Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blogger Meet @ Alvin Garden

Yes, that's my attempt at drawing a pepper. Why, you ask?

At someone's urging (no.names.mentioned-ahem-Sherman!), even though I don't have any content, I am posting about a Vancouver food blogger dinner I attended. Of course, I didn't have a camera on me, and hence, no pictures.

The chili pepper? We ate Hunan food (read: spicy) and there were a lot of chili peppers peppering our dishes.

Follow the links to read their accounts of the dinner, and more importantly, to look at great images of the food! There were at least 4 DSLRs being whipped out as each dish arrived.

604foodtography: Alvin Garden - Burnaby, BC
La Petite Vancouver: Alvin Garden
Ho Yummy: Review: Alvin Garden
I'm Only Here for the Food!: Bloggers Dinner @ Alvin Garden
Sherman's Food Adventures: Alvin Garden
The Best Damn Food Blog There Is™: Bloggers are people too

Also in attendance:
Doesn't Tazte Like Chicken

This was great fun. I'm still wondering about the kooky name for the restaurant, though. Looking forward to the next dinner! (Will Sherman organize the next one again? All in favor, say "aye.")

Now, back to our regular scheduled programming.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Taipei Quick Eats: Mos Burger, Hong Ya Breakfast, Ay Chung Flour-Rice Noodle

Yakiniku Rice Burger

Another Taipei post only three months after the fact! Must be some sort of new record for speediest travel post.

Speaking of speed, here are some quick eats from Taipei. (I know, I know, bad segue.)

MOS Burger

MOS Burger is a fast food chain originating from Japan. The first time I saw one during the trip, it was a very small kiosk in a metro station. They didn't seem to have a menu with any descriptions that time, so I didn't know what was going on and decided to get food from a different place.

But, we happened to see another location again some time after that and seeing this poster, we felt we could make somewhat "educated" choices.

MOS is probably famous for their Rice Burger, so we definitely had to order one. For our other combo meal, we decided to test their plain hamburger.

The combo comes with a drink and a choice of some other item. We chose fries. The burger was quite small, viewed from a North American point of view. Not sure if it's detectible from the photo above, but it fit nicely within the palm of my hand. Also, we weren't sure, but the patty may have been made from a combination of ground beef and pork.

Teehee, I think it's just me, but I really got a kick out of the packet above. For our other fries + something combo, we chose the fried chicken breast.

Those instructions were for how to use the wrapper to hold your chicken so you don't have to mess up your hands.

Finally, the Rice Burger. We chose the Yakiniku Rice Burger (grilled beef strips). As one may have gathered from the name, the "bun" is made from rice. This was actually quite good. To put it simply, it's like eating sukiyaki beef over rice (very nice), but in a portable form!

MOS Burger Taiwan

Hong Ya Breakfast & Lunch

On our way to the National Palace Museum (an excellent museum, by the way), we decided to grab something to eat for breakfast. However, it seemed that Taipei doesn't wake up until 11am! It's very difficult to find anyplace open at the late morning hour of 10am, let alone earlier.

The only place we could find was a Taiwanese bakery, but I wasn't in the mood for it. JS bought a pork floss bun, but I wanted something else. Good thing we walked past Hong Ya. As there were a few people who were ordering from the counter, I figured this was a safe bet.

It was a little bit of a challenge ordering as the menu was in Chinese. I could tell that a certain item was "chicken", for example, but could discern nothing else. So, I pointed to a "chicken" bun item on a fairly large poster. The woman asked if I wanted an egg in it. Oooooh, I certainly did.

Don't be fooled by its homely appearance. This was actually quite good; it definitely hit the spot.

The reason: this was "real" food, unlike fast food in North America. There is my real marinated chicken on the griddle, beside my fried egg.

Sorry for the partially eaten sandwich there. I just realized I didn't get a shot of my meal. It came with an iced coffee drink (nothing to write home about). There in the background is JS' pork floss bun.

Ay Chung Flour-Rice Noodle, Since 1975

We were walking around the Xi Men Ding (西門町) pedestrian area one evening, full from a very late "lunch"/mid-afternoon snack (of beef noodle soup), and whiling away some time before meeting cousins for dinner (at Din Tai Fung), when we saw the scene above.

There were a bunch of people just loitering the streets, eating some sort of noodle dish. We didn't think much of it, seeing as we didn't really have any room for food.

However, we passed by once again after forty-five minutes or so, and, seeing that there were still a lot of people enjoying their noodles, I decided to get one.

Flour-rice noodles turned out to be a type of misua noodles. After a quick look on Wikipedia, I assume that this is the "brown" misua, and my bowl is one of oyster "vermicelli" (or more accurately, oyster noodle threads).


There were three condiments available: a chili thing, a garlicky thing, and I don't quite remember the third one... could it be soy sauce-based? Or vinegar? I simply added a bit of each.

So, was that crowd warranted? Well, I thought the dish was "OK" (not bad), but I didn't feel a special affinity for it. Frankly, though, I don't remember much about it. Perhaps there was just such a crowd because Ay-Chung uses real bowls, so customers had to eat it right there.

I turned to my friend AL (whose wedding it was that I attended in Taipei) and asked for more information about this "flour-rice noodle" dish. She, in turn, although already having the said information, had it confirmed by her mother!

AL said that when she asked her mother about it, her mother was very vague and then countered with, "Why do you want to know?" AL explained I was asking, in which case, her mother replied: "Oh, then in that case, this and this and blah blah blah goes in..."

Haha. It's nice to know I have some pull with her mother. ;D

Apparently, the stock is each restaurant's secret. For this dish, small oysters are key (not humongous ones) and at times, pork intestines are also added.

AL also wrote that the best complement to this dish is stinky tofu! I must admit, JS and I didn't try any stinky tofu during the trip. In fact, we haven't had stinky tofu ever. I guess we were too afraid. ;)

Oh, fyi, according to AL, Ay Chung is definitely not a good place to get this oyster/pork intestine noodle threads dish.

Taiwan trip 2009
Taiwanese Bakery Goods (including ChiaTe Bakery)
Dan Shui 淡水, Taiwan (including food)
Taipei Quick Eats: Mos Burger, Hong Ya Breakfast, Ay Chung Flour-Rice Noodle
Taipei Convenience Store Foods
Shilin Night Market 士林夜市 (Taipei, Taiwan)
Breakfast Buffet at the Shangri-La (Taipei, Taiwan)
Taiwan Beef Noodle Soup, 4 versions (Taipei, Taiwan)
Yehliu 野柳 Geopark; Dried Seafood (Taiwan)

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Italian Skinless Sausages, the meal

The inspiration for today's meal was fennel.

I had a couple of bulbs lying wait in the fridge and was at a loss to prepare them. I had plans for a pasta dish with fennel or a pork loin with fennel. . . in the end, the best-laid plans having gone awry, I opted to simply chop up the fennel bulbs and sauté the slices.

As I was getting ready to cook the fennel, I suddenly thought how lonely the fennel dish was going to be. We don't usually eat fennel! You might wonder why I picked up a couple of bulbs in the first place, and you wonder appropriately, but that is a topic for another day.

My lonely fennel needed a companion, a help-meet.

I put on my thinking cap and dreamed of Italian sausages in a bun with the sautéed fennel as a topping. Fortunately, we had some ground pork in the fridge and our spice cupboard was well-stocked.

Making the Italian sausages were not going to be a problem -- or at least, there weren't any material impediments to my making of the sausages, albeit they would just have to be skinless sausages because we did not have casings in the house.

In my dreams, I also thought of a balsamic-tomato-onion relish for my sausages, but that was a little too ambitious, considering I also had to make some skinless Filipino longganisa for the rest of the family.

Do you not sense a recurring theme here? First, it was the pork barbecue skewers gatecrashing our Korean bulgogi party. Now, Filipino longganisa. Ah, these are the trials and tribulations of preparing meals for picky people! ;) Doubles my work!

Self-Sautéed Fennel

That is why you'll see I even cheated on the fennel slices and didn't sauté them on the stovetop. I simply put them on a tray with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic and let them "sauté" themselves on the grill with the sausages.

They're self-sautéed.

Italian Skinless Sausages

The sausages turned out very well and there was enough Italian flavour in them to make me happy.

before and after

They weren't aggressively Italian though, so if you're looking for something more fierce, then I would double the amount of fennel, bay, and oregano in the recipe.

The sausages looked lonely sitting on a bun; that didn't look right for this meal.

Arugula Spinach Pesto on Penne

TS made this pasta dish with arugula and spinach pesto, and we also had some leftover arugula and spinach leaves that we lightly dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. They seem more fitting companions to our skinless Italian sausages.

The Plate

It was quite a full plate and this meal left me very satisfied.

Italian Skinless Sausages

2 pounds ground pork
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground fennel
1/2 tsp ground bay
4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp pepper flakes
1 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt

Mix everything together in a bowl and form into sausages of desired girth and length. Pan-fry or grill.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Arugula Spinach Pesto on Penne

For some reason, we had two bins of arugula and spinach mix languishing in the fridge. I think perhaps it was supposed to be used for a gathering, but obviously never was.

In any case, we didn't think we could eat all that as "salads", especially since their demise seemed fast-approaching, so we had to think of a way to use up the whole bunch quickly.

Why not a pesto? That definitely needs a whackload of greens.

No recipe here. I simply buzzed together the arugula and spinach with a lot of garlic, some lemon juice, salt, and extra-virgin olive oil. I added some pine nuts as well.

For some reason, I reached for the blender instead of the food processor, resulting in a very smooth pesto (instead of the usual pesto texture I'm used to). But, it wasn't bad at all and it grew on me. Who can resist its electric green color?

I tossed some penne with the arugula spinach pesto, and topped it with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Perfect for a light meal.

But as you know, light meals seem to be impossible in our household. So, lookee there in the background. What is that? That post is coming up next.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Warm Wakame Cucumber Salad

One day, there were a couple of cucumbers staring me in the face.

In our household, only CSC has a special affinity for raw cucumbers. She raves about their "refreshing" and "crunchy" nature. They just seem very watery and tasteless to me. JS actually describes the taste as "wet rag." ;)

We usually make Greek salad when we have cucumbers as I find them more acceptable when "cooked" by the acid in Greek salad and flavored by the olives and feta. Besides using them for Greek salad, however, our repertoire of cucumber dishes is quite limited.

So, I turned to Bittman. Thumbing through The Best Recipes in the World, I saw a recipe for "Seaweed Salad with Cucumber and Chicken or Shrimp". This Japanese dish called for dressing the seaweed (wakame) and cucumber with a soy sauce-rice vinegar-mirin-sesame dressing.

Oooh, seaweed! Oooh, the dressing! Oooh, sesame seeds! Then, oh. Cucumbers. I just imagined the nice flavors being diluted by the watery cucumbers. So, since I actually enjoy cooked cucumbers a lot, I decided to make this a warm salad!


Wakame seaweed comes dried and is simply reconstituted in some water.

So I did that first, then drained them and squeezed out the excess water. I cut the wakame into bite-size pieces.

I also sliced a red onion and diced those cucumbers.


To make my warm salad, I heated up some oil in the wok. I added the slightest amount of chili flakes, then the sliced red onions and diced cucumbers. The dressing ingredients went in next: soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar and sesame oil. When the cucumbers lost their rawness (but not mushy), I added the wakame, gave everything a quick stir, then shut off the heat. Sesame seeds went in last.

Oh, that's right, I didn't bother with the chicken or shrimp.

This was great! I love wakame, and I love cooked cucumber. It was quite popular at the table.

[eatingclub] Japanese
Dashi, Three Types
Potatoes Simmered in Miso (Jaga-imo Miso-ni)
Simmered Saba Mackerel with Daikon Radish (Saba Oroshi-ni)
Miso Soup
Steelhead Trout and Enoki Mushrooms with Wasabi Cream Sauce
Grilled Brats à la Japadog
Warm Wakame Cucumber Salad
Grilled Eggplant with Sweet Miso

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Warm Wakame Cucumber Salad
adapted from
The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman
Makes 8 servings

2 ounces wakame or assorted seaweed
2 medium cucumbers, diced (peeled if thick-skinned)
1 small red onion, sliced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
chili flakes, to taste
salt, to taste
sesame seeds, for garnish

Rinse wakame. Soak wakame in a generous amount of water for 5 minutes, until tender. Drain, gently squeeze out excess moisture, and chop/cut up into bite-size pieces.

In a wok, heat oil over high heat. Add chili flakes (if using) and sliced red onion. Cook for a few seconds.

Add diced cucumbers and the dressing ingredients: soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin and sesame oil. Cook cucumbers until desired doneness. Add the wakame. Season to taste and garnish with sesame seeds. Serve warm or room temperature.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chicken "Saltimbocca"

This post was selected as Best of the Web by SAVEUR.com!

I had a craving for somethin-saltimbocca the other day and the easiest thing to have jump in my mouth was some chicken breasts left over from the weekly butchery.

This is a fairly straightforward recipe and everybody can do it.

As a matter of fact, I caught the episode of Jamie's Ministry of Food where Jamie Oliver taught this dish to people who have never cooked before, which they have been able to replicate in 10 minutes. He called it "chicken prosciutto," because he used a bunch of different herbs in between the chicken and prosciutto.

I chose to do the traditional sage and prosciutto combination for my meal. Our garden is not thriving this year, but the sage plant we planted a couple of months ago seemed to be adapting well enough. I picked a handful of leaves from the plant.

The dish came together pretty quickly. You don't even need a recipe for this dish, because it really is very, very straightforward.

Step 1: Unlike our previous adventure with chicken breasts (Chicken Marsala), I actually pounded each breast this time to make its thickness even.

Step 2: Then, I placed a single sage leaf in the center of each piece and sprinkled some of the chopped up leaves around -- because, you know, I wanted to get the sage flavour with each bite.

Step 3: Put the prosciutto over the top and...

Step 4: Place down in the pan. After a bit, flip.

And that was that. I did not even need to salt the chicken breast because the prosciutto is quite salty.

"The Succulence"

I believe saltimbocca comes with a butter-y, wine-y sauce, but really, this was already very good as is, that we didn't even feel the need to make one.

Look at how succulent that chicken turned out. These had no trouble "jumping into our mouths" at all.

We served this with some simply sautéed kale and called it a meal.

(Gratuitous Saltimbocca Images)

"The Rocket"

"The Beetle"

"The Plate"

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