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


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