Sharpening 101: Love and Care at “Ai and Om”

I have taken many cooking classes, however this is the first time I came across  a knife sharpening workshop being taught in Vancouver.

I am completely clueless on this subject matter; I usually hone them with a steel (learn through YouTube and not sure exactly what I was doing) and take them out for service when required.

Our kitchen knives are our best friends;  they are the most used tools in the kitchen, come to think of it, we spend a lot of time prepping our ingredients!

You may think these days we can practically learn almost anything on YouTube, so why a workshop?

It is a personal decision based on the way how I learn,  I also happen to enjoy exchanges and connections with people in general (at times flipping between being an introvert and extrovert).

On this particular subject matter,  I have tried to watch videos, I realize I need to see first hand in reality how it is done with instructions and thorough explanations.

So two weekends ago on a Sunday morning I overcame my fear (of the unknown) and spent two hours, together with three other students, learn about the basic principles of knife sharpening through Vancouver Chinatown’s Ai and Om Knives‘ ; the workshop was taught by local chef and shop owner Douglas Chang.

Ai and Om Knives carries a curated selection of Japanese knives and accessories; the first time I came across this specialty shop was actually through Instagram. When they opened last summer in August (official opening in October),  I paid a visit and purchased my treasured nakiri bocho , a Japanese knife specifically used for cutting vegetables.  My first experience at the store was very pleasant and positive so I subsequently subscribed to their newsletter.

I was truly elated when I saw their workshop schedule recently,  I signed up immediately through email without any second thoughts.

My Nakiri bocho, the perfect fit

On the day of we all brought their own knives for sharpening, fees were paid ($75.00 for the session) before the workshop started and  I also purchased the split whetstone (discount given to students who signed up) , I was a bit scared and I was all ready to go,  not knowing what to expect!  The workshop was taught at the back of the shop where our “sensei” (teacher) spent the first half explaining clearly the technical terms and principles; he later proceed with a demonstration and sufficient time was allocated for our own hands on practice.

I admit initially I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to begin as there were just a lot of information to remember and understand; in the spur of the moment I decided not to overthink and calmly focus on what our “sensei” has explained earlier, breaking it down step by step (the precis writing skills acquired back in secondary school really helped to pick out the “Key” words and points) and slowly got into it.  Although the technicalities are very important, if we put all things aside, the process itself is actually very simple and rustic,  it just comes down to the knife, the stone, your own concentration and focus.

Personally at that moment the lesson transcended into something more enlightening, I was engaged in  a short “self-realization” journey, directing my own focus to be “in the moment” and learn how to appreciate the simplicities in life.  I found the process to be very calming and therapeutic, I enjoyed it tremendously, much to my own surprise.

I was enjoying the process and did not even think of the results until  it was time for the true test to see if I achieved what I was taught: to test and see if the knife will slice through paper effortlessly.  I was absolutely thrilled when my nakiri “swished” through the paper….. I was more excited about the fact that I overcame the fear of another “unknown” .

I am not going to get into the details of knife sharpening as I have only learnt the basics and currently digesting what I have learnt;  I assure you the session was informative and in the end you will be equipped with enough basic information to start sharpening your knives at home, and gained a better understanding of the art of knives and sharpening techniques. Hats off to local chef and owner Douglas Chang; he is very knowledgeable and articulate speaker who shows great patience and exerts a calming presence. Thank you very much for a very meaningful and eye-opening lesson.

My other thoughts on this experience: Never stop learning and practice definitely makes progress! Take good care of our kitchen tools will definitely help us to become more efficient with our meal preparations; improved efficiency will ease our minds, our focus will become clearer, and time will then be saved.

And time, perhaps is the most precious gift,  spending time together with family and friends is the true expression of love and care.

 

Note: Ai and Om Knives is located in the heart of Vancouver Chinatown, 129 East Pender Street.  Besides selling knives, they also carries a range of accessories , provide knife sharpening services and hosting workshops. Check their website for more details.

PS Note to my dear friend James; My knives will always be sharp from now on (OO).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 2016: Comfort at Home

img_3497
Stanley Park – Late October….I Love Vancouver

As the holiday season is quickly approaching, we all tend to shift our already busy schedules into complete overdrive.

I yearn for slower pace to rest, and crave comfort foods and quiet times to reflect.

This November I stay put at home in Vancouver, taking my time to try new recipes, going around my favourite city to see what it has to offer.

Follow me on Instagram (@mygoldenapron) for updates (OO) ;  tune in on November 30th 1030am sharp on Fairchild 1470 Ms. Deborah Moore’s program, we will be chatting about food and much more…

Official store opening: Ai and Om: Thank you very much!

At the end of October I was invited to the official grand opening of “Ai and Om”, the amazing artisan knife store located in Vancouver Chinatown, a big thank you to Chef and owner Douglas Chan and Ms. Katharine Manson for the invite!  After I talked about my “beloved” nakiri knife on the radio show, I have received emails inquiring about their products and sharpening services/classes,  please contact them directly at info@aiandomknives.com or better yet, pay them a visit (129 East Pender Street, Vancouver, BC).

ai-and-om

http://www.aiandomknives.ca

Shop Local:

I’ve always been a big supporter of local businesses in Vancouver BC; here’s the link to what I’ve talked about this morning on the radio show:

http://bcbuylocal.com/

 

Old School Ramen: Larmen!  @ Shibuyatei 

Chef Sato’s humble restaurant has been operating in Richmond for 5 years, hidden at the corner of Sexmith Road and Bridgeport (very close to Costco).  It is a very small operation (limited seating and the two times I went he’s the only one working) so the wait could be long but worthwhile to try this delicate, clean and flavorful broth, which is very different from all other choices available in Vancouver.  I had the spicy clam ramen (he calls it “larmen”) which came in the right hot temperature, perfect for a cold winter day. There is also a limited supply: 20 bowls for lunch and dinner every day.   Save room for the gyoza; my hubby had the katsu curry (fried pork chop with Japanese curry) and it was very tasty also.   Chef Sato is very serious about his craft, he talked about it so passionately and it clearly shows in his food.  Bravo for his dedication, as a home cook, I am inspired to work harder to hone my skills.

Shibuyatei: 2971 Sexsmith Road, Richmond, BC (corner of Sexsmith and Bridgeport Road, parking on the street).

shibuyatei
Spicy Clam Ramen (Larmen – Chef Sato calls it on menu) – Clean tasting shoyu based broth, no msg…perfect “hot” temperature…perfect for a cold winter day

Japanese inspired Vegetarian cafe: Workshop Vegetarian

Pictures of this quaint cafe are popping up on Instagram constantly, I had to drive out to North Vancouver (296 Pemberton Avenue (at Marine Drive) to see what it is all about !  Their motto is serving healthy vegetarian dishes, with vegan options available.  We shared three things from their menu: the smashed avocado toast on their house baked organic natural yeast bread, organic “nama” shoyu ramen and the Kyoto style udon:  My favourite is the toast, the noodle soups are very clean tasting and flavorful,  I didn’t have room to try their baked goods so we will go back for another visit sometime!

http://theworkshopvegetariancafe.com/

workshop-2
Smashed Avocado on organic natural yeast bread: the texture of the bread reminded me of foccacia, the smash has a hint of tartness which I enjoyed a lot!
workshop-veg-1
Nama Ramen: Mushroom broth with hint of truffle shallot oil
workshop-3
Kyoto style udon with tofu, mushroom and egg – light and clean tasting broth

Pizzette Lunch at Famoso Neopolitan Pizzeria on Commercial Drive

Once in a while I do love to have pizza our favourite is Zachary’s at Oak and 16th); we have walked by Famoso (1380 Commercial Drive (at Kitchener))many times and it is always very busy! Finally last Saturday we got in for lunch.  I had absolutely no idea this is actually a chain across Canada (I always root for the independents) and I was pleasantly surprised!  My hubby and I both ordered our own pizzette (7 inch small pizza) lunch which comes with either soup or salad, and I added a tomato bisque, cold rainy day calls for soup!  I love thin crusted pizzas which is not too heavily loaded, theirs is just perfect to my liking; and the tomato soup, served with a spoonful of ricotta cheese was rustic and hearty.  Service was upbeat and friendly, we now know another good place in one of our favourite neighbourhoods.

http://www.famoso.ca

famoso-2
Mushroom pizzette!
famoso-pizza-1
Tomato bisque – Hearty and Satisfying!

Comfort Foods at Home: Old recipes and new experiment (recipes coming soon: vegetarian friendly)

Cooking and Resting Lots at home…

My sources in Vancouver: Seafood City (Granville Island), Artisan Sake Maker at Granville Island (Osake), Vancouver Farmers Market (now Winter Market at Nat bailey is on), Fujiya Japanese food store (Clark Drive),  Vancouver Island Salt Company (sea salt available at various locations), Bread Affair (bakery at Granville Island, also available at grocery stores).

Japanese Corn Potage: this no dairy recipe is still one of my favourites (recipe published March 2014 – check the archives) to make once in a while.

japanese-corn-potage

img_3490-1
Roasted Butternut squash red miso shimeji napa cabbage udon – a keeper for winter!

 

 

 

New experiment: Roasted Butternut squash miso soup with shimeji mushroom and napa cabbage udon (new recipe coming) – it takes a little time but worthwhile!  I used the turkey carcass to make the base stock (bonito flake/kombu dashi or just kombu dashi (for vegetarians) work just as well), roasted the butternut squash, sauteed the onions, added to stock and pureed to make the soup. Add little olive oil and the red miso paste to soup pot, add and sauteed shimeji mushrooms and cabbage, then add soup to pot.   Udon cooked separately and put in bowls, ladle soup to serve, garnish with green onions.

When Japanese meets Italian: Roasted asparagus soup with homemade anchovy croutons and there is no dairy?  A couple spoonful of Japanese rice (other than potato) will do the trick and give the creaminess which we all love. Inspiration came from recipe by Joy Manning on Food and Wine and Basho Cafe (another of my favourite in Vancouver); I made this vegetarian (kombu based dashi) except the croutons which I used anchovies as flavouring (sourdough bread seasoned with seasalt, olive oil), this pureed soup is creamy in texture yet light, perfect for light supper or lunch.

asparagus-soup

Last but not least…..Snapper Hot Pot Rice: snapper bones used to make stock (roasted bones, daikon, green onion, sake kasu, bonito flake/kombu dashi, small pork shank – at least 1 1/2 hours) then strained set aside, fish filet (by the fishmonger, my favourite Seafood City) and pin bones removed (I did myself at home),  Japanese Haiga rice used for this dish, cleaned and soaked for 30 minutes prior to cooking. Seasoning (shiro shoyu/mirin/sake 3/2/1 ratio) added to rice in nabe and stir evenly, I added enoki mushroom (one thin layer) then the kombu (from stock making), slices of lemon), medium heat to cook rice stove top.  Around the 9 minute mark, check the liquid (make sure it’s not all dried out) and add the fish filet on top, and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes until it’s done, the fish will remain very moist and tender.  Remove from heat, remove kombu, lemon slices, flake the fish and serve with mitsuba (Japanese parsley), grated lemon zest and a touch of sansho (Japanese ground pepper), and a drizzle of homemade ponzu (dashi/soy/sake/mirin and lemon juice).

img_4004
Voila! Snapper Nabe Rice
img_4009-1
Fish flaked and served with chopped Japanese parsley, grated lemon zest and sansho ground pepper