Hong Kong - A Foodie's Paradise

>> Thursday, January 26, 2012



With it being Chinese New Year right now, it has really got me thinking about our last Asia trip, especially all the delicious food that we found in and around Hong Kong! Crispy BBQ pork, roasted goose, stinky tofu! Although some might not see those as delicacies, no worries, there are a plethora of different cuisines and dishes offered. Ranging from street food for the adventurous ones to upscale Michelin star restaurants serving Italian and other foreign fair. I can only imagine what the foodie adventures would be like during Chinese New Year since I’ve never been during this time.

I can’t even being to imagine what it must be like in Hong Kong during the Lunar New Year aka Chinese New Year. The busting night markets must be even busier, the food must be even tastier and the lights are probably brighter everywhere you go!


Thinking back there were definitely some must sees. Avenue of the stars was one of those destinations because of its location and the amazing view it provides of Hong Kong Island. Located along the southern end of Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon Island. The promenade highlights all the Hong Kong stars and their achievements in arts and film (iron Bruce Lee statue also located here). At 8pm nightly there is also a light show display.

Since you’re already on Kowloon Island, don’t forget to check out Mong Kok, where you can find many different eateries selling the famous BBQ pork, duck, cha siu and other amazing Chinese rotisserie goodies. Mong Kok is also where the Ladies Street night market is located. There you can find a variety of items sold at very low prices. Remember to haggle because that is really part of the fun! The store keepers already know who the tourists are, so make sure not to start your pricing too high.


If you continue south of Mong Kok you’ll hit Temple Street, another night market area where they will tell your fortune. There are also a lot of eateries along the sides of the street and you can truly experience outdoor street dining. Remember to bring lots of tissues because these eateries do not provide tissue paper, but you can buy some for a small charge.

When dining in Hong Kong, you can’t miss the dim sum and bakeries! A must during the day or as a mid afternoon snack. People enjoy going to dim sum restaurants in the early afternoon and just sit with a pot of tea (yum cha) while enjoying small dim sum (meaning touch of heart) aka small dishes. Going with a larger group of people will allow you to try a variety of different foods. It’s like Chinese tapas for brunch!


The thing I miss most about Hong Kong is their bakeries. All the different selection of goodies, sweet and savory buns! My favourite remains the Bo Lo Bao with taro stuffed in the middle. I was also able to find green bean stuffed Bo Lo Baos (straight translation meaning pineapple buns because of the way it looks, no pineapples are actually used to make the bun).

If you get a chance to wonder over to Hong Kong Island, you must check out The Peak. The view up at the peak is one of the best in Hong Kong. There is also an attached shopping mall and many places to eat. A common trend throughout Asia, you won’t ever go hungry because no matter where you are..there is a restaurant or eatery. We had the opportunity to eat at The Pearl Restaurant overlooking the amazing view. We ordered the seafood platter, which was more than enough to fill us up, but we couldn’t stop there. Other dishes we tasted included the warm mushroom salad, seared scallops and amazing desserts (molten chocolate lava cake and bread pudding). I still remember the meal today.


I’m really curious how a city that’s so bustling and lively can get even more so, but there really is no other holiday in the Chinese culture that’s bigger than the Lunar New Year. I can only imagine what the night markets would be like. How the temples must be overflowing with people (Wong Tai Sin Temple is a must see as well!) and how the food must be even more bountiful! I guess the only way to really find out is to experience it myself one day….whenever that day is!

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Prosperity Cakes for Chinese New Year

>> Tuesday, January 24, 2012



I remember being a kid and going back to school in January. All the kids at school would be extremely miserable because all the Christmas festivities for the season were over. No more Santa, presents or goodies, at least not for another year. I on the other hand couldn’t wait for January because I knew Chinese New Year was always just around the corner (and my birthday)! This meant even more food, goodies and better yet, money. All of it very much a part of growing up in a Chinese family, especially mine since my parents are very very traditional.

My parents celebrate Chinese New Year for the full 15 days. Cooking a myriad of different dishes daily, they’re still trying to explain to me all the different meanings behind each dish. I only hope that I will one day be able to remember them all, let alone learn how to cook each one. I truly admire my parent’s ability to hold on to their traditions all these years and I would love to pass that along to my children (when we get around to that).

Since I enjoy each dish, it’s always been extremely tough for me to pick a specific one to highlight on my blog. I decided on the Prosperity Cake (aka Fat Go) essentially meaning rich and prosperous in Chinese. I chose this recipe because it was something I really enjoyed as a kid, when my parents used to make them, but then they stopped for a while because the temperatures and flour found here just didn’t produce the same quality cake that they were used to.

As for me, I thought they were delicious none the less. So I was pretty sad when they decided to stop making them. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that the Asian supermarkets around town started to carry them. My parents started buying them again and I started eating them every chance I got. Although I still don’t find that they taste the same as my parents. Now that I’m older and have really discovered the joys of cooking and baking just like my parents do. I decided it would be a neat idea to make these cakes and in turn give them to my parents for Chinese New Years.

Below is a modified version of the recipe I found online.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did growing up and that they bring you true prosperity! Happy Chinese New Year, Sun Neen Fai Lok and I hope everybody has a great year of the Dragon!



Ingredients:
1 cup water
1 1/2 block Chinese brown sugar (or 1/2 cup golden brown sugar)
1 cup rice flour (or self rising cake flour)
1 tsp baking powder

Preparation:
Line 6-12 ramekins with cupcake liners, depending on the size of the ramekins.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, dissolve the brown sugar in the water (if using Chinese brown sugar, you’ll need to use hot water or heat up the mixture until all the sugar dissolves).

In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda.

Slowly stir the flour mixture in to the sugar mixture until combined.

Divide up the batter evenly amongst all the ramekins.

Steam for 15-20 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Variation:
You could use 1/4 cup coconut milk and 3/4 cup water to add additional coconut flavour to the cake. I prefer the traditional one, but it never hurts to experiment.

Enjoy!

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Restaurant Review: Charpop

>> Wednesday, January 18, 2012



Every year it gets harder and harder to decide on a birthday surprise for my husband. I realized that eventually I’m going to run out of ideas. But this year I was extremely lucky (and inspired) to have happened upon the “pop up” restaurant concept within Calgary. What better way to surprise someone with something that I don’t even know anything about! Can’t really let anything out of the bag that way! So when I heard about the collaboration of John Jackson, Connie DeSousa (Charcut), Aviv Fried (Sidewalk Citizen Bakery) and Toronto Chef Grant Van Gameren (Black Hoof, Enoteca) were getting together for a 3 day only exclusive dining event. I pretty much stayed computer side waiting in anticipation for the resos to kick off.

Atmosphere: A tight knit relaxed space with a contemporary cool flare, especially since it was set up to be torn down in 3 days.


Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food and Wine: Normally I enjoy googling up the menu before we head to a restaurant but since this was all part of the experience of a pop up restaurant (unknown location, unknown menu) it was really neat being surprised. The menu was grouped in to four different categories, small plates, large plates, sides and dessert. It was definitely not for the faint of heart (quite literally), since most of the menu contained offal (the yummy insides of different animals) ingredients.

We started with a couple of the small plates and ordered the The Original Tongue on Brioche and the Smoked Veal Sweetbreads. The texture of the tongue was very different from what I have had before and this could be due to the way it was presented, shaved very thinly. When I look at the sandwich it reminded me more of pastrami or corned beef, rather than tongue. It tasted very similar as well, except the meat was very tender, not dry at all. The accompaniments of the mayo and grainy mustard definitely raised it to a whole other level.


The sweetbreads were served in a creamy white bean and escarole sauce. I didn’t really see much of the pig skin and maybe that was what was missing in this dish. The sweetbreads were soft and creamy, went well with the rich sauce but it was missing a textural contrast. Both my husband and I could taste the smokiness of the sweetbread, which lingered at the end of the dish. It was different, I enjoyed it.

From the large plates, we decided on the Beef Heart Steak and Beef Cheeks. The heart was served overtop a chewy bannock bread, with lots of arugula and shaved ricotta. The lightness of the cheese and peppery arugula was a perfect pairing for the vinegary beef hearts. However since I love the normal taste of offal, I felt the vinegar removed a bit of the heart taste for me. My husband liked it the way it was cooked, but then again, cooking offal is extremely subjective. None the less, we ate it all up and I’m still wishing we had more.


The beef cheeks were extremely tender after many hours of braising I’m sure. Served with fall apart squash and carrots, it was a perfect stew style dish for the cold evening. My husband really liked the savory goat cheese scone, which he used to sop up a lot of the sauce. At the same time our side of Hot Vinegar Beets were served. They were sweet, with a slight tang of orange and a hint of thyme. The beets were a nice light side to the meal we were having.

At the end of our meal, I could barely wait to order dessert (which I’ve been thinking about this whole time after seeing what they were). We had to try one of each, since we didn’t get to try one of everything else on the menu (wish we had a larger group to share everything!). The Cast Iron Baked Cinnamon Bun came with a Spiced Rum and Raisin Gelato. It was a very generous size and I couldn’t be happier! The cast iron really kept the cinnamon bun warm to the last bite. It was chewy, sugary, spicy, everything a cinnamon bun should be and more! The gelato added a nice cooling break to the decadent sweetness. If Sidewalk Citizen Bakery makes these, I’m going to be back real soon.


It was nice ordering the Lavender and Lemon Poached Pears Galette because it contrasted well against the sugary cinnamon bun. The galette is served cold with a dark Valrhona Chocolate sauce. The mild lavender cream brought out the lemon in the poached pears. The chocolate was an added delight, nice and thick. It was a great with the Caffe Umbria coffee!

We couldn’t not have wine for the evening and the wine list was very much hand picked specifically for the menu. We decided on the red Mother’s Milk Shiraz. Dark purpley red in color, it wasn’t overly tannic yet still had a nice and soft acidity profile. I enjoyed the berry notes and it was pleasant on the palate.


My Picks: A tough choice but here they are:
Tongue on Brioche, Beef Cheeks, Cinnamon Bun

Overall: The meal was inspiring indeed, it reminds me that even though sometimes you think there really any way you can push it that much further. You can, there is always something out there that hasn’t been tried yet, or still new. So they surprises don’t have to stop and I hope the “pop ups” don’t either. The concept was thoroughly enjoyed by all and the dishes were amazing and unique. Can’t wait for another event like this one!

Charpop
Website: www.charpop.com

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Lightened Up Hollandaise Sauce

>> Monday, January 16, 2012


Healthy Hollandaise Sauce

There have been a lot of new changes around me lately and I’ve found some people not responding well to them. People normally don’t respond or cope with change all that well, but what they don’t realize is, not all changes are bad. Some open new doors and create great opportunities that might not have occurred if the change never happened. So I try not to look at change as a bad thing, but instead I get excited about it. Looking forward to the different results that may occur and the exhilaration of it can all be very exciting.

Of course this translates over to my cooking as well. This happens a lot with different recipes I’m trying. Especially when I have to alter the classics, recipes that have been passed down through the generations, it makes it harder to change, but not impossible. Small adjustments don’t necessarily mean that the taste of the recipe will be altered. We can still keep the taste of the final product intact while making it easier, faster or best of all…healthier!

A good twist on a beloved classic is the eggs benedict. Brunch has really taken off and the eggs benny has been brought to a whole new level! Ingredients can now feature lobster, smoked salmon, tomatoes, avocado and switching up the hollandaise sauce. Since restaurants usually focus on ingredients that bring out flavour, they don’t really center their attention on the healthy aspects of a recipe. So when I cook at home, I try to create a healthier alternative without sacrificing taste.


Healthy Eggs Benedict

My version of the eggs benedict, includes a classically poached egg served over a homemade buttermilk biscuit and a light hollandaise sauce. Sometimes I would add a bit of prosciutto or asparagus if I wanted something lighter than ham or bacon.

I’ve included the recipe for the lightened up hollandaise below, it was adapted from the Eating Well Magazine. I’ve made a few adjustments myself and feel free to do the same. Remember…sometimes change can be good!

Ingredients:
3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 large egg
1 tbsp lemon juice
Additional Salt and Pepper



Preparation:
In a small saucepan, whisk together half of the buttermilk, all of the cornstarch, salt, and cayenne pepper until everything are combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg and slowly whisk in the remainder of the buttermilk.

Set the stove top to low-medium heat and warm up the small saucepan. Keep whisking the buttermilk mixture.

Slowly add in the egg mixture, a bit at a time as not to cook the egg too fast.

Continue to simmer the sauce on the stove until it thickens, keep whisking to prevent lumps from forming.

Once the sauce comes to a nice consistency. Remove it from the heat and add in a bit of lemon juice, pepper and a bit of salt to taste.

You may also want to add in a tbsp of melted butter if you wish. I let my mood dictate that.

Serve warm over top eggs benedict.

Makes 3-4 Servings.

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Buttermilk Panko Baked Chicken

>> Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Buttermilk Panko Oven Baked Chicken

With all the indulgence over the holiday season, people tend to try and eat a bit cleaner at the beginning of the New Year. However, there is no reason why we can’t still enjoy certain foods that are usually in the “bad” or “unhealthy” categories, by lightening up the recipe and using different cooking techniques. It’s a great time to explore how steaming, baking and sautéing make for just as good if not better alternatives for certain dishes.

A great dish to make over was is fried chicken. It’s great for both adult and children because who doesn’t love a crispy chicken thigh or drumstick? Since lately I’ve taken up on making butter (recipe to come), I have also had an excess of buttermilk on my hands (as a by product). I can only eat so many biscuits and wanted to change things up. What better way then to use it to marinate some chicken for a healthier version of fried chicken.

Nutritional Tidbit: Buttermilk is high in potassium and probiotics, both of which are highly required by our bodies. We often experience high sodium levels due to processed foods. By eating more potassium it balances out the high sodium and helps bring down blood pressure. Probiotics or live bacterial cultures are important in keeping a healthy digestive system. They boost immunity and help ease digestion. Plus buttermilk is usually lower fat then regular milk and also provides other nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, riboflavin and phosphorus.

The second important ingredient in this recipe is the panko bread crumbs. It’s what really gives the chicken that extra bit of crunch, otherwise missing in regular bread crumbs. So if you were to substitute an ingredient in this recipe, make sure to stick with the panko or else you might end up with a completely different outcome.

The best part about this recipe is, while my husband was eating it, he didn’t really miss the fried chicken! He did say it was less greasy, which is a bonus. Also feel free to play around with the different spices used creating your own personalized version as well.


Buttermilk Panko Oven Baked Chicken

This is an adaptation of the original which can be found here

Ingredients:
6 skinless chicken drumsticks
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 tsp salt

Preparation:
In a large glass bowl, place chicken, buttermilk, thyme, basil, cayenne, paprika, pepper, salt, garlic and onion powder together and let sit at least 1 hour to overnight. The marinating times will differ depending on whether the chicken was frozen or fresh. I marinated mine for at least an hour, but if left overnight the buttermilk will continue to tenderize the meat while the seasonings really get a chance to flavour the chicken.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400ºF and line a baking sheet with tin foil. Also spray a bit of pam on the tin foil to prevent the chicken from sticking.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the eggs and set aside.

In a separate small bowl, combine the panko bread crumbs with 1 tsp salt, you could also try seasoning salt, all purpose seasoning or even chicken spice rub instead. However stick to panko bread crumbs because that’s what really provides the crunch and texture in this recipe.

Remove the chicken from the fridge (if marinating overnight), do not rinse off the marinade and dredge it in the eggs and quickly place it in the panko mixture. The egg allows the bread crumbs to adhere without falling off.

Place each drumstick on the baking sheet without them touching. Giving it each drumstick enough room is important for them to cook properly and remain crispy.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the juices runs clear. Best served straight from the oven.

Enjoy!

Makes 2-3 Servings

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Restaurant Review: Ox and Angela

>> Thursday, January 5, 2012


Ceviche

I know it’s a new year and the majority of people are looking to eat better and be healthier overall. However, I think there is always still room to enjoy (while being mindful about it)! I don’t think I could ever give up dining out and trying all the exciting new dishes and menus, especially because they’re ever changing. Everything in moderation is key right? Plus, who could resist something Latin inspired especially when living in such a great city with a new bursting foodie scene?

Atmosphere: Contrasting atmosphere between the cool ‘Ox’ lounge and the warm ‘Angela’ restaurant. Either is a great setting for tapas for an evening out.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+


Empanadas

Food and Wine: After being seated on the ‘Angela’ restaurant side (couldn’t help peeking over in to the lounge as well), we received our menus and decided on a couple of appetizers.

We started with the Empanadas, which came exactly 3 to an order (there was 3 of us and was perfect for sharing, 1 each was ideal). The empanadas were filled with a lovely braised oxtail, caramelized onions and queso fresco blend. I didn’t find it oily or heavy, which can usually happen with deep fried items. Luckily for us we had the Ceviche served shortly after. Made with fresh snapper, lime, not very spicy jalapenos, cilantro, and creamy avocado, it was served with a side of house made crispy tortillas. I found the best part of the dish to be the tortillas. The ceviche itself wasn’t overly spicy or acidic, overall it was fairly mild. It was nice to get fresh fish in Calgary during the winter though!


Braised Lamb Shank

For our entrée dishes we shared the Duck Breast and Braised Lamb. The duck breast was oven roasted and served with duck confit all in a chocolately mole sauce. The duck was very tender and had a light smokey flavour due to the dark chocolate. The dish came with a very nice butternut squash hash which accompanied the apple and tomatillo salsa very well. The lamb shank was extremely tender after many hours of braising. It was literally fall off the bone tender. It came with quinoa, roasted beets all in an adobo sauce, which I really enjoyed. I did leave off the citrus slices on the side though, I’m not a huge citrus fan when it comes to mains and decided that the adobo sauce was great the way it was.

After scanning their dessert menu, I knew we had to get the Churros as a dessert item. They were extremely crispy with lots of cinnamon and sugar (almost good enough to warrant not dipping in to the chocolate sauce, but how could you resist that). The side of warm chocolate sauce was thick enough for the dipping but not stiff. They really give you a lot of the chocolate and we almost ended up wanting to order just a side of churros to go with the sauce. Instead we decided to just eat it as is! For the second dessert (we were sharing, one is never enough!), we tried the Dulche de Leche Mille Fuille. A mille fuille is usually made up of many layers of sauce or cream in the middle. In this case it was layered with dulche de leche and served with a bit of crème fraiche on top. I found the it to be a bit too sweet and ended up balancing it out with the chocolate sauce!


Churros

The wine for our meal was the Dialogo Douro Portugal wine 2008, from the Douro region of Portugal. A deep ruby red in color, but not overly bold compared to other Portuguese wines (usually what they’re known for). Soft tannins, fruity flavours and a long finish, it went great with both the duck and lamb dishes.

My Picks: Ceviche, Churros


Dulche de Leche Mille Fuille

Overall: I hope everybody does achieve their new years resolutions and still remembers to take the time to enjoy! What better place then at Ox and Angela, where you can choose either tapas or going all out. Where the food journey is really up to you, plus sharing the moment with others over great food is always a bonus!

Ox and Angela
528 17th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 457-1432
Website: http://www.oxandangela.com/

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