Kale chips for tea? Vegan High Tea @ Indigo Food Cafe

Raw Vegan High Tea Dessert Time: My favourite was the coconut cream pie (raw whole coconut, dates, vanilla, salt, lemon)

I love Afternoon Tea; it’s one of those English customs which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed from the days when I was still living in Hong Kong.  This afternoon delight seems to have gained much popularity here in Vancouver; gone were the days when there were limited offerings of this service as in recent years quite a few unique tea houses have sprouted throughout the Lower Mainland; it is a wonderful way to spend an easy weekend afternoon with girlfriends.

Two weekends ago on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I shared a very unique high tea experience with three lovely ladies (Thanks Deb M, Jo Jo and Mavis) at the Indigo Food Cafe on West 16th Avenue (and Trafalgar Street).   The idea of trying out a raw vegan meal is definitely a novelty for me; this experience was ultimately curiosity driven! As I’m not familiar with vegan dining, I can only tell you my overall impression and what I’ve enjoyed at this quaint and wholesome little place.

Deb M made reservations (recommended especially on weekends due to limited seating) and ordered our Raw High Tea Sets.  Listed as extra service on the menu, it must be ordered and confirmed in advance.  The set is a great way to get a taste of their menu, just as regular high tea offerings at other establishments, we each choose our tea from their organic and fair trade loose leaf teas selection.

The bite size delicacies were served in the traditional three tiers: with the savouries on the bottom and sweets on top.  When the owner presented our food, we were taken back!  All the items, especially the desserts, do not look raw at all!  Visually they are very pretty as the colours are vibrant, and the play on texture shows a lot of thought has been given to the entire creative process. We enjoyed the whole foods in their natural state; overall the use of ingredients and combination of flavours are sharp yet tasty.

We had kale chips (picture not shown),  my favourite savoury items were the buckwheat crepe (the only cooked item) and the stuffed mushroom;

Buckwheat crepe with enoki mushrooms and sprouts
Stuffed mushroom (with cashews, lemon juice, garlic, red star nutritional yeast

As for desserts, I could have done with a bit less and finding most of them too sweet for my liking (it’s a personal preference).  However I did enjoy immensely the coconut cream pie (picture in header) and their fresh in-house made fruit and yogurt cup.

Organic raw fermented coconut cashew yogurt with raw sprouted granola and seasonal fruit

The service was very attentive, the owner also took her time to explain each item and describe the ingredients (actually listed on menu), they truly took pride in their work and they should! Afterwards I chatted with the owner briefly to obtain more information on their classes which are taught on site (schedule available online); I am definitely looking into attending a class (Jo Jo Let’s go!) sometime in the future.

I went with no expectations and the overall experience was filled with pleasant little surprises; perhaps this was the first time I didn’t feel guilty after having “cheesecake”..(OO)


Indigo Food Cafe – 2589 West 16th Avenue (at Trafalgar), Vancouver, BC.

Dairy and Gluten Free, Diabetic and Vegan Friendly; Reservations recommended and required for Afternoon Tea; Metered parking available on West 16th, free parking available on side streets. Attentive service, pricing for tea service is comparable, reasonable portions. Open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 8pm, Menu, cooking classes information and pricing available on their own website (http://www.indigofood.org/)  

Indigo Food Cafe on Urbanspoon

Indigo Food Cafe on Urbanspoon

Volunteer at Vancouver Farmer’s Market


Hey Vancouverites: Do you know the Winter Farmer’s Market has started since November 02nd, 2013? It is located at the East Parking Lot of the Nat Bailey Stadium (by Queen Elizabeth Park/HillCrest Community Centre).

To show my continued support for the Vancouver Farmer’s Market,  I officially became a volunteer as of October 2013 and I had my first stint as the Market Host on the last day of the Kitslano Farmers market.  I applied online and attended the orientation in September at the office located in East Vancouver; after completion of orientation, we can sign up for different shifts and postings online.

So what did I do exactly as a Market Host?  I followed the instructions from the friendly crew: posting signs, gave directions and answered questions, fill in for a few vendors (who worked alone) when they needed a break and made a few sales for them!  It was all “on the job training” and certainly lots of information to remember; I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and met some wonderful people, both vendors and crew/staff from organization.  I definitely look forward to learn more and show my support to help develop a sustainable local food system!

For this winter season, I have signed on a few shifts at the Nat Bailey location (Saturdays till April 2014) and Yaletown market (Thursdays until December 19th 2013 only). Come by to say hello, shop and support our local markets (OO).  See you around!

For more information about Vancouver Farmer’s Market and volunteering: http://www.eatlocal.org/

RECIPE: Gemelli Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Onion-Anchovy Sauce

Simple pasta dish with lots of flavour

I am going through a major “cauliflower phase”.…Roast, steam or even eaten raw, it’s currently my favourite vegetable (last month was kale).  I was searching for different ways to turn this cruciferous vegetable into an entrée; Inspired by one of Lidia Bastianich’s recipes (Bigoli with onion anchovy sauce), I added the roasted cauliflower to the sauce and toss with gemelli pasta.  As this is my own recipe, the measurements are approximate; always adjust according to your own taste and dietary needs.

Ingredients: (Serves 2)

1 head cauliflower, 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic (finely minced), 1 small onion (finely sliced half-moon), 4 to 6 anchovy fillets (in oil, drained, finely chopped), 1/2 cup hot low sodium organic chicken broth, 120 g gemelli pasta, freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt


– Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, lined roasting pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil

Roasted cauliflower

– Clean cauliflower and cut off the stems and leaves (discard); Cut the cauliflower into half, then slice florets and stalks into bite size. Place cauliflower in roasting pan, toss with 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and half of minced garlic, season with salt (lightly) and fresh ground black pepper.  Roast until golden and tender, approximately 25 minutes, turning half way.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain.

– To make the anchovy sauce: Set the large skillet on medium high heat, add 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, stir in onions and remaining garlic, season with sprinkle of salt; let onions cook slowly. After 15 to 20 minutes, the onions will become golden and edge with brown, add the chopped anchovies, raise the heat, cook and stir until anchovies melt.

– Pour in the stock, bring to a bubbling boil; season generously with fresh ground black pepper and adjust salt to taste (add only if necessary – *anchovies are salty).  Remove from heat, return to simmer before you add the gemelli and cauliflower.

–  Cook the gemelli according to package instructions, until nearly al dente in boiling salted water.

– Toss the pasta and cauliflower into the simmering sauce; mix together for a minute in order to finish cooking and coat the pasta and cauliflower evenly. Turn off the heat, toss in the chopped parsley and serve immediately.  Enjoy (OO)!


The choice of pasta is my own personal preference.

It’s also a personal preference to have more vegetables than pasta. I adjusted the measurements of the original recipe accordingly and skipped the butter.  For the original recipe for the sauce: http://www.lidiasitaly.com/recipes/detail/885.

RECIPE: Wafu “Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti” with shimeji mushrooms and bacon

Wafu “Spaghetti Squash” Spaghetti

We love Japanese “yoshoku” (Japanese style western food); there is always an abundance of Japanese ingredients in my pantry. This style of cuisine is very popular in Vancouver and there are few restaurants which serve this style of dishes. It is also very easy to find the ingredients to make our own version at home.  More than a week ago I was discussing this topic with my twin “Green Apron”, I decided to make my own version and added my own twist, Baked Spaghetti Squash.  Mushrooms and Squash are in season now; with this version we can enjoy more vegetables and feel just as satiated.  This is a homemade and light recipe, all measurements are approximate; always adjust according to your own taste and dietary concerns.

Ingredients (serves 2 – 4)

1 medium spaghetti squash (yields approx. 2 cups), 150 g pasta (1 cup cooked – spaghettini or angel hair), 2 strips of bacon (small bite size, I used organic), 3 cloves of garlic (minced), 1 small onion (thinly sliced),  2 packages of shimeji mushrooms (I used organic bunashimeji, approximately 300 grams), 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 1/2 Tablespoons Dashi Soy Sauce, 1 1/2 Tablespoons Japanese Soy Sauce (I used low sodium organic), sake (one teaspoon), salt, shichimi togarashi**optional (Japanese seven flavoured chili powder) and/or black pepper **optional to taste, bonito flakes (katsuoboshi, handful), seaweed strips (handful)


– Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees (F)

Almost ready to scrape and scoop!

– Clean spaghetti squash and cut it in half (sharp knife required and be careful!), remove the seeds; place squash on baking sheet (lined with foil), cut side down.  Pre-cut squash cooks faster, baked until it’s done takes approximately 35 minutes.  Let the squash cool about 10 minutes then using a fork, scrape the sides of the squash lengthwise, scoop them out and place them in a bowl, set aside.  Handle with care as they are fragile.

– For shimeji mushrooms, slice about 1/2 inch off the cluster (discard) and separate them.

– Cook pasta in salted water (do not over salt) according to instructions, or until al dente

– Using deep skillet, Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and lightly saute the bacon (for this recipe, the bacon is not crispy), remove bacon from pan and set aside;

– Using the same pan (with bacon oil and adjust the heat to high, add remaining olive oil, then onions, stirring occasionally and cook until lightly browned

– Add mushrooms, garlic and sake (just a splash), cook for approximately 2 to 3 minutes (you can hear the squeaky sound but no liquid release, fully cook mushrooms without browning), return bacon to pan, add half the dashi soy, season with black pepper (lightly).

– Lower the flame to medium, add cooked pasta to mixture, using tongs, toss well for a minute or two ; then gently incorporate the spaghetti squash, add remaining dashi soy and soy sauce, mix well.  Season with more soy sauce (if necessary to taste, black pepper and/or shichimi (optional).

– To serve, garnish with seaweed and bonito flakes. Enjoy!


– Most of the Japanese ingredients can now be purchased at supermarkets or your local Japanese food stores (Vancouverites can visit Fujiya on Clark in East Vancouver or Izumi-ya on Alderbridge Way in Richmond).  Here in Vancouver Dashi Soy is only available at Japanese food stores.  For a healthier version and if you have time, you can prepare your own dashi soy; some other home cooks use tsuyu (Japanese noodle dipping sauce) as substitute.  To make it entirely vegetarian, skip the bacon.

– Instead of olive oil, using butter will add more flavour and round off the dish very nicely as it goes well with shimeji mushrooms.

– To keep it “wafu” style, you can omit the “heat” (no black pepper/shichimi), it’s a personal choice.

– Using the spaghetti squash is my own preference; at Cafe de L’Orangerie (1320 West 73rd Avenue, Vancouver), they add Japanese cabbage and use more pasta.  Do not over bake the squash as it gets mushy; I have yet to master the cooking time and scooping technique to get long strands (OO)

– There are many varieties of Japanese style spaghetti; you can find more recipes on Cookpad and elsewhere on the Internet, there are cooking demos on Youtube.

RECIPE: Butter Lettuce Wedges with Mimosa Vinaigrette


For this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, I served this old-fashioned salad with smoked salmon on a platter; it was simply delicious.  I love this salad so much and I made it again tonight for dinner..

Ingredients: (Serves 6)

3 small heads Butter Lettuce, 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard, 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 Tablespoon shallot (finely chopped), 1 large egg (hardboiled and peeled), kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.


– Trim the bases of the lettuce heads and remove any damaged leaves.  Cut each head through the core into four wedges; rinse under cold water, shake gently to get rid of excess water, set the wedges on a clean dishcloth to drain, cut side down.

– In a bowl, whisk lemon juice and mustard.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, whisk in the olive oil in a slow steady stream.  Stir in parsley and shallot.

– Separate the egg white from the yolk; using the back of a spoon, press the white through a fine sieve, repeat with the yolk.  Stir the egg into the dressing and taste for seasoning.

– For individual serving, arrange two lettuce wedges on salad plate and spoon dressing over them; serve immediately.


Adapted from Fine Cooking Thanksgiving Cookbook

For this recipe, I used the beautiful and tasty “living Butter lettuce” (roots still attached) by Windset Farms (https://www.windsetfarms.com/).  The mimosa vinaigrette is so delicious, I think it goes well with smoked salmon, prawns or avocados.

Preparation is simple and you can prep all ingredients ahead. A great tip from Fine Cooking: hard-boil the egg at least one day in advance as it’s easier to peel.

Did you know Butter lettuce is also known as Boston or Bibb lettuce?

For large hard-boiled eggs, place eggs in saucepan and add enough cold water by about 1 inch. Slowly bring water to boil over medium heat; when water has reached a boil, cover and remove from heat, let sit for approximately 12 minutes.  Transfer eggs to a colander and place under cool running water to stop the cooking process. Practice makes perfect (OO)

Butter lettuce salad with mimosa vinaigrette and smoked salmon platter for Thanksgiving Dinner.

RECIPE: Eggplant and Porcini “Meatballs” in Tomato Sauce

Eggplant and Porcini mushrooms “meatballs” in tomato sauce with pecorino romano and fresh basil

Meatless Mondays only or do you find yourself having more vegetarian meals lately?

I found this recipe in the Food and Wine magazine’s August edition on innovative “vegetable-centric” eating; I thought this recipe would be perfect for Fall and Winter months when we yearn for comfort foods. The addition of porcini mushroom to the eggplant and its liquid to the tomato sauce was a stroke of brilliance; it made the dish more savoury.

The recipe is originally from “The Glorious Vegetables of Italy” by Domenica Marchetti; just like other home cooks, I adapted the recipe and made some changes: I baked the “meatballs” instead of pan frying them, they are more crispy and less greasy; and I made the tomato sauce slightly spicy.


1 Large eggplant (1 to 1/14 lbs), 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, Boiling water, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 small onion (minced), 4 garlic cloves (finely grated), Two 28-ounce cans imported whole Italian tomatoes (seeded, pureed with juices), 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil plus leaves for garnish, 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs (from 6 ounces crustless country bread), 2 large eggs (beaten), 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese (freshly grated and more for serving), 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, all purpose flour *(for coating meatballs(I omitted this ingredient)), kosher salt, pepper and chilli pepper flakes (*for sauce, can also add as seasoning to “meatballs”)


“Prickly” Eggplant

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees; prick the eggplant all over with a fork and set it on a baking sheet.  Roast in the center of oven for approximately 1 hour until very soft and collapsed. Let cool slightly, then slice open eggplant and scrape the flesh into a large bowl and let cool completely.  Discard the skin.

– Meanwhile in heat proof bowl, cover the dried porcini mushrooms with 1 1/2 cups of boiling water and let stand until softened, approximately 30 minutes.  Drain, reserve the soaking liquid.  Rinse the porcini to remove any grit, then finely chop the mushrooms.

– In an enameled cast-iron casserole/pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering.  Add the onion, half the garlic and chilli pepper flakes, cook over moderately high heat, keep stirring until softened (5 minutes).  Add the tomato puree and pour in the porcini soaking liquid, stop before reaching the grit; bring it to a boil.  Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until thickened, approximately 1 hour.  Add half of the chopped fresh basil, season with salt, pepper and chilli pepper flakes.

– To prepare the “meatballs”: Fold the chopped porcini, bread crumbs, eggs, cheese, parsley, remaining garlic and chopped basil into the eggplant.  Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper (adjust according to your own taste and dietary concerns). Line the baking sheet with wax paper.  Form the eggplant mixture into 1 3/4 inch balls, rolling tightly. Dust them with flour lightly and refrigerate for 20 minutes (*note- I skipped the flour completely).

Brush “meatballs’ with olive oil; ready to bake!

– *(this step deviates from the original) Preheat oven to 350 degrees, brush meatballs with olive oil and bake them for 30 to 40 minutes, turning them a couple of times to ensure all sides are browned all over.  When they are ready, add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.

– Garnish the meatballs with fresh basil leaves and grated cheese; serve with crusty bread.


Dried Porcini mushrooms: available at Italian markets / fine food stores; I purchased mine from Cioffi’s (http://www.cioffisgroup.com/) and they are the best I’ve purchased to date; when I opened the package, it was unbelievably fragrant; I look forward to using them again in other dishes. 

I’ve used less oil than the recipe calls for; and I added chili pepper flakes to make the sauce slightly spicy, this is optional and adjust according to your own taste (I did not provide specific measurements).  When binding the ingredients, I added a little half and half as I felt it needed a little more moisture. This recipe is a definite keeper; I may try it with more eggplant and a little less breadcrumbs.

We had our dish with ciabatta bread and a side salad; almost made a “Meat and Bread” Sandwich “meatball” sandwich..now that’s an idea (OO)

For the original recipe; here’s the link:http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/eggplant-and-porcini-meatballs-in-tomato-sauce

Kingyo Izakaya on Denman – Hitsumabushi (Unagi)

Kingyo Green Salad

It was one of those rare self-extended long weekends; after a rather busy errands-filled Monday morning, we found ourselves craving for Japanese food and headed to Kingyo on Denman, a popular local Japanese izakaya which has been reviewed (and raved about) many times,on many food blogs, Urbanspoon and Tripadvisor.

I admit I actually frequent its sister restaurant Suika for evening gatherings more often; Though I’m already very familiar with Kingyo’s menu and flavors (or perhaps because of it), it somehow remains my go-to Japanese restaurant for weekend lunches in downtown Vancouver.

Their Hitsumabushi is the reason why I’m writing this review, as I do not recall having seen reviews on this particular dish often. The soy-sauce cooked eel was served in a sizzling stone bowl of rice with green onions, seaweed and special house broth.  This is Kingyo’s version of a famous Nagoya-area local dish.  Our waitress took her time to explain how I should enjoy it and I really appreciate her efforts: This is one of the aspects which I love about food, or rather the sharing of the “joy of food” with those who have a real passion for it. It is such a great common topic which breaks down all barriers and sometimes lead to the most interesting conversations; there is always something new to learn every day…

My second helping with condiments

Eating this dish is particularly interesting because its like a “four act” play or a symphony with “four movements”…each act uses the variations of the same basic ingredients to offer a slightly different kind of eating experience.  I might have missed if I had not asked our server about “recommendations” on how best to eat it!  I think it reflects the finest of dining traditions..the chef imagines the experiences and creates the opportunity with the ingredients and serving vessels presented in a certain way, the server helps to convey the opportunities, providing their recommendations if asked, and the diner, if they have the will and openness of heart, chooses to participate.  I am sure for this particular dish, this has been done perhaps thousands of times, each participant trying to “make it better’ as an experience for the diner.  I suppose, like most things great and lasting, it is done with full heart and a loving, sharing spirit..

To enjoy: 1st helping – scoop some unagi and rice into bowl and eat as is; 2nd helping – enjoy with added condiments to your taste (green onion, seaweed and wasabi) ; 3rd helping – this time poured the special broth over, it’s similar to having ochazuke; last helping – the bonus with Kingyo’s serving style and definitely the best for last..scraping the “burnt crispy rice” bottom and mixed with the broth…The flavour changes throughout as you add on each component, it was a thoroughly delicious and enjoyable experience. Some may beg to differ and say it’s different from Nagoya’s original, for now, this will do…

Kanazawa Katsu (deep fried pork cutlet) Curry with cabbage, onion pickles and rice..Oishii kata..

Of course there is still an old favourite, Kanazawa Katsu (Deep fried pork cutlet) Curry, a scrumptious rich-flavored curry dish (served with rice, cut cabbage and onion pickles) which Andy ordered as his main and quickly devoured…

For starters, we shared a Kingyo green salad, a simple and fresh blend of organic greens with avocado, tomato and veggie chips with a mixed vegetable dressing.

The standards and levels of consistency are definitely maintained at Kingyo; while I do yearn for new and exciting flavors at this old-time favourite; I realize through today’s experience: rather than always expecting the restaurants to change as quickly as fickle diners’ tastes; it’s good to seek ‘”new” favourites or new ways to experience old favourites.

Now I’ve found a new favourite at one of my “old” favourites , so what’s yours?



Kingyo – 871 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC


Authentic Japanese taste, eclectic shared plates and interesting drink menu; fair-sized portion and moderate-high pricing. Reservations highly recommended.  Friendly service and great ambience, lunch is a better time to avoid long line ups and try their specialties (must try Special bento box). Parking could be troublesome, mostly metered (free parking available on side streets).  

Kingyo Izakaya 金魚居酒屋 on Urbanspoon

Kingyo Izakaya 金魚居酒屋 on Urbanspoon