Toronto·Suresh Doss

This Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant in Richmond Hill serves up wok-fried crab

With Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai dishes on the menu, Saigon Star's meals offer flavours from multiple cultures. 

Saigon Star is located at 330 Hwy. 7 in Richmond Hill

Saigon Star's signature dish is the Vietnamese curry crab. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

With Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai dishes on the menu, Saigon Star's meals offer flavours from multiple cultures. 

"I really think we're the only restaurant doing what we do. Where else can you find a bowl of pho, along with a menu of curry crab?" asked Thomas Ha, who now manages the restaurant with his father, Bill Ha.

Saigon Star is located along one of the biggest corridors for East and South East Asian food in the Greater Toronto Area — Highway 7. 

One of the tastiest items on the menu is the fried spring roll. The shell is stuffed with taro, wild mushrooms and glass noodles, with the option of adding chicken, and arrives with a side of fish sauce. 

The restaurant also serves up a grilled pork-neck dish, which is a marriage of Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai cooking. The meat is marinated in a soy, lemongrass and sesame oil mix before it's baked on low heat. It's then seared on high heat to crisp the fat before it's sliced. 

Suresh Doss: Saigon Star

3 years ago
Duration 0:59
Suresh Doss takes us inside Saigon Star, a Chinese-Vietnamese fusion restaurant, in Richmond Hill.

"My father came up with this dish after a visit to the butcher shop. He found that they had an excess amount of great quality pork neck. He started experimenting with it," Thomas Ha said. 

Bill Ha moved to Toronto in the late 80s, where he originally opened Saigon Star just north of Yonge and Bloor streets with a partner.

Thomas Ha, left, now manages the restaurant with his father Bill Ha. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

In the early 90s, he saw a demographic shift in Toronto, with a large percentage of Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants moving to Richmond Hill, and a year later he moved his restaurant to Highway 7 near Bayview Avenue. 

The fried spring rolls are stuffed with taro, wild mushrooms and glass noodles. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

"My dad built this legacy of Chinese-Vietnamese cuisine," Thomas Ha said. 

Saigon Star's menu is an example of how cuisine evolves with migration and neighbouring influences.

Saigon Star's dishes can be traced back to central and southern China, with a twist of Vietnamese and Thai cuisines. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

The curry crab is Bill Ha's masterpiece — it's a uniquely Toronto dish inspired by the history of the Ha family.             

"This is a dish that was made by accident," Thomas Ha said.

When the restaurant first opened, the chicken curry dish tasted more like a Malaysian curry. One day, Bill Ha had a surplus of a house-made sauce, which he added to a fresh shipment of Dungeness crab that had arrived from B.C. and served it to his staff.

The crab is cleaned and then tossed into a wok with a secret sauce made from a house curry paste. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

The dish soon ended up on the menu and has become the most popular item. 

Saigon Star is located in Richmond Hill on Highway 7 near Bayview Avenue. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Over the years Bill Ha and his cooks have added a few variations of the wok-fried crab dishes. They're all delicious, but there's something that stands out about the signature curry crab. 

After the crab is cleaned, it's tossed in high-heat work with a secret sauce made from a house curry paste. It's not spicy, but there are distinct notes of herbs and spices. 

Fried roti can be used to sop up any leftover sauce. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

What I also love about this dish is the experience of eating it, which requires all participants to get their hands a little messy. 

And if you have a chance, ask for some roti canai (fried roti), which you can tear and use to sop up any leftover the sauce from the plate.