Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pho Tien Thanh: The Soup

There are some great perks to living downtown and being able to walk to some lovely dining options is certainly one of them. VN and KN both live just outside of Toronto's core around the Ossington neighbourhood. Yup -- that's the same place as Libretto (aka the best Neapolitan pizza I've had), but that's not what I want to talk about now. I want to talk about this small shop, Pho Tien Thanh, which is just down the street from Libretto.

VN and I walked to the pho restaurant and smelled their lovely broth about five feet away from their door. Once we took a step inside, the fragrant smell of BBQ'd pork (thit nuong) filled our nostrils. At that point, I knew we were in for a tasty dinner. The smell just invoked all the good memories of having Mom's BBQ pork. Our winter this year was very long, to say the least, and it seems like it was years ago since I had her marinated pork. We luckily got there just as the dinner rush was finishing up and so we were seated immediately in the restaurant.

I couldn't decide if I wanted to deviate from ordering pho or actually change it up and try the bún with the thit nuong. Either way, I knew it was going to be tasty. In the end, I stuck to my guns and went with the small rare beef, beef balls and well-done beef pho. Once my bowl arrived, I took a sip of the soup. The aromatics were there without being overpowering. It had none of that strong cinnamon taste like most of the pho in Ottawa's Chinatown. The soup wasn't overly sweet either. Most of the beef was actually still uncooked, which is a huge bonus! You could order some rare beef on a plate and then add it into your soup yourself for $2. I think it's unnecessary in this case though. Only the thin slices that was touching the hot soup had cooked. When I separated the slices, they cooked gently in the soup. I was thrilled that the beef was actually rare by the time it arrived.

This was the bun thit nuong cha gio that VN had ordered. We both liked how their cha gio was made with rice paper. It's the legit stuff. (For those who don't know, VN is Vietnamese. Like I said. Legit stuff.)

We washed it down with some cooling beverages. A refreshing coconut water with young coconut meat for VN and an iced Vietnamese coffee for myself. In our excitement to order, we accidently ordered the coconut water instead of the coconut slush had originally wanted.

The Asian Pear told me that if I wanted to have the best pho, I'd have to choose between two different pho establishments in Toronto: one with the slippery fresh noodles or one with an outstanding broth. Pho Tien Thanh is the latter. I wonder how their other dishes taste. The cash-only restaurant is open for business from 11am to 10pm everyday, so you have no excuses not to try out this place. I know I'll be returning in the future.

Pho Tien Thanh on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 23, 2014

Edamame Bruschetta


While going back through my Instagram wall, I noticed that I had forgotten to write about this beauty. Back before Christmas, Vanna found a recipe for edamame bruschetta that she wanted to try out for her Xmas party. The recipe that we skimmed through was Honest Vanilla's rendition. Since we didn't closely follow the recipe, I recommend that you head over there to see the accurate measurements.

Here's the gist of the ingredients we used: frozen shelled edamame (that happened to be on sale -- bonus!), a whole whack of mint leaves, some garlic cloves, olive oil, chili flakes, salt, and black pepper. To make it fancy, we added so me oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and some charred green onions.

We started off by getting the edamame boiled. While that was doing it's thing, chopped mint was added to some chili flakes, olive oil, and minced garlic.

We also popped in some cherry tomatoes that were tossed in olive oil, and a bit of salt and black pepper. I also threw in a few cloves of garlic to make things interesting. Once the edamame was soft enough, we blended it until it had some texture and then seasoned it lightly with S&P. The final touch was charring some green onions in a bit of olive oil.

I'll be the first admit: me and vegetables don't get along very well. Despite our relationship, I loved these bruschetta! First off, you get the charred green onion character and then the sweetness of the tomatoes jumps in. Then the not-entirely-smooth edamame mix joins the party with the mint, followed by a hint of garlic and then the french bread. It was harmonious. This edamame bruschetta will definitely be making more appearances in the future. And whether you blend the edamame into a smoother mix or leave it with a bit of texture, I'm sure you'll enjoy this appetizer for lunch or even dinner. Hell, you could even turn this into a breakfast sandwich with some eggs!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Picnic Lunch at Trinity Bellwoods Park



Today was a much-needed sunny and warm day. Although I was in Toronto for the past week, I had to get out and do something earlier today. I needed to keep busy.

Lunch was found at Clafouti Patisserie et Café. We: DG, VN, and myself, picked up some things at Clafouti and crossed the street to the busy Trinity Bellwoods Park. I really enjoyed the atmosphere there. The sakura trees still had some flowers, birds were singing away, dogs were having a blast, and people were just relaxing at the park -- it was a great atmosphere.

We found a spot in the park and ate lunch. I went with the Lana Del Rey panini. It was really exciting. There were so many flavours that complimented one another with every bite; the creaminess of the garlic lemon aioli, the burst of fried onion flavour, thinly sliced pork, and sweet bun. It was so good that I wanted another one after I devoured it. VN had a nice pulled pork panini (sans the cheese). DG had a surprisingly tasty grilled veg croissantwhich. The only complaint was that we didn't want the sandwiches to finish.

We also picked up a butter croissant and almond croissant from Clafouti. We liked that the croissants were sturdier and flakier than Le Moulin de Provence's rendition.

DG said that we had to get macarons from Nadège Patisserie since we were in the area. That was perfectly fine with me.

Side notes: We heard so many comments like, "these macaroons look amazing,"and "they have the best macaroons here!" Please. They're called macarons. Macaroons are the coconut things.

Also, why is it that everyone seems to know how to make macarons? The trend bugs me. Partially cause I can't make them.


These are my trio: mint chocolate chip (in the red), pistachio, and matcha macaron. I enjoyed the latter two. DG and VN both went with the salted caramel. Wise choices. I'll be getting the salted caramel next time. We happily soaked in the warm sun before I had to catch the train back home. Thanks for the lunch date ladies! It really meant a lot to me.

Clafouti on Urbanspoon

Nadege Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Sfiha: Another Spin on Meat Pie

These were the finished product of my version of the Lebanese meat pies. We didn't have all of the ingredients in some of the recipes I found -- shocking, I know -- and so I just relied on the smell and the taste of the meat topping. This was the first time I made it, so I was a little worried about the final product.

Before I mixed the meat, I whipped up a double-batch of a yeast dough recipe I found. It almost had a 1:1 ratio of water to oil. The dough was wrapped up and allowed to rise. Then I focused my attention to the meat.

These were some of the ingredients in there: ground beef, ketchup, salt, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, and diced tomatoes. Legit, I know.

Once the dough was allowed to rise after a few hours, the dough was divided into portions, rolled out, and topped with the meat mixture. We don't have a pizza stone or anything, so I turned one of our oven pans upside down and used that as a cook top in the oven. We didn't have a pizza peel either, so I looked around the house and just used a long piece of cardboard from our Mama Instant Noodles. The cardboard was then wrapped with tin foil. Although it looked funny, it worked.

They didn't take longer than 10 minutes each. Once out of the oven, they were allowed to cool before being devoured. We probably ate half of what we made. The sfiha actually tasted similar to the real stuff at the Aladdin Bakery. The dough turned out like a crispy crumb crust, which reminded me of Joe's Pizza's aromatic crumbly dough. They were so addictive!


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