Friday, 29 August 2008

The Boathouse Restaurant - Pacific Northwest seafood

I adore seafood and really missed them in England. Although the UK is an island, it is actually not easy to get good seafood unless you live right on the coast. AP's parents are here in Vancouver for holiday and a few days ago we had an early birthday meal for me at a restaurant close to their hotel.

The Boathouse is located right at the shore of English Bay with a lovely view of the waters and mountains. Well, at least it would if it wasn't raining! I swear, all this rain only started 2 weeks ago when the in-laws got here! The food was fabulous, the decor was very refined and tasteful but the ambience was still very relaxed and comfortable. The price is mid-range, main courses are around $20-$30, with the steaks and lobster dishes going ever upwards. I found it very good value for the quality food, good portions (sizeable without being gigantic). The seafood that we had were fantastic and I am sure AP and I will be going back again and again particularly on special occasions. I will be sure to take some photos of the restaurant itself, and the great view from the windows, next time, when it is actually clear!

AP's mum and I had a wine taster trio each. There were three 2 oz glasses of white wine, which was pretty much the same as a regular 6 oz glass but you get to try different wines. From left to right: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminer. The pretty birthday card in the background was from the in-laws.
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AP's dish was a halibut and salmon duo with sweet chilli sauce, served with wild rice and vegetables. The halibut and salmon were wound around each other, like a yin-yang symbol. Beautifully cooked.
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I had the grilled seafood platter with salmon, jumbo prawns and scallops, served with wild rice, vegetables and teriyaki sauce. The prawns and scallops were huge!
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AP's dad had sockeye salmon, and mum had jumbo prawns stuffed with crab. I didn't want to interrupt them eating to take photos, although I clearly had no such qualms with the husband, heh. For dessert, mum and I had the white and dark chocolate mousse cake with raspberry sauce and cream. It was lovely and light, and the raspberry sauce was quite something, quite concentrated and full of flavour.
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AP and dad had cheesecake with strawberries and cream. The cheesecake was classic New York style, very dense and rich with gorgeous flavours. Neither of them finished!
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AP defeated by his dessert - a rare occurence!
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The Boathouse Restaurant (English Bay)
1795 Beach Avenue
Tel: 604-669-2225
Other locations are listed on its website.

Finally, just a note to say that we are moving into our new apartment (finally!) this weekend and will not have internet access for the next 4-5 days (oh the horrors). So if I don't respond to your comments for a while, be assured that I will when I get back online. For Canadians reading this, have a great Labour Day weekend!

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Saturday, 23 August 2008

Boss Restaurant at Metrotown

AP and I made a trip out to Burnaby, one of the suburbs, last week. We went to Metrotown, reputedly the largest shopping complex in British Columbia, and boy did we believe that claim. The place is humongous and after walking around for hours (mainly in department stores likes Zellers, Sears and Winners for homeware), we still have not covered half the place. Flagging with sore feet and an empty stomach, we decided to give up and get some dinner and went into a Hong Kong eatery named Boss Restaurant (大班).

The food was classic Hong Kong Cantonese style, and the style of the restuarant is more along the lines of a well-dressed tea-restaurant or cafe-restaurant (茶餐厅) that one finds all over Hong Kong (and increasingly in themed restaurants around Southeast and East Asia). The food comes quickly, diners eat quickly, the bill is paid and one is out - rather like a fast-food sort of place. This makes 茶餐厅 great places for a quick lunch, afternoon snack or a a satisfying dinner, without the kind of prices associated with many restaurants.

AP and I ordered very simple but classic cantonese dishes. I had a seafood congee (海鲜粥) that came with a generous serving of prawns, fish slices and even a couple of scallops. Congee is a kind of rice porridge, in which rice is cooked in broth (usually chicken, sometimes with added dried scallops for sweetness) over low heat until all grains have disintegrated and the porridge becomes thick and creamy. I much perfer Hong Kong style congee to Teochew style porridge which is essentially soft-cooked rice in rice water. The seafood congee was topped with julienned ginger, chopped spring onions and a drizzle of sesame oil, which was very traditional.

Seafood congee

AP had salted fish and chicken fried rice (咸鱼鸡粒炒饭), another classic Hong Kong dish. Each grain of rice was well separated and the aroma of the chicken, eggs, and crispy fried salted fish may be overpowering to some but really hit the spot for us. Salted fish is essentially dried and salted fish that is a bit of an acquired taste to those who have not grown up with it. It is often fried until crispy, broken up into small pieces (a little bit goes a looooong way) and used as a topping or ingredient in cooking. The plate of fried rice was huge! It could have easily fed two, if not three with a side dish.

Salted fish and chicken fried rice

Fluffy egg fried rice, tender chicken and crispy salted fish.

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The next time you are in a Chinese restaurant and you spot this dish on the menu, do give it a go rather than automatically ordering the normal chicken/beef/prawn fried rice or yang chow fried rice. The salted fish might take some getting used to, but it is not dissimilar to anchovies which are also dried fish often preserved with salt/brine.

Our bill, with tea, tax and tip, came up to $20, which is pretty good in my books. The restaurant had been newly renovated and the place was bright and clean. The service was brisk, as in common in cafe-restaurants (and well, in many Asian restaurants actually). Although the wait staff were never rude, some people might feel that the lack of attention equals poor service. I personally am quite happy to be left alone to enjoy my food rather than constantly being asked how my food was and if there was anything else I need. We went on a weekday evening and it was surprisingly quiet. Some reviews that I've read seem to indicate that it gets insanely busy on weekends and one usually has to take a number and wait.

The restaurant also serves traditional Hong Kong style breakfast and other snacks and dishes. Given how well they have executed the classic dishes that we ordered, I would like to go back and try their stir fried noodles and wonton noodles.

Boss Restaurant (Metrotown)
Unit 238, 4800 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
V5H 4J2
Tel: 604-438-2677
[Map]

Boss Restaurant & Bakery (Chinatown)
532 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
V6A 2T9
Tel: (604) 683-3860
[Map]

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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Pork chops with cream of mushroom soup

As much as we love the variety of food that's available in restaurants these days, there is always something special about home-cooked dishes that we grew up eating. It is familiar, it is comforting, and made extra special by the accompanying memories of food made with love.

This is a recipe based on something that AP's mum cooked for the kids for years (and still does). I've had it a number of times and really liked it. It's a quick and simple dinner, with a good mix of protein and vegetables, and tastes great. We tend to have this with new or roast potatoes, but it's also good with rice. I have adapted the original recipe by browning the meat to seal in the juices, and by adding wholegrain mustard to the sauce, since mustard goes so well with pork. This will be a keeper for the coming autumn and winter months.

Pork chops in cream of mushroom soup


Ingredients (serves 2):

2 pork loin chops, about 3/4 inch thick
1 tbsp oil
Salt and pepper
1 medium leek, sliced
1 medium carrot, sliced or diced
1 large or 2 small carrots, sliced
4-5 button mushrooms, sliced
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
100ml milk
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Small bunch of oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
Parsley (to garnish)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200C/gas 6. Heat some oil in a frying pan. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and brown them in the frying pan to seal, about a minute on each side.
2. Place the pork chops in a deep roasting or casserole dish with the leeks, carrots and mushrooms. Mix the condensed cream of mushroom soup with the milk and wholegrain mustard and pour over the pork chops. Season with salt and pepper and add the oregano.
3. Cover the casserole dish with a lid or a piece of foil and cook in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes until the pork chops are cooked through. Serve with the mushroom sauce and garnish with parsley.

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Sunday, 17 August 2008

Recent awards

Although I have not been completely on top of things on my blog for a while as I move between countries, friends in the food blogging community have been really sweet in giving me two awards in the past week. Thanks, Julia and Little Corner of Mine, I really appreciate it.

arteypico

The Arte Y Pico award was given to me by Happy Love Strawberry a while ago (my apologies for not getting onto it) and recently by Julia of A Slice of Cherry Pie. The rules of the award are:

1. Choose 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and their contribution to the blogging community.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog.
3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name of and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.
4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize has to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5. Show these rules.

In turn, I’d like to pass the award to:

Dari Dapur Saya
Noobcook
Domestic Goddess in Training
My Cooking Hut
Closet Cooking

brillianteweblog

Brilliant Weblog is a prize given to websites and blogs that are smart and brilliant both in their content and their design. The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogsphere.

Rules: When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link them back. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in their content or design. Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing they were prized with ‘Brilliant Weblog’. Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize (optional).

It's always so difficult to choose from the selection of great blogs that I read but here are the following that I am passing the award on to:

Were rabbits
Dinner Diary
Noble Pig
Gild The Voodoolily
Steamy Kitchen
Le Tartine Gourmande
Frank Tastes

So, ladies and gentlemen, wash your hands, tip your waiters and pass on the awards. It's good karma. And go check out the above blogs for more great ideas on food, cooking and bento.

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Saturday, 16 August 2008

Bento photo contest

notexactlybento

Not Exactly Bento has announced a bento photo contest as an opportunity for people to to share what they feel is their most visually appealing bento. The rule is that there should be no cute character bento (kyaraben), whic is fine by me since my talents do not extend to that. The goal is to highlight everyday, practical bento that most people can put together with available ingredients.

Although I am currently on a bento hiatus, this contest let me looked through my archive of bento made and eaten and it is quite fun to look at them with a critical eye again and think about what made them visually appealing or successful. Up to two entries can be posted and after deliberating between a few, I have chosen the following two for their balanced food groups, visual appeal and ease of preparation:

The first is a bacon and cheese quiche on a bed of salad leaves, with strawberries, cherries and piggy container of salad dressing.
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The second bento held triagular and cylindrical onigiri, edamame, panda container of soy sauce, cocktail sausages on sticks, and cherry tomatoes.
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There is still time to submit yours, until August 22, with bento goodies to be won. I am definitely looking forward to seeing the other entries.

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Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Powell Street Festival: A celebration of Japanese culture in Vancouver

The Vancouver Pride Parade was on the 3rd of August. Having only arrived for a couple of days, what better way was there to enjoy a new city and its people than to join in with the crowd? The atmosphere was fantastic and I absolutely loved the diversity of people that we met. After the Pride Parade, we (ok, I) were (was) determined to hit the other festival in town and went to the Powell Street Festival at Oppenheimer Park in same afternoon. It was a Japanese cultural festival with food stalls (yum), music and dance performances, crafts and book stalls and even a participatory sumo wrestling tournament.

It might just be me, but I thought the highlights of festivals like these are always the food stalls, and this one did not disappoint. Most of the food stalls were set up by local schools and associations so there is no restaurant-quality food but really authentic home-cooked flavours and just the kind of street food one would find in Japan. And street food in open markets is one of the things that I grew up with in Asia and sorely miss. You bet AP and I tried out some of the food, even though we went after (a quick) lunch!

There was a perpetually long queue at the very popular takoyaki stall. Takoyaki is a popular street snack in Japan made of batter with octopus filling (other varieties include ham, cheese, prawn, chicken etc) and topped with green onion, bonito (dried tuna) shavings, takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise.
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Making takoyaki at full speed, a very time consuming job of turning the cooking batter round and round to achieve a ball shape.
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Not being that patient (and not that fussed about takoyaki), we had gyoza (pan fried dumplings) instead. They were some of the best that I've ever had, with succulent chicken and vegetable filling and very nicely crisp on the outside without being dry or overly fried.
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Cute guy at the yakisoba (pan fried noodles) stall very obligingly posed for me. (I've only just noticed his Doraemon apron in this photo!)
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Skilled hands making temaki sushi (handrolls). The ladies seemed to be concentrating very hard!
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We also bought an okonomiyaki. It's a sort of savoury pancake made with batter, cabbage, spring onions and teriyaki beef slices. Topped with bonito flakes (dried tuna shavings), mayo and okonomiyaki sauce. Different parts of Japan have their own variations with the batter and filling.
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Plenty of people (mostly ladies) enjoyed the day in traditional costume.
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We then spent almost an hour watching sumo wrestling. There was a great atmosphere as people cheered for their favourites or for the underdog (usually whoever was the smallest in that match!). The running commentary was by an old Japanese uncle who was quite funny. And one of the referees at the side looked like some ancient sensei (master) with his long white hair and beard. The participants sat around the circle, a mix of locals of East Asian, Caucasian and Black ethicities - pretty much reflecting the mix of people in Vancouver. Each match was very short but exciting and really drew in the crowd. It's not just about the size or weight but also technique and reading your opponent. Having said that, size does help!
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Unfortunately, during the semifinals, one of the sumo contestant dislocated his shoulder. Ouch. First aid was there and an ambulance called for. The tournament was very much delayed by the incident and had to be cancelled eventually due to time. It was a shame and I hope that guy was alright. This is another event (along with the Pride Parade) that I will be sure to go for again next year.

There is so much happening in Vancouver during the summer. Festivals, street performances, open air concerts (with the weather being more predictable than England!) and plays etc. We're definitely going to make the most of it while the good weather lasts.

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Thursday, 7 August 2008

Update from Vancouver and past bento

Finally, a chance to update in the midst of the moving madness. Thank you for all the kind comments and well wishes. AP and I have been in Vancouver for almost a week now. There were so many things to sort out with regards to establishing a new existence in a new country but we are managing well so far. Apart from taking care of administrative and logistical matters, we have been exploring the city and really enjoying the place.

The restaurants here are fantanstic, in terms of the variety and cost and we are able to eat out everyday without breaking the bank. There are also more Japanese and Chinese restaurants than I could count, which suits us just fine. In fact, there is a fantastic Japanese restaurant about 3 minutes from where we live and we have been there three time already this past week. We are currently in temporary accommodation for a month and while the place is fully furnished and very comfortable, and the kitchen is well equipped, I won't be able to do much cooking as we don't want to be buying too many things at this point before we move to our apartment next month. That includes food stuff and not having a well stocked pantry is not very conducive to cooking, so we will just take the opportunity to explore the many restaurants and eateries around here.

I am really looking forward to having our own kitchen again soon, and stocking up on the ingredients that I love, cooking our favourite food, trying out new recipes and making bento. My bento boxes and accessories, and kitchen and diningware are still en route from the UK and it will be a few more weeks before they arrive (in time for us to move to our new place). In the mean time, here are some bento lunches made just before we moved:

Cod fishcake on a bed of salad leaves, sweet chilli in blue container for the fishcake, corn on the cob, strawberries, piggy container of sundried tomato oil dressing, yellow container of sundried tomatoes.
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Claypot rice
(with chicken, bacon and shitake mushrooms), broccoli and strawberries.
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Pita stuffed with ham and salad leaves, red peppers, container of mayo dip and a chocolate.
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