Monday, January 14, 2008

Dim Sum at Chu Shing - December 28

(Edit: Christine's input is in purple)

Because we had some relatives come over from Hong Kong, we ate at restaurants every other day. I guess it was because no one wants to wash dishes after 20+ people have finished eating. To keep with this trend, we went out for some dim sum at Chu Shing.

We ordered one of my all-time favourites: steamed rice rolls. We had both the shrimp and the beef ones. These were fantastic, since they just came out of the kitchen. (They add chestnuts though, so just a heads up. Ugh.) Oh, I should probably mention that we sat at the first table beside the kitchen doors. It might be unfavourable in any other restaurant, but for dim sum, fresh food is imperative. If the carts have been around too long, the food tends to taste gross when it cools.

We also ordered turnip cakes. Pretty standard.

I don’t know the name of these little things. They’re deep fried, and filled with minced meat pork. The outside is made of glutinous rice dough. With a bit of soy sauce and a dab of Sriracha, it’s heavenly. I think we had these twice.
Ever since my last trip to Toronto, I've tried to always order these. The filling is a bit salty but the sticky glutinous rice dough is sweet. I just love the contrast. My mom didn't like it because it was too sweet for her, so I suggested that she dipped it in some soy sauce. She dipped her piece in the soy sauce and then commented that it was a bit better, but that she could make it at home. All I'd need then is a good dipping sauce. Does anyone know what soy sauce Yangtze and Chu Shing use? Please email me, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Deep fried shrimp balls. Yummy. In my opinion, Yangtze still makes the best. They add chestnuts to the shrimp balls here. Ugh.

I think these were braised tendons and liver (or some other organ meat). I didn’t eat any, so I can’t comment. The chicken feet in the background were very good, judging by the pile of bones in the aftermath. Since my, ahem, incident with chicken feet, I have steered clear of these.

Here’s an ankle piece from the chicken feet dish. It’s easier to eat because you don’t have to deal with the phalanges. I don't like eating the feet, so I stick to the ankles. They are easier to eat and you don't have to worry about your mouth or tounge being poked at, to put it nicely.

Deep fried taro dumplings are also one of my many dim sum favourites. They’re filled with minced mystery meat.

The food this time was much better than we’ve had in a while at Chu Shing. The fact that we were the first table served by the carts made a huge difference in the quality of the food.


Chu Shing
691 Somerset Street West
Ottawa, Ontario

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Christmas Indulgence 2007

Christmas dinner was amazing! Because more than 20 people came to dinner, we made much more than usual. Since I arrived in Ottawa less than an hour before dinner, I was forced to listen to over 20 lectures about how everyone was waiting on me. It sounds pretty terrible, but our family really loves to tell people off. It was the equivalent of a “Welcome back, Lucy” hug.

I arrived late, so I didn’t get to make gingerbread houses with the kids. Here’s a picture of one of the gingerbread men that someone made. I hope Christine will come back to this post to elaborate.

Well, there's nothing much to say. We used a gingerbread house kit (which included little bags of candy, icing, the gingerbread men, and the house parts). I wasn't only there to make sure the kids didn't make a huge mess. I wanted to lend a helping hand too. Here are some gingerbread people that were made:

The turkey was the star, of course. It was a Butterball turkey, which made a big difference. Here’s a lovely picture of the turkey in the oven, beside the pot of prime rib.

We normally use a vertical roaster for the turkey, and bake the stuffing separately. It takes off about an hour of baking time.

I’m not sure if you can see it, but the breast meat was superbly juicy. My main gripe with turkey (and any other roast poultry) is that the white meat is always overdone and dry. As a result, I prefer dark meat. Sadly, we don’t have a picture of the entire platter of carved turkey. The dark meat was exceptional.

Besides the turkey, we also had prime rib. Yummmmmmmmmy. It was cooked to absolute perfection (in my opinion): bloody rare.

Unfortunately, no one else in my family eats raw meat like I do, so my mum just cooked them in the au jus. Here, the bloody slices are simmering in the drippings on the stove.

Not only did we have turkey and prime rib, we also made some roast ham. Gasp! So much foooooooooooooood! We generously drizzled a mustard and honey glaze. Here’s a picture of the honey and mustard we used to glaze.

The ham was previously frozen, which wrecked the texture of the meat. If you take a close look at the slices, you can see little holes.

The texture was off-putting. I usually eat more ham than turkey, but on this occasion, I just ate the prime rib and juicy turkey with all the fixings.

As Christine and I have mentioned before, my mum’s stuffing is revered by family and guests alike. The key to her stuffing is poultry seasoning.

"How do you make stuffing?" you ask. Stuffing is easy to make. Just follow Lucy's non-recipe.

She sautéed ungodly amounts of onions, celery, and mushrooms in a mound of butter and a bit of salt. Then she added about a loaf of bread, cut into cubes. Tossing in salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning, the only ingredient left is a cup or two of boiling water to bring everything together.

She popped it into the oven for 15 minutes, just to get the top crusty, and it’s done! (Sorry for the blurry picture.)

Pictured here are the two sauces: au jus and gravy. The au jus was for the prime rib, while the gravy was for the turkey. I don’t remember if it was beef or turkey gravy. It might have been a mix of both. Sigh. I really should have taken notes.

My family loves my mashed potatoes as much as they love my mum’s stuffing. I’m not just bragging here. When I don’t make enough, I really get an earful from the family. “You know, making too much mashed potatoes is better because then we take it to work with the leftover meat.” Yeah, yeah. I just hate peeling the potatoes, so I only peel as much as I think we need. This time, when I arrived, the potatoes were already boiling on the stove. The dirty work was done for me! I added the seasonings and mashed them up with enthusiasm.

Another family favourite is my uncle’s heart of palm salad. I’ve blogged about it before, so I won’t get into the details. Here it is:

Christine actually didn’t get a picture of the wine we had that night. I don’t remember what we drank. Curse my poor memory! The first bottle was a beautifully mellow Syrah (also known as Shiraz). It was a very expensive bottle, I remember, and we killed it in about 15 minutes. It was unexpectedly smooth. Hmm… how do I compare it? Like cotton sheets versus silk sheets. I’ve always liked Shiraz wines, but this one blew my mind. Once I find out the particular name from my uncle, I’ll be sure to update it.
(Lucy's note: So I totally lied about the wine being a Shiraz. Christine later found this photo on her camera. Whatever this is, it's bloody amazing.)

The second bottle of wine was forgettable. I mean, it had a really tough act to follow. I’m sure it was a decent wine, but after the first bottle, the second dims in comparison.

Christmas dinner was great this year. We had some relatives come down from Hong Kong, as well as Montréal. We had a lot of catching up to do. All of the adults went to the Casino du Lac-Leamy after dinner, and I took the kids home with me. We played on the new Xbox 360 until 3:00am.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wontons in Bulk - December 22nd

Usually when I make wontons, I make one package of wonton wrappers. One package of wonton wrappers can probably yield over 40 individual ones. We usually turn the wontons into wonton soup too, so the wontons disappear real quickly. This particular night, I was going to a Christmas potluck party. I didn't want to run out of wontons because I was planning to make wonton soup for over 10 people, so I thought, "why not just make two packages of wontons?" For everyone who knows how long it takes to wrap wontons, you probably think I was crazy. I was originally planning to wrap them all and just bring the wrapped wontons over and make some soup over at my Kaitlyn's house, but I didn't have time.

Earlier that day, we went out for some dim sum and walked around town. I had no time to wrap them. I didn't have around 2 hours to spare. I decided that I'd just make the filling at home and bring everything to Kaitlyn's place.

Here's how I made the filling. I don't have a recipe; I just make it from scratch. I follow my nose. Toucan Sam should be proud of me. Do you think he'd try some of my wontons?

I took a large onion and cut it in half. I took one half and diced it really well. The other half of the onion was wrapped up and thrown into the fridge.

I took some frozen ground pork, defrosted it and put it in a large bowl with the diced onions.
I added some oyster sauce, chicken broth mix (I used Knorr. It was what we had in the cupboards), salt, sugar, pepper, chopped up soy beans, cornstarch and some sesame oil. I would usually add chopped green onions for that fresh taste, but I didn't have any.
Mix it all up and adjust the seasonings. I adjusted the ingredients like the oyster sauce and sesame oil by smelling it. Instead of cooking some to taste, I've learned to do it by smell. I learnt that it will usually taste the same as how it smells.
I packed the sesame oil and the chicken broth mix in a bag with the wonton filling and went to my Kaitlyn's house. There, I taught some friends how I wrapped wontons. After what seemed like 10 minutes, we ran out of wonton wrappers - there were seven girls around the table wrapping wontons after all.
I ended up deep frying them instead of making wonton soup. The first couple were close to being burnt because I had the oil up too high. They were still edible though.
There was a hockey game on that night and I didn't want to spend all night deep frying the wontons, so I only fried half of the wontons. I was planning to finish frying them in the second intermission if people still wanted them, but it was a slow night and most of the people were full from the other things people brought over. I ended up taking some of the left over wontons home with me.

The next day, I finished the wrapped wontons by making some wonton soup. Once the wontons are wrapped, it only takes 5 minutes to cook them. I realised that the filling I made was not meant for deep frying. They were meant for wonton soup. Why do I say that? Well, because I didn't add any green onions in the filling, the fried wontons were way too heavy by itself. When I made the soup, I added green onions (which I picked up that day) in my bowl. It tasted so much better than the deep fried ones. Oh well, next time I'll add green onions.
My wontons were good. How good? Everyone said that they loved my wontons. Is that not enough? Well, I was even proposed to. (Not seriously of course). I should write up a recipe so that you, too, can make wontons that capture people's hearts.

Always use protection. =) Happy New Years everyone!


Battered Plantains - December 21st

After lunch we all went to my grandma's house to have some tea and chat then my grandpa, grandma, two uncles and my aunt went to my grandpa's house for dinner. I stayed behind with my uncle and other grandma. We just sat around, watched tv, sipped tea, and digested.

Once my grandma was finished digesting, she got up and went into the kitchen. I got up from the couch and went into the kitchen to see what she was up to. She was cutting up plantains. She mentioned that the plantains she had were a bit too ripe to her liking.

I wondered what she was making. She then brought out a batter mix and sesame seeds. Right when she brought out the batter mix, I knew she was going to make battered plantains with sesame seeds. I love this stuff. She dissolved some sugar in warm water then added the batter mix. Once it was the consistency she liked, my grandma added the uncooked sesame seeds. The batter consistency was probably in between pancake and crêpe batter. Here's a close up.

She poured some oil in the wok and turned the heat up. Dipping slices of plantains into the batter, she gently slipped them into the hot oil.

A couple of minutes on one side and a couple of minutes on the other and they were done. It was crunchy on the outside and soft in the inside. It wasn't as sweet as I hoped it would be, but it was still slightly sweet.

My grandma uses yams, plantains and bananas, I believe. I love them all, especially the sweet ones. I'm not sure if she uses the bananas to make the sweet ones, but thinking about it now, the sweet ones could be riper plantains. I'll ask my grandma next time.


I Pho-got - December 21st

I am not the only one who loves pho in my family. My uncle, who came over from Hong Kong with my aunt, loves it too. How do I know? Let's just say that we went out for pho almost every other day. After eating his bowl, he'd have a very satisfying smile on his face. That reminded me of how I feel after eating pho; that smile where you can light up the night sky.

One night, my grandpa suggested we should go for some pho the next day - again. With a grin, I agreed. The next day I got together with my grandma and uncle and left for chinatown. In the middle of our trip there, my uncle brought up the question, "where are we eating?" I froze. I couldn't recall my grandma mentioning where we were going to meet. Did I just forget? I told my uncle that he will probably be at Pho Bo Ga LA. That's probably his favourite place for pho - that is, other than mine. Even if they weren't there, it wouldn't be that difficult to find them.
After we parked, we went into Pho Bo Ga LA and there they were, in the back of the restaurant. The only large table, in the restaurant, that seats a party of more than 5 people comfortably. We had a party of 8, so I was very glad that the restaurant wasn't in their lunch rush.

Everyone got pho except for my two grandmas and my grandpa. My grandpa and grandma started before we got there, so I couldn't take a picture of a full bowl of their bun bo hue. I could've taken a picture of two empty bowls, but I decided not to. My other grandma ordered the hu tieu. She isn't a big fan of pho.

My uncle got a large bowl of pho. He was amazed at the size of it. You can't really tell how big his bowl is, because I took a close up shot of the bowl. Somehow, he managed to finish his bowl.

My medium bowl, however, was perfectly sized for me that day. Before this outing, I had pho maybe once in the past month. You heard me right. My friend teased me that I was going on a pho diet. No more dieting for me. This bowl proved to be worth the long wait. From sipping the first spoonful of soup to eating the last bits of meat, I was smiling as bright as the sun.

I ordered the pho chin gau; slightly fatty beef and brisket pieces. The meat was so tender. My mouth is watering just thinking about how good the meat (you see below) was. Dipped in some hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce is the way to go.

Most of us had the iced coffee with condensed milk to drink. Usually when you order this, they give you a glass with ice and condensed milk with your coffee in the small filter. The coffee slowly drips into your glass of ice and condensed milk while you finish eating your food. Once the coffee stops dripping, you take out the filter and stir the coffee, ice and condensed milk. For some reason, they mixed it for us. It was just a bit odd. The drink was a bit too strong for me and my grandpa, so we added some tea to water it down.
One thing you have to remember about drinking Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk is not to drink the last bits. You'll get all the nasty undissolved chunks of condensed milk.

763 Somerset Street West
Ottawa, ON
(613) 233-2222


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