Saturday, 24 February 2018

Braised duck with onions

It's not often that we see fresh duck in the market - it must be spring somewhere!  A fresh duck is so much less work than a frozen one as the defrosting process could be quite time-consuming.  So when I saw a fresh one, and knowing I'll have time on the weekend to babysit it, I grabbed the opportunity. When buying ducks, look for a long, lean body rather than a wide one, as the lean bodies are usually less fatty - makes perfect sense when you consider the human example.

I used my mother's recipe - a basic, easy to do one that works hundred percent of the time. Marinate the duck with soy sauce, pepper, wine and dark soy on the skin for an hour or so. Quarter 3 medium onions or 6 small ones (if you have a big enough wok). Brown the onions first in oil, remove from pan then brown the duck on all four sides until golden brown. Remove any excess oil that has been rendered. Today's duck is not fatty at all and there was very little fat left in the pan.

Arrange the duck and the onions in the wok, add enough chicken or duck broth to cover half the duck, add rose wine, ginger, pepper and garlic.

Simmer for about half an hour, turning duck over at mid point. Remove onions and continue to braise duck for another half or so, turning, and checking to make sure it doesn't get too soft. Check this by poking a chopstick through the duck to see if it goes through easily.  Stop the cooking when there is just enough "give".  Cut up duck and serve in a deep dish so the sauce can be poured over it. 

Friday, 15 December 2017

A delicious double!

We had the good fortune of enjoying lunch and dinner at the same restaurant on the same day while we were in Hong Kong.  It was great that it is Shanghai style food which we only eat very occasionally at home so we were not in danger of having too much of a good thing. The food at this restaurant,  Shanghai Lu Yang Cun (上海綠楊邨酒家) is very good so it was double the treat!

The tough thing at a Shanghai style restaurant has always been knowing what to order. If there is expertise, one can end up with a delicious and exceptional meal. If we just go by the popular offerings which is usually what we ultimately fall back on when we order on our own, there is nothing special. In this case, our lunch host had specially consulted Shanghainese friends about the menu and we got to try some really different dishes. 

馬蘭頭百葉卷  Soy rolls with Indian aster - nice contrast in textures between the soy and the greens.  (Indian aster is a wild herb from the sunflower family, fairly common in household meals in China although not so common in North America)

An unusual presentation of the Compoy broad bean cake 瑤柱豆瓣酥 - but it's tasty
My all time favourite - braised bamboo shoots - still have fond childhood memories of these
Briased soy "goose"
Love this fried rice with salted meat and pine nuts even though I'm not usually a rice eater
This fish head soup, with mushrooms and yam noodles among other things, was the most delicious concoction I've tasted in a long time.  I love how the cartilage from the fish head is both soft and chewy at the same time. It was so good I must have had at least three bowls and then in the evening, suggested to our host at dinner to order it again!

Dinner was more regular fare but we were again lucky to have someone at the table familiar with the regional cuisine so the right dishes were ordered.  The food was well-prepared and flavourful.  And the soup was just as good the second time around!

Jellyfish, drunken chicken and smoked eel - all very nicely done

The shrimp went very well with the sauce

This is one dish I've never tried before - cured ham, lotus seed and a piece of fried potato (?) put together in steamed buns - all succeeded in providing a delicious combination of textures and tastes - soft, salty, crunchy in a hot steamed bun

"Squirrel fish" (deep fried with sweet and sour sauce) - always a favourite - not as crunchy I would have liked but still good
And the crowning glory - meringue puffs stuffed with red bean paste 高力豆沙 ! I like how the icing sugar was served on the side.
Bonus:  Nightview from restaurant

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Awesome Vegetarian Banquet

I visited the Chi Lin Nunnery in Hong Kong on a recent trip and had one of the best vegetarian feast I've tasted at its restaurant Chi Lin Vegetarian. What made it so exceptional is that there was no "pretend" food - there was no "vegetarian duck" or "vegetarian bbq pork"  kind of dish - no fake stuff made with soy or artificial ingredients. Most of the dishes were fresh vegetables in combination with innumerable varieties of fungi.  Lunch was an amazing ten courses (for our group of ten) beautifully presented and prepared. The meal was the crowning glory in the visit to this awe-inspiring temple complex - the ambiance was sublime, to say the least.  It is no wonder the restaurant is packed, with reservations made months in advance.

Mini baby zucchinis with fungus - love the contrast in textures between the crunchy baby zucchinis and the fungus!

Beet salad

Golden tremell (yellow fungus) broth

Mushroom stew

Mushroom dumplings with broccoli - the dumplings were delicious pockets of chopped mushrooms and bamboo shoots

Pumpkin and cheese tempura

Asparagus fungus stir fry

Tofu dish with fungus

Choy sum with fungus

Fried rice with white beech mushrooms

Healthy fruit dessert


Nan Lian Gardens is part of the Chi Lin Nunnery temple complex

Friday, 27 October 2017

A taste of Chiuchow (or Teochew) cuisine

Chiuchow or Teochew cuisine was the food of my ancestors although we only had it occasionally when growing up and always at restaurants because my mother was not from that area of China. It was therefore not household food for me as a child and as an adult it became just one of many regional Chinese cuisines that we might try if friends suggested it but ultimately we always go back to Cantonese cuisine which is more like "home".

Recently we had a private dining experience with chiuchow cuisine and I have a better understanding of it. The surprising thing is, it is in the dining room of a retirement residence!  Here is the description from Wikipaedia: "Teochew cuisine is well known for its seafood and vegetarian dishes. Its use of flavouring is much less heavy-handed than most other Chinese cuisines and depends much on the freshness and quality of the ingredients for taste and flavour. As a delicate cuisine, oil is not often used in large quantities and there is a relatively heavy emphasis on poaching, steaming and braising, as well as the common Chinese method of stir-frying".  That explained why it was chosen as the cuisine of choice for a retirement residence and over dinner, I found that it is quite an accurate description.

We had our special dinner at the Vintage Garden Dining Room 葡萄園會所 - prepared by the team led by chef Franky Yeung who is considered one of the top 10 celebrity chefs in Canada. The 10 course banquet was sumptuous but not overwhelming as the food is generally light and not fatty. Decoration of the plates were impressive but I was particularly impressed by the quality of the food. 

  Appetizers - tofu stuffed with shrimp and fish paste, shrimp, grilled chicken                        潮洲四弍拼盤

    Extra delicious duck soup with salted lemon and shitake                                                                       咸檸檬炖鴨

This was what was in the soup

Haven't had this in a long time - shrimp and bamboo shoot pouches in egg-white wrap - could have used some mushrooms in it to improve texture      䔵花石榴球

Bacon-wrapped scallop rolls served on snow pea shoots 彩帶玉龍卷 - love the contrasting textures!

Tea-smoked duck 茶熏鴨

This is the most unusual and interesting dish with vegetarian centre (different kinds of fungi) inside a winter melon bowl but surrounded by braised pork belly on the outside!      白玉藏珍寶

Vegetarian abalone with fried vermicelli 素鮑魚撈米粉 - this one looked good and I really like the crunchy vermicelli.  The fake abalone looked good but texture could be improved.

Refreshing dessert with green bean and tapioca 清心丸綠豆爽  and one that I didn't take a photo of, sweet mashed taro 福菓芋泥

Enjoyed the dinner very much and no ill effects afterwards even though it was a big meal!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Seafood in Patagonia

When I first started thinking about food in Argentina, I was a little concerned that we would be stuck with beef for the three weeks we were there as that seemed to be everyone's "must-eat" recommendation - and they were probably right, one has got to try it. So it was with relief that we saw a selection of river fish on the menu when we were in Puerto Iguazu even though we are always a little leery when trying fish in a new restaurant. We took a risk and were glad we did.

We tried Suribi (a type of catfish) and Pacu (a large freshwater fish), both river fishes.  Grilled at La Rueda, both were delicious, probably because they were fresh - we must be close to the river!  Then as we headed into Patagonia, we tried trout in Bariloche and a most delicious Hake fish at lunch in Puella, in the midst of our Andean Lakes Crossing. It was like a ray of sunshine in our drizzly crossing. The Hake is related to the cod with firm but tender white meat. I like it better than cod but then it could be the way it was cooked.

Pacu and suribi at La Rueda

The Hake in the Puella Hotel restaurant

When we got to Puerto Varas in Chile, we were pleasantly surprised by the Conger eel. It is not an actual eel, apparently, and certainly did not taste like one. It had a nice white fish consistency and texture. There were always salmon on the menu but with so much salmon at home, we did not want to waste our tasting opportunities on salmon - afterall how different could it taste from one end of the Americas to the other? I did try a small piece off our guides' plate just to confirm my guess. We had the rollizo (rockfish) instead and it was tasty, very well-prepared served on a warm quinoa salad.

Conger eel in the Mirador del Lago, Puerto Varas, Chile
Rollizo in La Jardinera, Puerto Varas, Chile

The high points of our trip to Ushuaia, other than the penguins, were our encounters with Southern King Crab and Merluzza Negra. We were lucky to have met with fellow travellers who were equally keen on food and had actually researched where to eat king crab before they left home. They were thrilled when it was the same restaurant our guide took us to - El Viejo Marino. We got to choose our own crab, big enough to share between two, very tasty and very reasonably priced. We could have gone back for a second meal the following day. But I was glad I did my homework this time - we have to try the Merluzza Negra in Ushuaia! And was I ever glad we did!

Southern King crab

We made sure we picked a restaurant that had merluzza negra (Patagonian toothfish or Chilean Seabass) on the menu - Maria Lola Resto. It must have been the sweetest fish I had ever tasted in my life, no exaggeration. I'm not a great lover of fish but this one really beat everything I have ever tried - even the tender lamb I also ordered paled beside it and I am a great lover of lamb. The fresh frozen Chilean sea bass we could get in Toronto is tasty, but not like this. The chef cooked it to perfection and of course, we were eating the fish closest to its source - Ushuaia being at "the end of the world"...

Merluzza negra - served with shrimp, squid and crab legs, but who needs those!  
In all, Patagonia surprised me with its abundance of delicious food and expert chefs - totally not what I had expected in these small towns in the wilderness! Good job!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Argentinian Carne

You can't go wrong with beef in Argentina - whether you go to the best restaurants or eat at the roadside.  The beef is tasty and tender. There is no reason to eat a hamburger in Argentina because the real meat is so tender there is no need to grind it or chop it up.  In the two weeks we spent in the country, whether we paid 160 pesos ($10US) for a lunch beef sandwich by the roadside or 700 pesos ($45US) for the most tender cut in a high end restaurant, we know we would get tender beef. It is the safest choice when in doubt. Chicken could be tasteless or even tough, pork could be chewy (we had to send one order back to the kitchen at a German beer place in Bariloche) - but not the beef. It's quite amazing!  It is also interesting that while "carne" translates as "meat", when the Argentine referred to "carne", they invariably were talking about beef.

Bife de lomo or tenderloin is generally the priciest and most tender cut although I've been told different restaurants translate it differently. We tried it our first night in Iguazu Falls in Aqua, where it was actually called filet mignon on the menu; in Buenos Aires at a parilla (grill), they called it bife de lomo - both were tasty and tender; huge too, big enough for two of us.  We have also tried the rib steak - it too was very tender with higher fat content. 

There were parillas and asados - parilla is where the meat was grilled and asado is like a barbeque where the whole side was cooked over an open fire. I tried cordero (lamb), where they give you different cuts on the same order - it was tender and flavorful. The short ribs asado was not as tender but still flavorful.  There were various cuts and organ parts of the beef in the asado but dinner is usually so late, one can only eat so much. After gorging ourselves on meat for a few meals, we switched to seafood, which I will talk about in the next post.

Aqua called it "filet mignon" possibly because it's considered a fine dining restaurant but it looked the same as the Bife de lomo below from the Buenos Aires Grill in Recoleta.  May be too big, really for filet mignon, but certainly tenderloin.

And this is rib eye steak - with an egg on top! (homestyle cooking at Esquina Varela Restaurant, El Calafate)

Short rib asado - I think I was too keen on my lamb asado, forgot to take a picture of it!

All asado restaurants have this for show either outside or inside the restaurant.  This one was in La Tablita, El Calafate. Locals came here too and the place was packed on a week night at 10pm

And of course we had a most delicious beef sandwich (also big enough to share) at this roadside place "El Titanic de Homero" in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires
Next post: Seafood!