Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pad Thai - September 30, 2007

I thawed out some shrimp for dinner a few nights ago and suddenly felt like eating Pad Thai. I would have abandoned the menu for that night and made some, but I didn’t have all the ingredients. I pledged that I would learn how to make Pad Thai the next day.

Well, I didn’t make it the next day, either. I was too lazy to go grocery shopping.

This morning, I planned on going to the Asian food market early to get the ingredients I lacked. When I arrived, I was greeted by a “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign. Lame. They don’t open until noon on Sundays. We had wonton soup for lunch.

I finally managed to get my missing ingredients this afternoon, and made it for dinner tonight. It didn’t turn out as pretty as I had hoped, but I blame that on the wok. It’s not a real wok. It’s a non-stick pan shaped like a wok, but it is flat on the bottom to accommodate electric stove elements. It’s a wannabe wok. Poser.

In any case, I didn’t want to take pictures of the process, for fear of failure, so I took a picture of the leftovers.

Here's a list of ingredients:

Brown sugar (replacing palm sugar)
Fish sauce
Sriracha sauce
Garlic chilli sauce
Tamarind powder
Minced garlic
Extra-firm tofu
Chicken breast
Bean sprouts

As you may have already figured out, I’m not huge on recipes. I just eye-balled a lot of it, and adjusted it to taste. It's the way our family cooks. I’m not even going to bother trying to explain how to make it, since I followed the instructions from Chez Pim (thanks so much!).

You’ll notice that I didn’t use roasted peanuts. That was an oversight on my part. I knew I was forgetting something as I paid for the groceries, but I ignored it and left the store. Dang. I was sooooooo sad when I realized I forgot to buy peanuts. They’re definitely essential to the Pad Thai experience. Also, I didn’t use lime or garlic chives. I didn’t remember to buy those… oops!

Still, I thought it tasted pretty great. Close to the real thing. If I had remembered to buy ALL of the ingredients, it would have been BETTER than the real thing! Muahahahahah! No, I’m just flattering myself. But it really did taste great. I surprised myself this time. Pad Thai part deux will be awesome.

*end scene*

Spring Rolls? Biscuits? Where? - September 8th and 9th

September 8th:
After work, my parents and brother, Andrew, got busy wrapping up spring rolls for dinner. We were having bún (pronounced "booung") tonight. The noodles were already cooked and cooled. All we had to do was prepare everything else.

Having been frozen for a couple of months, some of the wrappers were dry and unworkable. Or so I thought. Apparently, you could make spring rolls out of the stiff wrappers. All you have to do it is add some warm water to soften them up. We had some sad looking ones (made by my dad), some decent ones (made from Andrew), and we had some perfectly wrapped ones (made by my mom, of course). Into the hot oil they went. Out came some hot yummy spring rolls. Mmm.

My dad then took some beef, some sliced onions, some oyster sauce, some soy sauce, some cooking wine, some salt and some pepper; mixed them all up in the wok and voila. Stir fried beef with onions to go with the noodles and spring rolls. Then you add shredded carrots, cucumbers and lettuce,
thai basil, crushed penunts, and a fish sauce mixture (fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and warm water).
I love this stuff. Yummy spring rolls with noodles and veggies.

September 9th:
After work, once again, I come home and was greeted by my aunt, uncle, and cousin. Right when I walked in the house, the scent of beef simmering on the stove was in the air. I was right. My dad was making "pot roast." The beef, with some herbs and spices, was simmering away on the stove and the potatoes were being cooked with some carrots and snow peas. Oh man, did it smell good in the house. This was such a typical American dinner. One of those dinners you'd see people eating in old movies. One thing was missing though. Biscuits. My mom quickly ran to the store and bought some as we started to set everything up for dinner. In and out. Not even 10 minutes and they were done. Lovely. Freshly baked biscuits.

The beef was so tender. It was simmering for 8 hours, so how could it not be? The gravy was very flavourful, as my dad used the stewing liquids. The biscuits, straight out of the oven, were so hot, fluffy, and buttery. The beef melted in my mouth. Ugh. I want more.

Oh, I definitely overate that night. I was so close to popping. But if I were to go back, I wouldn't change a thing.

Suuuuu... sheeeee..! - September 3rd

Sushi. Do I like it? Nah. Does everyone else I know like it? Like it - they LOVE it! Why? Why does everyone like sushi that much?

When I heard that we were going to my aunt's house for lunch and it was going to be sushi, I quickly made and ate a sandwich. Unless I wanted to starve, I needed to eat something before we left for their house - no offence to my uncle. I'm just not a sushi fan.

Two plates stacked with all kinds of sushi to feed 5 people (I counted my little brother and my cousin together) is more than enough, in my opinion. I must say that my uncle makes sushi pretty well, this coming from someone who doesn't care much for it. He made me a sushi I even liked once. He created a pork floss with cream cheese norimaki. How creative of him.

Shall I start describing what kinds of sushi my uncle made? Let’s start with the left plate. There's fresh salmon nigiri, tonkatsu (well, we used chicken fingers, but we'll say that it was tonkatsu) with cucumber and avocado, fake crab with cucumber, cream cheese and black and white sesame seeds.

On the right plate: more fresh salmon nigiri, smoked salmon with cucumber and avocado, shrimp with cucumber and avocado with rice and some deep fried panko bread crumbs, and some more smoked salmon with cucumber and avocado with roe. I don't know the proper names for them. There's no need. Everyone was happy.

Here's another picture of the plate, just so all you sushi lovers can drool some more.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Day Trip to Toronto - September 1st

After dropping Lucy off in Kingston, we continued on to Toronto for a day trip. Oh boy was I excited. I would get to eat my noodles again! We went to the House of Gourmet place again, of course, the best place to get my noodles. As soon as we got out of the parking complex, which was across the restaurant, we lined up in the tiny lobby/takeout area. One thing I found interesting about this place, was that the hostess asked a couple of people if they would mind if they shared a table with someone else. A couple and small family of three didn't mind at all, and they followed the hostess to their tables. I told by brother that if they asked me that question, I wouldn't care at all. I just wanted good food! I couldn't help smile that other people shared my feeling. They just wanted some awesome tasting food.

We were seated at a table that was perfect for the 5 of us. Right away, my dad wrote down my order of noodles. Awesome. I didn't even have to say anything, cause everyone knows that that's what needs to be ordered. Everyone gave their order, except my mom. She had no idea what she wanted to eat, as this was her first time at the restaurant. In the end, my mom just ate a bit of everything. My dad ordered BBQ pork and rice. This was pretty good. It was nice that they put a bit of sweet cha siu sauce over the rice, on top of the flavourful cha siu.

My brother, Richard, ordered stewed beef with chow mien. Thinking about the piece of meat that I ate makes me salivate. The brisket just melted in my mouth. Oh, so heavenly. The sauce was also very good with the chow mien. And the silky soft tendons were dreamy! My mom gravitated towards Richard's deep plate of stewed beef and tendons.

My other brother, Andrew, ordered the BBQ pork and wonton noodle soup. Well, egg noodle soup. Man, I love the wontons here. They're pretty much shrimp siu mai, as Lucy said in another post. Isn't that just awesome? I can't remember what the broth exactly tasted like, but all I remember is that it was weird tasting. Weird, but in a good way.

My noodles. Extra sauce and no bean sprouts. Rice noodles with beef and chinese vegetables (in a smoky gravy-like sauce). Oh... this was happiness served on a plate. It's soooo good here! The smoky flavour of the sauce and noodles, the tender slices of pork, and the sweet vegetables. What an awesome balance.

Oh, my noodles. So tasty! Dare I say, the House of Gourmet makes it the best? Yup. I'll go there.

484 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON
(416) 217-0167

Monday, September 24, 2007

So Pho-king Good! - August 29th

I'm back home now. We went on a road trip to the States and got back late last night. I slept very well last night and woke up around 10am. When I went downstairs, my mom asked if I still wanted to go eat some pho - out of no where! I didn't even instigate it in any way. What day is this? Is it my birthday? My brothers didn't want to go. Ha, their loss. Thinking about it now, it's probably because I felt so crappy during the trip. I'll write about that in a later entry.

We went to Pho Bo Ga LA today. There was a line-up, but we didn't have to wait long. Dad got the rice dish with BBQ chicken and pork, my mom had the bo kho, and I had a bowl of pho. They originally messed up my dad's order, but it was quickly fixed. He enjoyed it, even though he didn't say anything. Oh, I forgot to take a picture of my dad's plate because I was too busy wolfing down my bowl. I'll get a picture of it some other day. My mom complained her dish was too sweet. I know that she liked it though.

As for my medium bowl of pho, it was SOOOOOO GOOD! Although I wanted to order the one with the sliced fatty beef, this bowl was amazing. I finally got my soup. I felt soo happy afterwards.. hehee. Sad isn't it?

What a way to end a road trip, huh? A nice large bowl (medium in my case) of pho. *Sigh*



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

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Kare Raisu - September 22, 2007

Check out our most recent post (2010) about kare raisu here.


Growing up, we never ate Japanese curry at home. We always made it Southeast Asian style, with coconut cream, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves. I didn’t think I was missing out on much, until Jimmy made Japanese curry. A rough list of ingredients below:

2 tsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 chicken breasts, diced
1 package medium tofu, diced
½ cup frozen peas
2 large potatoes, cooked and diced
2 ½ cups water
1 package Glico brand curry sauce

1. Sauté garlic and onions in vegetable oil on medium-high heat.
2. When the garlic and onions become fragrant, add the chicken breast.
3. Cook chicken breast through, about 5 minutes.
4. Add tofu, peas, potatoes, and water. Bring to a boil.
5. Break up curry blocks into small chunks. Add to pot.
6. Stir thoroughly, but gently to keep the tofu intact.
7. Turn down to a simmer. Simmer without the lid for half an hour. Sauce will thicken as the water begins to evaporate.
8. Serve with steamed, white rice.

There are directions on the back of the box, but I never follow directions closely. It’s a fool-proof recipe, as long as you don’t burn the bottom of the curry. Yuckers.

I expected some sort of sickly sweet curry, for some reason. I suppose I dismissed Japanese curry because it doesn’t have coconut cream – my favourite part. Japanese-style curry tastes closer to Indian-style curry. The spices were stronger, most notably the
cumin. It was suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper good!

I had also never eaten tofu in curry before, and it ended up being my favourite part of the curry. Talk about surprising!

The sauce was creamy and thick, perfect for the rice. Personally, I think the consistency of the sauce is just as important as the taste. The flour in the curry sauce block did its job well. Yay, flour!

This is a dish that improves the next day. I had a small bowl for lunch today, and the flavours really matured overnight. The curry taste only lingered on the tip of the tongue yesterday, while today, it spread all over my mouth. I was in curry heaven! And the tofu! Oh, I love tofu that’s been stewed. Yummy gelatinous blobs of non-meat substance!

The only thing that disappointed me was the spiciness. The box says that it’s spicy, but I didn’t feel the burn at all. Maybe I’ll add some minced
Thai chili next time. I’ll have to play around with the ingredients a bit, but it’s definitely something I’d make again. Now I understand what the hype is about in Japanese anime. Japanese curry is a new favourite!


Friday, September 21, 2007

Fear the Wonton Queen! September 18, 2007

I am the self-proclaimed wonton-making queen. I make wontons like there is no tomorrow. Tuesday afternoon, I hunkered down and made a whooooooooole lot of wontons. I like wontons because they remind me of home. I remember being a tiny little version of me, and making wontons with my mum. There’s nothing like a hot bowl of wonton soup waiting for you when you get home from school. Since moving out from home, I’ve found that wontons can brighten any crappy day. Even my housemates loved them!

I often made wontons for potlucks, since they can be easily made in advance. I’m quite proud of the fact that my Asian friends all said that my wontons taste like home. Some of them are from Taiwan, others from China, and many others are from Southeast Asia!

At first, I was hesitant to make wontons because I like to make at least one package at a time. This means 103924 wontons for Lucy to eat all at once. Then I started to freeze them, and store them for when I get lazy, or when I decide to be adventurous and add a couple of wontons to my instant noodles.

Over the past four years, I’ve been perfecting my wonton filling. The following lists the ingredients in my wontons.

1 package lean ground pork or chicken (pork tastes better)
1 small onion, minced as tiny as possible
3 large napa cabbage leaves, minced as tiny as possible
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar

Mix together in a large bowl until combined.

The recipe listed above makes enough for two packages of wonton wrappers. I might make a post with directions on how to wrap wontons, but that’ll have to be after I finish eating this batch.

There are many variations on wontons, and it usually depends on what you like. Sometimes we add minced shrimp. The possibilities are endless!

I didn’t take any pictures of the wontons that were cooked and served with noodles, unfortunately. Here’s Wikipedia’s article on wonton noodles. In its place, I’ve added some pictures of the frozen wontons in bags!


Mmm... Tofu.... September 16, 2007

I wasn’t sure what to cook for dinner on Sunday. We had leftover slices of roast pork and some soft tofu, so I made a quick stir-fry. You’ll often see this type of dish served in an earthenware pot at a Chinese restaurant. I don’t even know what it’s called, or how to order it. Check the “Tofu” section of a menu and look for a stewed tofu or something. I’ll have to ask my dad.

I’m not sure of the exact measurements, so here’s an approximation.

2 tsp vegetable oil (not olive oil)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp ginger, cut into thin trapezoids (it’s hard to describe)
¼ cup roast pork, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tsp soy sauce
¼ cup cooked shrimp
¼ cup frozen peas, thawed
1 package soft tofu, cut into small cubes (but not too small, or else they’ll break apart while cooking)
4 tbsp oyster sauce (approx.)
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp cold water
1 stalk green onion, chopped diagonally
Salt to taste

1. Heat pan on high until hot.
2. Add oil.
3. Turn down heat to medium.
4. Add garlic and ginger. Make sure they don’t burn.
5. Once the garlic and ginger becomes fragrant, toss in the roast pork.
6. Add soy sauce.
7. Stir-fry until the pork has browned.
8. Add shrimp, peas, and tofu. Turn down heat to medium-low. Don’t stir the tofu too much at this point. It’ll break apart easily.
9. Add oyster sauce.
10. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water thoroughly. Add to pan. Gently stir the pan.
11. Toss in chopped green onions.
12. Sprinkle with salt, and check the taste.
13. If you want more of the sauce, add more oyster sauce, cornstarch and water accordingly. It’ll taste “right” with some adjustments.
14. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.

I definitely don’t measure my ingredients, by the way. I just toss them all in and try to adjust the taste as I go along. Oh well. The recipe listed above is a mere guideline.

While I was cooking, I actually ended up with far more sauce than I had intended. I was trying to clean out the last bit of the oyster sauce, so I added some water. Needless to say, it was a soupy mess, until I finally put enough cornstarch.

It was really good, though the tofu hadn’t quite absorbed the flavours. We had the leftovers last night, and the dish definitely improved with time. It had enough time to sponge up the ginger flavour. Sweet peas and shrimp combined with salty tofu and pork... yummy.

We also had some tofu soup on the side. This one is super simple to make.

4 cups chicken stock
1 package soft tofu, cubed
1 green onion, minced
Salt to taste
Black pepper (optional)

1. Heat the chicken stock to a rolling boil on high.
2. Add tofu.
3. Boil on high for 5 minutes. This allows the flavour to penetrate the tofu.
4. Turn down heat to medium-low.
5. Add half of the green onions.
6. Simmer for 10 minutes.
7. Use the rest of the green onions to garnish your bowl.
8. Serve with black pepper on the side.

The great thing about this soup is its simplicity. When Jimmy and I don’t have any chicken stock lying around, we use water and powdered chicken stock. It turns out the same. Also, you can add things like meatballs, or dumplings, or wontons, or shrimp, or scallops, or whatever! It’s quite forgiving.


A Journey to the States: August 25th - 28th

Yeah, so I'm still catching up... I've been lazy and busy lately, but I'll get caught up by... umm... December. How's that? Hehee, just kidding. I'll get them done by the end of the month - or something like that.


This summer, we planned to go somewhere far. We were waiting for a last minute deal to go somewhere south. Somewhere called the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately due to my brother and me procrastinating in applying for our passports, we couldn't go. Hurricane Dean was the second reason.
That was a no-go, so we resorted to Plan B: taking a trip to the States. This second plan was influenced by my cravings to some things that I saw on the Food Network. I wanted to try a Philly cheese steak sandwich, some New York bagels, and some jambalaya. The plan was to go the States on a bus tour, but because we waited too long to buy the tickets, they sold out. My dad decided that we would drive to the Northeastern states ourselves.

Day 1: August 25th
After a bit of planning, we decided that we would start our trip early in the morning. That meant, on this particular trip, that we left at 2:30am. I didn't mind that because I love driving at night, not that I was driving; my dad is always the driver when we go on road trips. At night, people are sleeping, the roads aren't that busy, and everything is relatively quiet. Something about that is comforting to me. Unfortunately heavy rain and strong winds made me very uneasy, very quickly. The visibility was close to none when we were driving 100 km/h. There was practically no oncoming traffic, making it hard to see because of the lack of light. What's worse, cars and trucks were passing us at high speeds. I couldn't even see the reflectors on the side of the highway driving at 80 km/h, so how are these people able to drive quicker? We slowed down to 60 km/h, and turned on our high beams to increase our visibility. After half an hour of driving slowly through the rain, it stopped. I finally relaxed enough to fall asleep.

I woke up just in time for the toll bridge. A few minutes later, we got to US Customs. They asked us the same questions: "where are you coming from?", " where are you going?", "why are you going?", "for how long are you going for?", etc. After checking the computer, the customs agent told us that we were selected for a random search. Immediately I thought that they were just bored because there was almost no one crossing at this time. We got out of the van and went into their office. It’s almost exactly 4 am when I looked at the clock. They ask us the same questions and give us a sheet to fill out. They let us go and we continue driving to our first destination: Washington D.C. Again, I slept as my dad drove.

At some gas station in Pennsylvania, I woke up sweaty and nauseous. We didn't have air conditioning because the pipe had a hole in it. It was 35 degrees Celsius outside. Imagine how hot it was inside the van.

We stopped at a KFC and had some lunch. Actually, I was too sick to think about eating KFC, so I didn't eat anything. What made my stomach turn more was that there was still some Denny's in my stomach, from the night before. I could taste breakfast sausages. This made me sick. Why? 

Well, when I was younger I ate way too many sausages and got sick of them. Then after 5+ years of not touching it, I had some and fell in love with them again. I think that this may have scarred me for another 5+ years. 

My lunch consisted of a cup or two of some lemon-lime carbonated drink and two Dramamines (aka Gravol). Even though I didn't have the stomach to eat any of the KFC, the chicken did look and sound good. My mom happily devoured it and even gushed at how juicy it was.

We hit the road again and arrived in Washington D.C. around 2 pm. (Have you ever wondered what the "DC" part meant? Before this trip I just thought that that was just part of the state's name. Now I know that it stands for 'District of Columbia'. You see, you do learn something new everyday!) Once we arrived, we started looking for the
Best Western that we had booked. Now fully awake, I realise that the weather was like Florida's - hot and humid. We drove around the city and took a couple of pictures. Here is one with the US Capitol Building.

We arrived at the hotel and took a needed break. Dinner time rolled around, and my parents wanted seafood. In fact, they wanted to go to a specific area that they once visited in a previous trip a handful of years ago. I, 
on the other hand, needed some sort of soup to settle my stomach. We headed to a seafood market and picked up some crabs. We got about 50 blue crabs for around $20 USD (US dollars). I was surprised that the market didn't smell that bad. I had expected that I would have a hard time breathing. There were a couple stalls selling all sorts of seafood. We bought ours at Captain White's Seafood City.

We went to Chinatown because my brother and I weren't in the mood for blue crab. Stopping at the side of the road, we picked up some BBQ pork, chow mein in soup, and soy sauce noodles at a quiet restaurant. The menu said that it was rice noodles in the soup, but instead we got egg noodles. What lies! Although my mom tried to order my saucy noodles, she accidentally asked for soy sauce noodles instead. We drove back to the hotel and ate our dinner. The broth was a bit too salty for my taste, and I was very disappointed that I didn't get rice noodles. Egg noodles just doesn't go right with soup in my opinion. The soy sauce noodles weren't that bad. They had a nice smokey flavour. They even gave us a lot of meat. Sadly, the BBQ pork was tasteless. In the end, I was very happy with dinner because the soup settled my stomach. Just thinking about how I felt in the car made me feel worse. And those sausages... *shudder* After we finished eating some of the Chinese food, my parents cooked half of the crabs they bought. Again, I expected the room to smell REAL bad, but it didn't. After dinner, we cleaned up and went to bed.

Day 2: August 26th
It was around 9:30am by the time I woke up. Everyone was packing up getting ready to leave again. We warmed up some leftover Chinese food for brunch. (It’s too bad that there wasn't any more soup, even if it wasn't that good *tear*) We left the hotel by 12pm and drive around the city taking pictures. This day was also hot and humid, as you can see in the pictures. Here is the White House and a bit of the Washington Monument.

A close up of the Washington Monument.

Here is the Jefferson Memorial Building.

By 2pm, we headed toward Philadelphia. My dad drove around 130 km/h on the highway and cars and pick up trucks passed us! I was so amazed that people drove so quickly here. If you tried driving 130 km/h to Montreal, from Ottawa, you'd most likely get pulled over. Around 6 pm, we arrived at the
Red Roof Inn. Hot and sweaty, again, we unpack some things and took showers before having dinner at the Philly Diner. It was either that or Denny's. Hahaha, yeah... definitely not Denny's. I was still slightly car sick and so I ordered some french onion soup to share with my brother. The first and only time I've had french onion soup was at a friend's place. It was soooo good! Words cannot describe it - sounds can, but not words. This one, however, was very dissapointing. The croutons they added ruined the whole soup. I suspect that this was made with croutons so old that they tasted like cardboard, rather than bread.
My brother, on the other hand, loved this soup. He was the one who ate the rest of the soup.
My mom ordered the seafood linguine. This dish actually surprised me when I tried it. I assumed it would taste boring and powdery, but the sauce tasted like sweet shrimp juice. Sounds nasty, doesn't it? Well, it wasn't. I think there was also crabmeat and scallops, but the star of the dish had to be the jumbo shrimp.

My dad ordered steak with potatoes and brussel sprouts, while my brother and I shared an ordinary club sandwhich with onion rings. That was it for that day.

Day 3: August 27th
We were on the road again by 10:30am, heading towards what many people claim is “the best Philly cheese steak sandwiches.” No breakfast pour moi (we reheated leftovers, bleh). I was too excited to finally get to taste a Philly cheese steak sandwich. I was so pumped cause people on the Food Network made cheese steak sandwiches look so tasty. 

By 11am, we arrived at Geno’s Steaks. They didn't take credit card here so my parents had to withdraw some cash at a nearby bank. We ordered 4 Cheeze Whiz steak sandwiches with sautéed onions. 

I was deeply disappointed. I didn’t add any condiments to my sandwich, and I doubt it would’ve made it taste any better. I found it so plain. I got sucked into the hype. But when I think more about it, I think it wasn't our favourite because we never grew up with steak sandwiches. 

Look, you can see the owner, Joey Vento, being interviewed in front of the store.

This is my dad's sandwich. Mine looked too boring, so I didn't take a picture.

This cheered me up, though. How can it not? "Class: Illegal Alien" LOL

After lunch we drove around downtown for a bit and then went to Newark, New Jersey. We got to the Palace Hotel around 5pm and decided to go downtown for dinner. We drove past Time Square.

As you might’ve guessed, my parents aren’t big fans of Western food aka Canadian/American food, so we went to Chinatown. Looking for an Asian-filled restaurant, we stumbled upon the restaurant Big Wong King Restaurant Inc. We were planning to go to the place directly across from it, actually, but there was a long line outside and we were told by the hostess that the wait would’ve been around 45mins. No thanks. Instead of walking around to find another full restaurant, we chose to go to Wong’s place.

Their place was probably half full when we were seated. When everyone else decided what they wanted to eat, I watched the pace pick up. Many people were getting take-out as the restaurant was soon full. The main attraction here was congee and soup with thin Chinese egg noodles - almost everyone was eating those two dishes.

Regaining my appetite, I was in need of my noodles. My brother wanted sweet and sour pork. My parents wanted some seafood. And so we ordered the three dishes: my noodles, sweet and sour pork, and sea bass with tofu. My noodles had a good smoky taste, and the meat was nice and tender too. Other than the smokiness in the sauce, it was quite bland. It needed more salt/soy sauce. The best place to eat my noodles is still in Toronto. I found that the sea bass wasn’t as sweet as the stuff in Ottawa. They were cut into chunks and deep fried, so that could mean that the fish wasn’t the freshest. The chunks of deep fried tofu, however, were amazing! How can you go wrong with deep fried tofu puffs?
The sweet and sour pork was really tender. Just thinking about the smell of it makes me hungry. One thing I didn’t like about this was that they added a bit too much vinegar to the sauce.

We ordered a perfect amount of food. Everyone had enough to eat, and no one was overly stuffed. We happily drove back to the hotel for some sleep.

Day 4: August 28th
Everyone was up in time for the complimentary breakfast at 7:30am. There was nothing special about it. One thing I would like to mention, though, is that the milk they were serving had chunks. Yeah, nasty! I found a couple in my bowl of cereal and almost left them a mess to clean. I couldn’t eat after that. We planned to go to see the Statue of Liberty right after breakfast, so we drove back into Manhattan, bought some baked pastries from Chinatown, and caught the ferry to Liberty Island. We spent a couple of hours there taking pictures and enjoyed the breezy weather.

On our way back to the van, it was decided that we would go to Montreal for the night. We got to Montreal’s Chinatown just before 10pm and went looking for a pho place. I was positive that there would be a pho place that stayed open until early in the morning, because Ottawa has one, and if we have one, then Montreal should have plenty more. Yeah, no. We couldn’t find any, so we went to eat at some place. I forgot the name of it.
My parents had the seafood with chow mien, my brother had a bowl of stewed beef noodles, and I had a bowl of wonton soup with some noodles (taken from Andrew's bowl). After our dinner/late night snack, we went back to Ottawa.

If I could go again, I would have definitely done things different. Until that day, I’ll just keep thinking of how disappointed I was in the Philly cheese steak sandwiches. Oh, and I would make sure that if it were to be a road trip, the vehicle I ride in will have air conditioning. I really want to go on another road trip and eat different "local favourites" without any high expectations. I don't want to make that mistake again.

~ * ~ * ~


Best Western: Capitol Skyline Hotel
10 I Street SW
Washington, DC
(202) 488-7500

Captain White's Seafood City
1100 Maine Ave SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 484-2722

Red Roof Inn
49 Industrial Hwy
Essington, PA 19029
(610) 521-5090

Philly Diner
3925 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 382-3400

Geno's Steak
1219 South 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 389-0659

Palace Hotel
2600 Tonnelle Ave
North Bergen, NJ
(201) 866-0400

Big Wong King's Restaurant Inc.
67 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 964-0540

Monday, September 17, 2007

Torta, Frittata, Omelette or Whatever – September 16, 2007

Jimmy and I try to make a nice brunch each weekend. Instead of our usual pancakes, eggs, and sausages, Jimmy wanted to cook an open-faced omelette. I’m really not sure what to call it. It’s not really a torta because although it had potatoes, it didn’t contain any ground meat. It’s not a frittata because it wasn’t finished in the oven. It’s not quite an omelette either because it couldn’t be folded. In any case, it was some sort of egg concoction that I often make, and that Jimmy cooked by himself (for the most part) this time.

I should have taken pictures of the cooking process, but I forgot.

It’s a fairly simple recipe for two people. Oh, and I should mention that I rarely measure when I cook. I have finally improved to the point that I can eyeball most of my ingredients and still have the end-product taste right. All of my recipes, unless otherwise noted, are improvised and changed each time I cook. The recipe below can be adjusted to taste.

Two handfuls of diced potatoes (about ½ cup)
4 teaspoons light olive oil
A handful of diced onions (about ¼ cup)
4 tablespoons of Kraft vinaigrette (this time we used Greek with Feta and Oregano)
6 eggs, beaten
A handful of grated cheddar (about ¼ cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. First cook the potatoes until they are soft (i.e. when a fork goes through it easily). Strain and remove from heat.
2. Heat a small non-stick pan on high heat. Add half of the olive oil when it gets hot.
3. Sauté half of the onions until they become translucent.
4. Add half of the vinaigrette and half of the potatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer.
5. Once onions start to get browned on the edges and sauce has reduced by half, pour in half of the beaten eggs.
6. Keep pushing cooked edges of the egg towards the centre of the pan, and tilting the pan to fill in the space with more liquid eggs. Continue until desired doneness.
7. Sprinkle the cheddar on top, cover the pan, and turn off heat. Let sit for 5 minutes. This will melt the cheese and keep the omelette from overcooking.
8. Repeat steps 2 to 7 for the second omelette.

This time, we only had four eggs left in the carton, so the omelette ended up flatter than usual.

My omelette looked pretty good, I thought. It didn’t quite have enough dressing, so the herbs from the vinaigrette were drowned out by the sharp cheddar.

Jimmy’s omelette was a pool of cheddar. He added almost ½ cup of cheddar to his, and this is the result. Do you see that cheddar bubble in the picture? Grossness. I thought it looked sick, but he loved it.

I washed the omelette down with Bolthouse Farms’ Green Goodness smoothie. From the bottle:
“Our Green Goodness starts with a delicious blend of apple, pineapple, lemon and
lime juices. We then blend in the fruits of mangos, bananas, kiwis, and
tamarind. Finally, we add nutritious ingredients like broccoli, spinach,
barley and wheat grass to make this a well-rounded part of your day.”
I know what you’re thinking. It sounds disgusting, I am aware. It even looks gross. Jimmy and I call this “the Sludge.” But you have to get past that, close your eyes, and try it. Seriously. The smoothie actually tastes great! One serving contains 200% of your daily recommended Vitamin C intake. It’s practically the cure for scurvy!

The one downside, other than its sludge-like appearance, is the price. A one-litre bottle costs around $4.00 – not exactly budget-friendly. But if, like me, you often forget to eat your fruits, this is a great alternative.

I’ll blog about last night’s dinner later. I’m feeling like two posts is enough for now. *pooped*


Steak, Fajitas, and Margaritas! September 7, 2007

Note: I just want to get this post up before I forget, so I'll be inserting the pictures later.

I have no kitchen in my new apartment, so I have to cook at Jimmy’s place if I want to eat something other than instant noodles made with my kettle. Jimmy and I have been trying to plan our meals for the week, but so far, we’ve only been successful in following one day. Today, we decided to forgo our planned dinner, and go out to Lone Star for some steak instead.

As usual, we were served some tortilla chips and fresh salsa as soon as we were seated. The salsa was spicier than we’ve had in the past, which was unexpected but nice. It was zesty and full of cilantro and lime juice. I loooooooooove cilantro! It’s such a bright flavour!

Although I planned to order steak, I changed my mind, and ordered some chicken fajitas instead. It’s always exciting to see a sizzling platter of yummy-smelling food exit the kitchen. When our server placed those hissing fajitas in front of me, my mouth started watering. “Oh my god, this smells… yum… wow… it’s like… *sigh*… mmmmmm… love….” My brain stumbled all over itself, trying to find the right combination of adjectives. What I ended up saying was something close to: “Yummmmmmmmmmmm.”

The chicken itself was fantastic! It was surprisingly juicy and flavourful. I normally loathe ordering chicken breast because it often comes dry and tastes like sawdust. The rest of the food was great, with the exception of the rice (more on that later). I thought I was going to get a small cup of refried beans (aka the love of my life), but instead, the fajitas came with baked beans. They were okay, but I really wanted the pasty wonderfulness of refried beans. I adore how it spreads in your mouth and then melts away like butter. Mmmm… butter. Lone Star’s refried beans are like the butter of beans. Yummy.

Now, let’s move on to the rice. I have hated the “Mexican rice.” In first-year university when we were forced to get a meal plan, the cafeteria used to serve up a combination of dry rice, beans, and salsa. Imagine eating leftovers that have been sitting in a stinky fridge, slowly absorbing stinky smells, for a month. Sound gross? Did I mention that although it reeked like garbage, it was actually bland? It must be some sort of black magic. Seriously, how is that even possible??!?! Lone Star’s rice tastes like that crap from the cafeteria. That said, I don’t know what real Mexican food is supposed to taste like, but I'm sure the rice served at Lone Star is NOT AUTHENTIC.

Jimmy went for a 10 oz. New York strip loin, with sautéed vegetables and a skillet of mushrooms on the side. He started with a Caesar salad, which is normally quite good, but complained that the salad tasted “old.” The sautéed vegetables were the same. Disappointing. However, he said the steak was delicious. Yay! We always order the mushroom skillet with steak, which I highly recommend, but it’s been hit or miss lately. This time, the flavour of the pepper and onions fully penetrated the mushrooms. They normally use smaller mushrooms than you see in the picture, but that certainly didn’t diminish the taste.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I ordered a frozen lime margarita! It had soooo much lime and tequila!!! Sour, sweet AND salty! I was a happy girl. Unfortunately, I was too busy stuffing my face with fajitas that I forgot to drink it. It turned into lime-y tequila-y water in the end. Still enjoyable, but not as great as it was when it was frozen.

Overall, I enjoyed the meal. It wasn’t the best that we’ve ever had at Lone Star, but it’s far from the worst. The bill came close to $70.00 (including tip) for the both of us. It was quite the splurge, seeing as we’re both starving university students on a tight budget. We don’t do this often, so it was a nice treat. AND there were two embarrassing birthday songs, which made it a dinner and a show. That’s justifiable, right?


~ * ~

Lone Star Texas Grill
251 Ontario Street
Kingston, Ontario
(613) 548-8888

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Lunch Date - August 14, 2007

Pictures courtesy of Christine's camera.

Since my cousin came up to Ottawa for a while, I thought it would be nice to hang out. Christine, my cousin, and I met up for a little lunch date. I only had an hour for lunch, so it was all a bit rushed. It was still nice, though.

No one had any preference on where to go, so I suggested we eat at Le Moulin de Provence. It’s a bakery/deli (or patisserie/bistro, if you want to get all technical) in the Byward Market, located in the little plaza thingie. I can’t remember what it’s called. [Edit: I found out it's called the Byward Market Square.] Well, in any case, this plaza has little restaurants which were cute, relatively cheap. Also, it has just about any type of food you can imagine. Almost. I mistakenly thought there was a Greek place, but after walking the plaza a few times, we discovered I lied. Oops!

I worked downtown in the summer, so I wandered all over the place for lunch. Then it occurred to me that I should check out the Market. Duh. That’s how I came across le Moulin. I’ve always noticed it, but for some reason or another, I never stopped to eat.

I’ve had a bunch of their sandwiches and quiches, but this time around, I bought my favourite: smoked salmon croissant. It’s so simple. It was a fresh croissant, with a some lettuce, smoked salmon, and loads of horseradish Dijon mustard. The mustard burnnnnnnnnnnnnnnns. But it burns good, if you know what I mean. I loved it. I was crying and sniffling so much that Christine and my cousin asked me if I was okay. “It’s amaaaaaaaaaaazing. So spicy… love it… mmmm….” I tried to explain.

Christine got a turkey croissant with mayo. It wasn’t overly exciting. She said she wasn’t in the mood to try something new, so this was a reliable choice.

My cousin ordered ratatouille on puff pastry. She loved it. I had a bite and agreed. Not enough to pass up on my croissant, though. “The pastry was flaky and the vegetables were well-seasoned,” she told me later. The herbs were fantastic. I remember it to be light, but satisfying. I think I want to find a good recipe to try out at home.
~ * ~

Le Moulin de Provence
55 Byward Market Square
Ottawa, Ontario
(613) 241-9152

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Camping at Sandbanks - August 6-9, 2007

It’s become a tradition every year to get together and go camp for a couple of days. During the first couple of years, we used to eat bacon, eggs, toast, hamburgers, hot dogs and stuff fried or floating in butter. All things you expect to eat when you camp. We used to stay at campsites that didn't have any electricity either. We didn't need electricity - we were camping!

Well, 5 years ago, our camping experience changed. We started bringing a rice cooker, soy sauce, fish sauce, and other things that weren't typically found on a campsite. Some of my relatives don't like "white food" so we had to accommodate them by making Chinese food. We'd have BBQ meats, Chinese coleslaw, rice, soup, leftover bacon and sausages. Oh, how I hated eating rice when we were camping. Thankfully we still had loads of fun. We could be found running around, swimming and playing on the beaches during the day. By night, we were playing with the fire (which was just us poking the fire with sticks we found in around the camp site - with supervision of course), toasting marshmellows, or trying to slap the mosquito that just bit us.

Day 1: Aug. 6th
We left for Sandbanks around 9am. After checking in and getting our permits, we went straight to the beach for some lunch. It took us probably an hour to get a picnic table, as most of the people on the beach were spending their last long weekend day at the beach before heading home. I can't remember what we ate, but it was something that had already been prepared at home. After lunch, we were in the water. This particular day was windy, a bit cloudy and warm.

Wet and hungry, we left the beach to set up camp and prepare dinner. We had booked 3 campsites beside each other for our large group, and made the middle site our main site. The main site was our dining area and kitchen for the next couple of days, while the other two sites were reserved for sleeping. For dinner, we had leftovers from lunch. After dinner, we just lounged around talking and snacking around the fire.

Day 2: Aug. 7th

I fumbled out of the damp tent, from the morning dew and humid air, and greeted everyone who was up. Sizzle. In a split second, my eyes went from watching my cousin running around the campsites laughing, to the fire, to the pan and finally to the contents of the pan. Bacon! Breakfast! Until that moment, I didn't realise how hungry I really was. To ease my hunger, I made myself a drink. With the second pot of boiling water, I decided that I would make myself a mixture of hot chocolate mix, instant coffee and coffee whitener. As soon as I reached for the kettle, my cousin crowded around me wanting some hot chocolate of their own. After I made all of the drinks, I started helping out with breakfast. Bacon, breakfast sausages, eggs, toast for some, rice for others, and coffee, mocha or hot chocolate was our first meal. There's nothing like eating breakfast by the fire.

Once we finished breakfast, we made some BBQ pork for lunch. It was marinated in soy sauce, salt, sugar, pepper and rice wine. The kids ran ahead with my brother and dad, while everyone else changed into our bathing suits and packed some stuff up for our afternoon on the beach. It was quite windy in the parking lot, soI assumed there would be large waves. However, once we got past the dunes, there was barely a breeze. Bleh. Sitting on the picnic table tanning, I joked around with my parents and grandparents that if it were to rain before dinner, I wanted to go to Toronto for some of my noodles.

[It didn't rain before dinner. It rained after everything was prepared. Some luck, huh? Well that night, everyone was teasing me about that. That was all I heard until I went to sleep. ]

Day 3: Aug. 8th
"Hahaa, Christine will be happy that we're going to Toronto. Then she can eat her noodles." "Here that Christine, wake up, we're going to Toronto!" "Noodles!" That’s all I heard my grandpa and mom say over and over again that morning. It wasn't a nice morning anyway - cloudy and humid. After breakfast (leftovers from the previous morning), we packed up and left for Toronto. As we started leaving the campgrounds, the clouds parted and the sun came out. Luck was on my side today! In the van, my mom teased, "Lets turn back. It’s a nice day outside now." There was no turning back. My noodles were calling.
We went to the Oriental Food Mart for lunch, as there was too much traffic to go to Chinatown. This grocery store is like Costco in terms of its size and how busy it gets. The similarities end there. Instead of bulk food products, fresh produce is the main attraction here along with anything Asian. Get them fresh and cheap!

On the left side of the store, there's a small bakery and an eating area. So many delicious baked, steamed and deep fried goods can be found here.

The prices are a lot cheaper than Ottawa's because there's a lot more competition in Toronto, as you can imagine. The picture on the left has croissants, pineapple buns, and something else, all on the rack that came from the oven not too long ago. They were still very warm to the touch. As you can see, there are a lot of different choices here. Just look at how far the other end of the wall is, in the picture below.
Just like the two small stalls outside the mall, they sell BBQ meat and other things like rice, sweet and sour pork, and Shanghai noodles. They even have a small area where they have steamed dim sum items. We got chicken feet, har gow, siu mai and Shanghai noodles. My uncle also went out to one of the stalls and got my noodles and some stir fried veggies. The sauce of the noodles didn't have enough smoky flavour. In order to finish the noodles, I poured some of the juices from the chicken feet and mixed it into the noodles. They were surprisingly good mixed together. I made sure to skim off most of the fat beforehand. Overall, the dim sum was impressive considering where we were eating - a grocery store. If you compare it to the dim sum we usually get at restaurants, it wasn't that great. Ottawa is in need of a large grocery store like this, but I'm not sure the Chinese community in Ottawa is large enough.

After lunch, we split up into little groups and shopped for groceries. Later, it was decided we would walk around Pacific Mall. Before we all met up and left, I bumped into my two cousins and my aunt. They had a huge cup of a mango shake. I tasted some and was shot up to mango heaven. Cold, smooth, tasty mango puree on a hot day. It was so amazing, so good that I decided that I'd pick up some myself. After walking around in circles with my little cousins for awhile, we found the place (I don't remember the name). I ordered myself a mango shake, which was the special that day. As I waited for my drink, I watched the lady take out frozen pieces of mango, put it in a blender with some simple syrup and ice. While she started to blend it, she added small chunks of mango into my cup - this was part of the special. Once the blender stopped, she poured the liquid gold into the cup, put it through the sealing machine, and then handed me the jewel. My stomach was still full from lunch, but there was no way I was wasting any of my drink. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the drink because I had to meet up with the rest of the family and I just totally forgot to snap one.

It was around 4pm after our shopping trip and it was decided that we'd eat dinner in Toronto. No one wanted to go back to the campsite and eat leftover BBQ meat when we could easily eat here. We drove to Markham Place for some shopping and dinner. About two hours later, we met up in the food court for some dinner. We ordered a bunch of things from a couple places, but the only place I wanted to order from was Wah Lam Food Expert. To share with my two brothers, we split some soup with noodles and of course my order: #9 beef and vegetable with rice noodles, without bean sprouts and with extra sauce. Although my brother didn't order my noodles without bean sprouts, the dish was still amazing. I couldn't stop eating, until I came across bean sprouts. The sauce was smoky, there was extra sauce, and the meat melted in your mouth. Every time I look at the picture, I start to get hungry. It's torture just looking at it when I know I can't get it. If you wanted to know what everyone else ate, I couldn't tell you. I was too busy consuming my noodles.

So with full bellies, we all pack into our vehicles and drove back to the campsite for a good night's rest.

Day 4: Aug. 9th
I woke up to the chirping of birds and the low murmur of chatter. I felt so good that morning. So happy that I had the best sleep, of the trip, and that I got to eat my noodles. My noodles, which we ate the previous night, recharged my batteries and seemed to pump endorphins into my system. That day flew by. All I remember was helping pack up, tan at the beach, and sleep on the way home. This was probably the only time I was happy that I got to eat Chinese food when I went camping.


R.R. #1
Picton, Ontario
(613) 393-3319

1661 Denison St
Unionville, ON
(905) 513-1666

First Markham Place Food Court
#3255, Highway 7 East
Markham, Ontario
(905) 305-0030

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A New Dim Sum Source - August 5, 2007

Update: The restaurant closed down and has since changed to Emperor's Dining Lounge.

It all began the previous night... 

After work, I had some little things that I snacked on. But I got hungry before I went to bed. I started craving food. I thought: "pizza, no Chinese, no pizza..." I asked my brothers if they wanted anything if I ordered some delivery and their response, "of course!" They suggested Chinese, so I started looking for one of their flyers that we keep around the house. I couldn't find one, so I turned to the internet. I eventually lost my focus and started reading stuff about the best Chinese restaurants in Ottawa. Listed among the restaurants was Beijing Tianrun. Thinking that some Asian actually said that this Tianrun place was better than Yangtze really piqued my interest, not that Yangtze is the best Chinese restaurant in Ottawa or anything. The only places we go for dim sum in Ottawa are Yangtze, Chu Shing and Jadeland. Actually, we rarely go to Chu Shing and Jadeland for dim sum. 

I ended up just snacking on something again before going to bed after I tired myself out by reading and searching. That night, I'm not joking, I actually dreamed of having dim sum. I know it's kind of sad.

The next morning I woke up craving dim sum, like REALLY craving it, and it so happened that my parents were in a good mood. So I ask my parents "want to go to eat dim sum?" Then to increase my chances, I add on, "it’s my treat!" with a grin.

So while my parents were making their minds up, I went downstairs and searched for the address of the new dim sum place on the internet. I finally found it. Wondering where I wanted to go, I told Dad that I wanted to try a new place, Beijing Tianrun. Actually, I didn't really mind going to Yangtze instead of Beijing Tianrun, because I just wanted some dim sum. But Dad said he knew somewhat where it was - which really meant that we were going to the new dim sum place.

We drove and drove (for about 20 minutes) and finally saw the sign of the Beijing Tianrun Restaurant. You can easily pass this place. It definitely doesn't stand out. 

Waiting to pull into their parking spaces, I immediately spotted elderly Chinese people going into and leaving the restaurant. That, right there, is a sign that this was a decent Chinese restaurant. 

They didn't have a very large parking lot, but we managed to find a place. We got out and walked into the fully packed restaurant to get a table while Dad parked the van. We were told that there was a table for us and that they were just cleaning it up. While waiting in their small lobby, I took in the smell of the restaurant and the sounds. They were similar to Yangtze, another good sign. Standing there at the lobby you can see the first seating area that was in front of the lobby, a small area that seated probably 30 people, and you could also partially see the other seating area to the left. We were eventually led by the hostess to our table that was past the main seating area and into a room that could become a private room that can seated around 20 people. I found it amusing that we were in the back room because it felt like we were VIPs.

Finally seated at the table with our tea, carts start appearing in the room: siu mai, chicken feet, stuffed rice rolls, fried rice, dumplings, and so many other awesome choices. We started off with the deep fried shrimp balls. The outer layer was crispy and the insides were hot, very fresh and juicy. It was somewhat different from Yangtze, as this place had their shrimp in bigger chunks rather than the mostly minced shrimp at Yangtze. This was an awesome dish to start the meal.

We then got some pork and shrimp siu mai. Again, the shrimp siu mai has larger chunks than the mostly minced ones you get at Yangtze. (I just can't help but compare the two.) After that, we got some shrimp stuffed rice rolls and ordered some pork ones with the lady (because they ran out). The pork ones had some water chestnuts in them - bleh, but not as much as you get in the Toronto ones, so I wasn't that sad. A cart containing steamed chicken feet came and we grabbed one. The flavour was a bit different from the other places that I've been to, not saying it was bad or anything. No no, ours was nice and hot. The chicken feet had absorbed the flavour very well and wasn't even close to being bland. In the background of the picture, you can see Lucy tearing apart a shrimp har gow.

One thing missing at that restaurant, in my opinion, was a good soy sauce. Some people will argue that if the dishes are made properly, you wouldn't need soy sauce, but some things just taste better with soy sauce. I just can't help but dredge the deep fried shrimp balls, siu mai, and any other dumplings in a mixture of hot sauce and their soy sauce. I'm not saying that the food here lacked flavour or anything. Overall, I recommend this place for dim sum. We have yet gone there for dinner, so I can't say anything about that.

~ * ~


Beijing Tianrun Restaurant
1947 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario
(613) 521-3868


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