August 2017: “Berry” Merry Summer

Strawberries have a very special place in my heart: remembering when I  was a kid and enjoyed very delicious strawberry french crepes for the first time in Hong Kong

On August 30th I will be on Ms. Deborah Moore’s radio show on Fairchild 1470, 1030 am sharp.

For more recent updates; follow me on Instagram: @mygoldenapron

Crescents – shadows cast through the trees, a bit moon like, a bit bat like…Picture taken at Olympic Village after the peak time for eclipse viewing on August 21st

From Richmond to Langley:  Birak Berry Farm (4200 No. 6 Road, Richmond):

During the BC Day Long weekend, my friend “Kanekic”  brought me along on a short tour at Birak Berry Farm with the owner.

We didn’t go berry picking, however it was fascinating to learn about the berry farming business briefly over a 1 hour short tour.  She was very nice and patient and answered many of my questions related to berry varieties, seasonality, harvesting, equipment and processing; the entire operation is very extensive and more complex than I ever imagined!   We went home with really sweet strawberries and blueberries; thank you very much again for the wonderful time and delicious berries.

The farm is open to public for berry picking, for information please check the BC Strawberry growers Association website.

Visit to Birak Berry Farm in Richmond; Thanks Kanekic for bringing me along! This photo was selected by Tourism Richmond and included in their album on Facebook. Thanks Visit Richmond!

Strawberry and Waffles at Krause Berry Farm (6179 248 Street, Langley, BC)

Two weekends ago I finally made it to Krause Berry Farm! As it is already the tail end of berry picking season, we only went for a short time to enjoy their delicious strawberries (Sweet) and waffles (Picture below, reduced whipped cream (trying to be good)) at their outdoors dining patio. The line up was quite long but the friend worked so efficiently we didn’t really have to wait long!  The waffles were crispy, however I would definitely ask to have the toppings on the side next time.   We quickly walked through their wine tasting room and spent a little time in their shop which is filled with goodies from their farm and a nice selection of kitchen ware (Danger zone for me!).  The ambience is warm and friendly, I will definitely make it back much earlier next year. For their offerings and year-round schedule, visit their website for more information.

Strawberries and waffles…and I asked for less whipped cream…
Fruit Wines and Sparkling at their Tasting Room

Premium Rice Donburi and Affordable Omakase at Tetsu Sushi Bar ( 775 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC)

Unagi Donburi: Love their premium rice!

Tetsu sushi bar is a 14-seat Japanese sushi restaurant located on Denman Street (at Robson); I was first introduced to this small gem by my friends J and VG (A Big Thank you to both of you!).   The experienced owners used to work in a well-known Japanese restaurant in Richmond; opened since April, lately this little gem is slowly building up their reputation and gaining some attention from local food lovers.

This friendly little place offers an extensive menu of cooked foods and very good quality sushi at reasonable pricing; their lunch sets in particular I find are of great value and the food quantity is in line with their pricing.

I have been to Tetsu on a few occasions for lunch and dinner, I am honestly hooked on their premium rice, which is only offered when you order their donburi (my personal fave is the unagi don).  The aroma is enticing (I think I smelled konbu), the texture is not sticky, and you can pick up and taste each grain.  My other favourite item on their menu is the Yamaimo salad with plum dressing, which adds an interesting flavor to the salad (I love Japanese dried plums and use them quite often in my cooking) and tastes so refreshing.

They also offer omakase dinners (basic start at $45.00 per person) which includes 3 kinds of appetizer, 5 piece daily sushi, inaniwa udon (cold or hot) and ice cream. For additional costs you can upgrade to premium 5 piece or 7 piece daily sushi;  follow them on  @tetsusushibar_van.

We shared many dishes including an upgraded premium omakase which includes the bluefin tuna (a very guilty indulgence I admit); the fish were very fresh and clean tasting.

The space has a very humble and neighbourhood feel, as seating is limited, it is more suitable for small gathering (4 at most to sit comfortably) and it is better to call ahead to make reservations.

Cold Inaniwa udon – a separate order! We had the hot udon with the omakase.
Guilty – otoro, hirashi, houbou, aji and uni

Found on Instagram: Temaki Sushi on Arbutus:

I didn’t even know this restaurant existed until recently I saw postings popping up through Instagram.

I saw a very enticing sushi lunch picture on Instagram posted by a renowned Vancouver chef,  so I decided to have lunch at Temaki Sushi one Friday afternoon.

Their in-house chef known as @sushi_hil  has posted a lot of delicious sashimi pictures on Instagram, showcasing his skill and the offerings from the restaurant.

I was skeptical and nervous when I first walked in, the decor is nothing like a typical Japanese eatery.

It was a very busy lunch hour; I was greeted and seated promptly by a friendly staff.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect, I looked over the Specials Board and decided to go with what I have seen on Instagram (gut feeling), so I went with the nigiri sushi special, 8 pieces priced at $28.00. The fish was very fresh, there was offering of fresh wasabi (for a small additional cost) and the sauce for the aburi was light; this is definitely a personal preference as I am not keen on anything which is too heavy-handed.

When I finished my lunch and asked for the bill, I met another server (her name is Ellen) who was very friendly and started to chat with me, asking for feedback and tell me more about the background of the restaurant and its owners.

We often read a lot of reviews and ask for recommendations before we try out a new restaurant; often we would go in with a certain level of preconceived notion; if there is one lesson to be learnt – everyone deserves a chance.

Nigiri sushi lunch special – 8 pieces including aburi sushi

Cake Decorating Supplies in Langley: Scoop-n-Save 

Past weekend I spending time with my friends in Langley and they brought me to Scoop and Save , a cake decorating supplies store.

Although I am not a baker, I am very impressed with their selection of baking supplies, their staff were very friendly and helpful!

 

Thanks Rita for showcasing the cookie cutters

 

August 2017: Cheesecake and Salad rolls with Cooking Buddies

Cheers!

In the last July weekend,  I spent the entire Saturday cooking with my friends Jo, Phung and Rita (thank you very much for hosting).

I always learn something new from this trio and under their “supervision”, moi the novice baker completed the measuring and most of the mixing/whisking tasks, we successfully made a really fabulous Japanese cheesecake, based on Ms. Namiko Chen’s recipe from Just One Cookbook.

One important note: you must prepare and weigh all the ingredients, have everything organized and follow each step carefully.  I find the most difficult part is folding the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture.

We actually skipped the glaze and the cake is still very tasty.

I posted the picture on Instagram and got a very nice reply from Ms. Nami.  Thank you to my friends who supervised me through this process, and thank you Ms. Nami for sharing a wonderful recipe.

Try making it and you will love it !

For her recipe, please check Ms. Namiko Chen’s website:

http://www.justonecookbook.com

We did it!! Under “supervision”, moi the novice baker managed to complete most of the complicated tasks ….Beautiful group effort, fabulous result !

Below you can see the fixings we prepared for our Vietnamese salad roll DIY dinner: fresh shiso, basil, mint and lettuce, rice noodle, dry rice paper, shredded chicken (from Costco to save time) and prawns, and Fried Egg, which is not seen commonly when you order the salad rolls in store.  Our dear friend Phung made her own peanut dipping sauce (hoisin, peanut butter, water, vinegar); I haven’t had this much fun at a DIY dinner party for such a long time!    My hubby came by afterwards and it was equally fun to watch him prepare his own salad rolls, I told him now we know we can purchase and use a salad roll wrapper tray (it is made of plastic, place rice paper on top), it makes it so much easier to prepare this at home!   Another great tip from Phung: Dip the rice paper in hot water instead of cold to rehydrate the rice paper.

I found the rice roll wrapper tray at 88 Supermarket (in East Vancouver on Victoria Drive).

Rice Paper!
All the Fixings on the Table….and Sparkling is perfect for this light summer dinner
My first DIY salad roll loaded with vegetables and herbs (Shiso!)

AUGUST 2017: Homecooking Snapshots (Baked Halibut/Pork Yamaimo Patties and Fish Soup)

Roasted potatoes, sweet beans, asparagus and BC wild stripe prawn cold salad with ponzu vinaigrette, Baked Halibut filet with toasted panko, Homemade Tartar sauce

Here’s what I have been cooking at home in August!

Since I am not professionally trained, I always love to learn and draw inspiration from others (professional or home chefs).

This month I am featuring three of my creations which you may have seen the pictures on Instagram already.

For first hand updates follow me on Instagram: @mygoldenapron

And remember, always adjust the seasoning and ingredients according to you and your loved ones dietary needs, and the most important ingredient, COOK with LOTS of LOVE and PATIENCE (OO).

Baked Halibut Filets with Homemade Tartar sauce: (Picture shown above)

I have adapted Just One Cookbook  (love her cheesecake and other Japanese recipes) Ms. Namiko Chen’s toasted panko (for baked pork chop/chicken katsu) for my baked halibut filets; I actually skipped the flour and dipped the cleaned and skinned fillets in beaten egg and toasted panko only.   Once the panko cooled down, add grated lemon zest (1 lemon), 1 teaspoon of sea salt  and mix well, set aside.

Baked Halibut fillets: (ingredients: halibut fish fillet, panko, one lemon (for slices and lemon zest), salt and pepper)Pre-cook the panko before baking the fish fillets: For the 4 fillets, I have used 1 cup of panko and 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Combine the oil and panko in a frying pan, and toast the panko over medium heat, stir once in a while to ensure all panko bits are toasted until golden brown and evenly. Tremendous patience is required for this step.  Let the toasted panko cool before you start coating the halibut fillets.

Preheat oven to 400F.  Lined the baking sheet with parchment paper.  Pre cut some lemon slices (using the same lemon which you used to get the zest) and placed them on the baking sheet.

I bought 4 filets (there were 4 of us) and total weighed approximately 1.5 lbs.  Skinned the halibut filets (or you can ask your fish monger to take care of this), pat them dry.

Coat the halibut one at a time: gently dip each piece into the beaten egg mixture,  make sure you get rid of excess egg mixture.  Using your dry hand, coat the fillet with toasted panko.  Lightly brush the flakes to cover the fish, then lightly press the panko flakes, make sure they adhere and the fillet is coated evenly.  Place the coated fillet on top of lemon slices on the baking sheet.  Baked fish fillets until cooked through (test using a bamboo stick or tooth pick, once it goes through the fillet easily they are done), approximately 12 to 15 minutes.  Halfway through I turned the baking sheet around (for even cooking) quickly, and I checked the fillets quickly at the 10 minute mark for doneness.

Serve cooked fillets with homemade tartar sauce: I do not have any specific quantity for this recipe; I used the OJAI lemonaise (or any mayo) and Greek yogurt at 1-1.5 ratio, added some lemon zest, cooked corn niblets and takana (optional – dried radish leaves, rehydrated), sea salt and black pepper (a pinch) to taste.  If you want to thin out the sauce a little, you can add a squeeze of lemon juice.

As for my bean, asparagus and prawn salad with ponzu vinaigrette,  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).   I blanched the asparagus, sautéed the beans and boiled the small prawns (with lemon) quickly, then shocked them in ice and shelled them.   When you are ready to eat, toss the ingredients together and lightly dress the salad (do not drench!!).

Note: Be creative with your vegetable selection,  and remember always adjust your seasoning according to your dietary needs and taste !

Pork and Yamaimo (Mountain Potato) patties with apple ginger sauce, sautéed cauliflower, enoki mushroom and okra

I still cook a lot of Japanese food at home.

I adapted the patty and sauce recipe from the popular Japanese chef Masa (Masa’s ABC Cooking @masa.abc on Facebook) who resides in Taiwan. If you check his Facebook page, there are regular uploads of cooking videos with wonderful and clear instructions (for readers who can understand Chinese, it is in mandarin,  Chinese subtitles on-screen).  I love his idea of using yamaimo (mountain potato) with ground meats;  the addition keeps the patties very moist!  Chef Masa’s original is actually a chicken patty donburi recipe (with okra and eggplant), I created a dinner set and served with cauliflower, enoki mushroom and a dairy free chilled potato leek and watercress soup.

Pork Patties: organic /hormone free ground pork 250 g, 1/4 of yamaimo (mountain potato, grated),  grated ginger, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1 egg, 1 stalk green onion (chopped), grated ginger (1 teaspoons), 1 Tablespoon tamari****, 1 teaspoon maple syrup***, pinch of white pepper for season, 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil  ***tamari and maple syrup are my choices, I prefer also not to use too much oil.   The original recipe

Thank you Chef Masa for such a great recipe and inspiration!

Using your clean or spatula, mix ground pork and sea salt until you achieve a “smooth and sticky” texture.   Then add the egg, chopped green onion, grated ginger, maple syrup (or sugar), tamari and grated yamaimo to the meat, use the spatula in a “cutting” motion (easier to work with the mountain potato), fold and blend well.   Set aside.

Apple dipping sauce:  Add Tamari, mirin and sake (1-1-1), 1/4 apple, 1 clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon maple syrup and 1 small knob of ginger to blender, puree and blend.   Taste and adjust your seasoning (I tend to use less soy).  ***When using maple syrup you may need a little more to cut down the sharpness of the ginger.

As for the vegetables, basically anything goes.  I just sautéed and lightly season them with sea salt, cover up with aluminium (another great tip from Chef Masa) to keep them warm.

Using medium heat, heat frying pan and add the extra virgin olive oil, using a Tablespoon (or small scoop), spoon the meat mixture onto the frying pan, forming small “pancake” size patties (you can always adjust).  Do not crowd the pan with too many patties at once, medium size pan should fit 3 to 4 small size patties.  Let it cook for a few minutes before gently “lifting” the patty to check if it is set, once they turn golden brown, it is time to flip the patties and let them cook through.  When patties are almost cooked, spoon some sauce over the patties and let the flavor melt together.  (**With pork it is better to cook a little longer, the yamaimo actually keeps the patties moist).  I heated the remaining sauce and served it on the side.

For the original recipe and video, please check his site on Facebook or English website.

https://www.facebook.com/masa.abc/

https://masaabc.com/

Homemade Heirloom Tomato and Kabocha Fish Soup with Rice Noodles and vegetables

Recently I am on a “chinese food mode” and I decided to make my own “Fish soup rice noodle at home”.

I go through phases from time to time; recently I have been watching a lot of Chinese cooking shows.

I must admit as I am getting older, and having lived overseas for such a long time, I have a stronger desire to get back to my “roots”.

Soup Base: 2 small size yellow croaker fish (cleaned – or any white whole fish which is great for soup making, don’t splurge on anything too expensive), 1 medium size kabocha (Japanese pumpkin seeds removed and chopped into pieces), 2 big heirloom tomatoes and 3 medium tomatoes on the vine (seeds removed and loosely chopped), 9 cups of cold filtered water, 2 croaker fish (cleaned), knob of ginger, green onion, cilantro, 1 large yellow onion, 2 to 3 stalks of celery (optional), a small knob of ginger (sliced), sea salt and white pepper for seasoning.

**This is a pretty large pot of soup,  we had some for dinner the other night and used the rest for noodles.  This can feed a family of 4 to 6 easily.

I actually made the soup two days ahead of time; here is a good tip for preparing the kabocha:  I admit I am not strong enough to “chop” through the kabocha and honestly I don’t want to lose my hands along the way, my friend Sofei told me to put the kabocha into a pot of hot water and let it slowly simmer for a while  The skin will soften and make it much easier to cut through.  Once it is ready, peel the skin (I use a peeler), scoop out the seeds and chop into 1 inch pieces.  Seed the tomatoes, loosely chop cilantro, celery stalks,  onion and green onion (keep stalks in tact).  Set aside.

Clean the fish (remove the blood line), pat dry, lightly seasoned with sea salt and white pepper  Heat  the frying pan over medium heat, add a little extra virgin olive oil, add and stir fry th ginger slices.   Add fish to frying pan, and cooked both sides until slightly golden brown.  You can always add a splash of Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing) to eliminate the “fishy” taste, I find by using ginger and definitely be mindful about removing the bloodline (at the neck between the head and body, you can see a little “clot”), the fish is not bitter or “fishy” at all.

Fill large clay pot with cold filtered water, add tomatoes, onions and celery.

Remove the fish from frying pan and together with the ginger slices, put inside the “fish soup bag” (can be purchased at most Asian supermarkets). Tie a tight knot. Add the fish bag to the soup pot.

Bring it to a boil, skim the “scum” and turn down to medium low heat, let is slowly simmer for 1.5 hours.  While the soup is simmering, check and skim the foam from time to time.

Using chopsticks or tongs, remove the celery stalks and the fish bag.  Using a spatula or ladle, “squeeze” the fish bag gently , you will find a lot of soup is actually “soaked” into the bag, you don’t want to waste the liquid gold!

Add half of the kabocha chunks into the soup, and let it simmer for another half hour to 45 minutes, let the flavors melt together (I like my kabocha “melted”.  Finally add the remaining kabocha chunks, cilantro and napa cabbage, simmer until vegetables are cooked through.  Season with sea salt and ready to serve as soup in a regular Chinese family dinner.

To turn this into a noodle soup base:

My homemade rice noodle in fish, tomato and pumpkin soup!

Noodle and Fixings (be creative):   rice noodle, mung bean noodle, shimeji mushroom, napa cabbage, bok choy, swiss chard, microgreens (for garnish), tofu fish cake, green onion, boiled egg.   I am not going to list the quantity because it really depends on how many people you are feeding.

Cook all vegetables and fixings separately (all boiled) and create a noodle bar, lay out all ingredients, and chopped up more cilantro and green onions for garnish.

Have fun and be creative with your dinners…now as my friend Peter (Pastaboypeter on Instagram) always say, “now go and eat with the ones you love”.

Sources for my ingredients in Vancouver: Seafood City (Granville Island), Vancouver Farmers Market, Choices Market, the August Market, Sakuraya Japanese food store, T & T Supermarket and H-Mart.