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October 2007

29 October 2007

What's in a name? Legendary Noodle


I've always had an abiding suspicion of cafes and restaurants who claim to have 'the best cup off coffee in the city' or the 'best pizza slice in town'. Experience has shown these claims to be pretty hit and miss. More miss than hit, really. Often the insult of anticlimax being added to the injury of a mediocre cup of coffee.

So it was with a due skepticism that we entered Legendary Noodle: a small noodlery on Main St, Vancouver, known for its made-on-the-spot fresh noodles. Customers can watch as their noodles are stretched, slapped and cooked right before their eyes.

Since that first visit, we have been back several times. The fresh noodles and dumplings are consistently good; the menu is simple, but with a good mix of meat and vegetarian options; and the novelty of the deft hands manipulating noodles out of dough continues to excite.


This time, we ordered the ground beef and chinese mushroom noodles and a dumpling noodle soup. They were good, complimentary choices. The ground beef and chinese mushroom gravy was rich and salty. The soup was very mild. We asked for a couple of small personal bowls and mixed them to good effect.

The really legendary part is that this all came to $11.00.

This small, family operation is not going to blow you away with innovation, flavour or creativity, but the food is consistent and fresh, the service is quick and the servings are large.

Legendary Noodle is located at 4191 Main Street, Vancouver (Tel: 604-879-8758). A second restaurant has opened in the West End and is located at 1074 Denman Street, Vancouver (Tel:604-669-8551).

26 October 2007

Comfort Food Part II: Lamb Biryani


Biryani is a rice-based dish eaten in the Middle East and South Asia that consists of meat, vegetables, spices and yogurt.

I first tried it in a Persian restaurant called Byblos in Montreal when I was on holiday a few weeks back. When I got back to Vancouver I found myself craving it and decided to try and make it. I used lean, ground lamb instead of beef which added an extra richness to the dish. I sauteed the lamb with a heady mix of cumin, paprika, a cinnamon stick and ground chili to reduce its 'lambiness'.

The Biryani I had at Byblos was much drier than my version but I preferred the extra moisture of my tomato-based sauce. To top the dish off I added fresh lemon juice, parsley and lots of fresh mint; mint being one of my favourite herbs. This addition balanced the rich flavour of lamb perfectly.

I will be adding this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Pille of the blog Nami Nami.

To finish off the meal and cleanse our palates, I used the rest of the mint leaves to make a delicious mint tea by bruising the leaves and then putting them in a cup and adding hot water and a little wild honey.


Continue reading "Comfort Food Part II: Lamb Biryani" »

23 October 2007

Montréal Markets: Marché Jean-Talon


Ok, well it's been a month since we returned from Quebec. I had meant to start posting about the trip sooner, but then... what with my trip to Thailand and... well, in the circumstances, the delay is forgivable.

The intervening month also made it more fun to re-live the trip as we went through our 500-or-so photos. I've decided to start with what, I think it's fair to say, was our favourite part of Montréal: Marché Jean-Talon.


We really liked Montréal. It had a great pulse to it. There was always life on the streets. Colour, noise and people spilled out of shops, dining rooms and parks. And nowhere demonstrated this joie de vivre like Jean-Talon markets.

Located in the Little Italy district, Marché Jean Talon is Montréal's and perhaps even North America's, largest open air market with over 300 stalls in the summer months. It is open year-round despite the blistering winters however there are of course fewer stalls and they are located indoors.


The Market is spread over several blocks and contains acres of farm-fresh produce and specialty stores that drew us in and dazzled with the beautiful colours, the sounds of hawkers and the lure of smells that wafted from every direction.

The place is mecca for food and foodies.

Continue reading "Montréal Markets: Marché Jean-Talon" »

21 October 2007

Winter comfort food: Mushroom Lasagna


With the onset of winter, it's time to dust off those hearty favourites...winter comfort food recipes.

On the menu is Mixed Mushroom Lasagna using a medley of high-grade Shiitakes, Chantarelles, Field and Oyster mushrooms served with a delicate Bechamel sauce. The addition of the fragrant shiitakes adds a different layer to the flavour and aroma of this dish, but I used them in moderation so not to overpower the dish.


I used fresh lasagna sheets (I try to use fresh pasta as much as I can as it is just so much better than the packaged stuff).

Now don't let the following recipe deter you because of how many steps there are. I know it looks like a lot but this dish doesn't take long to make at all. It is far easier than making a meat-based lasagna which can take me hours to prepare. 


Continue reading "Winter comfort food: Mushroom Lasagna" »

17 October 2007

Maui Pancakes in Vancouver


This time last year we were sunning ourselves on a beach in Maui - life was idyllic.

We'd wake up around 10am, make Maui pancakes and wash them down with Pina Coladas. Not your usual breakfast drink but we were on holidays and I think this is what people do on holidays. If they don't, they should.

Yesterday, some friends of ours got married in Maui. Sadly, we were unable to attend the festivities so to celebrate in some way, we made Maui pancakes in honour of the lucky couple.

So here's to Kim and Derek...Maui Banana Buttermilk Pancakes topped with fresh coconut, macadamia nuts and of course, dark maple syrup for a Canadian touch.

Enjoy! While you two were tying the knot on a pristine beach, we were sitting here stuffing ourselves in your honour.


Banana Buttermilk Pancakes with Fresh Coconut and Macadamia Nuts
(serves 2)

Dry ingredients:
1 1/8 cup of unbleached flour
1/2 tsp of sea salt
1 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of baking powder

Other ingredients:
1.5 cups of buttermilk
1 large egg
3/4 cup of sour cream
1/3 cup of butter
1/4 cup of freshly grated young coconut
A handful of macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
Dark maple syrup for topping


  1. In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients together well.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, egg and sour cream. Add the dry mixture to this bowl and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the batter comes together.
  3. Heat up a pan or griddle on a medium heat and add about 1 tsp of butter to the pan. Swirl the pan around to coat the base with butter.
  4. Pour in about 1/2 a cup of the batter mixture into the pan and then gently push several pieces of banana into the batter.
  5. Once bubbles start to appear on the surface of the pancake, flip it over gently with a spatula and cook the other side until golden brown.
  6. Remove the pancake and repeat the process with the remaining batter.
  7. To keep the pancakes warm while cooking the rest of the batter put them on a plate and cover them with a sauce plan lid.
  8. Once all the pancakes are ready, serve with a sprinkling of young coconut and macadamia nuts.

`ono! (Hawaiian for 'delicious')

15 October 2007

Kao Thom: soup for sickies


Kao Thom with tasty, tender pork meatballs is the perfect 'I'm feeling sorry for myself' food. It is comfort food. And, it is the only thing I eat when I have a bad cold. What's more, it is very easy to make which is what you need when you're not feeling so crash hot. Most importantly, it is absolutely delicious. So delicious, that when I eat it, I forget I am sick.

Kao Thom is a Thai breakfast staple that is actually eaten at any time of the day. Another similar breakfast dish is called Johk which has more of a porridge-like consistency like Congee.

The standard condiments that are always served with Kao Thom include slivers of fresh ginger, a handful of Chinese celery leaves (normal celery leaves will do), crispy fried pieces of garlic and red chillies in vinegar sauce, otherwise known as Naam Som.


Kao Thom with Pork Meatballs Recipe
(Serves 4)


5 cups of organic chicken stock
2 cups of cooked white rice
1/4 tsp of Chinese White Pepper
2 tbs of Thai fish sauce
1.5 tbs of light soy sauce (I use Thai Healthy Boy brand)

Pork Meatballs

450gms of lean ground pork
2 tbs of grated ginger
3 cloves of grated garlic
1/2 tbs of fish sauce
1/2 tbs of light soy sauce
A dash of Chinese white pepper


6 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
2 tbs of vegetable oil
Slivers of fresh ginger
Chinese celery leaves, roughly chopped
2 tbs of white vinegar
1 red chili, sliced with most of the seeds removed


  1. In a large pot, heat the chicken stock on a medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Add fish sauce, soy sauce and white pepper to the stock. Stir well and reduce heat to low and cover.
  3. Now for the meatballs. Mix together all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Once the ingredients are mixed though, roll small meatballs that are about 2cm in diameter. Set aside on a plate.
  5. Time for the condiments. Heat the vegetable oil in a small fry pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic slices and fry until crispy and golden brown but not burnt. Drain the garlic and set aside.
  6. Add the chili and vinegar to a small serving bowl and set aside.
  7. Arrange the the ginger in a small serving bowl. Add the celery leaves to a small serving bowl. Set aside.   
  8. Uncover the soup and turn the heat up to a medium high heat. When the soup starts to simmer, add the meatballs. Cook the meatballs for about 3-4 minutes or until they rise to the top which means they are ready.
  9. The final stage in preparation for this recipe is to spoon about a cup of cooked rice into a soup bowl. Ladle on the soup and meatballs and then garnish with prepared condiments.

11 October 2007

Thanksgiving with a Thai twist


In 1621, the Plymouth colonists in Massachusetts held large celebration as a show of thanks for the bountiful Autumn Harvest. It is believed that the feast was shared with the Wampanoag Indians, who may have played a large part in helping the colonists survive the harsh new landscape.

So what exactly was served at this Thanksgiving feast? Dishes that commonly adorn the table today such as pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes and turkey didn't even exist until much later on. The only documented account of what was served on the day was found in a journal entry of Edward Winslow, a Mayflower pilgrim and eventually Governor of Plymouth. His entry told of large amounts of venison and wild fowl on the menu.

It is believed that other available food sources at the time included seal, eagles, lobster, pumpkins and beans, amongst other things.

So this year, I wanted to add a twist to our Thanksgiving lunch (and seal and eagles were out of the question), so we decided to serve our pumpkin pie Thai Style. In fact, it wasn't really a pie at all but more like a pumpkin with custard in it.


The traditional Thai dessert is so easy to make! It's known as Sangkhaya Fakthong is usually made with duck eggs which make the custard more dense and rich. However, after scouring Chinatown for a few duck eggs, I finally gave in and used chicken eggs. Apprently ducks around here only lay eggs of the salted or preserved kind.

The custard mixture is very simple. It is first mixed and then poured into an empty pumpkin shell. The pumpkin is then steamed for about 30-40 minutes and then chilled for several hours. Once set, the pumpkin is sliced and served. The delicate, sweetness of the custard is complemented by the earthy sweetness of the pumpkin.

Steamed Pumpkin Custard Recipe
(Serves 4)

5 large eggs
1 cup of coconut cream
1 cup of loose palm sugar
2 small Japanese pumpkins or squash


  1. Gently cut the top of the pumpkin or squash. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits and set aside. Keep the tops for covering.
  2. Combine the eggs with the coconut cream and palm sugar. Beat on a medium speed until frothy.
  3. Pour the coconut mixture into the pumpkin shells and cover them with the tops.
  4. Gently place pumpkins in the steamer. Cover with a lid and steam for about 30-35 minutes.
  5. Once the custard has set, remove the pumpkin from the steamer and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.
  6. Finally, place the pumpkin in the fridge for about 1-2 hours.
  7. Serve chilled.

Arroy dee!

05 October 2007

Family and Food

It all started with a seizure...I suddenly found myself on a plane compacted between two screaming infants and their equally distressed mothers for 13 excruciating hours. I was bound for Thailand.

I wish the trip's purpose had been a pleasurable one however my father had suffered from a heart attack and it was time for the family to rally around. 

I arrived in Bangkok, worn, weary and stressed. The next leg of the trip was not much better and included traveling six hours by bus to Khon Kaen in the north-east of Thailand. Not a fun prospect.

My mother and I spent several days with my father in the hospital watching him steadily recover. When visiting hours were over, I would seek solace in a part of Thailand that was comforting to me: the food markets.

Despite having lived in Thailand for 10 years, its sites, smells and sounds never cease to intrigue me. I remember my mother always saying that you could live in Thailand your whole life and not have to eat the same dish twice. I never believed her, however, on this last trip, I discovered many new and revelatory dishes.

In Thailand, social eating is an integral part of daily life. Family get-togethers, what ever the occasion, happy or sad, always include a veritable feast.

Food is everywhere and can be eaten at any time of the day. Some of the best dishes are made by street vendors who whip up deliciously simple noodles in a mobile kitchen the size of a shopping cart.

Even in some of the poorer markets, fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood and meats were in abundance. And as I walked through them each day, I would often wonder if anyone would even bother cooking at home with all this inexpensive and mouthwatering food available 24 hours a day.      

And so it was, that over the next two weeks, my days were filled with family and food.

The first market stop was in Nonburi, Bangkok. Located just a short distance from Tha Nam Nonburi (the Nonburi Ferry Pier), the Nonburi markets are a must-see and are busiest in the early morning. It is mostly locals that shop in the heady maze of the little stalls and food-sellers.


This woman was selling Betel nut packages: the nut is often mixed with tobacco and lime and then chewed for its stimulant effects caused by psychoactive alkaloids. It also causes the chewer's mouth to go a ghastly red colour. The practise of chewing Betel nut dates back thousands of years in east and south east Asia.


These fish, known as Pla Salit are coated in salt and sun-dried for strictly one day only. Any longer and the fish becomes inedible or over-cured.


The Water Lily grows in abundance in the Chaopraya, or wherever there are bodies of water. It can be seen being washed down the river entangled in big green clumps of lily leaves, or found decorating garden ponds.

Only the stem can be eaten and is sometimes consumed raw with Nam Prik, a spicy fish paste condiment. Being an aquatic plant however, people should be careful when eating the stem raw. Other methods of preparing it include stir-frying the stem with pork, garlic and pepper, or poaching it in coconut milk, shrimp paste and red onion.


When I took this photo, the yellow petals of the Dok Snow (pronounced Sa-now) appeared to be moving. On closer inspection, I could see dozens of little bees hovering over the fragrant mass. The Dok Snow, or Snow Flower, is used to make a dessert called Kanom Snow. The flower is lightly steamed and mixed with sugar and freshly grated young coconut. For something savoury, Dok Snow can be fried with eggs, to make a kind of frittata, cut into litle squares and then topped with the Nam Prik fish paste.


Whilst on the topic of bees, check out this huge raw slab of honey comb with buzzing bees and all in the Khon Kaen markets. The seller would just gently break off a section of the honey comb and pop it into a plastic bag. The bees didn't seem to mind.

Khon Kaen is located in a region known as the Issan, in the north eastern part of Thailand. Issan culture shares many Laos characteristics, especially in terms of food. One of the most famous Issan dishes is Gai Yang and Som Tum, or BBQ chicken and Papaya salad. The food staple in the region is Kao Niew, otherwise known as sticky rice and can be seen steaming in big straw baskets.



When I finally left the market, a big writhing bucket caught my eye. To my horror, I saw about a hundred small snakes or eels, squirming around in the water. Eek.

However, it was still upsetting to think that these little creatures would be eaten...Not so. To my relief, I later found out that the eels are actually 'merit eels'. You can buy one and release it into the river, and good luck will be sure to befall you due to your good deed.

I think I'll just stick to tossing coins.

There is more to come on the tastes and textures of Thailand. But until then, sawasdee ka.

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