Wednesday, March 20, 2013

HK-Inspired Wonton Noodle Soup

Mom and I had a craving for Hong Kong-style wonton noodle soup. I knew we wouldn't get anywhere close to their clear and simple soup, nor would we be able to replicate the bouncy and sweet shrimp wontons the master chefs make. Despite knowing this, we flexed our culinary muscles and attempted to make a decent rendition of wonton noodle soup.

After I did a quick google search of what ingredients we might need for the soup and wontons, we drove to T&T and purchased most of the ingredients. I spotted a container of dried egg noodles that were on sale.


Upon further inspection, I noticed that there were two flavours: regular egg noodles and the shrimp egg noodles. I took a look at the label and saw that it was made by a company in Hong Kong. Done. Looked legit. Apparently one of the more well-known wonton noodle soup shops in Hong Kong uses powdered shrimp eggs in their soup. These shrimp egg noodles were good enough for us.


The bundles of shrimp egg noodles were quite small.

The soup ended up turning into something like Phnom Penh noodle soup since we used pork neck bones and dried squid. I didn't take a photo of the pot. The soup looked just like this pot of Phnom Penh noodle soup though.


As for the shrimp wontons, we used regular ground pork, shrimps, green onions, ginger, oyster sauce, cornstarch, salt, sugar, and a few drops of sesame oil. That's it. Mom chopped everything together until it was a sticky mess. Once cooked, the sticky mess becomes an unbelievably bouncy ball of dim sum-like fare -- mind you, it wasn't as bouncy as these pissing beef balls (skip to 0:38). I took a bit of the filling and nuked it in the microwave to see how it tasted.

It. Was. Amazing. They really tasted like dim sum fare. Though they didn't taste like the shrimp wontons we had in Hong Kong, I was still very happy with the seasoning of this batch.


We filled the wontons quite generously.

The shrimp wonton filling tasted so good that Mom wanted to try and fry them. "They'll taste like the shrimp balls at dim sum," she said. They really did taste like them.

The first few shrimp balls she put into the oil ended up burning. The innards were uncooked so we popped them into the microwave to cook. The rest of the filling were pressed into patties to cook evenly.

Mom also fried these homemade shrimp tempura for an appetizer. She made these shrimp tempura two weeks ago and froze these. Smart.

We used five bundles of shrimp egg noodles to feed seven people (I invited my grandparents over for lunch). The wonton noodle soup still tasted amazing despite the noodles being overcooked. I can't wait to make these again!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Authentic Vietnamese Pho House


The first time I saw this restaurant, the Authentic Vietnamese Pho House, was earlier last summer when I picked up some groceries at the Metro. I swear I smelled pho when I walked through the parking lot. Am I going crazy? Am I just craving pho? I thought to myself. I shrugged it off and didn't think about it until Richard mentioned that there was indeed a pho place in that plaza. He said it was decent. I made a mental note.

Sometime back in October, I dropped by for a quick bowl of pho and an order of spring rolls. The pho was good. I've been on a lookout for a new pho place that's closer than Chinatown. The last memory of going out for pho was with VN at Koi Asia -- and it wasn't a good memory either. The soup was extremely salty and didn't resemble the old Pho Mi 108 soup as it had in the past. 

(For those who didn't know; Pho Mi 108 was bought by the current Koi Asia owners and apparently kept some of their staff to do their Vietnamese dishes. At first, their pho and spring rolls retained the same flavours after their take over. However, over a few months, their pho standards began to steadily drop. I'd only order their Chinese dishes from now on.)

CA and I have gone to the Pho House more than twice. During our first dinner there, she explained that she used to be a pho addict back in university (after I introduced it to her). Since then, she's had mediocre experiences at multiple restaurants and pho just wasn't the same anymore. That's until we began inhaling our bowls of pho at the pho house. A week later, we both went back for more pho after we both had a long day at work.

Sometime later, I received a worrying text from CA out of the blue: "I think I have a problem."

Holy crap! What happened? Thoughts raced through my mind.

My phone buzzed again. "I want pho again" she admitted. We just had pho twice in just over a week.

I tried to console her: 
"Well, you've done well. The first step to getting better is admitting that you have a problem. :p I'm proud of you. As a former pho addict, I've learned to control my urges for pho. Pho no longer controls my life. And I just want to say that I'm here from you. :)"

That was back in October. Fast forward to a few nights ago on Pie Day; we went out for a quick dinner. CA ordered the pho with rare beef and beef balls. I got their hu tieu with chicken and rare beef. It would've been nice to see some banh pâté chaud (Vietnamese meat pies) as a special Pie Day option. Ah well.


We received a plate of vibrant herbs and bean sprouts soon after. As we waited for our bowls of noodle soups to arrive, we got our dipping dishes ready with some Sriracha and hoisin sauce.


Oh yeeeeah! Mine came with wider rice noodles, slices of napa cabbage, fried shallots, and soup made of chicken. Both of our noodle soups were tasty.

The small restaurant is located across the police station on Greenbank Road, inside the Greenbank Hunt Club Center. You no longer have to venture out from Nepean for a good bowl of pho.

Authentic Vietnamese Pho House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day 2013!

Not sure what Lucy's plans are tonight. I'll be going out for some pho. But to get in the spirit, here are a couple of pies I've written about. The links will bring you to the corresponding article.

Spicy meat pie (sfiha) from Aladdin Bakery. [link]

Homemade banh pâté chaud (Vietnamese meat pie). [link]

Homemade shepherd's pie. [link]

Homemade meat pie. [link]

Monica's apple pie. [link]

Lemon meringue pie that we had last year. [link]

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Semi-Homemade Ramen & Brick Toast


I think it was Richard's idea to make tsukemen, a style of ramen where you dip the noodles into a flavour-packed soup. It ended up being ramen. We've been thinking about tsukemen ever since watching David Chang in The Mind of a Chef.

Richard made two soups: one with roasted chicken thighs and pork neck bones, and the other was made by mixing hon-dashi powder and soy sauce. They were made separately and mixed together in the end.

Toppings included menma (simmered bamboo shoots), soft boiled eggs, shiitake mushrooms, roasted seaweed sheets, pickled ginger, and green onions.

Despite being time-consuming, I'd like to try and actually make tsukemen with a side of Japanese-style chashu.

This was our lazy -- but awesome -- version of brick toast. Our dessert consisted of two slices of toasted T&T milk bread slathered with condensed milk.

Do I really need to say any more?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sugar bush during the March Break

It's safe to say that there are a ton of activities available for kids during March Break.  One that won't break the bank, and also gets kids outside, is visiting a nearby sugar bush to see how maple syrup is made, indulge in a pancake breakfast, and roll up some sticky maple taffy.  It's a quintessential Ottawa activity.  Last Saturday, I was able to round up some of our friends to check out the Proulx Maple and Berry Farm in Cumberland.

As you can see, we had gorgeous spring weather on Saturday.  The temperature was perfectly mild, with bright sunshine beaming down on us.
This is the shack where the maple sap (which was 90% water) was boiled all the way down to the sticky, sweet maple syrup we all know.  The young man tending to the wood fire was supremely knowledgeable and very comfortable in speaking to visitors.

There were a ton of young families around.  I should point out that our friends, like us, are in our late 20s and early 30s, and none of us have children, yet.  I felt a little odd at first.  In the end, the excitement to be visiting a sugar bush again after nearly 20 years erased my self-consciousness.

After waiting for approximately 40 minutes, we were finally seated for our pancake breakfast.  It was $22.75 per person (tax included) for the buffet.  The selection was smaller than expected, but it definitely hit the spot on a morning when I didn't partake in my daily coffee before making the drive.

This was my first plate: pancakes, baked beans (with pork), maple-glazed carrots, sausages, homefries, crispy pork (oreilles de crisse), scrambled eggs, and maple syrup.  The eggs were hard, as you can see, and the carrots weren't actually glazed.  They sat in a watery liquid and was mostly just overcooked.  Everything else was pretty delicious.  The pancakes were thin and dense, not your diner-style fluffy pancakes.

The winner of the day was the crispy pork, which we thought was regular bacon.  In French, these were called "des oreilles de crisse" -- roughly translated to Christ's ears.  Little did we know that the fried strips were crunchy, yet chewy.  These were a favourite around the table.

Jimmy's second plate was piled high with crispy pork.

After many refills at the buffet table and a more than a few cups of coffee, we headed outside to a little tented area for the maple taffy.  It was included as the dessert option for the buffet.  You're given a ticket to redeem for taffy or for raspberry or sugar pie.  We all picked the taffy obviously. 

This is basically a boiled down syrup that cools down to a sticky mess the instant the syrup hits the snow (or in this case, the ice chips). You're given wooden popsicle sticks to roll them up into a lollipop form.

As you can see, it's a little drippy at first, but after a while, it smooths out into something that looks like amber on a stick.

Most of our friends found it too sweet and threw out the rest.  I definitely ate the entire thing :)  Memories of childhood, and all that.

We took a walk around the sugar bush to work off our full stomachs.  Most of the trees had one tap and one bucket, but the larger ones had up to five!

There was also a blackened cauldron containing maple sap.  It was a display to show how maple syrup used to be boiled down.

I found that the sugar bush at Proulx Farm was far simpler than I remembered sugar bushes to be.  There were activities at the other part of the farm, but they seemed more geared towards young children and families.  Overall, we found that it was an affordable, fun outing for friends -- especially for those who had never visited a sugar bush before.  Recommended to visit every few years.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Chinese New Year 2013


The event this year was made more special because we had family from Australia visiting. And since they were here, we ordered a whole roast pig from Double Happiness! Jealous?


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