February was filled with family visits and gatherings with friends celebrating the Lunar New Year. There were new discoveries and return visits to old favourites and some long forgotten places, all filled with pleasant little surprises.
OINK OINK OINK:
So Hyang Korean Cuisine: Perfectly grilled mackerel for me and Korean Galbi (beef short ribs) for him; tasty authentic cuisine on Fraser Street at reasonable prices.
Lunar New Year Feasts at Fortune Terrace Chinese Cuisine and Red Star Chinese Restaurant: Great Food and Fun times: A huge thank you to my zumba classmates (you know who you are) for arranging these special dinners (OO)
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.
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)
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.
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!
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.
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).
Here are some of the dishes which I have been cooking at home in September! Autumn is definitely my favourite cooking season (OO)
This month I am featuring three recipes which you may have seen on my Instagram account @mygoldenapron
Follow me for more recent updates; 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).
Italian style Tomato, Green beans and Potato Salad (Adapted from September 2016 edition of Food and Wine)
I have adapted this simple and nutritious recipe from last September’s Food and Wine magazine; every six months when my dear friend James return from Italy to Canada for a visit, I always go through an Italian cooking phase!
Ingredients and preparation: You can change the produce according to seasonality; I find the balsamic vinaigrette works very well with savoy cabbage and brussels sprouts, so use your imagination and work with the flavours.
1/2 pound baby potatoes: In medium saucepan, covered with cold water and bring to a boil, add a pinch of sea salt and simmer over medium low heat until potatoes are tender. Drain and let cool, then slice in half.
1/2 pound green beans (or any other colourful beans you can find at your local market) – trim the ends; bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the beans and a pinch of sea salt and blanch until the beans are crisp yet tender, under 2 minutes. Drain and transfer beans to ice bath to cool. Drain again and dry thoroughly.
1 whole shallot – thinly sliced, you can use red onions or add more shallots
1 -2 ears of fresh corn: remove the husk (you can freeze and save it for later use to make vegetable broth) and silk, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add corn , cover the saucepan and return it to a boil. Cook until corn is tender; drain and let cool. Place the corn on a clean cutting board, trim one end of the corn so it stands flat, use a knife to slice the kernels off the cob.
1 Tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chiffonade (thin strips) of fresh basil and 1/4 cup chiffonade (thin strips) of fresh parsley
1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
In a large mixing bowl, whisk 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of honey (optional). Add the potatoes, beans, tomatoes, corn, shallots and capers and toss gently. Fold in the basil and parsley, season with salt and pepper.
*To increase our vegetable intake, I added some mixed greens to the dish. When making a vinaigrette, use a good quality extra virgin olive oil.
A Healthier Baked Pork Chop “Rice” (with cauliflower, carrot, rice) with homemade tomato sauce with onions, red and green pepper:
Baked pork chop rice is one of my favorite childhood dish, I made a version of this Hong Kong style dish using boneless pork loin (from one of my favourite butcher shop Petes Meats crusted in toasted panko (panko precooked before breading the pork, method adapted from Ms. Namiko Chen’s Just One Cookbook method)
Prepare the Panko Crusted Pork:
Preheat the oven to 350 F (place oven rack on top).
I have chosen a good quality pork and pound it evenly, prepare the toasted panko (1 cup panko and 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat two pork loins) – 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. Set aside and let cool down, keep 1 to 2 teaspoons aside and use as “sprinkle” when ready to bake the dish.
Let the toasted panko cool before you start coating the pork loins. Coat the pork loin one at a time: dip pork loin into beaten egg mixture, make sure you get rid of the excess egg mixture.
Using your dry hand, coat the loins with toasted panko. Lightly brush the flakes to cover the pork loin, then lightly press the panko flakes, make sure they adhere and the fillet is coated evenly. Place the coated pork loins on the baking sheet. Baked the pork loins until 3/4 ways cooked through (approximately 8 – 9 minutes). Remove from the oven.
Prepare the cauliflower, carrot and rice combination: I do not have specific measurements for this recipe, however for the two of us, I have prepared one cup of cooked rice (I used Japanese Haiga rice), 1 cup of finely chopped cauliflower, 1 small carrot (finely chopped) – First I cooked the rice in the rice cooker, when it is ready, remove from rice cooker and let it cool (you can use “overnight rice”). In a frying pan, add 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil), sautéed the cauliflower (you will need to add a little water otherwise it will burn, you will need to cover pan for a short time to “steam” and soften the cauliflower), add carrot when cauliflower is half-cooked, add the cooked rice and a pinch of sea salt (season to taste), mix “cauliflower rice” and rice very well, when vegetables are cooked through, remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare the Tomato sauce: You can use canned tomato sauce and add onions, red and green pepper. For my sauce, I used 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil to sautéed three medium size San Marzano tomatoes (I got from the Farmer’s Market, they are so flavorful: chopped and seeded), you can use more tomatoes if you want to make more sauce), 1/2 to 1 cup filtered water and a clove of finely chopped garlic. Using medium low heat, cook the mixture until tomatoes are soft. Turn off heat, working in small batches, spoon mixture into blender, remove the centre cap from the lid of the blender. Cover the lid with a folded clean dishcloth and hold it down when you are blending. Repeat until you are done.
Using the same sauce pan, add another 1/2 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil to sautéed one chopped (bite size) onion until slightly caramelized. Add one chopped red pepper (thin sliced) and one chopped green pepper (thin sliced), cook for 1 minute, return puree tomato sauce to pan, mix well and using low heat, simmer until sauce is thickened (20 to 25 minutes), season with sea salt to taste.
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Using an oven proof casserole or baking dish, spoon the “rice” in the bottom, then add a layer of the tomato and pepper sauce, place the panko crusted pork loin, then spoon more sauce and cover the pork loin, make sure you have some onions on top, and sprinkle the remaining toasted panko. Baked in the oven for 8 to 12 minutes, or longer if you want the sauce to brown nicely, remember the pork loin must cook through.
***You can use the “broil” feature to really brown the sauce, cheese can be added to achieve a “bubbling” effect.
***The Extra Virgin Olive oil which I use for sauteed or stir fry dishes is suitable for everyday cooking usage.
Shiso Lemon Water: Recipe from YouTube “Food Video”
Since last year I started watching the “Food Video” channel on YouTube; this channel is based in Shanghai, China and feature some professional and home chefs.This channel is so much fun to watch: the videos are short and stylish; the cooking demonstrations and instructions are simple to understand.
Do you like shiso (perilla leaves)? It is commonly used in Taiwanese and Japanese cooking, particularly used to flavor and pickled plums, and often it will appear on your sashimi order. If you have read my other posting (August 2017: Cheesecake and Salad Rolls with Cooking Buddies), my friend Phung has shown us to add shiso leaves to homemade salad rolls; I have also used shiso in my duck breast dish (September 2014 posting).
Shiso has its medicinal benefits and two recipes are featured on this video: the one I have tried is a very refreshing drink, a great digestive aid and helps to reduce the “dampness” (Chinese medicine term) in your body. The flavor is very subtle and drizzle of honey is used to sweeten the drink. When the lemon juice is added to the purple shiso water, it changes into a very pretty pink colour.
I have made this drink a few times and I really enjoyed it! You only need three ingredients: fresh purple shiso leaves, lemon juice and a little honey (I used a drizzle of manuka honey).
Below is a translation of the recipe:
In a large sauce pan, add 80 grams of chopped purple shiso leaves to 1 litre of filtered cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Set aside and let it cool.
Add 50 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, the shiso water will start to turn “pink”.
Add a drizzle of honey as sweetener.
You can drink as is or add ice / ice water if you prefer the drink to be slightly diluted. Enjoy (OO)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are the snapshots of what I have been cooking at home this past month! Recipes coming very soon.
For the time being you can find my other updates and pictures with description posted on Instagram (@mygoldenapron).
I would also love to hear your feedback so feel free to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or drop me a line through Instagram (OO).
Picture above: Sake Kasu Miso Sable Fish with Mixed vegetable (burdock, turnip leaves, lotus root and broccoli) rice: the dried burdock, turnip and lotus root are from Japan, I found them at a local Japanese store).
Nduja spaghetti Bolognese (with basil sausage from Oyama sausage and Co) : Remember Nduja, the spicy sausage spread ? I added to my Bolognese recipe to spice things up a bit !
When Japanese meets Italian: Roast shio koji organic chicken, cauliflower broccoli penne pasta in lemon parsley herb drizzle, garnish with crispy kale bits and lemon zest. It is very easy to make the herb drizzle: chives, parsley, lemon juice, grated lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, drizzle of honey and pinch of sea salt.
Pan fried spot prawn with Thai red curry (store-bought paste, added fish sauce, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves) served with lentil quinoa turmeric rice: since spot prawn season is over, you can substitute with other prawns/shrimp available for this dish).
Faux Unagi Donburi (Rice bowl): Orange roughy turned into unagi; baked and glazed with homemade unagi sauce, scrambled dashi egg with green onions, on a bed of turmeric (just a touch) fresh peas and carrot rice, garnish with crispy kale bits (my current favourite garnish in place of seaweed)
Disclaimer: All ingredients are non-sponsored purchased at some of my preferred vendors in Vancouver, BC. Pictures are my own and dishes are my creations based on what I have learned through cooking classes, reading cookbooks and research.
Deconstructed Afternoon Tea at Wild Sweets: “an affair to remember”
I revisited Wild Sweets with my dear foodie friends one Sunday afternoon for their “Cocoa Bean to Chocolate Afternoon Tea”, their 13-course afternoon tea is a very unique and “hands on” affair. All courses came “deconstructed” with detailed explanation presented by Mr. Dominique, each item includes a cocoa bean to chocolate element, all served with a chocolate tea infusion. Their take on this old tradition is very refreshing and modern filled with wonderful surprises, I felt I was taken “back in time” to secondary school days experimenting in the science lab. We had the most wonderful 2 hours assembling and styling the delicate treats, it is definitely an “affair” to remember.
Thank you very much to Dominique and Cindy and their staff for this wonderful learning experience!
Booking for this event is available online through their website:
My dear friend James now resides in Casperia, Italy and comes back to Canada to visit his family twice a year. Whenever he is in town, we always get together to cook an Epic Italian Dinner at my home. We always have the best time preparing all the dishes together for our friends, I hope in the near future someday I will be cooking with James, a truly wonderful teacher, in Italy..
James always introduce a tasty and authentic Italian element to our dinners: I rarely use already processed sauce or paste, however I am willing to make an exception for James! And here comes “Nduja”: a spicy cured pork salumi spread originally from Calabria, Italy.
When using nduja, a little goes a long way, the smell and taste reminded me a little of chorizo sausage (without the distinctive smell). We used it as the base for the sauce, cooked together with a little olive oil, white wine and minced garlic; then we steamed the clams in the sauce, finished off with grated lemon zest. Toss in “al dente” spaghetti (nduja is already salty so be light handed with salt when boiling pasta) and Voila! The flavors melted together and lifted the pasta dish to a different level, and the sauce tasted even better on the next day.
James was such a sweetie and got rid of all the clam shells!
The bottled version is available at Bianca Maria, a quaint Italian food store on East Hastings; the sausage version is available at Oyama Sausage in Granville Island; give it a try and tell me which version do you like better?
Always cook with love and thoughtfulness, and eat with your love ones (quote Peter Ciuffa “pastaboy”)
Beautiful sea bass from Brian’s wonderful Seafood City at Granville Island, nduja sausage from Oyama Sauage and Co., romano beans from Granville Island Market.
I checked out the sweet and rustic Baker and Table bakery cafe at East 48th Avenue and Fraser, it was wonderful to meet the owner Ms. Hitomi who provided really wonderful and friendly service.
I really enjoyed the organic chicken with cashew pesto sandwich and the cheesecake for dessert; I also purchased the tasty white bread (whipping cream incorporated) which was “pillowy” soft, I used to make thick toast at home for breakfast. She does accept special cake orders, I returned the next day and purchased a delicious strawberry shortcake and enjoyed it with my friends on our Epic Italian Dinner Gathering. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook for menu information and updates.
Baci Baci Kissa Tanto in Chinatown: Memorable Dinner and Superb Service
One rainy Thursday night after a long and hectic day at work, we decided to head to Chinatown and got in to Kissa Tanto (it was around 8 pm) without any reservations!
The experience left us speechless: the dishes (our favorite was the lasagna of the day (picture shown) were filled with interesting elements of Japanese and Italian flavors, a combination which I personally enjoyed a lot.
The service (I believe our server’s name name is Celina) was very attentive and superb. Love their retro decor and ambiance: Kissa Tanto, thank you for a memorable dining experience.
How’s your New Year so far? After “MIA” for almost two months I finally have time to catch up a little…I have been busy at work and spent most of January fighting the flu bug…and I have spent some wonderful time with my lovely sister…
Catch me on Wednesday February 22nd, 2017 1030 am sharp, Ms. Deborah Moore’s show on AM 1470 (OO)
A different kind of cooking: My new favorite stores on Main (Soap Dispensary and Welk’s)
My lovely sister is a beauty guru; she lives for beauty products and fittingly she’s in the business. During her recent visit while “snowed in” and confined to home, she decided to try something new and turned my kitchen into an experimental beauty lab. Our DIY’s are based on recipes my sister found online through many sources, we whipped up different batches of creams and balms, giving them away as precious Valentine’s gifts.
I find the process much simpler than soap making; as there are no chemicals involved, so it is much easier to handle. There are lots of videos available on-line you can use as reference; the best part is spending quality time with my sis…
My latest favorite shops on Main: the wonderful Soap Dispensary (soap refills, “low impact” living and fine products) and Welk’s (General store where we purchased the mason jars, they have almost everything at reasonable prices).
Simple lip balm recipe:Sterilized the little containers. Melt 100 g mixture of different oils (50 g coconut oil and 50 g sweet almond oil) and 18 g of bee wax in a double boiler or small glass bowl over a small pot of boiling water, keep stirring until melted. Add 1 to 2 spoonful of honey, stir and mix well. Remove pan from heat but keep mixture over the still hot water to keep mixture melted. Add your favorite essential oils: we used orange and frankincense). Pour into container and let it set.
(Frankincense (sap burnt in incense) is a common essential oil use in aromatherapy, can help to reduce stress, pain and inflammation, boost immunity etc).
Van Koji Foods, Benkei Ramen and Japanese Crepe Sasuke at Nikkei Center Flea Market:
Two years ago I’ve talked about using shio koji (see old short blog post), a natural seasoning made with salt, water and rice koji (typical mold -Asperiguillus Oryzae used for fermentation) and I’ve read about making this natural seasoning (from Just One Cookbook) at home.
Recently when I checked out the Book and Flea Market at the Nikkei Center, I made a wonderful discovery: meeting Ms. Tonami who makes and sell koji products from her company, Van Koji Foods. I have used the shoyu koji as a marinade for a mushroom rice dish and it has a very nice subtle flavor. I had a lovely chat with her and later signed up to attend the miso making class in early March.
I also had some delicious foods at the market: Japanese Crepe Sasuke (Richmond Market – currently no permanent physical location): nice thin crepe with strawberries and matcha ice-cream, check out their page on Facebook.
And a mini bowl of shio ramen from Benkei Ramen: remember Taka-san, Japanese sushi chef who teaches sushi making class at the Nikkei Center during the winter season? He is also the creator behind Benkei Ramen. I stopped by the stall to make the purchase and he remembered me! Taka-san, great seeing you! Check out his Facebook page (Taka’s Sushi Class) and look for updates for his classes.
Interesting Read: The Ultimate Grocery Storage Guide from food connections (Thanks to fellow Dinner Party YVR hobby chef Ms. Elaine Cheng for sharing on the homepage)
Reflections in Deep Frosty December… Words to Live By: Heart, Passion, Patience and Gratitude….
Wish you all a wonderful, healthy and prosperous 2017!
Catch me on December 28th Wednesday morning 1030 am Sharp on Fairchild Radio 1470 Deborah Moore’s program; we will be chatting about food and much more!
It’s all about Heart…..
From Instagram to Kitslano : MaknMing (1629 Yew Street, Vancouver, BC )
This is perhaps one of the highly anticipated restaurant openings in 2016: Chefs Makoto Ono and Amanda Cheng (previously from Gastown’s Pidgin) has opened their new restaurant “MaknMing”, a Japanese French fusion restaurant earlier this month. I must admit I was a fan already (because of a creative kohlrabi dan dan noodle dish at Pidgin), and I had the pleasure to meet them earlier because of Instagram and Seafood City (that is another lovely story)! We dined at their cosy eatery two weeks ago, enjoyed some delicious foods which they have cooked their hearts out and their crew provided us with impeccable service. I simply love their tagline “#smallteambighearts! Congratulations again Chefs for your opening, look forward to my next visit!
Check out their restaurant (open for dinner only, reservations accepted, check their website and follow their Instagram account (same name) for updates..
Last Saturday I literally had chocolate for breakfast when I visited Dominique and Cindy Duby’s Wild Sweets Atelier Store in Richmond (by Steveston Hwy)! The chocolates were so delicious and Mr. Duby was providing us with information on their products, I was blown away by their professional knowledge and certainly can feel their passion…We bought their “tea cake’ (a modern version of a fruit cake) for Christmas Dinner Dessert and everyone enjoyed it so much! I was thrilled to know they also have tastings and afternoon events available for booking online and I am already coordinating with my food pals to pay a visit in the New Year. Great to meet you both Dominique and Cindy, look forward to learning much more about chocolates and cocoa!
And a little Patience goes a long way in anything we do….and always cook with Love
Last month (See my November posting) I made a very traditional Japanese dish “Tai meshi (snapper rice); earlier this month I decided to tackle ramen and a different fish dish..Another challenge working on my focus and dedication to my craft, honing skills and building my patience..
A long time ago an old Japanese friend taught me how to make the Japanese braised chashu (pork) using pork shoulder butt (less fattening), ginger, leek, green onion, soy, mirin and sake. I marinade (soy/ginger/leek/green onion/sake) the pork shoulder over night; next day sauteed more leeks and ginger, add marinade to katsuobushi dashi (bonito flakes/kombu) to create the braising liquid, seared the pork shoulder and slowly “braised” (lading braising liquid over meat and flipping sides)
And for Christmas…I made a sockeye salmon pate (steamed salmon in lemon and a little sake, flaked and mixed with combination of Greek yogurt and Ojai lemonaise (1:1), grated lemon zest, chopped dill (don’t over do it as it can be overpowering), lemon juice, season to taste with black pepper and orange and lime sea salt as seasoning (Vancouver Island Salt Co – non-flavoured sea salt works also, I just happened to have this in my pantry!). I also made fresh cranberry sauce (fresh cranberries (1 bag) with blood orange juice and zest (1 big or 3 small blood orange), Cointreau (orange liquer) and brandy, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon stick, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar (a drizzle) and sea salt (I also used the orange and lime flavoured salt, regular works) – remember to fold in the zest almost towards the end of cooking process, and always adjust the seasoning accordingly.
And Gratitude Always ….Thank you to everyone… from my heart to yours..
That’s a wrap for 2016 – see you in the New Year (OO)
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 email@example.com, or better yet, pay them a visit (129 East Pender Street, Vancouver, BC).
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).