Saturday, December 29, 2007

Holiday Rush

We haven't forgotten about the blog. This month has just been very busy for us. We have taken a lot of pictures of our dining experiences and will post them up sometime soon. I'm also working on a new slide show for the blog. Stay tuned.

We hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

~Christine and Lucy

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bun Thi Nuong - Cha Gio aka Homemade Spring Rolls

For lunch on this beautifully sunny and snowy day, we made bun thit nuong at my grandpa's house. We eat this all the time but not often enough. I've refered to this as vermicelli salad with pork chops and spring rolls, which it is. If you want to read about the other times I've posted about bun, just go here, here and here. Up until now, I haven't known the Vietnamese name. But now I know and now you know - if you didn't know already. Bun thit nuong cha gio. There are a bunch of letters with accents, but I have no clue as to how to type them in.

Unlike the previous posts, this one will be more detailed. I still don't have accurate measurements for you guys yet, sorry. [If you haven't read my other posts, save yourself from the vague descriptions and just pretend that I've posted all my entries like this one.]

To make the vermicelli salad, you need to make the vermicelli/noodles - of course. Depending on how many people you are serving, cook the vermicelli needed. Once it's cooked, strain it, then rinse them under cold water and then drain it. Put a damp cloth over the strained vermicelli to prevent it from drying out. We usually squeeze out the excess water and then fold handfuls of vermicelli in U-shaped serving portions. You don't have to do that, but it's recommended that you do if you're serving a large group. The vermicelli is done, strained, and ready to be eaten.

To make our spring roll filling, you'll need to shred some cabbage and carrots (we used two large carrots and a half of a large cabbage), dice some onions, and get some ground pork. (I don't know about this, but I think you can substitute the pork for ground chicken or turkey.) Oh, if you want, you can keep some shredded carrots on the side, to be added into the salad in the end. Sauté the onions and then the ground meat in a bit of oil.

Season it with salt and pepper, and then add the shredded cabbage and carrots. Cook the cabbage and carrots until they're soft and then add more seasonings to your taste - mainly oyster sauce and sesame oil. (Be careful not to put too much sesame oil if you haven't used it before. It's very strong, so you don't need very much.) Turn off the heat and push the mixture to the side of the pot, that way the juices can collect somewhere. You don't want the mixture to be saucy because it will make the spring rolls soggy and that's just gross.
Before using the filling to wrap the spring rolls, make sure it's cooled down to room temperature. If you're in a hurry, put it outside in the cold, snowy outdoors. If it's not cold or snowy outside where you live, tough luck, you just have to wait for a couple of hours. Just kidding. I'm sure you can put the mixture in the freezer to cool or something. Remember: push the filling to the sides of the pot. It not only helps drain the juices but it also helps the mixture cool quicker. You can add the juices in your salad after. If the filling is too wet, the spring rolls won't be crisp once deep fried.

Let's say it's already cooled down; the filling is done, strained, ready to use, and ready to be eaten (if you're stomach can't wait).

To make the pan fried pork chops (we had today), you need yourself some pork chops, about an inch thick. In a bowl or container, add oyster sauce, salt, sugar, pepper, finely chopped kaffir lime leaves, and pounded lemon grass and garlic.
Let that marinate for overnight (if you've prepared it ahead of time) or until you're ready to cook them. The pork is marinating and it's ready to be cooked and eaten.

To make the spring rolls, you'll first have to get out your spring roll wrappers, which are usually available at your local Chinese super market. Make sure it has fully defrosted, if it's been in the freezer, before you separate them. The outside layers are tricky because they're usually moist and/or mushy. After you get rid of any mushy bits, start peeling them carefully. You'll notice that the easier ones are near the middle of the stack because they aren't as moist, so they separate easier. I should probably mention that today we cut the large spring roll wrappers in half - diagonally. I personally like my spring rolls that size. I don't like my spring rolls too big or too small... they have to be juuuust right. Umm.. yeah. That sounds wrong. Anyway, my reasoning is this: if they're too big, then there's too much stuffing. If they're too small, then there's not enough stuffing. There needs to be balance.

Step 1: Near the bottom of the wrapper, place some of your cooled spring roll filling. Make sure you leave some space at the edges, like so, that you have room to seal the filling in.

Step 2: Fold the two side corners in and fold the bottom toward the top corner and tuck it in, like so, that way the filling is sealed.
Step 3: Dip your finger in some warm water and brush the top corner, then roll your spring roll tightly. Repeat the three steps until you run out of spring roll wrappers or filling.

Look at my mom's and you can almost see her spring roll beaming with confidence. Now it's my turn to try.
Umm.. yeah. I was told that I didn't add enough stuffing and that I didn't roll it tight enough - all at the end. Mine definitely looks sad.

Heat up some vegetable oil to medium high. The spring rolls are ready to be fried when the oil gently bubbles when you dip a bit of the raw spring roll into the oil. Don't crowd the pot too much or else the oil will lose too much heat. If your spring roll wrapper loosens, try holding the spring roll together in the oil for a second. The spring rolls are done when they're lightly golden. Drain the spring rolls on a cooling rack and/or a paper towel lined plate.

Everything is done and ready to be eaten. No? Then hurry up and fry up those pork chops and slice them into small strips. Now you're ready to eat. Wait, I lied. You have to make the fish sauce to go with the vermicelli salad.

To make the fish sauce-sauce-thing (nuoc cham), you need to dissolve one part sugar (none of that 'no calories' crap) into two parts of warm water. Then add one part EACH of fish sauce and white vinegar. If you want, you can add finely chopped up garlic and chili peppers.

Finally, everything is ready to be assembled into a large bowl and devoured, I mean, eaten. Add some of the drained vermicelli, shredded carrots, cucumbers and lettuce, crushed toasted peanuts (optional), fish sauce, sliced pork and the spring rolls all into your bowl. Now for a moment of silence. Just look at the meal you're about to eat. So beautiful. Okay, now you can eat it all.

I hope that was a very hopeful post, unlike that last one. One day I'll get the exact measurements of everything so that you, too, can eat this.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sesame Balls - Dec. 2nd

You've probably see them in Chinese bakeries and dim sum places. They can be filled with either sweet or salty things, like the time I tried some at the Welcome Back Restuarant. I'm not sure what they're called, but I think it's right. [I know the picture is blurry. My brother was trying to keep still for a close up shot, but it was still piping hot.]

My mom decided she wanted to try making deep fried sesame balls. Today, my mom wanted to try making a dessert one with a mung bean filling.

I have no idea what the recipe for any of it is because she made it all so quickly. See? I have the pictures to prove it. Here she is swiftly making the little balls.

Booo... I hate blurry pictures. They make me sad. T_T

Here are some balls in a bowl of sesame seeds. They don't look pretty at this stage, but you just have to reshape them before you put them in the fryer. Now they're ready to be fried! Yay! Now get in line. No, get in line behind me.

The trick to successful sesame seed balls is controlling the temperature of the oil. If the outside layer is too thick, the dough wouldn't cook all the way through. If the oil is too hot, the outside would burn quickly and the inside would not be heated through. The first couple that were made weren't cooked properly and had to be, sadly, thrown out. See the one on the far right? Yeah that big one. It wasn't cooked - I should know, I tried to eat it.

These are so amazing. My mouth is watering just looking at these pictures. Crunchy on the outside, a bit sticky from the glutinous rice dough, and a sweet mung bean filling. I'm definitely going to order this next time I go for dim sum. Well, that is if they have a dessert one. Next time my mom is going to try to make savoury ones. Stay tuned.

The next day, December 3rd, it snowed some more. This was the snow storm that hit most of north eastern provinces and states. We had something like a foot of snow. Here's a cute picture of our future Christmas tree that day.. muhahahaa! Nah, just kidding.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Homemade Butter Chicken - Nov. 28th

Unlike the last time we had butter chicken, we didn't use a pre-made sauce. After talking with someone at work about the butter chicken we had, she was told that we needed tandoori masala, sour cream (or plain yogurt) and cream to make butter chicken from scratch. So being the person she is, my mom decided to go out, buy everything we needed, and try making it for herself. For about $3.00 at an Indian grocery store, we got this jar of tandoori masala. [I'm not sure what the address is, but it's across the colisseum on Carling. I'll find out where it is and add it on later.]
We had bought some cream, sour cream, and (a whole) chicken on the weekend and we still had some leftover naan that was in the freezer, so we had everything we needed.

To start everything off, we made some rice. We then cooked the chicken and added the tandoori masala to the chicken after it was cooked. Once we did that, cream and sour cream was added to finish everything off. We tasted it and I thought the flavour was weak, so I threw in more of the tandoori masala. We made sure to not boil the mix, because we didn't want the milk products to split.
My dad wanted more sauce so more cream was added to this. We turned off the heat and tossed the defrosted naan into the 350 degree oven.

The rice finished cooking, so my dad added a couple of chunks of frozen coconut milk and butter to the rice. Oh yeah, and I threw in butter in the chicken mixture... which made... Butter Chicken!! Yay!

"You can't have butter chicken without butter", I said, before adding some into the chicken mixture.

I prefer and suggest that you all go out and buy some tandoori masala or garam masala at an Indian grocery store to make butter chicken. It's not hard. Just follow my uh.. detailed and helpful steps above. I'll try to make a better version in the future. Well it's all based on your taste buds. The spice blend had a bit of heat, which I liked. If you don't like that much heat, you can add more sour cream to cool it down. Hope that helps. ^_^

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Visit to Kingston - November 16th - 18th

It snowed two nights ago, and it's snowing again today. I thought I'd post this picture for those who, like myself, love snow and winter. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating it today.

This past weekend I went to visit Lucy and some friends in Kingston. Here's some of the things I did...

November 16th:
I left for Ottawa to Kingston in time for dinner. We went to a nice Vietnamese restaurant, called Little Saigon, for dinner. This restaurant isn't a pho restaurant though. It's just a small Vietnamese place. The last time I ate there was a couple of years ago -- before I became a pho addict. I remembered how godly their spring rolls were. I also remembered how much I enjoyed their pho. Over a couple of years, I've eaten a lot of pho and I've become quite the pho snob.

When Lucy, Jimmy, and I arrived at the restaurant for dinner, there were probably two tables being occupied. We ordered two plates of spring rolls to share, I had my small bowl of pho with no bean sprouts (they don't have medium bowls, they only have small, large, or extra large), while Jimmy had the bun bo hue, and Lucy had the vermicelli noodle salad with pork (bun). I didn't take any pictures because I figured you're all getting sick of my pho posts. In its place, here is my bowl of pho that I ate sometime in October with some friends. Just as our food arrived, the small restaurant was packed and a line started to form.

The spring rolls were the same as I remembered. They were juicy inside, crunchy outside, and very hot. Their spring rolls are kind of like the ones they serve at the Vietnamese Noodle House and at Pho Thu Do. Instead of using spring roll wrappers, they use rice paper -- the authentic Vietnamese way. Here's a picture of the spring rolls from the Vietnamese Noodle House.
I tasted the pho and was disappointed that the soup wasn't as flavourful as I remembered it to be. I know this place isn't a pho joint, but I just thought the soup could've been more flavourful. The flavour of the soup was quite weak and needed to be simmered for another few hours. As for the rice noodles, they were a bit overdone to my liking. I like them al dente.

Dinner wasn't bad. The spring rolls made up for my sad bowl of pho. I wish we had ordered more spring rolls.

November 17th:
Lucy wanted to make a pancake breakfast, so she did. By the time we started making it though, the clock read twelve o'clock. So our pancake breakfast turned into our pancake lunch. Oh well.

A little of this and a little of that and poof, we had a pancake batter. Lucy made the pancakes by eyeballing it and doing it by feel. Call it intuition. Here's the bowl with some eggs, butter and sugar.

Flour, milk, vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder, and some salt were added. Then the batter was allowed to rest for a few minutes.

Then on medium-high heat, a bit of butter was added to a pan, and then some batter was poured into the melted butter. Here's a tip: wait until the tops are looking like this before you touch the pancake. Check the bottom. The sides should be a bit golden. Once it's the colour you prefer, flip the pancake over and let it finish cooking.
I like mine practically deep-fried in butter. I love the crunchy and buttery crust and the golden brown colour to my pancakes, rather than a fluffy non-fried pancake. When you pour the pancake batter onto butter or oil (whichever you prefer to use) on a hot pan, the pancakes should form a deliciously buttered crust.
Lucy’s Comment:
I made these pancakes from scratch once I was old enough to mix the batter. Here’s a recipe that I sort-of follow:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tbsp melted butter
½ tsp vanilla extract

Before dinner, we watched the Santa parade from Jimmy's apartment. Unfortunately, we had a tree in our way so none of the pictures we took turned out. To her delight, Santa did look up and wave at Lucy.

After the parade, we walked to Lone Star to watch hockey and have some dinner. The Leafs were playing the Sens. We arrived there a bit late and so the restaurant and sports bar (upstairs) was full. As we watched the game while snacking on the salsa and chips, we waited for our table of three. Hmm.. yes.. this does resemble the last time I went to Lone Star. Like I did last time, I ate too much chips and salsa. But this time, I was more nervous than hungry. The Sens weren't playing that well and the Leafs were leading the game. Our table was ready by the second period. Seated near the corner of the restaurant, we had a booth that had a partial view of the television.

Back to food... Jimmy had the steak with his side of fried 'shrooms.

Lucy had the chicken enchiladas.
I had the chicken fajitas. For some reason, my tortillas were quite thick. Do you see that fat one sticking out? Sure I was pretty full with the chips and salsa, but I was going at least make and eat two wraps. I struggled real hard to finish the second one. I could've left it alone, but there were only two bites left. Then one bite left. I stared at the last chunk for probably about five minutes until I convinced myself that I would finish it.
The Sens struggled in the game, just as I struggled to finish my last bite of fajita. The Leafs dominated the Sens 3-0 in an uncharacteristic game for both teams. It seemed as though the teams switched jerseys or something. But a loss is a loss. Kudos goes out to the Leafs that played that night. Let's see them keep it up for the rest of the season. Bwhahaa! That's never going to happen.

November 18th:
We all stayed up late the previous night. We all slept in pretty late and wasted most of the day. Actually, I can't remember what happend that day except dinner. With Jimmy doing his assignment, Lucy made sushi for dinner. I helped a bit, mostly with emotional support, because everyone knows how much support you need to uhh.. make sushi. Riiiight. We didn't have everything to make the classic smoked salmon sushi rolls, so we improvised. I give myself too much credit, so let me rephrase that. Lucy improvised the ingredients. On the table for the stuffing, we had fish floss (it's basically pork floss, but with fish), leftover scrambled eggs and bacon, rice, a mixture of mayo, sriracha sauce and a bit of sugar and some chicken Lucy made by marinating it in soy sauce, red soybean paste and black pepper.
After mixing it all in a bowl, we added the sliced chicken. We left it to marinate for around five minutes. In a hot pan, we cooked the chicken and then drained off the grease. The chicken turned out to be super salty. After tasting a piece of chicken, I swear I started to mummify.
Here's one roll with everything on it; the mayo concoction, the really salty chicken, the scrambled eggs and the fish floss.

We ran out of the seaweed wrappers after, but still had some chicken and rice, so I told Lucy to make some rice balls stuffed with the chicken. For some more flavour, she rolled the outside with the fish floss. Yum. Sadly, the pictures are a bit blurry. I thought they were fine when I reviewed them on my camera. Oh well, my apologies. I think I was shaking from all the salt in my system... ahem...
We also had some miso soup to go with the army of sushi.
Instant soup mix is the way to go when everything is last minute. Yom-meh!

After dinner, I met up with my long-time friend, Carolina, at Starbucks. We had some drinks, cookies and some time to catch up. Long story short: they adopted two cute penguins from the store, only to behead them later. Poor penguins. Why would you hurt such an innocent looking thing? They look so happy to be posing for our blog.
Then tragedy struck. One was decapitated, while the other was amputated. For those who have a weak stomach, here is your warning: turn back now!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Butter Chicken - November 15th

During one of my grocery trips, jars of butter chicken sauces on the shelf caught my attention. According to the instructions, all you had to do was cook some chicken and then add the sauce. Easy enough. I picked up a jar and some chicken thighs (among other things) and headed home.

A couple of days later, I planned to make naan to go with the butter chicken. I had a recipe but I didn't have everything on the list. So my dad bought some naan from the grocery store.

We browned the chicken thighs, some garlic, and some onions. Once the chicken was cooked, the sauce was added.
While simmering the butter chicken, I took some naan and warmed them up in the oven. Oh, I forgot to mention, we made rice and added some coconut milk and butter at the end to give some flavour.
The chicken wasn't dry because I let the chicken fully cook in the sauce. That's my tip for those who like moist chicken; lightly brown the chicken and then let it cook in a liquid.

The naan was amazing because it was so fluffy and warm. I'm sure homemade naan is better, but for now, this did it. I was very hungry that night, so I thought it was very good. However, my dad suggested that we should've simmered the sauce a bit more, to concentrate the flavour.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lone Star - November 3rd

I apologise ahead of time for this post. I just came back from visiting Lucy and some friends in Kingston, and my whole sleeping system is messed up. I'm struggling to keep my eyes open right now, but I'm going to finish at least 2 entries before I go to sleep.

VN, her sister, KN, KN's bf, and myself all went to Lone Star for dinner. That night, the Sens were playing the Bruins. The place was packed. We waited around an hour for our table of four. We consumed 2 trays of chips and salsa while waiting. Once we got to our table, they gave us another tray. It looked like chips and salsa would be our dinner until our server finally brought the menus.

I ordered the chicken fajitas, VN ordered the chicken fajita club wrap, while KM and her boyfriend had burgers.

Here's my chicken fajita plate. The warm tortillas are in the red container thing in the background. Oh, and the condiments aren't shown.

Here is VN's chicken wrap. KN's burger and salad is in the background.

Here's one of the burgers they ordered.

After eating all the chips and salsa, I managed to make and eat two fajitas. (I should've slowed down on the chips and salsa). Well, the leftovers turned out to be my dinner the next night, so it all worked out in the end.

Once we finished with dinner, we sat at the bar and watched the rest of the game. The Sens won that night 3-2 against the Bruins.


780 Baseline Road
Ottawa, ON
(613) 224-4044

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hu Tieu Outings

I was looking through my pictures to see what I could blog about, when I realised that I haven't blogged about hu tieu yet. I think I mentioned it earlier. My cousin, JT, prefers this to pho. Anyway, it's thin rice noodle soup with a slightly sweetened broth that is served with a variety of meats and vegetables like bean sprouts, green onions, and shallots. This dish is a lot like the Cambodian noodle soup, Phnom Penh noodle soup. Both are light flavoured broths, in contrast to the star anise and clove spiced pho broth.

Lucy had it a couple of times already, and it wasn't until recently that we've known what it was called. I have to thank my friend VN for that. Lucy likes it better than pho because she prefers the lighter broth.

Our cousin, JT, also prefers hu tieu over pho. Why? Well, she only had her first bowl of pho a couple of months ago. When I asked her why she liked it better than pho, she replied, "There's more than just beef; therefore, it's better. Plus you get the shrimp cracker."

A couple of weeks after I took her to have pho for the first time, we went to try some of Ottawa's hu tieu. Wait, let me rephrase that: she wanted to try Ottawa's version of hu tieu. I had pho. I'm so predictable.

So here we have JT's lovely bowl of hu tieu at Pho Bo Ga LA. It arrived with the yummy deep-fried shrimp pancake. The Hokkien-styled hu tieu had two different kinds of noodles. It's typically made with thin rice noodles and thin egg noodles, but as you can see in the picture, the egg noodles were the thicker kind. Her soup wasn't that flavourful. It tasted watery and sweet - so much that we ended up mixing some of our soups together. I remember the first time Lucy had hu tieu here, and the soup had more flavour than that. We were both disappointed with her bowl. It could've been a bad day though, so we'll go again soon. The only positive that came out of her dish was, you guessed it, the deep-fried shrimp pancake.

Here's a close up of the star of the dish. Dipped in the really sweet soup, the crunchy pancake soaked up the soup and was very yummy.

During my Toronto trip (in October), we had some time to kill in Chinatown, so I started egging Jennie on about going to have some of her beloved Hokkien-style hu tieu. She caved in, and we went to her favourite place: the Kim Vietnamese Restaurant. Since we weren't that hungry, we decided to split two bowls between myself, JT, and my youngest brother, Andrew.

She ordered her Hokkien-styled hu tieu, while I ordered a simple rare beef one. Her bowl was full of delicious treasures: fake crab, crab claws, rare beef and "medium beef" (the one that is layered with fat and thinly sliced).

The soup was very good. The combination of the fried scallions and light broth reminded me of the Phnom Penh noodles. The deep fried shrimp pancake was crunchy, but turned into a fried sponge when you left it in the soup - so awesome. I definitely recommend that you go and try this. Go now!



Pho Bo Ga LA
763 Somerset Street West
Ottawa, ON
(613) 233-2222

Kim Vietnamese Restaurant
546 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON
(416) 596-8589

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nice Meeting You Dim Sum- October 14th

For some yum cha (aka dim sum), we went to the Nice Meeting You Restaurant. We were a table of 10 hungry people. Even though it was only 10:30 in the morning, a lot of us haven't eatten anything yet. My aunt took the dim sum menu and ordered (because it was still early), and the food came quickly.

It seemed as though we had ordered the whole kitchen, as we received dish after dish. I'm not sure what these are called, but a lot of people like this. All I know is that it's deep fried taro with stuff inside. I don't like taro so I didn't touch it.

Behind the taro was something else that was deep fried with meat and things stuffed inside. I tried this. It was sweet and sticky after you got past the deep fried layer, while salty and meaty on the inside. It was pretty good, even though I tasted dried shrimp. The contrast of sweet and salty, crunchy and soft, and sticky and chewy was really appealing, but I could've done without the dried shrimp. Here's a shot of a bitten one.

Deep fried shrimp balls came next. These actually had crab claws! It's been a long time since I've seen them with crab claws. Oh, the memories. These "stuffed" crab claws were huge. Unfortunately, they tasted too seafood-y. Not just that, but I could tell the crab meat wasn't fresh either.

The shrimp balls didn't have the natural sweetness of the shrimp meat and crab meat. I prefer the ones in Ottawa, even though they don't usually have the crab claws. The lady butchered them, as she took scissors and cut them into pieces. Actually, because these were so big, it worked out.

We had other things like tripe, shrimp wontons, shrimp spring rolls. I think we also got rice cakes, but I'm not entirely sure what top two dishes were.

Of course, when you go eat dim sum you have to get siu mai and ha gao. We also got three kinds stuffed rice rolls (cheun fan): shrimp, pork and Chinese donuts (youtiao). I've never tried the chinese donut onces, because I've always thought that it would taste really plain. Oh, where were you all my life? These were amazing! I love Chinese donuts already, but when you wrap them in the noodle and pour some of that sweet soy sauce, it's a whole different thing. I'm definitely going to order this in the future.

You might wonder why I tried it. Well, the pork ones had a lot of water chestnuts, which I hate. I got tired of picking them all out, so I decided to try the Chinese donut ones. They were lying on the table all alone. I decided to introduce them to my stomach, and the rest is history.

Let's see what else we ordered. Here are some steamed beef balls with water chestnuts. Ewww... water chestnuts. Take a close look, and you'll be able to spot them. There's one of the rice cake things I was talking about. I'm sure there's no rice in it, but it's okay. I'll find out what they are, and tell you guys. In the back, there's some chicken feet. Yummy. To the left, you can see a pile of dishes that we've polished off.

Lucy's Note: Those rice cake things are actually steamed turnip cakes. They don't contain any turnips, but daikon radish.

I'm sure I've missed a couple of other dishes, but you get the point - we had a lot of food. The bill came to $80-ish for 10 people. Pretty good considering the fact that we were all full.



Nice Meeting You Restaurant
1177 Central Pkwy West
Mississauga, ON
(905) 896-8862
(in the link, the phone number given is: (905) 896- 2747)


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