the fryer. He likes to sleep in, though,” he jokes, with affection, by phone.
The wait is worth it: delicious yeast doughnuts with a crisp exterior, filled with raspberry or apricot jelly and topped with icing sugar. Other options include Bavarian cream, chocolate, and plain sugar. “They’re going to be the best doughnuts you’ll ever have. Guaranteed to melt in your mouth,” Gerlach claims.
Also toothsome are Persian bamieh at Golestan Bakery (1554 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver). The process includes piping out two-inch pieces of batter, deep-frying them, and soaking them in a mixture of sugar, honey, and rosewater syrup. “They’re hard to make but easy to eat,” owner Jalal Darvishi says, laughing, by phone.
Darvishi’s sweet and fragrant bamieh are also available at Zeitoon (1795 Pendrell Street and 1615 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver). During a phone chat, Zeitoon owner Reza Vojdani explains, “It’s a traditional Persian/Arabic sweet. Especially when the fasting month [Ramadan] comes in Iran and the Arabic world, it’s very common. They break the fast with it. When that season comes, everyone goes crazy over them,” he explains.
Marinda Breese, co-owner of African Breese Imports (1054 Marine Drive, North Vancouver and 3654 West 4th Avenue, opening mid November) can’t keep up with the demand for the South African koeksisters one of her customers—who has agreed to be her supplier—delivers every Thursday or Friday. “I never have enough,” she says by phone. The doughnuts have a braided shape and are dipped into cold sugar syrup once they’ve been deep-fried. Breese sells them frozen and recommends snacking on them straight from the freezer. They’re the perfect midnight-craving fix.
Chinese-doughnut fans have five different options at New Town Bakery. Co-owner Susanna Ng sits at a booth in the Chinatown
location (148 East Pender Street) enjoying a cup of tea and a cinnamon doughnut. The round, flat doughnut is dense and in fact contains streaks of sweet red-bean curd rather than cinnamon. The same dough, without the bean curd, is used for the plain sweet doughnut: it’s rolled into thick ropes that are folded in half and deep-fried. The plain doughnuts seem almost guilt-free: extremely light, eggy puffs that feel like nothing going down.
Extremely popular are the salty doughnuts—long, deep-fried lengths of airy dough that commonly accompany breakfast. “They’re perfect with congee. Like crackers with soup,” Ng says.
The Chinese take on a western jelly doughnut is especially good. The dough for baked bao (buns) is filled with red bean paste, deep fried, and then rolled in granulated sugar. One bite and the combination of a golden crust, soft inside dough, and sweet filling will have you hooked.