Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Year (2011) in Review

Let's look back over the stuff Lucy and I have cooked, baked, eaten, and photographed. I'm well aware that people usually do these types of posts at the end of December or at the beginning of the new year. *Shrug* All of the links in this page will take you to the corresponding article written, should you choose to click on them and read more. But first, some stats that don't mean much.

Unique visits in the past year:

Unique page views:

Cookie-topped custard buns [link].

Most visits per month:
  1. Jan ’12 (2,668)
  2. Mar ’12 (2,432)
  3. Feb ’12 (2,236)
  4. Mar ’11 (2,203)
  5. Dec ’11 (2,088)

Most page views per month:
  1. Jan ’12 (5,012)
  2. Mar ’12 (4,893)
  3.  Feb ’12 (4,816)
  4. Nov ’11 (3,953)
  5. Dec ’11 (3,852)
Doing some mise en place for multiple Chinese snacks, like Chinese hamburgers and breaded shrimp balls [link].

Most read pages:
  1. 168 Sushi Buffet (1,238 views)
  2.  Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot (669)
  3.  Random Tidbits: Part 7 – Sandwiches (560)
  4.  Chinese New Year 2011 (463)
  5. Ngong Ping, Tian Tan Buddha, Dai Pai Dong (230)
An over-easy egg, toasted croissant, and tangerines [link].

Favourite eats (in no particular order):

Before I end the page with some of my favourite photos of food, I'd like to list some things that I'd like to improve upon over the next year:

  • Capture stronger food images
  • Life needs to be injected into the stuff I write
  • Write sooner so that I'll remember more details
  • Take notes when I can
  • Take more photos of food that have less red, orange, and yellow in the frame

Favourite photos:


Wrapping pot stickers with soup [link].

Soy goose breast at the Chiuchow Garden [link].

Perogies 2
Perogies with bacon, sautéed onions, and sour cream [link].

Daikon dumplings at Tung Yuen [link].

Lucy's Pizza
Lucy's creamy garlic pizza that you have to try for yourself [link].

Soup dumplings inside the CityGate Outlet food court [link].

Billy Bones' ribs from Ottawa's ribfest [link].

Golden pot stickers made from scratch [link].

Chicken pita with a lemonade at Ottawa's annual dragon boat festival [link].

Tim Tams that some relatives brought over from Australia [link].

Monday, March 26, 2012

Seafood Chowder

We've been lucky to have summer weather so early in the year. It looked like we bypassed spring all together for a few days. But alas, the weather in Ottawa likes to change up week to week. We'd get gorgeous 27°C (that's 81°F for our American friends) sunny weather one week and then a few days of gloomy skies and temperatures hovering around 0°C the following week.

When the cold weather blankets the city, a great way to wait it out is a bowl (or two) of seafood chowder is perfect comfort food to keep the soul warm.



Frozen shrimp, scallops and basa fish fillets were taken out of the freezer and cut up into bite sized pieces. Onions and leftover ham was diced up too.

Over medium-high heat, the onions and herbs (we used thyme, bay leaves, and oregano) were heated up in a pot with some vegetable oil and butter. A few sprinkles of flour made a loose roux. Once the roux cooked out to a blonde colour, cream and milk were added to the pot.


The contents were seasoned with salt and black pepper and slowly thickened on gentle simmer. There were also cubes of potatoes that we threw in to cook. We had some croissants-in-a-can in the fridge. Since our family loves to eat cheese, we added some cheddar to some of the croissants before they went into the oven.



Just before we were ready to eat, the defrosted seafood was added into the pot to cook and imbue the chowder with a soft seafood perfume and flavour. When we all tucked into our bowls, the only sounds from the kitchen were the spoons clinking against the bowls, eager slurps of the chowder, and crisps sounds coming from taking bites from the baked croissants. Most of the seafood was cooked just right. I found the scallops over cooked but other than that, the fish and shrimp were tender and juicy. The chowder was so good that everyone mopped their bowls with the croissant.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Homemade Pot Sticker Adventures


In the months following my trip to Asia (2011), I've had bad cravings for pot stickers (guotie, 鍋貼) and soup dumplings (xiao long bao, 小籠包). In Cantonese, pot stickers are called wor tip.

While we usually make dumplings with store bought dumpling wrappers, I thought I’d try to make everything from scratch this time. Since Jimmy's mom showed us the new fry-steam-fry method (which I'll describe in more detail in a bit) to cook dumplings, I was itching to make dumplings that not only looked great, but taste better than restaurants. My goal was to make juicy pot stickers like the chicken pot stickers at the Northern Dumpling Kitchen. Follow me on my quest on perfecting homemade pot stickers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fish Cakes


After writing about the breaded shrimp balls that Jimmy's mom taught us how to make, I wanted to recreate it so I bought frozen shrimp, ground pork and fish paste.

The ground pork, garlic and shrimp was cut up on a cutting board until Mom and I realized that it would be much easier if we used the food processor.



Fish paste, green onions, oyster sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, salt and sugar were added to the shrimp, ground pork and garlic. The mince was pulsed together to a sticky paste. Doesn't it just look so appetizing?


The fish mince was formed into small patties, breaded/dusted with flour, and shallow-fried in vegetable oil. At first, we tried breading the mince with some Italian breadcrumbs we had lying around. Although it fried up beautifully, the flavour of the breading didn't match. We tried using all-purpose flour and some cornstarch, but they ended up having a floury residue when we ate them. Andrew noted that the flour-dusted fish cakes did look similar to McNuggets.

The fish cakes tasted pretty good. They were not only bouncy but the fish cakes were juicy as well. I wish there was more shrimp and pork though. We had tried to recreate the same shrimp mince that Jimmy's mom made, but the little cakes tasted more like fish cakes than shrimp cakes. Although the ratio between ground pork, shrimp and fish paste was close to 1.5:1:1, the store-bought fish paste had a strong flavour. I'd like to add more shrimp next time. Also, I think panko breadcrumbs would be perfect. But in saying all of that, the tasty and bouncy fish cakes went very well with steamed rice.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Taiwanese Beef Patties, Breaded Shrimp Balls, Stuffed Tofu Puffs and Pot Stickers

I need to explain something before I begin. The amount of Mandarin I can understand and communicate is less than a two-year old child. And Jimmy’s mom (who I’ll refer to ask JM for the rest of the article) doesn’t speak much English either.

Sometime back around mid-October...

JM came over for a visit during the month. We were sitting at my grandma's dining table after dinner, having a chat over some hot tea. I could only understand because there were translators (parents) at the table. The conversation switched to my trip to Taiwan in 2010.

While flipping through my pictures (the link will redirect you to my Flickr set of the trip) from my trip to Asia, JM noticed that I had more photos of food than everything else. She said that she was actually formally trained and certified as a cook/chef (I’m not totally sure because the translations were confusing) back in Taiwan. JM, like Mom, said that she knew how to make dumplings and a few other snacks from scratch. She had asked me what I liked to eat, so I was telling her my love for dumplings, noodles, soup and dim sum. She spoke at a quicker pace and kept firing questions my way. Apparently she had said that she wanted to cook for us and she had asked me what I wanted to eat.  What did I just do?

JM really wanted to flex her cooking skills and teach me how to make Chinese hamburgers (niu rou xian bing), they're more like flaky beef patty snacks than the hamburgers, and pot stickers (guotie). I thought she asked me what I wanted to eat when I visited Taiwan... Time to roll up the sleeves.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Boston Pizza, Bangkok Thai Garden - Feb. 16th, 2008

While cleaning out my external hard drive, something made me look through my 2008 folder of food pictures. One folder contained the elusive Boston Pizza dinner where VN and I had the zesty baked ravioli. No wonder I couldn't find these anywhere in the 2009 food picture folder. I had thought I was going crazy!

Before VN and I got together with a few other friends at Boston Pizza, I spent the afternoon checking out the Winterlude ice sculptures with some other friends.



Someone was craving Thai so we met up for lunch at the Bangkok Thai Garden. We started off with a plate of spring rolls.




We decided on ordering three dishes and then sharing everything. Vegetable stir-fry, pad thai and a bowl of noodle soup with chicken arrived at our table.

The only thing I remember was that the food was sub-par.


That evening, I met up with a couple of friends at a Boston Pizza to watch a Sens game (on the TVs). While waiting for some people to arrive, VN and I each ordered lime slushies. As we looked through the menu, VN mentioned that the baked raviolis were really good.



We killed it in a blink of an eye. I really liked how zesty the sauce was. The more we ate the raviolis with the sauce, the spicier it got. We both enjoyed the well-baked parts of the pasta. It gave the dish more texture.



A few pizzas and pitchers were ordered once everyone arrived. Not bad.

Unfortunately, Boston Pizza stopped serving the baked ravioli appetizers. Instead, they only serve the raviolis as a main pasta dish. Since then, VN and I have come close to recreating the baked ravioli using store bought stuff.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mont Tremblant, Montreal, and Blueberry Lake Resort

When Aunty and my cousin from Hong Kong visited us back in October, my other aunt had booked a few days at a cabin at the Blueberry Lake Resort. We had a plan to go up with the family, visit Mont Tremblant, have a steak dinner at the cabin, do a day trip to Montreal, and then rest up at the cabin. The weather could not have been any nicer. The leaves already began to change and the sunny warm weather was out during the weekend of our trip.




On our way to Mont Tremblant we dropped by McD’s for a quick bite. Bic Macs, McChickens, and Quarter Pounder meals were shared.



Pâté, brie, another kind of cheese, and crackers were brought out of the car for those who didn’t want to eat McD’s. The sun and heat melted the fat in the pork pâté. Sad.


We walked around the busy Mont Tremblant village. Someone was nice enough to give the guys a couple of free passes to the second gondola. I got this shot on the way down.

Later that night, the steak dinner was made to feed the large family. I’m missing the photos from that night.



The following day, we drove to Montreal and found lunch at the Kei Phat Restaurant (inside the Marché Kei Phat). I noticed that the menu was smaller than usual, and then I saw the words “Menu du Mardi” which translates to “Tuesday’s Menu.” We were told that the main chefs had Tuesdays off.


That didn’t bother me. I went with the Phnom Penh noodle soup.


MT’s usual dish, rice noodles with beef, was not on Tuesday’s menu. She lost her appetite. Someone ordered some shrimp spring rolls for her to snack on instead.



Fast forward to dinner. We went to a restaurant in Chinatown located somewhere at the end of the pedestrian street. The last time we ate at the restaurant, I remembered that the fish was really fresh, really moist and tender. The stir-fried rice noodles were great too. I lost their business card so I can’t tell you which place we visited. Woops. It’s past the AYCE place and it’s across the bakery (which is located at the corner of the pedestrian street).

Cousin E and Aunty chose the dishes that night. We started off with some fish maw soup. A plate of dried scallops with greens came soon afterwards.



Steamed oysters with black bean sauce. I really liked the sauce that went with the oysters. The steamed oysters, themselves, were alright.


Double cooked oysters (battered and deep fried, then stir-fried).


Stir-fried vermicelli.



Steamed fish with soy sauce. This fish was great! It was super fresh and cooked perfectly. The meat was tender and sweet with no hints of fishiness or muddiness. You should definitely order a steamed fish at this restaurant (whatever it’s called). I’d probably ask the server which fish is the freshest or in season.



Finally, a plate of rice noodles with beef and Chinese broccoli (aka my noodles) with extra sauce. This was really disappointing. Some of the noodles were undercooked and the sauce was flavourless. Grandpa assumed that it was the “second chef” who cooked the dish. Whatever the case may be, I was disappointed that the noodles weren’t even decent. We ended up packing up the dish.



After dinner, we visited the bakery across the street and picked up a few things before driving back to the cabin for the night.

We had a little snack of some coconut buns and tea before or after soaking in the hot tub and playing a few rounds of pool and ping pong. I can’t remember.



This was the view in the morning. The weather was looking great and the cabin smelled like a bakery.


Check out this spread for breakfast. Nice, huh? These were all warmed up in the oven. Croissant, hot dog buns, coconut spiral sticks, and cookie-topped custard buns were pretty damn tasty. The cabin was filled with the perfume of buttery pastries.


I picked up a few of these for Dad, but it turns out that everyone enjoyed these because the cookie-topped custard buns were made so well.


MT absolutely loved these. I asked her to show it off between bites.

We slowly packed things into the cars and headed back home. It was a very nice couple of days up at the cabin.


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