T.Pot China Bistro

I was looking for a place for some good dim sum when a friend recommended T.Pot. I was a bit skeptical because of the rating on Urbanspoon, but sometimes you just trust the source. Dim sum recommended; dinner not so much. We made a reservation; the lineup was out the door. We waited about 15 minutes for a table. Which would have been longer if we didn’t have one. It’s one of those places where speaking a little bit of the language goes a long way.

The food came out hot and in a reasonable amount of time considering that the restaurant was packed. It was at times difficult to flag down a server. We asked for so many chili sauce refills that we should have asked for the bottle.

The char sui so (BBQ pork puff pastry) was good. I also liked the ja leung (fried dough wrapped in rice crepe) that came with satay, hoisin and soy sauces. The har gow (shrimp dumpling) and fried shrimp pastries were tasty.

A+ for the food, expect Chinese style service, which is hurried, loud and at times not good.

L-R: Shrimp pastry, eggplant stuffed with shrimp, fried donut rolled in rice crepe, snow pea shoots in pork broth, Chui Chow fried rice
L-R: Shrimp pastry, eggplant stuffed with shrimp, fried donut rolled in rice crepe, snow pea shoots in pork broth, Chui Chow fried rice


T.Pot China Bistro on Urbanspoon

St Laurent Cake House

Going to Chinatown is a bit out of my way, but I discovered that one of my coworkers is a co-owner of St Laurent. The store had changed ownership in the last couple of years. In the past, I remember fondly that their mango cakes were quite good. I placed an order for my friends’ farewell party. They are moving to California. The cake was freshly made; the classic Chinese style fruit and cream cake. The cake was soft and light, filled with a sweetened whipped cream filling with chunks of mango. Just right, but not overly sweet. It was topped with mango slices and strawberries.  It reminds me of a similar style cake my Mom used to make for our birthdays. I also ordered a couple of their egg tarts which were tasty. I would say that they are a “Cake House” as their cakes are quite good.

Mango cream cake
Mango cream cake
Egg tart
Egg tart

St Laurent Cake House on Urbanspoon

Peanut Butter Pulled Pork

I love slow cookers. They give you time when you don’t have time. I got inspired to make this dish by someone microwaving their lunch at work. It smelled like peanut butter. I love peanut butter. I found this recipe via A Year of Slow Cooking blog. The recipe can be gluten free, if GF soy sauce is used.

The smell of peanut butter overwhelming my house was too much to bear, I kept on sneaking samples as it was cooking. It goes really well with a vinaigrette coleslaw. I didn’t need the bun; I could have ate it on its own. It has a strong peanut flavor, with satay undertones.  Be sure to use the peanut butter that only contains 100% peanuts. No sugar or other additives for a natural taste.  I used blade roast and shoulder butt instead of tenderloin. I shredded it in my Bosch Kitchen Machine. It was doing ok, until it got the parts covered with the connective tissue. I pulled those by hand. It is really moist and tender.

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Ready to shred
Ready to shred

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Pulled pork slider with cabbage slaw and pineapple
Pulled pork slider with cabbage slaw and pineapple

Green Brownies

I’m still working through my pandan paste, so last weekend I tried to make brownies with it. I found a lovely recipe, courtesy of Phamfatale blog.  The taste was really interesting; it tasted more like green tea with a hint of chocolate. I also discovered that when using freshly made pandan paste, I need about three times the amount compared to using a commercial version.

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Escoba Bistro and Wine Bar

The four of us enjoyed a night out at Escoba to sample the Big Taste. We started with an appetizer of apple and fennel salad which was refreshing. My main came out hot, but the jerk chicken was dry. The tastes were good, though.  The place was popular; it was just about full as we were leaving. I would definitely give this place a second chance, hopefully when they are not so busy.

Apple and fennel salad with citrus vinaigrette
Apple and fennel salad with citrus vinaigrette
Jerked Chicken Breast Jamaican rice pilaf, roasted vegetables & pineapple demi-glaze
Jerked Chicken Breast
Jamaican rice pilaf, roasted vegetables & pineapple demi-glaze
Raspberry & lime cheesecake with berry compote Spiced banana & blueberry bread pudding with rum caramel sauce & vanilla ice cream
Raspberry & lime cheesecake with berry compote
Spiced banana & blueberry bread pudding with rum caramel sauce & vanilla ice cream

Escoba Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Coconut Pandan Muffins

Saint Patrick’s day is coming up. I’m thinking shades of green, or what do to with that pandan paste that has been sitting in my freezer. My first experiment, pandan coconut muffins. To be honest, I don’t really know what pandanus leaves taste like. It has a prominent odour, after cooking it reminds me of steaming rice. I’ll have to admit the muffins tasted mostly of coconut with a nice, chewy texture and a ton of green. Tasty.

Pandanus leaves are very popular in southeast Asia. They are used in both savoury and sweet dishes. I thought they were hard to find, until I saw them in the freezer section of Lambda Supermarket. I bought the frozen leaves and blended them into a paste.

For this recipe, I found the amount of pandan paste insufficient. Since I made my own, I kept on adding until the batter turned a nice green colour. I’m guessing it was almost a cup when all was said and done.

The aroma of pandan permeated the house so much, that even hours later, it still smelled like the rice cooker was on all day.

I used the recipe from Rice and Coconut blog and the following conversion for self raising flour.

About to get warm
About to get warm
Pandan paste
Pandan paste
Green, chewy, crumb
Green, chewy, crumb

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Salt, Sugar, and Fat. What's Up With That?

Let me put forth a disclaimer. I am not a nutritionist, a dietician, or a health professional. But I love food and I have a lot of experience cooking and eating. I’d like to talk about what I think is wrong with the way we eat today. For example, it just came out in the news that the WHO is recommending sugar intake to 5% of daily calorie consumption. I’ve also read the book, Salt, Sugar and Fat by Michael Moss. The message is clear. You are what you eat and if it’s a whole lot of the big three then you are in trouble.

Let me expand on my last statement. Food today is much different, from even when I was growing up. We are living in a world of convenience, with processed food everywhere we turn. Processed food, has huge amounts of salt, sugar and fat. Why? So it can sit on the shelves longer, which in turn reduces the price. Salt and sugar are preservatives. If you could even call it food. Think of how many times a day you reach for a processed food product?

I am not saying we should ban processed food. A better balance would be a good start. Don’t get me wrong, I have a sweet tooth and I like convenience too. I think more home cooking would mean healthier eating. Consider if you bought, say a Michelena’s dinner for lunch everyday. Hey, I used to. For example, a package of their spaghetti bolognese has 820mg of sodium. Right on the package, 34% of the recommended daily intake! If you had whipped up a batch of spaghetti at home, there would be much less sodium. What’s in my basic spaghetti sauce? Fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and dried basil. Add some stir fried ground beef seasoned with a little salt and pepper and I’m done. It takes half an hour to make, or less. Boiling pasta included.

If you could imagine, and some people do, eat processed food for every single meal and snack. That is why there is a problem. When I grew up, we used to have family dinner every night. At least one meal in the day that was home cooked. I’m not even sure if people have family dinner anymore.

People need to learn basic cooking skills. Spend a few hours on the weekend preparing a meal and then freeze the leftovers for lunch. I batch cook every weekend (I’m not expecting everyone to) and have a rotation of freezer meals I use for lunch. Even eating 2 home cooked meals for lunch instead of eating out, frozen dinners or snacking from the desk drawer is an improvement. How about finding like minded friends and batch cook a number of dishes to share?

The thing about home cooking is, that you control what you put into it. There are no strange ingredients that you can’t pronounce and you control the amount of salt, sugar and fat.

There are times when I don’t have time. I’ve gone away for the weekend and have nothing for lunches and dinner the coming week. It’s ok, no one is perfect. If you fall off the wagon once in a while, get up again. For these moments, I usually dig into the freezer or order some ready to heat dinners from local suppliers. They are usually much healthier then frozen dinners. I used to buy my ready to heat meals from The Liberated Cook, but they are no longer in business.  The Main Dish sells these types of meals. Also what is wrong with a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner? Nothing, if made with local bread, like Prairie Mill bread and some unprocessed cheese (not processed cheese slices). Add a salad and you’re all set!

Invest in a slow cooker. Nothing like putting in the ingredients before work and having dinner ready when you get home.

Try to buy local and in season. I subscribe to Eagle Creek CSA in the summer for my fresh vegetables. I do a lot of salad, veggie stirfry and BBQ in the summer. Easy peasy.  There seems to be a CSA for everything these days. Eggs, grains and meat.  I used to buy my meat from Ravenwood Farms, but they are no longer in business. These days, I get delivery from SPUD, buy from Master Meats or the Farmer’s Market for locally and consciously raised meats. I do get lazy and still buy supermarket pork and poultry. I only eat naturally raised beef.  Also, Spolumbos makes good sausage!

Slow down. Make the time to cook and enjoy a meal. Not everyday after work am I running off to an evening activity. Make good food a priority. You are what you eat.


Vegetable Manchurian

I’ve never had Indo Chinese food until I went to a South Indian restaurant last week. It is fascinating to me; Indian food using Chinese cooking techniques.  Much of this kind of cuisine is deep fried, with gravy, like this recipe.  It tastes like Chinese food, but with undertones of Indian spices and heat.  Manchurian style is a sauce that is flavoured with soy and a spicy kick. There is also chow mein and fried rice.

I used the recipe from 365 Days of Eating Blog, but I needed to make adjustments to the recipe as the veggie balls were too watery and the gravy too thin. The original recipe called for corn flour, so I used corn meal. In hindsight, I suspected it should have been corn starch.

For the Manchurian balls

2 cups                  finely chopped cabbage
2 cups                  very finely chopped mix of carrots, cauliflower, parsley or whatever you have
4 tablespoons    corn starch
2 tablespoons    all-purpose flour (may need more if too liquid)
2 tablespoons    dark soy sauce
Dash                    chilli sauce
1/2 teaspoon     black pepper
Oil to fry

For the gravy

2 cups                   water
4 tablespoons     corn starch
1/2 cup                 chopped green onions with stalks
6-7 cloves             garlic
1 inch                    knob of ginger grated
1/2 teaspoon       red chili flakes
2-3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon           vinegar
1 tablespoon       red chili sauce
1 tablespoon       tomato ketchup
1/2 teaspoon      pepper
Dash                    sugar
1 tablespoon       oil

In a bowl mix all the ingredients to form the manchurian balls. It should be a little damp to touch and should form a ball when pressed in hand. Take a fistful and bind tightly to shape the mixture into 1 inch balls. If the mixture is too dry to bind, add an additional teaspoon of water. If the mixture falls apart, add more corn starch or flour and squeeze out some moisture as balls are made.

Heat oil in a wok and deep fry the balls on low- medium heat till they are golden brown. These balls can be eaten as a snack with a side of ketchup or sweet and sour sauce.

In another wok, heat a tablespoon of oil. Add the onions (keep aside some greens for garnish), garlic and ginger and sauté on high heat. Add the spices, sauces and water and bring to a boil. Check for salt and add as necessary as the soy sauce will also add salt to the dish.

Just before serving, take out ¼ cup of the liquid, cool slightly and dissolve the corn starch in it. Add to the gravy and bring to a boil while stirring. Heat till the gravy has a shine to it.

Then add the balls to to the gravy and garnish with the onion greens.

Serve hot with Chinese Fried Rice or steamed rice.

To make a dry manchurian, reduce the quantity of water to ¾ cup, corn flour to ½ tablespoon and then proceed as above.

Recipe inspired by 365 Days of Eating.

All the ingredients
All the ingredients

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Deep fried goodness
Deep fried goodness

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