Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gettin' Cheesy with Burgoo

Burgoo on Main Street is the perfect place for a lazy brunch sort of Sunday. Great for a soup and sandwich type of date, rain or shine - especially if all you're craving is some grilled cheese. My pal SC and I both chose to have their 'Gooey Cheese Grillers' stuffed with mozzarella, gruyere, emmenthal and white cheddar. These thick cut sandwiches will hit you in all the right spots. Definitely not stingy with the cheese or bread, prepare yourself for food baby aftermath. I usually love to dip my sandwiches in a nice white chowder, this time having their 'Pacific Chowder' featuring smoked salmon, seafood and potato finished with green peas and fresh herbs and SC often enjoys a light salad with apple, red onion, bacon, and feta drizzled with a thyme vinaigrette.

I wouldn't say that I'm a huge patio fan but something about this location rubs me just the right way with their comfortable huge chairs and warm blankets.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mama's Authentic 'Bun Bao'

It's been a while since I let you into my mama's kitchen so here is another authentic Vietnamese specialty of hers: Bun Bao. Or as my parents like to call it 'Vietnamese salad'. You take a handful of vermicelli, chopped lettuce, cooked pork, ground up peanuts and bean sprouts and toss them in a bowl. Finish it off with some fried onions and dipping fish sauce and voila, you've got yourself a refreshing summer 'salad'. The marinade and sauce for the pork is to die for but I guess for now, the secret is safe with her! :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Giant Takoyaki, Cold Ramen and Sushi Cones Make For Excellent Trailer Food!

I was afraid that it was too late to post about this delicious outdoor food stand experience but I just checked their website and they've moved to an indoor location for now! Bakudanyaki Tenku, to my knowledge, is a group of traveling food carts (in Richmond) that offer fantastic little meals to their valued customers who follow them around. On this summer day, my pals and I found them in a parking lot behind the River Rock Casino on Charles Street. Highly recommended by my cousin JV and friend TC, I decided to persuade my friends to come along for the ride!

We started off at a 'create-your-own-sushi-cone' stand where I dreamt up a concoction of gyoza, cheddar cheese and cucumber sushi. Although the combination may be a turn off to some, let me tell you, it did not disappoint! In fact, it was deeeeeeeeeeelish! Look at the cute and hilarious menu below. :)

Next up, we went for their infamous giant takoyaki balls that were literally the size of the palm of one hand. Served in a mini take-out box and loaded with seafood on the inside and bonito flakes on the outside, this doughy ball of goodness is a must try!! I have yet to try the other flavors ... has anyone tried the "Special".? LOL.

And lastly we devoured their 'cold ramen noodle salad' which was their only offering on this hot, hot July day. I was a bit skeptical at first since I usually prefer my ramen to be piping hot but this dish was super refreshing with a tasty sauce and lots of fixins'! It was by far my favorite thing.

My friends and I did a few rounds as we came her for dinner and it was a really fun and unique experience for us. I would definitely recommend all you foodies out there to give it a whirl!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Love You, Beef & Blue Cheese Dollar Pizza

My absolute fave dollar pizza place was Pizza Garden on Commercial Drive until they recently closed down. They had the best beef and blue cheese pizza and even had free extra blue cheese sauce on the side so you could blue cheese any flavor pizza you wanted. Don't be fooled because this blue cheese sauce is not as pungent as the actual blue cheese. It must've been mixed with some cream or mayo to equate the goodness that poured from its spout. Drizzled atop tiny crispy balls of ground beef on a sesame crusted triangular slice and sometimes graced by the presence of tomatoes, this pizza will go down in history. Give it a whirl peeps (at other pizza joints) as it's a Phan Fave!

PS - Remember the good ol' days when dollar pizza was actually a dollar? Now it's at least $1.50!!! It's a cruel, cruel world y'all.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

ShuRaku - My New Favorite Izakaya

The first time I dined at ShuRaku with my pals SC and CS, my foodie senses were jumping for joy. It was one of the best meals I had in a while. Izakaya menus are usually quite standard and similar but for some reason, this place just blew me away and I'm planning to go there again this week! Must. try. more. dishes.

The spicy salmon tartar you see above is unique with a raw quail egg cracked on top mixed with avocado, pine nuts and served with crispy nori crackers. My heart used to belong to an alike dish at Kingyo but they since got rid of it! Boohoo!

Next up, we tried the Eda-Matchsticks. You guessed it, edamame beans mixed with potatoes, fried to a crisp and served with a ying yang of mayo and ketchup dip - simply scrumptious!

The Roulette roll is now one of my new favorite specialty rolls. An amalgamation of spicy chopped scallop, avocado and cucumber topped with negitoro, lotus root chips and finished off with a dab of black seaweed soy sauce. Inventive, I say!

Here's an original take on mini slider. Best known here as a 'Japa Slida', and much like KFC's 'Double Down' burger, say bye bye to bread buns and hello to rice patties! A deliciously marinated pork/beef burger with all the fixins' and sealed with a piece of nori, this savoury slida is one to watch out for.

These BBQ back Japanese style ribs will leave you licking your fingers, digging underneath your nails and yearning for more once you get down to the bone! As one of their signature dishes, this meat will fall right off the bone, into your stomach and ingrained in your foodie memory forever.

Last but not least, the Autumn Roll. Yam tempura and cream cheese, topped off with seared salmon, wakame and mayo, definitely a delight for the fall. The atmosphere is much like the other tapas places downtown but the flavor combination, portions and coupons set them aside from the rest.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cheap Cones Bring Back Great Memories

Did I ever tell you how much I enjoy cheap ice cream cones? When I was just a wee lad, my cousins and I would go gaga over a bucket of grocery store Neapolitan ice cream and a box of cheap ice cream cones. No fancy waffle cones here. Just the budget, crumble in your mouth and hands, leaky, soggy cones. Once in a while, this tradition pops back up at our yearly potlucks. JOY. Btw, this was devoured during a hot summer day at Lonsdale Quay.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Summer Salmon in a Basil Mussel Broth

Seriously, can my food life get any better? Restaurant quality cooking (in most cases, even better) in the comfort of my sister's home. I get served like a king, JC does the dishes and I just kick back and relax while I instantly reminisce about the amazing meal I just had. That just made me sound like a big fat slob but I just love getting pampered at my big sister's place! I hope these blog posts show my gratitude for it. This day, I share with you, my experience with her Cornmeal Crusted Salmon in a Basil Mussel Broth. That's right, we're high class baby, and living large! (She is, anyway.)

Straight from Michael Smith's 'The Best of Chef at Home' cookbook, here's how!

  • 2-3 lbs, mussels
  • Splash of white wine
  • Splash of heavy cream
  • 2 tbls of basil pesto
  • 1 cup of fine cornmeal (important to use fine cornmeal, coarse does not coat as well)
  • S&P
  • Skinless salmon fillets
  • Vegetable Oil
Directions (Broth):
  • Toss mussels, wine and cream in stockpot and cook until mussel shells pop open
  • Cool mussels so you can shuck them
  • Strain the broth and throw the mussels back in and put aside until ready to serve salmon

Directions (Salmon):
  • Toss salmon, one at a time, in a large resealable bag with cornmeal, S&P
  • Add cooking oil in pre-heated pan
  • Add the crusted salmon fillets and pan-fry until golden on the first side (about 5 minutes), then turn and crisp other side
Serve finished salmon with a ladleful of preheated mussel broth.

LC makes everything sound easy but she is just a natural cook and knows her way around the kitchen. I would be slightly afraid to try something like this but I will definitely give this recipe a whirl someday! Of course we added a few sides to go with this entree. Some mini skewers of grape tomatoes, bocconcini and basil, a fresh Caesar salad, a bread loaf from Steveston and my panko crusted prawns! Oh, and some watered down frozen orange juice to wash it all down, my fave! :)

Cream Cheese Frosted Carrot Cake (Wow, that's a lot of C's!)

Another easy recipe to share with y'all. HS, I promise you will not have to call me after attempting this one in your own home. :) Check out that nice golden brown color of my 'naked carrot cake'. I owe a big thanks to my gal pal MC and her momma for sharing this delicious recipe with me. Try putting the cake in the fridge for a chilled cake snack, yum!

'Easy Peezy' Cooking Instructions:
  • In one bowl, sift together 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 3/4 tsp salt and 1 tsp cinnamon.
  • In another bowl, beat 1 and 1/4 cup oil, 2 cups sugar and add 4 eggs (1 at a time!!!)
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients and add 2 cups of grated carrots at the end.
  • Pour into a bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.

Wait for the cake to cool off a bit on a cooling rack and then spread cream cheese icing evenly like so! The craft you see above is by my sister slave MP.

Cream Cheese Icing:
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
Beat in a mixing bowl until desired light and fluffiness and apply to cake!

The Classic Meal at a BBT Joint

I really wish I could sample every dish at a bubble tea restaurant joint. With their ESL descriptions like 'hot cross bums' and 'chief special', you just never know what you're going to get! Which is why I usually end up rotating a few dishes. It's always safe to order the 'salt and peppery deep fried chicken' with rice or noodles. AKA 'deep fried chicken nuggets' or something of that sort. They do it best at Beefy Beef Noodle House on Main or the original No.1 Beef Noddle House on Willingdon. Fried with a bit of basil and it's perfect-0!

And I always like to pair my hot meals with a nice icy drink to cool me down. You can't really go wrong with a lychee green tea at any BBT place either. No pearls though or else you'll be REALLY full and rolling out the door!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Quick to Assemble Mini Chicken Sliders

A lovely German friend of mine invited us over one day for a chill night of Beer Pong and Apples to Apples. Of all the festivities, of course I remember the food table the most. TS simply put out some rotisserie chicken, mini buns, a package of hummus and coleslaw - AND DAMN THIS WAS A GOOD COMBO! I would have never put these ingredients together but BOY was it one tasty little slider! Or two ... or three. Give it a whirl, people!

Mama Phan's 'Risotto Fried Rice'

After some discussion with my sister and consulting Google, I decided to call his dish 'risotto fried rice'. I'm sure all the Asians know what I'm referring to. Made much like risotto or pilaf, this raw and slowly fried glutinous rice is made with constant stirring and adding of water and stock. Fried in plump clumps with Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, mushroom and egg, this rice dish takes a lot of work, love and patience to perfect. Lucky for me, my mom, and all of my aunts are masters at producing this to the tee! We are a bunch of lucky little piggies. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Laughing Cow Cheese Brightens My Day!

MmmmMMMmm, Laughing Cow Cheese. This post really needs no further words except I have to try the flavored ones. I eat one with crackers every day as a snack at work and say 'MmmmMmm' with every bite. Right, MC? PS - I just realized that crazy cow is donning the cheese as earrings, WEIRD. Oh well, it's a Phan Fave and I'm still going to eat it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

You Had Me at Crispy Ceci ...

What is this 'Crispy Ceci' you ask? It's tiny balls of deep fried chickpeas mixed with chillies, mint and citrus. I'm talking about Campangolo here - an Italian gem on the outskirts of Chinatown nestled right on Main Street. It is the best little appetizer ever and unique in every way. I'm pretty sure you haven't lived until you've tasted this crackling sensation in your mouth. VanMag published it, so it MUST be good!

Next up, word on the street was that after many revisions of the menu, their pork ragu was one of the few that survived. The Tagliatelle was definitely tasty and made with basil and Pecorino Romano cheese. However, the other two dishes outshone this one in my opinion.

My foodie friend CS opted for my second choice on the menu, their Carbonara pizza. Now you all know I am a LUVA of pasta carbonara, but imagine it on a PIZZA! With a sunny side egg cracked on top ... DROOL-A-RAMA! This pizza pie was HUGE in size and fluffy in dough like an elephant's ear. It was topped off with smoked provolone, bacon, cremini mushrooms and onions. I am screaming 'Excellente!' right now as I bring my fingers together, lift my hand to my mouth, touch my fingers to my lips and release a loud smooch of fireworks for this breathtaking dish!

Last but not least, SC chose their divine Pappardelle. Tossed with fennel sausage, rapini, garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs, this dish wrapped up our lunch quite nicely. I would 100% recommend this Italian resto to you all and hey, why not hit up the Cobalt across the street after? I did one once and it was one HELL of a night! ;)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Asian Comfort Food - Bubble Tea and Thick Toast

This is Asian soul food. When we feel happy, we go for bubble tea to celebrate. When we are sad, we drown our sorrows in milk tea and tapioca. It's our comfort food alright. Featured here is the tofu dessert with pearls from Bubble World. Some people might irk at the thought of a cold, sweet tofu consistency as dessert (like many do when they hear about Chinese desserts with beans) but this soft, slurp-able drink in sugary syrup with round tapioca pearls is one of my favorite bubble teas. And they do it oh-so-right at the Bubble World on Kingsway.

Here we can a nice baked thick toast covered in condensed milk. Fatty and delicious! Other popular toppings include peanut butter, chocolate or just plain butter and sugar. The perfect warm and gooey snack to wash down with an ice cold bubble tea! Whatever you do, do NOT count your calories at this place. Rumor has it that a milk tea with pearls has more calories than a Big Mac!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Wonderful World of Panko (Crusted Tiger Prawns)

Panko crusted tiger prawns with Thai sweet chili sauce. Easy to make and even easier to eat! Buy a bag of frozen prawns, defrost, peel and devein (if not already done), cut slits down the middle and butterfly and prepare for dipping! Add flour to a small bowl. In another shallow dish, beat an egg (and add a bit of milk if you like) and in a third bowl, pour out your panko crumbs (coconut or Parmesan would be nice touches as well). Take the shrimp by the end, dredge in the flour, dip into the egg, and then coat with the crust and place them on a pan with the tails in the air. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees Celsius and serve with the Thai sweet chili sauce. Makes for a great appetizer! Two tips though: do NOT substitute panko for bread crumbs (it just ain't the same) and leave the tails on (easier to batter and eat)! Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes. :)

I also have to give a special shout out to my pal HS who tried this recipe and failed due to my mix-up of directions!!! My apologies to her and her beau. She is an awesome 'phan' of Phancouver and I love her for continuing to read my blog and giving me feedback! The above recipe is now fixed and I hope you can all enjoy some properly cooked prawns this time!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Wish Came True - Homemade Kimbap At My Door!

So you all know that my sister Linda is a great cook. I've posted many of her homemade dishes and admit it, they've had you drooling. Now one of my colleagues, SS, also has a sister named Linda who is quite the chef. WITH A BIG HEART! She offered to make us gals a nice homemade lunch consisting of kimbap, inari (with extra radish, crab meat and ginger on the side), and instant ramen noodles! SS claims that they have to be eaten together and indeed, they paired well! I absolutely loved the mixture of hot, hot instant noodles with cold/room temperature rice. My personal fave was the inari. Look at the beautiful presentation!

SS also taught me another trick on how to wolf down a piping hot cup of noodles. Remove the lid, fold it into a cone (simple origami in her mind, but complex in mine), place some noodles in the cone to cool down, and slurp when ready! For someone like me who has a difficult time eating hot foods, this method is gold! Give it a whirl people! :)

My 100th Post Belongs to My Mama's Vietnamese Spring Rolls

It is only fitting that I celebrate my 100th post by revealing my most favorite food in the entire world. The ultimate Phan Fave. My mama's Vietnamese spring rolls. Yes, I would choose this meal if I was ever sentenced to the electrical chair.

While I'll never be able to share the entire recipe with you, I will reveal the goods. Partly because this is a family secret recipe but mostly because I don't even know the English names of some of the ingredients! And because a true chef does not use measurements and has the special gift of just adding to taste. I will however share that the filling is made with an amalgamation of ground pork, minced shrimp and crab meat, Chinese mushrooms, bean sprouts, vermicelli, minced shallots, eggs, pepper, garlic powder, fish sauce and soy sauce.

If you try to duplicate this recipe, it just won't happen. Especially because it's dipped in my dad's special vinegar sauce. Honestly, it's the best damn spring roll out there and you should feel privileged if you're one of the lucky few who have tried it!

A Dessert to Die For - Earl's Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding

One of my favorite desserts to devour from a restaurant (and believe me, I don't have very many) is the Earl's Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding. Essentially, this bad boy is assembled with a warm, rich chocolate cake drizzled in chocolate and toffee sauces, and paired with vanilla bean ice cream nestled in an edible caramel crunchy nest. It tastes very similar to a lava cake with ice cream but with added goodness. It's the perfect comfort dessert to end a well deserved relaxing night out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

7 Layered Finger Jello - Heaven on Earth

And my brother in law's Earth-angel-of-a-mom strikes again. You really have to be one of the nicest and most patient people on Earth to put together this rainbow finger jello with layers of condensed milk in between. It's such a treat when she gives us a whole tray of them. :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I'm a 'Meat 'n' Potatoes' Kinda Gal

You know how people categorize some men as a 'meat 'n' potatoes' kinda guy? Well I'm a 'meat 'n' potatoes' kinda gal. Further to my earlier post on My Greek raving about their lamb and tarama, I also have a deep, deep love for their kalamari and beef/chicken souvlaki dinners. Again, their portions are just no match for any competing Greek restaurant and their meat offers a tenderness like no other. I'm telling you, it's a Phan Fave and well worth the drive y'all! AND, it's even better when you doggy bag the leftovers and have it the next day. Mmmmm, leftovers.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bring on the Bao Bei!

I'm going to be honest right off the bat. Bao Bei is a happening place for overpriced, under-portioned food BUT the flavors are amazing, the crowd and decor is retro chic cool and their drinks are decent. We started the night off with a pitcher of their summer 'sangria-like' drink which was tasty and refreshing on a hot sweaty summer day!

First up, we had their Crispy Daikon Cake which really is a glorified radish cake you can get for $2.50 from any dim sum place. Tasty, but not tasty enough for me to go back for it. That is my new rule. You know it's good if you're already thinking about going back and ordering it again next time.

Their Shao Bing on the other hand is a must try. Braised pork butt (delicious sounding, I know) with Asian pear, pickled onion and mustard greens sandwiched in between crunchy sesame flatbread makes for an inventive do-over resembling a Vietnamese sub. Genius.

However another pet peeve I have of tapas type places are how menu items are portioned. In the perfect world, every tapas place would consider the amount of people in your party and account for that when splitting up the dish or counting the number of pieces per dish. It just really sucks when you go in a group of five, and the dishes are made for four. Seriously people, we would pay the extra $, just don't make two people suffer by having to share what is already a tiny piece of food!

Their pork potstickers were good and standard - the usual.

Their Warm Eggplant with a soy, garlic and ginger sauce was surprisingly very un-plain and satisfying for my taste buds. However I am a big fan of eggplant so I could be a bit biased.

Another creative dish they offer is the Mantou steam buns with braised beef shortrib, hoisin, scallions, pickled cucumber and roasted peanuts. A gloried 'cha sui bao' for those who know what I'm talking about. Perfectly marinated and easy to devour.

Now this dish really caught me off guard. First off, because I'm Chinese, I don't usually like to go out for Chinese food or order Chinese vegetables, BUT this Pearl Bok Choi dish with a ground pork and black bean sauce is to die for! I couldn't get enough of that juicy goodness the bok choi was swimming around in!

And my favorite dish of the night - the crispy pork belly with sauteed soybeans, Asian cucumber, chili, garlic, pickled red onion, tamarind and star anise tomato sauce. Let's face it, any item on the menu that says pork belly, or pork butt, or pork fatty anything is expected to be good. This one did not fail my theory.

And we ended the evening with a refreshing fried banana with lime and coconut sorbet dish. Oh and I might as well add that we REALLY ended the night with some Twilight action.

All in all, I might return here again one day if I'm feeling like a high roller, or if I know it's being paid for but probably wouldn't spend my own dime eating at this glorified dim sum joint for hipsters. I'm not bashing the food though, it's delicious, I just have to start watching every penny on my dine outs!