July 2017 : Oh My Time Flies

Beautiful evening at Iona Beach Park

Oh my it is almost the end of July and I have been on “hiatus” since late May!  I just cannot believe three months have gone by already since I left my full-time job; particularly the past two months it has been a trying period, adjusting to changes in routines, schedules and lifestyle.  While I am still contemplating and planning exactly what I will be doing next, I am very glad I took a leap of faith and go on this much needed break (OO).

How’s your summer so far? I have been enjoying my “staycation” here in Vancouver, summer time is the best season to stay here!   The past two months were filled with out-of-town friends visits, which is the perfect excuse (as if I need any) to go around town searching for new attractions and good eats!  I believe if you are at least 90% good most of the time with your regular diet, there is a little room for other enjoyment and occasional indulgences.

On Wednesday July 26th I will be back on Ms. Deborah Moore’s program on Fairchild Radio 1470 1030am sharp; thank you in advance for tuning in!  I also want to thank my audience who take their time to send me email (goldenapron@gmail.com) with questions or suggestions, I really love to hear from you!

 Brisk Walking activity at Iona Beach Regional Park  (Richmond) and Pacific Regional Park Trail (Vancouver – UBC) – (Easy Trails)

Brisk walking is our favourite outdoor activity during the summer months; one of our favourite places to visit is Iona Beach regional Park (picture above); the jetty unmarked trail stretches 4 km (one way) along the mouth of Fraser River and it is a very easy walk.  We love to go particularly in the evening to catch the beautiful sunset and evening breeze; during the day there are sightings of herons along the way.  The jetty trail is a open area so it may get a little windy at times, so you must go prepared with proper outdoor gear and lots of sun protection.

Sunset at Iona Beach: planes flying into Vancouver Airport for Landing

Recently we decided to re-discover the UBC area and on one hot Saturday afternoon, we went for an easy hike in the forest at the Pacific Spirit Regional Park, located at the UBC Endowment Lands (5495 Chancellor Road, Vancouver, BC).  The trail gate is located at West 16th next to Camosun Park, the network of trails contained in more than 750 hectares of forest.  Free parking is available along West 16th Avenue, the signs inside the forest are very easy to follow and it is a very popular trail amongst local residents.    It is advisable to check the map to predetermine your route and decide how far you would like to go, and mark the location of the park’s exits.  We lost track of our direction and “exited” so far off , we ended adding a lot more steps to our count, trekking along 16th Avenue (lol).

Cooling down in the forest – Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Asian Cuisines and Small Eateries in Vancouver:

Delicious Pad Thai and Friendly Service: Sen Pad Thai at Granville Island (1666 Johnston Street – inside Loft, across from Public Market)

Sen pad Thai is the newest addition to award-winning Chef Angus An’s roster (Maenam, Freebird, Longtail Kitchen, Fat Mao Noodles) in Greater Vancouver. Located inside the Net Loft across from Public Market, this wonderful fast food stall opened in May 2017, the menu offer different pad thai dishes, variety of Thai small bites and drinks.

The pad thai was meticulously prepared, filled with really fresh ingredients and “Wok Hei” (breath of the wok) – a term which refers to flavors and tastes imparted by a hot wok for stir fry dishes!  It was hot (fresh from the wok), tangy (from the tamarind), bright (juice from the generous slice of lime), crunchy (peanuts and fresh sprouts) and smooth ( noodles and eggs were cooked perfectly); for those who love to add more spiciness, the condiments are ready for your perusal on their counter.  The staff was friendly and helpful; if you are unsure what you would like to try, just ask them for recommendations (which I did for my second visit) and they will happily oblige.   Because the dishes are prepared “a la minute”, there is a little bit of a wait time and it is all worth while.  Tables are located near the stand, or you may just want to bring your tasty noodle box outdoors, enjoy an authentic Thai dish and the fine Vancouver weather at the same time.

http://www.senpadthai.com

Classic pad thai with tamarind: authentic and fresh tasting

A lot of small eateries have been popping up lately in Vancouver, scattered all around our beloved city in different districts; the latest addition at the edge of Gastown is a Korean eatery named Haru Korean Kitchen (324 Cambie Street, next to the ever popular Meat and Bread (Porchetta sandwiches!). 

Namul Vegetable Bibimbap and Their House special Cold noodle (with wasabi sauce) and a side order of pork belly; Special came with “ban chan” (egg, potato salad, kimchi)

Three weeks ago I paid a visit with my little friend JT who loves to eat Korean food; we shared a namul vegetable bibimbap with gochujang and their house special cold vegetarian soba set (bibim guksu) with lots of fresh vegetables in a wasabi sauce, came with a small plate of steamed pork belly  .  Our favourite was definitely the noodle which was so refreshing and the wasabi added a nice little “kick” to the citron soy sauce. Their menu is very home style and simple, marking very clearly the choices (vegetarian/vegetarian option/spicy) and sauce options (gochujang, gang doenjang (miso) and citron soy sauce) are available.  The service was adequate (small restaurant with less help and it’s fairly new), reservations available (which is very rare these days) and I would love to return sometime to try their bingsoo and other korean family classics (japchae).

http://www.harukoreankitchen.com

Lunch BBQ at Dolpan Korean BBQ Restaurant ( 3779 Sexsmith Road, Richmond)

http://www.dolpanbbq.com

With mostly homestyle Korean eateries popping up in the Greater Vancouver area, it is quite a change to see the opening of a small authentic Korean BBQ restaurant in Richmond.  Located inside the Continental Plaza shopping mall which is mostly filled with Chinese eateries, I wouldn’t have known about this little place if it is not because of Instagram; apparently Dolpan has been opened for a while!  If you wish to give this place a try, go for lunch as their lunch BBQ set is great value ($15 or $20 per person),  my favourite part is their servers actually help to cook the meat at your table!  I had the pork set (jowl/belly) with lettuce wrap and it came with very delicious side dishes (potato, kimchi radish).  Other hot plates (pre-cooked meats in kitchen) and Army Based hotpots (budae jjigae) seem to be very popular amongst the lunch diners; service was prompt and attentive, reservations are available.

Volcano egg and BBQ meat (pork set): My first visit for dinner with my friend JT

Sunday brunching at MaknMing (1629 Yew Street, Vancouver) 

http://www.maknming.com

Chefs Makoto Ono and Amanda Cheng’s MaknMing in Kitslano is now open for brunch on Sundays till September 03rd, 2017;  this “small team big heart” eatery which opened at the end of 2016 is quickly becoming my newest favourite brunch spot:  I have tried their special Lobster Hollandaise Eggs Benedict which I wanted to purchase a “bucket” of the flavorful and silky smooth hollandaise to take home; on a separate visit I had their “wickedly” clever indulgence, the Krispee Challah french toast (rice krispies in the batter, served with toasted coconut blueberry compote and honeycomb)….speechless and in awe with their creativity!  Their brunch menu is finely edited with a few items, I do recommend bringing a few friends and order different plates to share. The service is impeccable (Thanks Christina for your recommendations), parking could be a little bit of a challenge however it is so close to Kits beach, so park anywhere, enjoy the fabulous brunch and walk it off afterwards (OO).

Cheers! Special Ice Tea and I love how the “oversized” ice cube
Lobster Hollandaise with spot prawn Eggs Benedict….Special on their menu and I want a bucket of the sauce…
Krispee Challah French Toast with toasted coconut, honey comb and blueberry compote

Desserts Desserts Desserts: “Mochiffle” at Baker and Table (6414 Fraser Street) and “Little Plant” from Bubble Bear Cafe (8051 Granville Street, Vancouver)

If you have been following my blog and instagram, you will know I love savory foods and rarely eat desserts (I did bake a cheesecake with my friends over the weekend, my first!).  I recently found these two desserts which I quite enjoy: Mochiffle from Baker and Table (remember the little bakery cafe which I mentioned a couple months ago?) and “Little Plant” Egg Custard pudding from Bubble Bear Cafe (Bubble Tea place on Granville opened a few months ago); the mochi-waffle combination is addictive and it is gluten free, it has a very nice chewy bite and you must add the ice-cream and the red bean!  As for the egg custard pudding, I really like the texture of the soft silky pudding and oreo bits (looks like “dirt” hence the name “little plant”.  Baker and Table’s owner Hitomi-san and Bubble Bear Cafe’s owners Maureen and Danny are very nice and helpful people, pay them a visit for lunch or snack and ask them for recommendations!  Baker and Table also offers vegetarian curry and sandwiches  (together with her famous melon pans and yuzu cheesecakes) , and Bubble Bear Cafe offers a small selection of delicious savoury bites (spicy wontons, meat floss egg rolls) and a variety of bubble teas and slushes (great for summer!) at very reasonable prices.

http://www.bakerandtablecafe.com

Bubble Bear Cafe – FB page available for menu and photos

Mochiffle with red beans and icecream from Baker and Table

 

“Little Plant” – light custard with Oreo sprinkles from Bubble Bear Cafe

 

 

July 2017 : Home Cooking SnapShots: Okra, Fish, Miso, Tomatoes and Udon

Oven Roasted Okra: sliced each okra lengthwise into halves and toss in sea salt and extra virgin olive oil, preheat oven to 400 degrees and roast for 15 minutes – Thanks Jo!

Here’s a snapshot of what I have been cooking the past two months..For updates follow me on Instagram (@mygoldenapron) and you will know first hand what I have been cooking and where I have been dining!

Roasting OKRA: I never thought of roasting okra until my dear sweet friend Jo showed me, sometimes we are just caught in our usual habits and don’t think about the most obvious options!  Since then I have been adding okras to our salads or enjoyed with our cooked fish, like the kasu-shio marinated halibut in shiitake, edamame, daikon and mustard leaves dashi broth… As for garnish, I have prepared some roasted kale (in place of seaweed) and pancetta bits.

Experiment at home: Shio Kasu Halibut, shiitake dashi with edamame, mustard green leaves, roasted okra and green onion, finished with roasted kale and pancetta bits

Remember sake kasu?   It’s the remaining lees from sake making and they have been available for sale at Japanese grocery stores (Fujiya in Vancouver) or Artisan Sake (at Granville Island, this is the one I use all the time).  For this dish, I added some salt and a little water to approximately 2 Tablespoons of kasu (water for slight thinning of mixture),  pat dry (really dry) the halibut filets and submerge them in the marinade for at least a day.  Before cooking, wipe the fish clean with paper towel to ensure there’s no kasu left (otherwise it will burn).  I baked my fish at 400F and finished with broiling the final two minutes (the cooking time varies pending on thickness of fish fillet).

Dashi broth: prepared with bonito flakes and kelp as base (search my archives for recipe), I added the shiitake mushroom stems, a couple of celery leaves (I kept them frozen and add to broth/stock making), a spoonful of sake kasu and a small chunk of daikon and let it cook for half an hour.  I strain the broth then add shiitake mushrooms, mustard green leaves, edamame beans (parboiled already) and season with sodium reduced soy, mirin and a little maple syrup (sugar for most of you), adjust accordingly to your taste and dietary needs always!  I prepared the pancetta and kale bits while broth is cooking, okra also roasted before and add-on together with green onion as garnish.   The cooked fish is lightly finished with fleur de sel.

The broth can be prepared ahead of time, when fish is about ready, reheat the broth and to serve, plate vegetables and fish in a regular or soup bowl, pour the broth, add the okra and green onions, kale and pancetta garnish last.  Enjoy!

Sakuraya: Last month I mentioned there is a Japanese grocery located on East Broadway (close to Fraser), they carry the organic dried mustard leaves and daikon leaves from a small village in Japan.  I re-hydrated the leaves and add to my dashi broth and they added so much flavor!  It has some glucose so remember to adjust your seasoning.

http://www.seafoodcitygi.com

Soy Dijon Mustard glaze chinook salmon with potato salad, green bean snow peas micro greens sea asparagus in ponzu vinaigrette:

Prepare glaze : sodium reduced soy sauce (2 Tablespoons), Dijon mustard (1 Tablespoon), olive oil (1-2 Tablespoons) and a little maple syrup.  Clean and pat dry the salmon filet and let it marinade for at least 30 minutes.  Remove the fish from marinade, scrape lightly so not much marinade will cling to the fillets (unless you like real browning action), and bake salmon in oven preheated in 350 F until desired doneness.  When you see any white spot appearing on the seams of the salmon filet, that means it should be done and well on its way to being very cooked.  While salmon is cooking, use a sauce pan and sautéed chopped shallots, add the marinade and cook until sauce boils and slightly thicken.

I used a store-bought ponzu and add good quality extra virgin olive oil, a little rice vinegar and ground pepper for the vinaigrette (2:1 ratio oil/soy, most vinaigrettes 3:1 ratio oil/acid, I prefer less oily).

As for the salad, basically anything goes!  I added the most delicious microgreens (West End Blend from Grown here farms purchased at August Market on Main Street in Vancouver), sea asparagus (In season for a short time in Vancouver, soaked overnight to get rid of the salt then blanched and shocked in ice, green beans and snow peas (also blanched and shocked in ice) .  I choose to use mostly organic products, use your imagination and add your favourite in season salad greens and vegetables to load more nutritious greens into your dish.

My potato salad is made of red potatoes, green onions, homemade relish mixed with half mayo (Lemon Ojai mayonnaise) and half greek yogurt, if you want to make it very Japanese, add kewpie mayonnaise.

http://www.thefishcounter.com

http://www.visaltco.com

http://www.eatlocal.org

http://www.augustmarket.ca

Tomato and Egg Udon: simple eats and tomatoes are in season!

One of my favourite all time Chinese family dish is converted into a soup base for udon; apparently tomato and egg noodle soup is a very popular dish in parts of China.  Taiwanese Chef James, well-known for his interpretation of Japanese cuisine, is now featured in cooking show filmed in China, I found on YouTube accidentally.  I modified his recipe and method by changing a couple of ingredients: The ingredient are simple : heirloom tomatoes, shallots, grated ginger (lots), green onion, filtered water, white pepper and a little maple syrup (you can use sugar) I used Japanese udon, omit cornstarch and tomato paste (it was used for thickening, instead I let the soup cook down to thicken).  The beaten egg is added in the end; if you have time, follow Chef James and make the eggs two ways.   Usually the noodles are eaten as “late night snack”, I had it for dinner and I find it perfect as a summer light supper.

 

Tomato Miso Nduja Bolognese with Udon

Remember a few months ago I talked about Nduja, the Italian spreadable spicy sausage? I changed things up a little – I mixed a little nduja and red miso into my own pork/turkey Bolognese sauce and had it with udon, garnish with roasted kale (salted and crushed to mimic seaweed) and it was a winner at my recent dinner gathering with my cooking buddies Jo, Phung and Rita.   The dish is a perfect marriage of Japanese and Italian ingredients; remember nduja and miso are both a little salty, you do not need to use much for seasoning.  The miso makes the sauce very hearty and meaty; if you have a good tomato sauce base, you can add the miso and serve it as a vegetarian dish with grilled eggplant. The nduja sausage spread adds a little spiciness, it is completely optional.  Experiment with your favourite meat sauce recipe and add these flavor profiles to your repertoire.

For both tomato udon dishes, the really thin udon noodles will not work as well.  I found this perfectly wonderful hand-cut dry udon at our local Fujiya Japanese food store.

Love the texture and thickness is perfect! It has a very good “bite”