Tom Yum Mum and Thai Dinner Parties

Since I moved in my Mom’s been bugging me about cooking her dinner. I barely settled in from my move but on Mother’s Day I couldn’t say no to the lady who’s been cooking for me for almost 30 years. So I cooked dinner for my mom on Mother’s Day.

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It was also the weekend where I’m hosting a thai dinner party with a group of friends. Si I decided to kill two birds with one canon by cooking Tom Yum Soup. After an hour of researching recipes online, I discovered the core ingredients for Tom Yum soup. I think the key is preparing the fresh ingredients in a relatively short amount of time. At least from The Tom Yum soup I’ve had at my favourite Thai places before the richness and freshness makes the soup stand out.

For our thai dinner party I had to make a vegeterian soup. This meant cutting out meat products like fish sauce and fish and putting in more fresh ingredients like bok choy. A friend also helped me prepare the dish and I liked how she neatly chopped up certain ingredients to make them appropriate for consumption and to draw out the flavour.

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The next day as I prepared the soup, I threw in the fish sauce and added shrimp to the soup. Because Nanay loves the seafood.

Even when I told her to sit and relax, she found a way to clean something in my place.

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In rough proportions I’m quite sure this is how the recipe turned out:

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5-6 cups organic vegetable stock

2-3 stalks of lemongrass (cut into dime-sized rounds)

6-7 kaffir lime leaves (I was fortunate enough to find fresh leaves!)

1 package of frozen shrimp (omitted for vegetarian version)

2 tbsp. fish sauce (replaced with salt for vegetarian)

2-3 thai red chillies (minced)

3 cloves of garlic (minced)

1 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes

1 cup of button mushrooms (thinly sliced)

2 cups of baby bok choy

1 can coconut milk (1/2 can extra handy)

1 tsp brown sugar

hand full of thai basil

juice of 1 lime

In a medium heat hot-pot pan (or deep cooking pot), heat the stock and lemongrass to a boil.

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Reduce the heat to simmer. Add the garlic, chili, kaffir leaves, mushrooms to the broth. Simmer for no longer than 10 minutes.

Add the shrimp. Cook till the shrimp turns pink (approx 8-10 minutes).

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Add the cherry tomatoes and bok choy.

Stir in the coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce (or salt , and lime juice.

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Taste the broth and adjust. If it needs more salt add fish sauce (or salt). If too salty add lime juice. Add sugar if too sour. Coconut milk to keep the soup creamy and lively and to make it milder in case the chilis were too hot.

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Serve and bowls and garnish with fresh thai basil. Enjoy!

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The (not nearly but someday) Perfect Pizza

Sometimes a cancelled party is a good thing. It’s a great chance to experiment and cook for myself.

In my 20+ years of pizza eating I may not have earned myself as the world’s leading expert on pizza perfection, but I know what I like. Fresh toppings, rich bread with a distinct earthy crust, and a savoury sauce. So when I started to plan my recipe I decided to make margherita pizza. Simple enough because all I had to do was get mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil.

For my tomato sauce, it basically followed the same idea Heston Blumenthal had in his pizza episode of In Search of Perfection. Rather than the traditional method of cooking the sauce low and slow, I used a pressure cooker to cook the sauce high and fast.

High and Fast Tomato Sauce

10-12 fresh medium sized roma tomatoes on the vine

1 Kaffir lime leaf

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 cloves of garlic

1 tsp of red chill flakes

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In low-medium heat, cook the garlic in the olive oil for 10 minutes or until the garlic goes light-brown hue.

Blanch the tomatoes in hot water for less than 30 seconds and quickly throw them into the ice water. Peel the skin, and core the tomatoes and scoop out as much of the seeds as possible. Add salt on the pulp to draw out extra juices. Take the juice, the tomato meat, the garlic olive oil with chili peppers and blend in a processor.

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Pour into a pressure cooker and cook for 15 minutes on high heat.

Using a pressure cooker I was a little scared. I stood on the other side of my condo. It’s a justifiable fear given that I’m using a common ingredient for homemade bombs. Also for curiosity’s sake, I threw in a couple of Kaffir lime leaves.

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The sauce was slightly different. It was chunkier and had a more raw fresher taste and the liquid was a bit more separated. It had the same savoury twang slow cooked tomato sauces had. The lime leaves added a bit of a zesty fragrance but I only used a little bit.

The next day, I played it safe and decided to follow Jamie Oliver’s dough recipe which used semolina flour alongside all purpose flour.

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So when the dough was ready I assembled the sauce, mozzarella, and basil.

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The 1st batch was fluffy dough and the sauce was delicious. But, the 2nd was perfect, picture perfect. The cheese crusted and the basil roasted just enough, with the sauce coming through.

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This post seems, unfinished. Not sure how to accurately explain myself but with all my posts, the company always seemed to go hand in hand with the recipe. The pizza was great but it would have been better if everyone was around to try it. But not to sound too negative, perhaps in the next time I make this for guests, I’ll be able to formulate my own formula for a perfect pizza.

 

 

 

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First meal at home: Meatball Sub

After months of fretting, I decided that I need to stretch my arms and finally fly the coup. Yes, that means it’s time to grow up and become a homeowner. What? Taking on a debt edging in the triple digit thousands was something I had to do to validate myself? Not necessarily, it was something that came naturally and in the process of looking for my new home I found that one of my priorities was to find a place that had a great kitchen and open space. Fast forward to the necessary processes of house hunting, making offers, having second thoughts, coming back with another offer, dealing with lawyers, dealing with budgetting, dealing with anxieties, dealing with excitement, dealing with the idea of being broke, and dealing with everything else that fell in between… the day I took possession of my home and the day I moved in is where this blog post takes place.

It was a Sunday and my friends J.P. and Chris agreed to help me out. Two of the most mechanically inclined people made the whole move a seamless and effortless experience. A few heavy lifting and grunting, it wasn’t as bad as we thought and I managed to get the truck back in time. Getting these guys to help me meant that I saved a lot of money in moving costs and I wanted to return the favour by cooking them a dish I’ve been obsessing to try for WEEKS. Appropriately it would be the first meal I’d cook in my home.

I saw a vice documentary once of Frankies Spuntino and was intrigued by the second-long shots of the food they made. Days later, YouTube’s magic suggested another video with the Frankies, this time making their famous meatballs. Intrigued, I ordered their cookbook online.

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Christmas in April

From the first few pages alone, I knew I’m going to be cooking recipes in this book page to page. For my Sunday night meal I tried two of their recipes: their tomato sauce and their meatballs.

Tomato Sauce

The tomato sauce was relatively simple but cooked low and slow the way it should be done, and I wanted to make a large batch so I roughly adjusted the proportions. My take on their the Frankies:

3 garlic bulbs (each clove crushed)

1 1/2 cup olive oil

4 12 oz cans of diced tomatos

1 1/2 tablespoons chilli pepper flakes

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I cooked the large amount of garlic cloves in olive oil on low for 15 minutes. By then the garlic turned slightly golden brown and when I poured a small amount of the tomatoes in, it sizzled and fried a portion of the tomatoes adding a slight edge to the dish. I added to rest of the tomatoes in along with the red pepper flakes.

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Slowly cooked in low heat for 4-5 hours, careful to stir from time to time. “Mother it a little bit” as the Frankies would say.

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I didn’t add salt until the last hour of cooking to adjust for taste.

Meatballs

The next day was when I prepared the meatballs. Luckily, a farmer’s market was nearby and I managed to get the ingredients needed which were conveniently organic but inconveniently expensive. Again, similar to the sauce, I made a few adjustments as I had to double my recipe.

6 slices bread (3 packed cups’ worth)

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

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The original Frankies recipe called for regular bread crumbs. But I accidentally bought graham cracker crumbs. It added extra sweetness to the aroma of the meatballs. A wonderful accident.

6 pounds ground beef (80-90% lean)

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus about 1 cup for serving

12 large eggs

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3/4 cup chopped prunes

3/4 cup pine nuts

salt and pepper (roughly 2 tablespoons each)

3/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

9 cloves garlic, minced

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Holy F*#@% pine nuts are expensive! This made affected my purchasing decisions and made me get prunes instead of raisins, which wasn’t even a huge difference in price. Still the prunes were less sweeter and sour than regular raisins so it worked out.

Meatball preparation is relatively easy and that’s what I loved about the Frankies approach. Simple italian cooking.

Still I followed everything step by step: I preheated the oven to 325 F. I took the slices of bread and soaked it with a 1 1/2 cups of water where I drained and squeezed the excess liquid out before mashing it up with my fingers to a coarse and mushy consistency.

Everything was thrown into the bowl and mixed to a moist consistency.

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Another thing I love about the Frankies Cooking Manual is that they illustrated the exact size what the meatball should be. Roughly the balls should be roughly 1/2 cup of the mixture each. But I just rolled everything to match half of my palm. Placed on baking sheets, I baked the meatballs for 25 minutes.

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25 minutes. NO MORE NO LESS *crazy eyes*

Btw this whole time I made the meatballs in two stages because I had to move in between. I made the mixture the morning and I rolled my meatballs after we moved my stuff in. As the meatballs baked I hung called and messaged everyone I could to drop by and try the first meal I cooked!

When the meatballs were done I dropped them into the tomato sauce to sit in very low heat. Meanwhile I prepared a few slices of toasted sourdough bread and grated another cup of pecorino romano cheese.

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As everyone came in waves I served up meatballs on bread open sandwich style. With a healthy sprinkle of cheese on stop, the meatballs were DELICIOUS. The parsley and graham scent was subtle and the lean grass fed beef was the main star of the meatballs. The slight break of texture in pine nuts and prunes was pleasant. It was a meatball not made to be scarfed down but eaten in forked instalments.

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Oh hey babe…

Everyone dropped by and for the first time my home was filled with people eating my first cooked meal :)

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The Reason Why You Should Invite Me Over

Answer: I will cook you breakfast/lunch/brunch/dinner/noonsies.

But keep in mind that for reasons too scientifically complex, time has a funny way of slithering through Sundays. Sarah is possibly the most positive person I know, and accepts that when I say “I’ll be over by 8am, meant I’ll be in 10am”. Hearing her passions for teaching makes me feel at ease knowing a good fraction of children are in good hands!

We caught up as I prepared breakfast for her. For months I’ve been bugger her to let me run around her kitchen. But when it came to the big show I froze and wrestled with the harsh reality of unknown terrain. So to limit having her hand me every utensil, pot/pan, midget, and spice in her cabinet, I figured Sarah would enjoy a traditional Filipino Breakfast.

Growing up in a Filipino household I knew the mechanics of a well formed Filipino Breakfast. There’s basically four to five components this hefty meal:

Garlic Fried Rice

2 cups left over rice

2 tbsp cooking oil (vegetable or corn)

1 dozen cloves of garlic. Minced

You read that last part right. Garlic Fried Rice needs that many cloves of garlic! Heat the oil in a stir-fry pan to a med-high heat setting. Next saute  the garlic for a short time or until it’s golden brown. (I have to be honest and admit that I got caught up in conversation and burned a few bits :( ).

Next add the rice. Now the trick my mom taught me is to cook rice that’s a little dryer than the usual. About a 1/4 less than the usual amount of water used to cook the rice. It’ makes the rice more Al Dente and doesn’t break apart when fried at a high heat.

Stir fry the rice for 5 minutes or until it reaches a desired consistency of firmness and crunch.

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Pan Fried Tomatoes

There is always a fresh vegetable component to breakfast, either raw tomato, eggplant, cucumber. I decided to lightly pan fry some cherry tomatoes because I loved their sweetness.

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Carmalized Banana 

The savory sweet component is a must. Filipino’s love to deep fry bananas or sweet potatoes and add it to their breakfast. But in this meal I committed a sort of blasphemy out of fear and mercy for Sarah’s kitchen because a traditional Banana Que recipe called for a high amount of oil and heat.

8 pieces of frozen Saba (cooking bananas) (which can be found in asian supermarket aisles) cut in half

1 cup of brown sugar

3 tbsp of butter

Thaw the Saba and toss it in with brown sugar to coat it. Pan fry 2-3 rounds depending on pan size. The sugar will melt with the butter and make sure to coat the banana as it fries. Let the bananas cool so the sugar syrup will harden to a crust.

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Egg

Any standard ways to cook egg is accepted. Although Filipino’s rarely bother with poaching. In this case I decided to scramble my eggs but religiously followed Gordon Ramsey’s method.

5-6 large eggs

3 tbsp of butter

1/4 cup of milk

salt and pepper

Crack the eggs on a pan and place it on high heat along with the butter. Quickly stir the eggs and take the pan on/off the heat. It’s almost as if I’m cooking a delicate hollandaise sauce. I avoided season the egg until the end before I cooled it off with the milk.

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Longanisa

Finally the meat, which often dictates the name of the Filipino Breakfast game. Filipinos enjoy a bevy of marinated meats and sausages, ready for easy pan frying. Milkfish, anchovies, marinated beef or pork, and even tofu. Most families stick to the same rice/veggie/egg/sweet but things change up with the meat.

In this case I decided to use longanisa available in the frozen aisle at supermarkets. It’s sweetened pork stuffed sausages. I followed the instructions on the package accordingly. They’re all the same, boil the frozen sausages with enough water to cover the depth of the sausage in the pan. The water will evaporate and when it does, saute the sausages until the skins are very dark and brown. The darkness comes from the sugar in the meat and often a slightly garlicky burnt smell comes along. But it’s perfect, the bitter sweet skin comes through lightly and overshadowed by the rich savory sweet meat inside!

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The breakfast turned out well. I’m hoping to cook a whole Filipino breakfast from scratch in the future and perhaps perfect little things at certain dishes. My breakfast companion loved it though, as would anyone going through new experiences :) Despite the minor imperfections, it really doesn’t matter when you’re breakfast companion appreciates the gesture and loves every minute of the new experience they’re going through.

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Luck of the Palate

It took a week long to write this post. Probably because it took a whole week to try and recall what exactly happened.

St. Patrick’s day.

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I can’t recall this picture at all

My friend Tiffany invited me to a potluck at her house with a small intimate group of friends. What was interesting about this party was that she and my other friend were vegans so the dishes we had to prepare had to be sans meat.

In my usual tradition of procrastination, I put off figuring out what to make until a couple of days later. What could I possibly make that would satisfy the refined palate of two herbivores, let alone the bellies of 4 other people?

Till it dawned on me to try the one dish I obsessed about years ago after watching a film where it was used as a star dish to impress a shrewd critic. I forgot the name, but ratatouille has always been a favourite dish of mine.

I first tried it at two different restaurants in Calgary. Both were high end French restaurants but prepared each dish differently. It is after all a peasant dish meant to cook everything in the fridge or harvest basket. But one restaurant elegantly served large slices of soft vegetables under a blanket of pasta, while another serves a rustic presentation.

When I did my research for a particular recipe, I began with Julia Child’s classic ratatouille. But when I passed by my fridge I remembered my favourite french restaurant gave me a postcard with a recipe for ratatouille provencal.

Without complicating things, ratatouille is simply a vegetable stew that doesn’t have to rely on strick measurements or bound to exact ingredients.

On a thursday night I ran over to Superstore and gathered the following ingredients:

3 Japanese eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 large sweet onion (about 1/2 pound)

1 garlic bulb and 3 roasted in the oven

3 zuchinnis (about 1 1/2 pounds)

3 sweet bell peppers (about 3/4 pounds)

2 cans of diced tomatoes (more traditional calls for blanched and seeded tomatoes, but technology and time limit won this time)

5-6 tablespoons parsley

2-3 tablespoons of thyme

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

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Older recipes call for ways to soak eggplant slices in salt to draw out bitter juices. But smaller and medium sized eggplants now have a more sweeter taste to them so I decided not to use it.

First chop the eggplant and zucchini into round medallions. Next chop the onions and sweet bell peppers into round thin slices. Mince a whole bulb of garlic. Mince the parsley and thyme and set aside.

For some reason I felt like roasting some garlic and since I grab garlic by the handful at the supermarket, I threw 3 half sliced bulbs in the oven to roast with a bit of olive oil drizzled on the top. When they came out I roughly minced them and set them aside. Yep, I love garlic.

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One of the most easiest prep work I’ve done.

With a fry pan, lightly brown the eggplant and zucchini medallions in olive oil. Set aside.

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With lowered heat, cook the onions and bell peppers for roughly 10 minutes. Add more oil if necessary and stir in the garlic. Saute, making minor adjustments with salt and pepper according to taste.

Pour canned tomatoes into the onion/pepper/garlic mixture.I discarded half the liquid from the can prior. Add in thyme. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

In a large oven-friendly casserole, assemble layers of sauteed eggplant and zucchini, tomato mixture, sprinkled parsley, and strips of roasted garlic. Do this until the whole casserole is full.

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Cover the casserole tightly and bake in 250 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. Take it out and partially remoisten the top of the casserole with juices form the bottom and sides. Cover again and bake in 300 degrees for 40 minutes.

When I finished cooking this is what it looked like.

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In honesty I wish I had time to cook the dish more and cooked it on the stove rather than baked it. In the end the layers didn’t make much of a differences and mixing the vegetables all together would have just as a pleasant presentation.

When we arrived at my Tiffany’s place I was eager to dive into my ratatouille. Instead I dove head first into a bottle of Jameisons whisky and ginger beer. By the time I got around to eating my ratatouille, I was busy yapping away rather than my usual routine of making sure my senses were cleared. But from what I could remember the veggies came through quite well and the tomatoes brought out the sweetness. The roasted garlic didn’t stand out on it’s own and got lost in the dish but the garlic did exist in the dish.

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I never got around to asking my friends if they enjoyed the dish. I imagined they did since there was very little left in the large amount of food I brought. Then again the beauty of a potluck is that no matter what, everyone’s dishes has to be complimented! I’m sure I drunkenly flashed a smug expression.

Back to the haze. i remember bits and pieces. No matter how good the ratatouille was and how much I ate of it, it didn’t hold back the rowdy shots of Jameisons. I think there was karaoke. Something about Karaoke. Headlocks. Dry heaving. And me making complaints to my bathroom.

The very last picture on my phone at the end of the night:

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“Dude this guy smells like whisky”

 

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Pope Fring?

Seriously, I can’t be the first one to have noticed this today.

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Gustavo, meet Francis:

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COINCIDENCE?

Also, I am craving a good shepherd’s pie right now. I am a hungry mungry.

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Spice Party! Mango Chutney and Bhindi Masala

For over a year I’ve been volunteering for a literary arts magazine called filling Station. Naturally I would make several friends within this community of writers, poets, and artists. Recently my friend Caitlynn invited me over to her house for an indian spice party and for a guy who felt like his writing talents weren’t comparable to a room full of talented folks, I knew I had to bring my A-game in the kitchen. It was somewhat expected, after all I had gained an online notoriety for my Yelp Reviews and my fS peers were aware of my food and restaurant reviews. Allright, I’m going to be honest, there is no notoriety. My reviews are nothing but inside jokes and written regurgitations of things I ate. People happen to read them and assume that I’m a pro foodie of some sort. I like to think if the foodie community was Gotham City, I’d be Egghead.

The premise of Caitlynn’s party was simple: bring any ingredients required to cook a dish that must use the Indian spices she kept in her kitchen. So after an hour of tumbling around online for recipes I drove over to my favourite asian supermarket and picked myself up a basket full of goodies.

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Yes that’s a bottle of wine. Yes that’s a wooden spoon.

On Friday night I walked into a house thick with spicy scents and a kitchen full of bodies that were elbow to elbow chopping, kneading, and dancing. I poured myself a glass of wine and squeezed into the kitchen and found my spot and began assembling the two dishes I wanted to make: Mango Chutney, and Bhindi (Okra) masala.

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I gathered the spices I needed for each dish

Mango Chutney

When I did my research online the closest recipe I framed the chutney under was from The Black Peppercorn. But with the time crunch I had, I made some deviations to the recipe and had to be approximate. The chutney should serve roughly 4-6 people.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red chili pepper powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • .5 tsp cardamom,
  • 2 whole lemons w/ 1 cup of water
  • 1.5 cup brown sugar
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ginger, minced
  • 6 mangoes, peeled, pitted, and diced

I hated carting around vinegar and felt like a n00B asking Caitlynn if she had it in her pantry. Of course she would, but sometimes I’m weird about stuff like that. So I used lemons instead. Also the chili pepper powder was an alternative to cayenne, but it certainly had a pleasant but interesting effect on the chutney. For mangoes I prayed I could find some slightly raw Philippine Mangoes (which weren’t in season), but settled for slightly raw Ataulfo mangoes.

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In a saucepan I heated the coriander, cumin, hot pepper powder, turmeric, and cardamom in medium to high heat. I almost burned the darned thing when I got caught up in a conversation with a friend but managed to take the spices off the pan just when smoke heavily seeped out.

Next I added the lemon water, garlic, and ginger and stirred it to a boil before adding in the brown sugar. After it began to boil again I added the mangoes and brought it up to another boil before lowering it to a simmer. For 1-2 hours I occasionally stirred it and monitored it’s consistency. Monitored meaning I turned my back to it a few times only to come back to taste if it was sweet or thick enough. Within an hour and a half it was ready.

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Bhindi Masala
Serves 6-8 roughly
1.5 kg or 3 pounds okras
.5 cup canola oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 tsp ginger, minced
5 small roma tomatoes, chopped
2 asian chili peppers
juice of 2-3 lemon and 3 cups of water
.5 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chili
1 tsp garam masala
black pepper
salt
I consulted my friend Vishnu who was timezones away in India. He urged me to try his unique way of cooking vegetables (hint: future post) but also threw me several recipes for a basic Bhindi Masala that utilized the flavour of garam masala and tomatoes to bring out it’s main player, the okra. I love okras. I grew up eating them in their stew cooked state. I had no problem with it’s slimy consistency or what others called “veggie boogies”. But when I did my research online, I realized I’ve never tried okras in it’s non slimy and near-raw state. I saw several methods used to preserve the crispy texture of the okra and went with soaking the sliced okras in lemon juice and water for 30 minutes.
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With a sauce pan heat the oil in high heat. Throw in the onions and saute until the onions are translucent. Next add the ginger, onion, and chili peppers.
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After a minute or two of stirring add the tomatoes, the spices, and a half a cup of water. Let the liquid come to a boil then lower the heat to a medium. Simmer the tomato masala sauce for 15 minutes. Add the okras with a little bit of the lemon water and cook for 10 minutes, lightly stirring. Adjust the flavour with some salt and black pepper.
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Feast and Charades
When I finished cooking the masala and chutney, I realized I was the last person in the kitchen and everyone was already  piling their plates with various Indian curries, vindaloos, naans, and yogurt. I shoved myself into the line, two saucepans in hand and demanded everyone to leave room on their plates.
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The mango chutney was sweet and slightly tart with a surprising heat. Tiny bites of coriander seeds would sneak in and gives the chutney a new face when eaten. The Bhindi I’m quite sure, was the hottest dish on the table. The okras were crisp but it was a little slimy, I could have gotten away with shorter cooking time. Still no one complained and when I paired it with a friend’s mint greek yogurt, the strength of the tomato masala came through.

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We sat around my friend’s living room and contentedly traded stories. For the first time I lost count of how many time’s I’ve gone back for food. It was strange. Most of the time I often waited until my plate finished. but the combinations of curries, meats, breads, rice, and yogurt made me take quick trips to fill up on one or two items instead of finishing up the tray. Several other people did the same.

The rest of the night played out with story swapping and charades. No one was grossed out with my fast food horror stories and our game of charades got out of hand when the blanket challenge came to play.

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Even with the blanket. Everyone guessed it was Andre the Giant.

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Chicken Avocados

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the main reasons why I started this blog was so I can approach food in a way I felt few people did. Everyone has a recipe they claim to fame: my Aunt’s tamarind stew, my best friend’s Hungarian stew, my BJJ Prof’s Brazilian Chicken, my cousin’s Leche Flan, and that stranger I’ve yet to meet who does that dish I’ve yet to taste. Everyone stakes their reputation in saying that the dish they’ve made thousands of times is the undisputed world champion. But what makes these recipes a great eating experience wasn’t just the food itself, but the people behind it. So, the secret ingredient to the Hungry Mungry approach: Character. Maybe a little cooking trick, a secret ingredient, or a quirky story, much come along.

It’s quite fitting that my first article revolves around me being a family dinner guest at the friend who taught me a lot about human experiences and relationships. Michael Broadfoot a.k.a. Mikey B. Now to restrain myself from saturating this blog with praises I’ll simply state this: this man is life’s greatest wingman. For the longest time I’ve ranted about starting this blog and Mikey was the one that grabbed me by the collar and shook me to action. Like I said, a life wingman.

So when I asked Mikey if I could do my first article with him and if he had a recipe in mind he puffed up his chest and mentioned his Chicken Avocados, the glint in his eye couldn’t hide his pride.

So on a wintery Wednesday night he invited me over to his home. His colorful mom Kim, welcomed me at the door with a warm hug and I knew I was about to meet a charming family. After making rounds everyone had a familiar “when’s dinner?” expression on their faces. So we didn’t waste time getting to the kitchen and getting to business.

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Just a couple of Handsome Bros. Get to cookin!

Chicken Avocados

 

Salsa:

5 Avocados

2 whole medium sized tomatoes

1 can of sweetened corn or 1 ½ cup of frozen corn

25 g Cilantro

25 g Chives

Juice of one whole lemon

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grilled BBQ Chicken:

5 Chicken breasts

Bullseye BBQ sauce

15 plain tortilla wraps

3 cups of freshly chopped lettuce

Siracha Hot Sauce

 

Take 5 ripe avocados and scoop into a bowl. Mikey showed me a neat trick on finding a ripe Avocado: firmly press your thumb into the skin and if your thumb’s indentation stays, it means it’s ready to go. If it isn’t, then it needs to ripen.

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See the clear indent? This one’s ready to go.

Assembling the salsa seemed relatively easy, Mikey took a sharp knife and chopped up tomatoes, chives, and cilantro and added them to the avocadoes. He added the corn and squeezed the lemon juice on top. We mixed the bowl but made sure the chopped tomatoes maintained their form. Salt and pepper added to taste.

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Meanwhile the chicken was thrown on the grill and grilled for 10 minutes, at least when the meat is moist but well done. Mikey recalled his mini quest he went through to find the perfect sauce for the chicken “I’ve played around with other BBQ sauces but to be honest, Bullseye had the best and simple taste suited for the meat” I concur. Sometimes it’s all about finding what works.

 

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Mix and Marinate the chicken in the bag for approx 30 minute20130207-222740.jpg

We threw it on a skillet for easy handling.

Finally assembling the burrito required a collective effort. Mikey called all hands on deck and had everyone involved in the burrito’s assembly process:

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Serious business in the oven

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Mikey and Imran keeping a tight assembly line

  1. Place the shredded cheese on the tortilla
  2. Throw the tortilla into the oven for 200C
  3. Roast the tortilla for 5 minutes
  4. Take the tortilla out and immediately place the chicken, then the salsa, then a layer of fresh lettuce.
  5. Smother with Siracha and wrap.

Once the smoke cleared we gathered around the dinner table and contentedly munched on the Chicken Avocado Burritos. The salsa was the main star of the dish and the sweetness of the corn danced well with the savoury heat of the siracha. I’m quite surprised the Siracha was used here, but then again it’s growing to be such a common condiment loved by everyone.

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It’s hard to read too much into a simple dish. It really is. It’s like overanalyzing a boxer’s jab. But Mikey has prepared this knockout punch several times that there wasn’t one flaw I can find. Then again when you know someone well enough, your respect is reflected on how much you enjoy their cooking.

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For the rest of the night we sat around conversing. I noticed the encouraging scene we rarely find ourselves in: a family finding time to have dinner with each other, no distractions whatsoever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2012: A blurry hangover

I barely remember 2013. For weeks I’ve thought about doing a yearly recap in all of my blogs but in truth, a lot went on in 2013. And recaps have flooded the internets in the past month, how
appropriate it is for me to wake up so late in the game to come up a booze recap of 2013.

GrizzlyPAW CANMORE

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Worked my way through this
beer sample tray, a great way to taste a fraction of the Grizzly
Paw’s brewed beers

Canmore’s pride and joy brewery and pub. I loved the experience of the pub and it’s woodsy ambiance. The unfortunate thing about visiting this place twice in 2013 was that I DROVE to/from Calgary. My favourite? The Grumpy Bear Honey Wheat.

NEW YORK CITAYYY

In June I had a chance to sojourn to the East to Manhattan the land where everything you put into your mouth will either taste good because it’s made for New York Notoriety or will taste bad because you walked into the shady area of Manhattan. On one night I had a chance to (re)discover three amazing drinks: The classic manhattan. What better way to drink the drink of the city you’re visiting? Might as well since drinks in NYC aren’t cheap. I stumbled into the Little
Branch
a little drunk and when I tried to order a round for my friends the bartender said it would come to $90. So I secretly took the order back and got myself TWO manhattans. Greed, you embarrass me.

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Smooth, with a bevy of
subtle flavours swimming in obscurity to hide the poison that’s
been drumming the minds of men since prohibition.

At the end of the night our New York native host dragged us into Johnny’s Bar and ordered us another infamous cocktail that would later appear in my You won’t believe what I just had stories in Calgary. The
Pickleback: A shot of Jamieson whisky chased with a shot of pickle juice.

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A great way to end a night
of drunken roaming. The heat and punch of the Jameison’s whisky
CHASED away by the oddity of pickle juice. This drink is one you
order to remind your friends why you’re the coolest.

A few days later me and my mom got a fine dining chance at Morimoto’s. The one drink my mother let me have: the Morimototini. A signature cocktail worthy of a thousand Asian Mom’s sermons.

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Also smooth, but the
coolness of the cucumber surprisingly stood out.

GOOD OL’ YYC

Back home in Calgary, trying to recall the drinks I’ve had here is like trying to count the stars in the night sky in the city, you know there have been a lot, you just can’t see them.
Ox and Angela had a great combo of signature drinks that I feel is overshadowed by their amazing Spanish food menu. I naturally fell for drinking the Angela but rounded off the night with their more masculine Ox. The drinks are fairly priced but for a more adventurous or cocktail knowledgable person, they had “upgraded” options that made me wonder where I could have ended up if I had them upgrades.

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“Bacardi 8 Rum, stirred
into white grapes & bitters
infused sugar cubes,
garnished wi green apples slices”
-Yeah, it makes me tipsy just reading this.

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“Plymou Gin, Lychee
Liqueur & a few drops
of Parfait Amour, finished
wi rose water & an edible flower”
Yes I will drink the flowers too.

Sometimes the best concoctions aren’t dreamed up by the most skilled bartender, but rather one that has a story. In this case the Zambuca and JackDaniels, a signature finishing move from my friend Chris who drank and gargled (for exactly 10 seconds) this shot.

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My expression clearly represented my mood the next morning.

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You’d think one night was enough. Enter my 29th birthday. Where everything bad can be translated as you only live once.

Below Deck on Stephen Ave is the most unsuspecting pub to find, unless you were a homesick maritimer looking for a home away from home. Naturally, they carried Keith’s, my default pint of beer. However, their grogs took me by surprise. Not a big fan of rum and cokes, but this was a lovely drink.

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Dark and Stormy. Rum and coke and ginger
beer. The ginger beer is the bouncer that kept away that gross
aftertaste.

The longer this article gets the blurry my memory gets. So let’s quicken the pace.

Anju

The only restaurant I visited four times in a year and the meal cost me over $50 average. No complaints, only pleasant yummy experiences to remember.

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Soju. The fruity taste of the mix like all devious cocktails, hides the wallop of
vodka hidden in the mix.

Willow Park Wines and Spirits

My go to liquor spot. I’ve yet to disappoint a party.

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Mead, the oldest alcoholic drink in the world. As old as marriage and all it’s wonders.

Milk Tiger Lounge

The aesthetic of cocktail lounges and speakeasy right in our own backyard. Sure you’ll have to mind the hipsters, cramped space, and troublesome but charming front entrance, but the convenient drink prices, talented drink makers, interesting crowd, and…this sounds like a Yelp review

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This made me drunk. Hemingway Daiquiri.

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My excuse for not having a name for this drink was because I was drunk from the drink above and allowed my waitress to pick for me.

Wow, I can still fell the hangover. Time for some coffee.

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Ohio makes me fat

I am originally from Ohio.

While my eating habits are equally less-than-exemplary when not visiting “the heart of it all” (which is most likely clogged with cholesterol), I still find that I always bring back a little “extra baggage” each time I return from visiting the buckeye state (and by “extra baggage,” we’re not talking comic books here).

Part of it is my mom’s cooking. It’s so good. (Most) every child loves their mama’s cooking though, and my mother can’t be faulted for making use of the skills she’s been given and wanting her normally “famished” children to eat well while home.

Here is an example of a typical Mo' D. breakfast. Fit for a lumberjack. Waffles, bacon, and Oberlin IGA's unbeatable Italian sausage.

Here is an example of a typical Mo’ D. breakfast. Fit for a lumberjack. Waffles, bacon, and Oberlin IGA’s unbeatable Italian sausage.

I simply can’t get enough. I know that I’m biased (I am her son, after all, and it is the food I grew up on, so it carries with it the effect of nostalgia along with its inherent deliciousness), but I find it extremely difficult to exercise restraint when things like this are placed in front of me day in and day out.

Clearly.

Clearly.

But it’s not only the mountain man breakfasts, it’s the voluptuous dinners, the constant baking …

"Oh look! A family of cookies!"

“Oh look! A family of cookies!”

and the endless supply of pie, pie, pie …

π

π

As I mentioned before, my mother is not the only one to blame (well, obviously, my own self control is the number 1 suspect, but that’s beside the point).

The general culture of the midwest is one of excess. Big portions, hearty flavours and vats of hot oil as your primary “cooking utensil.”

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I mean, where else would you be eating a burger for breakfast?

Or where else would they be advertising the price of a "Speedy Freeze" alongside gas prices?

Or where else would they be advertising the price of a “Speedy Freeze” alongside gas prices?

Yes, the midwest is a joy filled land of juicy fats, crispy edges, sweet frostings and doughy delights.

where you can find blocks of cheese the size of your torso!

… where you can find blocks of cheese the size of your torso!

And it all inspires your own creativity as well. You begin plotting out fried volcanos of mashed potatoes with gravy and cheese lava spilling over, hams that look like Christmas trees …

cannoli

Or taking cannoli shells … and stuffing them with pepperoni and cheese!

So, Ohio, even though each time I visit you, I come back looking looking more and more like a bloated innertube, I am ever-thankful of your hospitality, your down-home cookin’, and your rare treats of fat-man deliciousness.

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