October 2017: Learn, Nosh and Nourish

Golden Leaves….

 

Fall has always been my favourite season ; I simply love the colours, the weather and the beautiful and delicious local harvests! I was overly excited and overextended myself a little with Thanksgiving family dinner and cooking classes (which I love!), I ended up catching a cold. Yikes!   Changing seasons is a very tricky time period, we should all be extra mindful in taking care of our bodies in order to prepare for the long winter season ahead.

And finally my blog post is up…..

Learn and Nosh at True Nosh

 

Snow Skin Mooncakes! I finished “third” place in the “mooncake beauty pageant”

A couple of months ago I came across True Nosh through Instagram, what I found intriguing about True Nosh is their focus on “no added sugar” cooking!  Coming from a family with history of diabetes (on my maternal side of family), I thought I could learn something new to even further reduce the usage of sugar in foods prepared for my family.

I browsed through their website and signed up for the Chinese Green scallion cake (one of my favourite Chinese snacks) class;  I think most of you by now know “working with dough” and cooking Chinese food is not my strong suit (Ha ha).

The class focused mainly on demonstration by owner and certified dietitian Ms. Renee Chan; only a small part requires hands on participation.

What is no added sugar cooking?   Ms. Chan finds a creative way to use the natural sweetness from fruits and vegetables to replace refined sugars in traditional cooking.  A lot of restraint is exercised by limiting the quantities so sugar content is lower and the dishes are lightly sweetened.

The menu for the evening also includes braised beef shank (which goes very well with the green scallion cakes) and mango mochi (without added sugar) as dessert. The dough was proof ahead of time by Ms. Chan and her team;  the six class participants helped to roll out the dough and shaped the actual pancakes while Renee would cook and teach us Chinese (simple Chinese words in Cantonese and Mandarin) at the same time, she certainly made it fun and relaxing for everyone.

What did she use to replace the refined sugar?  A small quantity of chopped red dates and apricots were used to create to a paste and added into the braised beef shank (picture not shown) as  sweetener. (The usage of this ingredient was featured at another vegetarian/vegan class which I attended later – see below). After a most enjoyable evening, I decided to sign up for her “moon-cake making” class.

The second class was held at her newest location (West 7th avenue and Ontario Street, very close to Main),  Renee and her team prepared all the ingredients and dough ahead of time, and participants only assemble and created the moon cakes with the beautiful tools provided. For the filling she has selected lotus (paste made from seeds) and red date (paired), mung bean and apricot (paired), red bean and purple yam to create the fillings, green tea powder and saffron were used as natural food colouring to change the “skin” colour.    The textures and flavors are definitely different from store-bought “snow-skin” moon cakes,  it is more rustic and not as sweet.

Renee and her team are helpful and friendly, I had the best time chatting with her about cooking and travel!  Her family was also present that afternoon and I was delighted to have met her mother, the atmosphere was very warm and personal.   All recipes were sent to participants via email with nutritional information.

Her company also offers a range of sauces and condiments with funky names and interesting flavor profile for Chinese cooking.  Check out her website for more information.  Thank you Renee and team for the connecting, see you at one of your classes another time!

I like her overall concept and support for a good cause (ending diabetes);  and I am already thinking how I can introduce this “no refined sugar” method to my family and friends.  I do think this a better option however it is still important to exercise personal judgement and stay well-informed on what suits your own dietary needs….As I always say, always cook with lots of care and love.

Learn and Nourish at Workshop Vegetarian Cafe (296 Pemberton Road, North Vancouver, BC)

My favourite dish : Kabocha and Corn Soup with crispy grains…created by Pokeman Vancouver !

In the past couple years more vegetarian and vegan restaurants have opened up in Greater Vancouver, even regular restaurants now offer more vegetarian and vegan options. Most of their flavor profile tend to be either Mediterranean or Middle eastern inspired, there are only just a handful of authentic Asian-flavored ( Chau Veggie Express) centric vegetarian friendly eateries operating in Vancouver.

The Workshop Vegetarian Cafe opened in 2016 and they well-known for their creative veggie bowls and signature ramen creations.  Owner Tak and his wonderful team have created a Japanese menu featuring fresh seasonal and local ingredients.   This delightful gem is very welcoming and cosy; it  offers a complete vegetarian menu, with gluten-free and vegan options available; inside they operate a “corner shop which sells produce,  frozen noodles (their in-house made udon/ramen), vegan and gluten-free condiments.   I first visited this cafe in September 2016 with my friend “Kanekic” and really enjoyed their avocado toast and ramen.

I came across their workshop information through Instagram, apparently they have started to offer special workshops almost on a monthly basis with different themes.

On a beautiful Sunday morning I attended their sake kasu workshop,  the focus is on the explanation and demonstration of key ingredient “sake lees” used in four recipes (which was given to us also), and a special five course lunch was included afterwards.

The demonstration was hosted by one of the chefs Oku-san, who is from Artisan Sake Maker at Granville Island, Canada’s first local sake maker (opened since 2007).   You may ask what is sake kasu?  It is the lees left over from sake production; it is a versatile ingredient which can be use as a marinade or pickling agent, adds lots of flavor to soups and sauces.  If you taste the kasu on its own, the flavor itself is actually quite strong, so very little is needed in all applications.

In the demo class he taught us how to create of amazake (Japanese New Years drink), Vegan Chocolate Banana Smoothie, Miso Marinade and Vegan Mayonnaise; we all get to sample them afterwards and we were all given a small tub of sake kasu to take home for our cooking experiments.

Sake Kasu Vegan Mayo – tasty!

The biggest surprise came when lunch was served; Oku-san and his friends, three other experienced chefs who work at different establishments in BC, they collaborated and created an exquisite five course lunch which exceeded my expectations.  The meal was perhaps could easily ranked as the best vegetarian I’ve had in Vancouver, it is so wonderful to see we have  high calibre chefs collaborating together and showcased not only their individual talent, but their superb team work; as a home cook, I left with not only a full stomach but also a very inspired mind.

I will be returning in November to attend a dashi-making workshop, I simply look forward to see what they have to offer next time.   Meanwhile if you are unable to make it to Vancouver, check out their postings on Instagram; their feed is very positive and inspirational.  Thank you very much Tak and team for the inspiration!

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