Monday, October 31, 2011

Shepherd's Pie and Pumpkin Pie

I love slow food. It’s generally easy to put together and so I figured that shepherd’s pie would be a perfect dish to make at VN’s.


VN was eager to make pumpkin pie from scratch. I’ve never made the pie pastry from scratch before, though I’ve watched Mom whip it up hundreds of times. Challenge accepted.


As you can see the canned pumpkin in the background, we didn’t make the filling “from scratch”.  *Shrug*  Close enough.



Since the pastry had to rest for a bit, I started making that first. I followed the Tenderflake’s recipe this time. There wasn’t any adjustments or tweaking this time. VN didn’t have a pastry cutter so I used two butter knives. I had thought I did a good job cutting the lard into the dry ingredients, but that wasn’t the case.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pho and Egg Rolls on a Game Night - Updated

A few days ago, EU and I went to see the visiting Florida Panthers play against the Ottawa Senators. My uncle offered to take us out for pho before the game since the Scotiabank Place isn’t the best place for food. I couldn’t say no. They hadn’t been to Koi Asia or the former Pho Mi 108, so I suggested that we go there instead of Kanata Centrum.

Once we sat down at the empty restaurant, I reassured my uncle that this is one of my favourite joints when I crave pho. That seemed to do the trick, but I thought I’d add one more thing; Koi Asia has chefs that make a decent rice noodle with black bean sauce. My uncle was hooked.


We quietly looked over the menu. My uncle broke the silence with a laugh. He directed my attention to the description of the rice noodles with black bean sauce… or should I say “balck becan sauce.” We all had a few tries at pronouncing the typo and laughed at the ridiculously sounding sounds we made. We’re such trolls.

Even though we were the only people in the restaurant, the lady and the man working didn’t pay any attention to us. Sure, it’s uncomfortable when the service staff hovers over you, but it’s also very annoying when they don't even pay attention at all.


Nevertheless, we flagged them down, gave them our order and waited for the food to come. EU wanted to make a ying-yang out of the hoisin and Sriracha sauce. I showed him what it sort of looked like. I realize now that I shouldn’t have encouraged him.


I got a small bowl of pho with slightly fatty beef and beef balls. EU asked for a large bowl of pho with tendons, beef balls, tripe, and medium-rare beef. The waiter looked confused at EU and then looked at my uncle. The waiter had to ask my uncle if EU had meant a small or medium bowl instead. Nope. My uncle wanted to have some pho as well, which was why he told EU to get a large bowl. Imagine if you overhead a 10-year-old kid tried to order a large bowl of pho. Hahaa!


My uncle got the rice noodles with black bean sauce. It was glistening when the plate arrived at the table. “I can eat this all week, everyday,” he quipped.

The bowl of soup to the bottom right corner of the photo is my uncle’s. He took some soup, noodles, and most of the protein from EU’s large bowl of pho. Other then that, EU finished all the noodles and the rest of the protein. He was close to finishing the soup in his bowl – two spoons away. I couldn’t believe he ate that much! What a kid... Like father, like son.


While at the game, I wanted to try Golden Palace’s egg rolls. According to a lot of people, the egg rolls were one of the best in Ottawa. At $6.50 a serving, I was hoping they would be decent.


I was presented this tray. The first impressions weren’t good. Two large open-ended egg rolls, cut in half.


The egg roll was on the thicker side. There was a thin crisp layer, but the rest of the wrapper was soggy. The egg roll was packed with lightly seasoned pork and cabbage filling. It was pretty disappointing. But at least they were moist.

Although the egg rolls were disappointing, the Sens’ effort was the opposite. Sens won 4-3. Ottawa couldn’t defend their one goal lead. They allowed the Panthers come back with under a minute to go. It looked like the game was going into overtime, but then the Sens scored with about four seconds left in the game. VN summed up the game with two words, “epic win.”

*Update on Feb. 2012:
My most recent trip to Koi Asia for pho was in February. I had ordered the same bowl of pho (slightly fatty beef with beef balls) and found a few things different. The first thing I noticed right away was that they had skimped on the protein. If I had put together the three slivers of beef balls that I was given, it would've probably added to half a beef ball. Beef balls aren't even that large to begin with.

The second thing I noticed was that the pho soup tasted watered down and sweetened. I could've just had a bad batch. Now in saying all of this, I totally understand that Koi Asia is no longer a Vietnamese/pho restaurant. Rather, it's a Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurant that makes better stir-fried dishes than bowls of pho. I'd recommend sticking to the Chinese sections of their menu.*

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chinese Halloween aka Moon Festival

We celebrated the Chinese version of Halloween (aka mid-autumn festival, moon festival, etc.) back in September. Instead of dressing up and passing out candy to kids, or partying the night away, our family took the time pray and offer food to our ancestors.

The spread was more of the same stir-fried dishes and BBQ proteins we have during these holidays. These dishes are from the "kids table."


Snow peas with shrimp and abalone with shiitake mushrooms.


Roast pork.


BBQ duck, marinated squid, and Lucy giving the plate bunny ears?


A close up of a piece of BBQ duck.


BBQ pork and duck with chow mein.


Chase everything down with some tasty soup.


My aunt also made a Vietnamese bean curd wrapped shrimp roll (tom tau hu ky).

To be honest, I’m not very religious at all, but it’s good to slow down and take the time to remember your ancestors. Plus, it's a time to reflect and appreciate the family. Have a safe weekend. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pork Schnitzel

Whenever pork tenderloin goes on sale at the grocery stores, Mom stocks up as if they were handing them out free. But in saying that, it seems that we’re always running out. We usually break down the tenderloin in: lean slices of pork (for stir frying, hot pot, and noodle soups), cubed pieces of tougher bits (for stewing and braising), and ground pork (by chopping up the fat and lean meat together).


We tend to be less adventurous with pork, so it was nice when someone suggested that we make pork schnitzel for dinner.



It was pretty easy. While Richard sliced and hammered the pork thinly, I poured out the Italian breadcrumbs into a pan and also seasoned the egg wash with salt and lots black pepper. I also seasoned a plate of flour with lots of black pepper.



We set up the breading station by the stove and began to shallow fry each cutlet.



The pork was coated in the seasoned flour, then took a dunk in the seasoned egg and finally got covered up with the breadcrumbs. Each piece was done just before frying over medium-high heat to prevent the breadcrumbs from getting soggy.


Our side dishes were canned corn, steamed broccoli, fried potatoes, and macaroni made with cans of mushroom soup.


Richard mentioned how Germans like monotone foods. Exhibit A: his plate of pasta, potatoes, schnitzel and apricot jam. The only thing we were missing was German beer.

It was quite surprised how well the apricot jam tasted with the pork schnitzel. Don’t underestimate the sweet and salty contrast. Other than the schnitzel, the sides were uninspiring. I guess this was all about the schnitzel.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Homemade Meat Pie

I’ve always been a fan of slow food. I like spending time in the kitchen and just cook (and sometimes bake). Cooking is like therapy for me. The smells and flavours are always so comforting in the cold weather.

We’ve had cold weather floating over Ottawa lately. While it means that I’ve been getting deeper sleeps at night, I have been lacking the motivation to cook. Then, while I was flipping through the grocery flyers, ground beef caught my attention. Something told me that I had to make meat pie. So I did.


Diced onions, tomato paste, herbs, were all cooked down a bit before I added broth. Once the contents began to simmer, I crumbled the ground beef into the pot and let it slowly simmer over medium heat. By cooking the raw meat slowly in the flavoured broth, I feel like the ground beef becomes tenderer than if I had browned the ground beef like every other recipe instructs.



Just like the french onion soup speed bump, I added too much liquids again. Oops. I took almost half of it out and added some toasted and cubed sandwich bread to thicken up the meat filling. The bread dissolved and thickened the meat filling until there wasn’t anymore liquid broth. Actually, I cheated a bit and skimmed off more of the broth at the end. In any case, the pastry will turn out much better in the end if the filling is not liquidy.



Mom made the pastry while I hovered around the filling. All purpose flour, salt, Tenderflake lard, vinegar, and egg was mixed together with intuition. For those of us who can’t wing it, Tenderflake does include a recipe on their packages. No worries.

After dividing the pastry into four balls, the pastry was covered and rested in the fridge for an hour or two.


Ideally, the filling should be room temperature or cold before putting the pie together.





We baked it. Savoured it. And finished it.

The pastry was beautiful! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It shattered into pieces when it was met with the fork. The meat pie was perfectly baked and wasn’t heavy or soggy. I was so happy as I ate my slice with ketchup.


Meat pie.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Quick and Easy Breaded Chicken Dinner


Our family doesn’t always eat Chinese food. We can make breaded chicken too! I bought the breading mix from Bulk Barn and added some extra salt, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and a bit of chicken bouillon powder. The breading tasted much better after the little tweak.

We sliced a few small onions and lined the bottom of a baking pan. A little drizzle of oil and then the breaded chicken pieces were placed on top of the onions. The whole pan was baked in the oven for just under 45 minutes. While the chicken and onions were baking, the side dishes needed to be made in time.


Rummaging through our cupboards, I picked up two cans of beans and warmed them up over the stove. I like to reduce the beans over medium heat until the canned beans liquid becomes a bit thicker. I asked someone to watch over the beans and they butchered them. When you stir the beans, be gentle or else they’ll break up and disintegrate.

I've rediscovered my love for canned beans. I remember the grocery stores (Loeb, Price Club, etc.) used to have little samples of canned beans when Lucy and I were younger. Ah... childhood...


Another quick side dish is… ya, you got it – Lipton Sidekicks. This was one package of sour cream and chives. I think we added a bit of mozzarella cheese to this as well.

There were warm dinner rolls as well, but most of the family ate the chicken with steamed rice. Dinner was quick. It took 45 minutes to make everything. I have to admit; taking shortcuts when making dinner feels pretty good. Making everything/most things from scratch tastes a lot better though.


I want to add this shot as well. My mom is holding the white plate as a reflector. Huhuhuu!~  She was the one who always told us that blogging was a waste of time but now look at her willingness to help! My grandpa still scolds us though.. *sad face*

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Five Guys Have Sweet Buns!



Lucy and I noshed on some burgers and fries after a dress fitting. Classy, eh? The Five Guys location in Kanata is just over two months old, but they already have customers flocking to their establishment.




When we arrived around 4pm, there were a few people happily munching on their burgers. We placed our order and watched them make burgers from putting their hand-formed patties on the grill to them dumping a mountain of fries into the brown paper bags.





I’ve read about these burgers on various food blogs before, so I knew that they weren’t going to be neat or pretty. Our experience was no different.

Lucy and I both got “little” burgers, which have one hamburger patty, as opposed to the regular bugers which have two patties. As for the 10 or so free toppings, we went with all dressed. Yes, that includes mushrooms. I was just too hungry to care.

We definitely inhaled our burgers and made a mess of it. It was so worth it though. I found all the toppings overwhelming. It was hard to taste the sweet and fluffy buns that the Five Guys had – that’s what she said! But seriously, my burger had too many things going on. There was way too much ketchup. I saw one of the ladies behind the counter add a layer of ketchup on the burgers. It was like an extra patty of ketchup. Craziness! As I had a few more bites left of my burger, I was able to enjoy the sweet burger buns.

The Cajun fries were disappointing, only because they didn’t come straight out of the fryer. The fries were packed with Cajun seasoning though, but it just wasn’t crisp or hot enough.

As I picked at the fries, I noticed the non-stop waves of customers. Lucy noted that their service was pretty quick; serving 10 orders in 15 minutes. By the time we left, there were only a few seats available.


We left our table as clean as when we first sat down.

As we were on our way home, we reflected on our lunch/dinner. Even though the burgers and fries were more expensive than McD’s, we didn’t feel gross afterwards. I’m definitely going to have a simple burger on my next visit. Maybe a bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions, lettuce, mayo, and mustard. I’ll just add my own ketchup since I don’t like having a layer of ketchup in my burger.

You haven’t seen the last of us Five Guys. This is just the beginning.


Five Guys
5517 Hazeldean Rd.
Kanata, ON
Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon


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