Monday, September 30, 2013

Noodles at Kim's Restaurant, Spinach Pies at Aladdin Bakery


Last time Andrew got to try the noodles from Kim's Restaurant, the food was very disappointing. I still had confidence in the restaurant. Before I brought Andrew to the restaurant, I wanted to try it one more time in case the quality actually went downhill.

I ordered the usual: deep fried shrimp balls (A-11) and rice noodles with chicken (FN-04), substituting the bean sprouts for Chinese greens. Both dishes were really good. It was the same great quality I've been used to. Phew!

As I was walking to the bus stop, I picked up a spinach pie and meat pie from Aladdin Bakery to try later that evening. The temptation was too great. I warmed them both up in the toaster oven and shared it with Mom and Lucy as an appetizer before dinner. We found the spinach pie really heavy and quite sour. I liked the sourness but needed a drink to give my palate a rest. I wouldn't be able to handle a whole one for a meal or something. It's too much for me. The meat pies, on the other hand, is not a problem at all.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cheap Beef Shanks, Bo Kho

Now that Mom has added bo kho to her repertoire, we are always looking for cheap beef shanks and/or beef short ribs.

Here's one loaded bowl of bo kho and rice noodles. It was garnished with cilantro and a small wedge of lime. My mom likes to eat bo kho with fluffy warm bread.

My cousin, KG, came over for dinner. He had a total of three bowls. This was his second round of bo kho and noodles--this time with a large bone to gnaw on. Okay, you don't gnaw on the bone itself. You're supposed to pick off the tender meat and tendons that are stuck on the bone. Some pieces of bone have marrow too. You're supposed to suck out all that creamy goodness. (That's what she said.)

He liked it so much that he had a third bowl. KG said that he took home cooked meals for granted when he was living at home. It was a great humbling experience.

Mom's bo kho really hit the spot. I liked it when the bo kho was thickened almost to the consistency to stew, but it seems like everyone else likes it more loose. I just love the flavours and richness of the bo kho.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kongnamul Muchim, Seasoned Soy Bean Sprouts

On a rainy Saturday night, we decided to throw together a comforting meal of kimchi and mandu stew, seasoned soy bean sprouts (kongnamul muchim, 콩나물무침) and stir-fried cabbage.  It was a simple and quick meal that took about 30 minutes to put together, not counting the time it took to boil chicken broth and steam rice.

One of my favourite types of banchan (free side dishes to accompany the meal) at a Korean restaurant is kongnamul muchim, so I was excited to see that the recipe was relatively simple and easy to recreate at home.  The recipe was adapted from Maangchi's video.

It only took a few simple ingredients from my pantry (not including the soy bean sprouts themselves), including soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, and green onions.  I had to reduce the amount of seasonings since I was only making a small batch to test the recipe.

It was a very forgiving recipe (adjust seasonings to taste), and it was one of the most successful Korean dishes I've been able to replicate.  This is now going to be one my favourite dishes to bring to friends' houses and throw together for those impromptu dinner guests!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dim Sum Before Work

One day I started at 3pm and coincidently, Grandpa wanted to get together for lunch. Sweet!

Grandpa left the ordering to myself and Andrew. It was tempting to troll and just order one thing, laugh it off, then order more things. Very tempting.

I ordered a bunch of cheung fan because I wasn't expecting Grandpa to order stir-fried rice noodles or chow mein. I even told him that, but Grandpa's listening is suspect. He hears what he wants to hear. He ordered a plate of rice noodles with beef and chinese greens with extra sauce.


The taro dumplings were hot and crispy. The chicken feet, not pictured, was good as well -- so good that Grandpa asked for another order. I found that there was a bit too much sesame oil. Other than that, they were tender and full of flavour.

After lunch, Mom lectured me about how haw gow is a waste of money and how I should be ordering lots of shrimp siu mai instead. Yes Mom...

I definitely could've used a power nap after lunch. Since we finished with a lot of spare time, we just walked a bit before I headed to work. See? Shift work isn't all that bad.

Sea King Shark Fin Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mom's Chicken Curry


Mom made a pot of chicken curry last month and invited my grandparents for lunch. While she usually chops the pieces of chickens into bite-sized bits, we requested that she leave them whole. Whenever she'd make this curry with bite-sized chunks of chicken, we'd always find fragments of broken bone in our curry. Not fun.

Here's a brief rundown of how Mom makes her curry:

Chopped onions are sautéed with minced garlic and curry paste. Then the meat, in this case it was chicken drumsticks, peanut butter and fish sauce goes in. Coconut milk and water are added before seasoning to taste with sugar. The curry is then simmered for a few hours, with certain root vegetables and vegetables thrown in at during times to prevent over-cooking. Mom has used things like: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, string beans, eggplants and bamboo shoots.  For the best results, this curry is made the night before and then it's gently simmered for a few hours the following morning/afternoon.

There are two main ways our family eats this curry: with bread or with vermicelli noodles. We rarely eat the chicken curry with rice though. I prefer eating this curry with the Japanese somen noodles. I like the texture much better than the wiry vermicelli noodles we sometimes use. The somen noodles are the same noodles I like to eat Vietnamese bun with.

The somen noodles does require more attention though, because after it has been boiled, it needs to be rinsed off in cold water, and then the water needs to be squeezed out to prevent the soft noodles from becoming waterlogged.

Warmed up in the toaster oven, our favourite bread is a nice baguette.


The curry is usually so satisfying!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Escape into Silence - Lilom Fish Sanctuary

Greetings from across the world! What a whirlwind summer it has been for me! Between work and sleep, it's been hard finding the time (and more importantly money!) to travel around the beautiful Philippines. 

Of course, I will try my hardest not to transform this into a travel blog and will stay true to the food.

So here is my latest trip! During the first weekend of September I was invited my a coworker to celebrate his birthday at a beautiful resort called Lilom. The resort is located in Batangas - what is considered the best region for snorkeling and scuba diving - in the small town of Anilao. 

I'm told that Lilom is the native word for Shade and it could not have been more mysterious. We arrived around 8pm due to a broken down car and some delays but it definitely added to the mystery arriving at night. 

Some brief history on the resort: originally it was a privately-owned resort that was also a fish sanctuary. As such, there were many restrictions about how many people could snorkel in the water at a time (15 max if you wanted to know) and what gear you could use. There was a sign but I was too relaxed to remember to take pictures. Within the year, the family opened up to the public and charge about 2000 Pesos (around $50) a night with breakfast, lunch, dinner and merienda (snacks remember!) included - what a deal! 

In order to get to the resort, we had to walk along the shore at low tide some distance from the parking lot and loading dock. In the picture above, you can see that it was no white sand beach but a rough kind of beach with coral reefs just 20 ft from the shore. 

We arrived just in time for dinner - buffet style. Oh man, this was some of the most delicious food I have eaten in the Philippines! On a bed of rice, I picked some teriyaki chicken: sweet of course but also just salty enough for my palate - similar to Mom's marinade for BBQ chicken during the summer but I think they shallow simmered the meat as it was quite tender.

I scooped up some delicious mushrooms stewed with pork belly and eggs. I guess this was the Filipino version of Three Layered Pork but the star was really the shitake mushrooms (or at least I think it's shitake - same texture but slightly sour flavour). Hard-boiled eggs were stewed in the sauce as well. And then, some delicious pancit (noodles!). These white, glass rice noodles were stir-fried with deep-fried garlic and some stuff that made it perfectly salty - just enough to linger on your palate and make you crave more.

What you're not seeing is the most delicious mangos I have ever eaten. I think we all consumed a good 10 mangos because they were the sweetest, creamiest, most melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness that has ever blessed my tongue. It tasted so mango-y you'd think it was pumped with mango flavour extract (I hope it wasn't!)

The next morning we woke up to overcast skies that finally gave way to an intense Filipino sun around 10am. Oh yeah, we slept in these amazing bamboo houses called Kubo's that are very traditional. I got a king-sized bed to myself and while the lights were out, the room was absolutely black. It was the soundest sleep ever and for the first time since Ottawa I was able to wake up to natural light (my apartment is facing another building so we don't get natural light ever, plus we live off a major road called EDSA...honk honk all the time...)

Breakfast was AMAZING! We were served the BEST coffee I've had in the Philippines (they don't do coffee well at all) in a French press and banana pancakes which I ate with a heaping spoonful of butter and mango jelly. They also made a (canned) tuna omelette which was alright - I mean I needed an egg with my breakfast somehow...

With the beautiful weather shining down, we decided to go snorkeling for a good two hours. I wish I had an underwater camera or a waterproof phone case because snorkeling is absolutely breathtaking! The reef was literally twenty steps from the wading pool in the picture above and was filled with all sorts of exotic fish. After not too long, it was lunch time!

This soup is the most amazing soup I have had. From what I heard, they boil the crap out of chicken bones to get a deep-flavoured broth. Then they throw in young papaya and wild corn (more starchier than the corn I'm used to in Canada) and add young pepper leaves right before serving. I think I had three servings of the soup as it had that delicious umami that made me crave more.

When I pulled myself away from the soup, I got some eggplant and liempo (pork belly). The eggplant was first grilled (it had that charred flavour) then dipped in egg, topped with sauteed onions and then pan fried. The mellow flavour of the eggplant was nicely complemented by the saltiness of the egg and the sharpness of the slightly undercooked onions. The liempo was also delicious but really tasted like any other liempo I've had in Manila.

As if I wasn't full enough after three eggplants, I created this beautiful looking bowl of dessert. Local bananas (starchier than bananas I'm used to but not as starchy as plantains) were sauteed in caramel and served to us. We took it a step further and asked for some crushed ice and yelo (milk and sugar). I peeled some rambutans and assembled this beast that took me a while to crush. But as you can imagine (like everything I ate) it filled me with such happiness that I needed to nap to process it all.

After we all napped, we packed up and took a boat back to our car and returned to the concrete jungle of Manila. I really miss the fresh air and complete serenity I felt while at Lilom. Honestly, time slowed down to a crawl as you take in the beautiful scenery - I never felt an urge to check my phone. It is definitely the perfect place to escape to for a weekend, no more though because I feel like you'd get bored since all you really do is lounge and snorkel. If you're ever in the region, I highly suggest dropping by for a night or two of pure escape and relaxation!

Friday, September 06, 2013

Open-Faced Sandwiches & Macarons

One weekend, Steph and I went down to the Byward Market and picked up some stuff for lunch. We dropped by La Bottega first. I found out that although Steph was in Ottawa the whole summer, she had never had any of their sandwiches. Sad, isn't it? We picked up some smoked gouda, prosciutto, and house-made porchetta.

I've always wanted to try some of the breads at Le Moulin de Provence. This was a perfect opportunity, so we made our way down the street for some fresh bread. We didn't know what to get, I chose something that resembled a baguette - but wasn't. It was a loaf of batard. It looked great. We brought everything to Lucy and Jimmy's apartment for lunch.

(Side story: I forgot what the bread was called. "Fatarg" kept popping in my head. Google didn't help. It turned it into 'fat arg' so it gave me links with titles like "Why do I feel fat? arg!" Fail. Thanks for remembering the correct name of the bread Lucy!)

Monday, September 02, 2013

Zhong Yuan Jie 中元節 2013


I'll be the first to admit that the history behind our Chinese traditions have been lost on me. I really should have paid more attention to my parents and grandparents when they explained the reasons for certain Chinese holidays and festivals. For example, the family gathered in August for Zhong Yuan Jie (中元節) or the Ghost Festival, but I'm not sure why. Wikipedia tells me that it's the day when the deceased visit the living.


What I do know is that we pray for good health and fortune for the family, and this usually involves a lot of food. I won't go over everything we ate, since we make mostly the same dishes for each festival. As you can see, we had some roast and BBQ meats, fruits, stir fry dishes, drinks, rice, noodles, and desserts.


I'm not sure what this dish is called in English, but it is basically a soy skin spring roll. It's stuffed with ground meat, pepper, and other vegetables, then wrapped in soy skin and deep fried until golden and crispy. Typically, we dip the sliced rolls in black vinegar. It's got quite kick, and isn't in our usual repertoire for festival food.


Clear soup with fish maw, fish balls, napa cabbage, shrimp, wood ear, and ground pork. A staple dish when celebrating at Grandpa's.


This mango roll cake is a family favourite for some reason. I've always found that it was lacking in flavour, sweetness, and texture. If I could modify this dessert, I would swap out the whipped cream filling for mango puree with chunks of fresh mango, and add more mango flavour to the cake itself. I do enjoy its mild fluffiness, which can be very welcoming after a very greasy lunch. It tastes particularly nice with a small cup of strong oolong tea.


While I didn't get to try all of the fruits, the lychee were exceptionally ripe and sweet. They were the first fruits to be devoured, and it certainly made me wish that I had visited Taiwan in the summer, if only to experience tree-ripened lychee. The next Chinese festival will be Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) in September, which usually tends to warrant a much larger feast. We'll be sure to share those yummy eats in the coming weeks!


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