Friday, June 29, 2012

Pot Ang aka Cambodian Grilled Corn


Instead of the typical boiled corn or grilled corn, how about changing it up this year by injecting some life into the corn and making Cambodian-style grilled corn called pot ang? It's not difficult at all.

There are only four ingredients for the glaze: [Edit: Added actual measurements]

5 tbsp coconut milk
2-1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 tbsp sugar

I can’t give any measurements for the glaze since Mom just eyeballed it and then adjusted it by taste. This particular batch was watered down a bit (about 2 tbsp water). But what I can tell you is that the fish sauce is needed to provide the saltiness and a savoury hit. If you're afraid of using fish sauce, don't be. The smell and flavour mellows out. You can't really replace the fish sauce with salt. It's just not the same.

The corn was blanched prior to grilling and glazing, which made everything quicker; however, you can also cook the corns straight on the grill. It will just take a bit longer.


The ears of corn were basted throughout the grilling process. We found an easier method to reduce the dripping. An ear of corn was held over the bowl of the coconut glaze and then the glaze was spooned onto the corn from the top. The excess glaze was shaken off and then the corn were returned to the grill to caramelize some more.


The process is repeated until the glaze is used up or until all the corns finish cooking – whichever comes first. Be sure to give all the corn some love. According to the people behind the Gastronomy blog, you can find grilled corn that is similar to pot ang on the streets in Vietnam.

The coconut-scented ears of corn were imbued with a savoury depth. The salty-sweet corns were so addictive! Next time you buy corn, try making this glaze instead of the one you typically use. You'll be transported to Cambodia. And if you want to make it a more authentic experience, go to a park, grill up the corn using the glaze, and then squat while holding the corn and just enjoy it with Cambodian tunes playing on the mini-DVD player. I'm not making this up. Our family still does it occasionally. We rarely forget the pot of rice when we go to the park.

Enjoy the weekend. And to all the fellow Canadians around the world: Happy Canada Day!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ottawa Ribfest 2012


My younger brother, Andrew, and I took a little visit to Sparks Street and brought home some BBQ goodies for the family dinner. We only went to two different stalls: Bibb’s BBQ and Camp 31. Our plan of attack was to get two full rack meals (that’s with coleslaw and beans) and a half-pound of pulled pork. We weren't going to get any chicken because they're not that flavourful. They get baked in the oven and then sit on the grill, absorbing whatever smoke there is, and get finished with a mop of sauce when it's ordered. If you do buy bottled BBQ sauce from the stands, then baked chicken wouldn't be a bad idea.

If you haven't gone yet or you're planning to go, but you aren't sure what to expect, head over to this post where I wrote down some tips.


Starting from Metcalfe and Sparks Street, we walked westward down Spark Street to do some scouting at Ottawa's 21st annual ribfest. The first stall we came upon was Bibb’s BBQ. Since we were there while most government employees were still at work, there were only two people waiting in line. We walked by a few more stalls before reaching O'Connor. I can't remember which ones though. Sorry. I just wanted to find Camp 31 and Bibb's BBQ, buy our stuff and go home as quickly as possible.



After crossing O’Connor, there was a porta-potty and porta-sink off to the side (correct me if I’m wrong… btw, I forgot to take a photo so I’m just reusing the pic from last year). We passed a few picnic tables on Sparks Street. It looks like the organizers of the event had put them out – at least I think they did. The picnic tables weren’t closed off and it didn’t look like it was part of any restaurant. In any case, walking by the tables, we found ourselves walking through some smoke. Silver Bullet’s grill was smoking away. All that baked chicken must’ve been absorbing the smoke as they waited for an owner.



Camp 31’s stand had the longest line when Andrew and I walked there. It seemed like more people were starting to flood in. Not needing to go any further down Sparks Street, we joined the line that was merely 8 people long.

Sandwiched between Camp 31's stand and Silver Bullet's stand, the Alabama’s Freshly Squeezed Lemonade stall sold cold lemonade. If I recall correctly, they were selling small lemonades for $4.00 and $6.00 for the large.


As we waited in line, I debated whether or not I wanted to buy another bottle of Camp 31’s Rajin’ Cajun BBQ sauce or to try another flavour (you could try samples of all of their sauces before you decided). We only had a few more drops left of the bottle I purchased last year. In the end, we decided we’d buy a bottle at Bibb’s BBQ instead. We bought a full rack of ribs meal ($24) and a full pound of pulled pork ($12). They didn’t sell half a pound.

We walked back to Bibb’s BBQ, bought another full rack meal and bought a bottle of their BBQ sauce. They only had one flavour – the one they use on their ribs and chicken. The three environmentally-friendly takeout boxes were stacked into a grocery bag and then we went back home to enjoy the goods. More after the hop...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sticky Rice Rolls (aka Zang or Zongzi)


Most people are familiar with this dish being called lo mai gai, though it’s more like zongzi. In Mandarin it’s known as nuo mi ji. This dish has multiple names from different countries; the Vietnamese take of this is called banh tet, while the Cambodians call it nom asom. In our family, we just call it zang. It is made with glutinous rice and is stuffed with things ranging from savoury salted pork fat, to chicken, to sweet red bean paste. Just like the variety of fillings, the whole thing can be wrapped in leaves like banana leaves, lotus leaves, and bamboo leaves.

I’ll be referring to the dish as zang for the rest of the article. Our family has been using mung beans, seasoned pork, and pork fat as the filling. The way we wrap ours is the southern Chinese way, as opposed to the pyramid-like northern Chinese version. My Grandma makes zang the best in our extended family, as Lucy and our relatives in Australia can attest to.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Waiting for Ribfest 2012

Saucy ribs from 2011

Ottawa’s 21st annual International Chicken-Rib Cook-off begins this upcoming Wednesday (June 20th, 2012). We're planning to go on Thursday and bring the ribs home to eat. Having gone downtown to pick up ribs for family dinners a couple of years now, I’d say that Lucy and I are prepared for this year’s competition. We’ve come up with a plan of attack to help the less experienced:
  • Bring cash, patience, and depending on whether the weather will cooperate, you might want to consider bringing sun screen and a hat (for waiting in the sun) or a raincoat and an umbrella (if it thunderstorms).
    • A full rack of ribs have been going for $22, beans and coleslaw have been an extra dollar
  • Go with at least one other person and split up. Try different stalls.
  • If it's possible, avoid the long lines by going before/after the lunch and dinner rushes.
    • The stands open from 11am - 10pm
    • It'll be packed from Friday - Sunday
  • Some stalls didn’t have any type of branding on their paper take-away boxes, so if you’re like us and you like to know which stall made what, bring a pen or marker along.
  • Unless you plan to eat at one of the patios on Sparks Street (you have to buy a beverage from them to have access), you should bring re-useable bags.
  • Bring wet naps or hand sanitizer. You can grab a pile of napkins from the stalls, but you’ll need something to clean your paws – even after you lick them clean.
In the past few years, the competitors at the Ottawa ribfest sold their tasty goods at these prices (give or take a few dollars).

Read about our experiences of the past competitions:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup - Take One

Despite eating bowls of Taiwanese beef noodle soup (TBNS) in Taiwan, the best bowl of TBNS I’ve had was from Mr. Sun’s in Toronto (it has since been closed). I fell in love with the complexity and depth the soup had. My mouth is watering as I think back to that meal.

It is my goal to replicate the dish and get approvals by Taiwanese natives (Jimmy and JL). A larger goal of mine is to host a Taiwanese-themed dinner with a menu of: pot sticker dumplings, TBNS, winter melon tea, and sliced watermelons for dessert. Or instead of winter melon tea and watermelons, maybe watermelon milk and shaved ice are better options.

I did some research and looked at a bunch of food blogs to find out what kind of ingredients went into making such an amazing soup – Use Real Butter and Noodle Fever to be more specific. We didn’t have all the ingredients but I tried to make it anyway. And, as usual, the recipe wasn’t followed to the tee.

Beef shanks (bone in) were on sale at the Green Supermarket for $1.88 a pound, but when we got there, they had raised the price to $2.19. If only we had the Chinese newspaper to dispute the price. When I thought about it more, the beef shanks were still much cheaper than other places *cough* T&T*cough*, where the regular prices were more than double that.

Fennel seeds, Sichuan peppercorns, black peppercorns, bay leaves, star anise, and a cinnamon stick was sealed in a spice ball to flavour the stock. The spice ball was tossed into a large pot of beef shanks and pork bones to simmer. Yes, I’m aware that pork bones are not used in TBNS.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bo Kho Revisited


The last pot of homemade bo kho was a beauty! Grandpa and I kept asking Mom to make another pot, but she was waiting for beef spare ribs to go on sale. And what do you know, they went on sale last week.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Cooking with Garlic Chives


When I lived at my aunt’s house during my first year in college, I had a tough time eating the food she made. The main reason was because she cut down on seasoning with sodium since my uncle has high blood pressure. But the one dish my aunt made that I really enjoyed was her garlic chive, pork, and shrimp wontons egg noodle soup. The wontons were usually on the salty side, which was a nice change, but it was watered down with the lightly-seasoned pork bone soup. To this day, I'm not sure if they were actually on the salty side, or if my taste buds were numbed.

So it’s been about three years since I last had a bowl of that yummy stuff. Actually, when I went to Toronto to cover the marathon, my cousin joined me for dim sum on my last day. I inadvertently ordered a bowl of chive wontons. When I took a bite out of the green-speckled wonton, memories of eating my aunt's garlic chive wontons came flooding back. It tasted pretty close to my aunt's version. But as my cousin pointed out, shrimps weren't used in the filling.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Smelly (But Tasty) Hot Pot


Maybe Mother Nature heard my complaints of Ottawa's recent hot and muggy weather systems. It looks like it will be a cool 20 degrees Celsius for the next week. Having spicy hot pot is a perfect way to feel better, regardless of the weather.

Using homemade pork bone soup, we turned it into a stinky and spicy hot pot dinner using the Little Sheep Mongolian hot pot soup base. We made sure we had the windows open for fresh air, though I’m sure our neighbours didn’t appreciate the body odour-like stench.

It’s the cumin used in the soup base. Okay, it might not smell that much when you’re eating it, but your clothes will smell like b.o afterwards. Nasty stuff. I’ve replicated the soup base before by using some chicken bouillon powder (we have Knorr), cumin, salt, sugar, and a few Thai chili peppers. We had some of the Little Sheep soup base in the cupboard.

The smelly soup base is like shawarma, in that it's satisfying when you eat one although you reek of garlic. However, it's gross when someone, who had just eaten a shawarma or two (possibly with extra garlic sauce), sits beside you on the bus.


Among the various things we had on the table for hot pot, there was wood ear mushroom, tofu puffs, bean thread noodles, thinly sliced eye of round beef, frozen homemade wontons, bok choi, pork balls, and corn.




We don’t usually eat hot pot with any sides, but we had some sweet potatoes and some tempura batter mix around. We had a plate of tempura sweet potatoes just as the hot pot hot was ready.


My favourite things to eat are the tofu puffs and wontons – especially when we use the spicy hot pot soup mix. They just absorb the spiciness so well. Mmm… smelly hot pot.


Monday, June 04, 2012

Dumplings, Spring Rolls, Sweets, Tea


Some friends from high school came over for a small dinner of dumplings and spring rolls a few days ago. The pork and napa cabbage-filled dumplings were, of course, made from scratch. The dumpling skin and filling were made prior to their arrival. Once we were in the kitchen, I taught them how to wrap the dumplings. We had a good time wrapping the dumplings. Despite the teasing, they did really well. Although they didn't look that great, all the misshapen dumplings were cooked up using the fry-steam-fry method. Some of the longer dumplings ended up looking like cooked intestines after I had to coil them in the pan. Hahaa!


As for the spring rolls, I just took out some frozen spring rolls (that were homemade) and deep-fried them in vegetable oil. We had four different dipping dishes of sauces. There were two plum sauces, one hoisin sauce, and one red vinegar-soy sauce mix. I also made a pot of chicken, daikon and napa cabbage soup to wash everything down.

I should’ve made tea while we were eating. Fail. We had a brief tea break after we finished eating instead. OP brought over some Melissa herbs (aka lemon balm) from her garden. We made some Melissa herb tea and a pot of jasmine tea to have a little variety. The Melissa herb was quite a refreshing lemony, and almost sweet, tea. OP mentioned that iced Melissa herb tea is more enjoyable, especially in the summer.

To finish off the meal evening, we enjoyed a variety of sweets that JS bought from the Nutty Greek Bake Shop. OP also brought over some brownies chocolate cupcakes that she made. Out of all of the sweets JS brought, my favourites were the almond cookie and the icing sugar-topped shortbread cookie. I can't forget about the moist and tender chocolate cupcakes that OP made.

Friday, June 01, 2012

First Banh Xeo Meal of the Summer


Lettuce was on sale last week so we made savoury fried pancakes called banh xeo. It’s a Vietnamese dish, but people also eat it in Cambodia too. We’ve written about the dish before. Making banh xeo is very time-consuming because each one has to be carefully made. After lunch, Mom started making them ahead of time so that we could all eat at the same time.



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