Felix Zhou’s world is thin, thick, flat, and round
oodles: a delicious breakfast or a fine dining dish on menus from east to west. Chef Felix Zhou of Bread X Butter Café, classically trained in Europe, whips up fusion udon dishes as part of his Vancouver café’s menu. He shared his haute noodle culture with us.
What’s your first memory of noodles?
The ones my grandma used to make in the province of Hunan – noodles in tomato and egg broth.
What’s the first traditional noodle dish that comes to mind?
Dan Dan noodle. I think it’s because Dan Dan is cheap and easy to make – with minced meat, vegetables, and black bean sauce — so it’s quite a common noodle dish that has been adopted and adapted by different countries. There’s a Korean, Chinese, Japanese version … maybe many other variations as well. In Japan they use a sesame sauce, in China peanuts. I think all noodles at the end of the day reflect on the region and culture of the city.
You have tried noodles around the world – what are some key differences?
I think execution and ingredients and culture. In Italy, not all pastas have a sauce, sometimes it’s just a little simple olive oil or oil-based sauces like pesto. In Chinese culture, you can boil, stew, stir fry…noodles are so versatile. Although one similarity is that the classics in different cultures usually use just a few ingredients, maybe three or four. Like Beef Chow Fun that’s popular in Cantonese culture — there’s beef slices, rice noodles, beansprouts and Chinese chives.
Do you see chefs across Canada creating different dishes with noodles?
I would say noodles are the easiest ingredient to interpret in your own way. We have an abundance of fresh, local, farm-to-table ingredients in every province here in Canada and that is what would make a noodle dish unique and local to a region. So the appearance of a noodle dish might not look that different, but you would get to taste local ingredients and flavour. For example, here in Vancouver we have locally foraged wild mushrooms that I use in my udon dishes.
You say that noodles are an easy ingredient to interpret and make your own but is there a noodle dish that is especially difficult to master?
If I had to point to a type of noodle that’s tough to cook, I think stuffed pastas/noodles because there are more steps to getting it right. Not only are you counting on getting the timing right to perfectly cook the pasta but you also need to be mindful of what you fill the pasta with, such as meat, seafood, or vegetables; once you change the mix of ingredients you will need to adjust.
Have you come across any inventive noodle dishes recently?
Funny enough, I recently saw online someone make noodles out of prawns. You chop up the prawn and mince it, add egg whites and then pipe it into boiling hot water; then you cook it and shock it in ice water to create the noodle.
What’s your go-to noodle?
It’s got to be pho noodles. The broth has both sweet and savoury flavours in it yet it’s still light so you feel like you can eat more.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
ABOUT FELIX ZHOU
Owner of Bread X Butter Café, 925 West Georgia St
Felix Zhou started his culinary journey at West Restaurant under the tutelage of critically acclaimed chefs David Hawksworth and Warren Geraghty. He further honed his skills in his next role at the Shangri-La Hotel’s MARKET by Jean-George, and in 2012 jetted off to London to pursue his next culinary adventure. There, Felix joined the team at Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle — a bastion of modern French cuisine — and then sharpened his foraging skills at Roganic, a pop-up restaurant in Marylebone dreamed up by Michelin-starred Chef Simon Rogan.
Now, back in Vancouver as chef at Bread x Butter Cafe, Felix brings the rich experiences drawn from his travels and chefs he has worked alongside throughout his storied career. His ever-evolving menu prioritizes locally sourced ingredients and freshly caught seafood, keeping flavours pure.