Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Corso 32

I was a huge fan of chef Daniel Costa, who in my book, makes the most amazing pizzas, calzones and tomato bisque ever.  I felt like a lost soul when I heard he wasn't making them anymore and left Cafe de Capo.  Not to sound like a creeper, but I stalked him around a couple times while he worked at Red Star, just to try his take on gastropub food and wishing that he would return to full Italian cuisine one day.   Then my prayers were answered when I heard he extended his wings and opening his own restaurant, Corso 32 earlier this month.

Last week, I finally got a chance to visit the new restaurant in downtown.  The ambience of the restaurant really reflected his personal style and visions.  The vibe of the restaurant was very lively, warm, casual.  There was an opened kitchen facing the entrance and patrons can see the chefs at work as they're coming in and out.  The restaurant was buzzling with a constant turnovers throughout the entire time we were  there.  With indie, grunge playing as the soundtrack that night, the majority of his patrons  in their late 20's - 30's enjoyed themselves drinking, dining, and socializing (many of whom I'm sure are well acquainted with chef Daniel).  No doubt, this is Edmonton's new "It" spot.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Le Cafe Siam - French Cuisine Restaurant in Bangkok

This is where Cute Pig is hitting up next month!!

The food at Le Cafe Siam in Bangkok looks AMAZING!! I can't wait! The plus side is it's right by my house!! woop woop

Aside from using local ingredients, they also import shellfish from Canada and Maine. Can you look at this video and not drool? Irresistible..

Watch chef Anthony Quarchioni interview on Idine.

Ho Mok, steamed curried fish recipe


Traditional ho mok is wrapped with banana leaf bowl and are often sold on the streets or at floating markets. It has soft custard-like texture but with creamy coconut flavour and red curry fiery.  Since banana leaves are not as readily available in North America, artichokes or ramekins can be used as containers for these curry delights.  

3 artichokes
1 cup tilapia, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. red curry paste
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 cup cabbage finely sliced
1.5 cup coconut cream
1 egg
1 tbsp. kaffir lime leaves sliced
1-2 red chilies

Rinse artichokes in cold water.  Slice off the top part and trim the edges of the artichokes.   Open up the artichoke from the centre, scrape out all of the fuzzy choke at the inner core and discard.   While leaving the artichoke heart in tact, line the bottom with cabbage and set aside.

Whisk egg in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine red curry paste, coconut cream, and tilapia in a bowl and mix well.   Add fish sauce and egg to the curry mixture and continue stirring.  Pour the mixture into the artichokes and garnish with coconut cream, red chilies, kaffir leaves and basil. Steam for about half an hour at high heat.

The artichoke petals can be eaten by placing a bit of the steamed curry on top of the inner part, and you can nib away by pulling the tender pulpy part of the petal.  Discard the remaining petal.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Easy way making fiery Mapo tofu recipe

I woke up half way through hibernation, hungry and cold.  I glanced outside to the blizzards and wish there was already food on the table so I could quickly eat it and go back to doing my thing.  Since I have a block of tofu in the fridge, and there was a foot of snow outside and still blizzarding, I thought of the spicy mapo tofu to warm me up from inside out.
While I was reminiscing about the best Mapo tofu I've ever had, which was at South Ocean Seafood restaurant in Richmond, BC, I started looking through hundreds of recipes, and each had different ways of making it.  As I was wondering what the easiest way would be to tackle this dish, I have to give thanks to chef Ben who helped me simplify this recipe, making it easier for me to follow through. 

Starting off the day with 7 courses at La Pagode...

One morning after picking up my sister from the airport, I got ambitious and decided that today would be   the day we order the house special 7 dishes of beef, or Bò 7 Món ($38), at La Pagode on the west side.  I've visited the vietnamese restaurant numerous times, mostly sticking to the usual pho, vermicelli bowl, or stir-fry combo if I really wanted to change things up.  This time, I let my stomach do the thinking and felt it was the right thing to do.  Don't let the description fool you.  Even though it's listed that the special is for two people, there's actually enough to maybe feed up to four.  From what I've seen, La Pagode is the only vietnamese restaurant besides Pagolac that offers Bò 7 Món on their menu.  They're prepared almost the same way at both restaurants and I remember that it was very tasty at Pagolac.  

Monday, December 20, 2010

First authentic ramen place opening in EDMONTON?!

I AM ECSTATIC! First Beard Papa's came to town, and now Sanpachi, a ramen chain straight from Sapporo, Japan, is soon to open its door in Edmonton!  Unlike Vancouver where ramen joints flourish, this will be the first ever Japanese ramen joint to open in Edmonton and the location will be in the south side on Calgary Trail. Finally, we don't have to fly to Vancouver every time we crave a descent bowl of ramen.  A fancy "fusion" version and udon noodles simply don't fill the void either.  I'm talking about flavourful, rich broth, chewy house-made egg noodles, tender slices of pork from a place that is actually authentic and owned by Japanese people, not just random interpretations of how ramen should be.  As far as I'm concerned, real ramen is currently non-existent in Edmonton.  Hence, this is probably one of the most exciting and refreshing news ever!  It's nice to see Edmonton culinary scene finally progressing.  Now that I've expressed my optimism, here's my concern:  If it's only a franchise, will it be authentic (especially in Edmonton)?   I've eaten at fast food chains in Japan and I thought they had excellent control over quality of their food.  With Sanpachi also being a fast food chain, I hope they have some ways of maintaining quality here.  Although, I've heard that the Vancouver location is doing quite well.  I guess the ramen lovers in Edmonton will have to wait and find out.

d'Lish Urban Kitchen and Wine Bar

Opened this past September, d'Lish Urban Kitchen and Wine Bar has been re-modeled, and re-concept from former d'Lish Urban Meal Assembly Studio.  It was transformed into a trendy restaurant lounge with modern touches, while providing a warm and cozy atmosphere.  When we arrived, only two other tables were filled, and the patrons all being in their late 40's and up. I noticed their tables were set up fairly close together.  It was a fairly quiet night, and their choice of old school music playing nearly put me to sleep.  I could see this place being a hip spot on weekends like Suede, especially if it provides nice mash ups of chill out, lounge, or jazz music.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Red curry with roast duck and prawn recipe

2 tbsp. red curry paste
1.5 tbsp. vegetable oil
2-3 kaffir lime leaves
1 can coconut milk
2 tbsp. fish sauce (salt can be substituted)
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup winter melon, sliced
200 g barbecue duck, sliced
10 red or white grapes
6 prawn, deveined 

*Optional fresh basil to garnish

At medium heat, stir-fry red curry paste with vegetable oil for about 2-3 minutes.  Add kaffir lime leaves and continue stirring for another minute.  Separate coconut cream, which is on the surface, from coconut milk in the can.  Add the coconut cream to the pan and stir until it is well mixed with the curry paste.  Add barbecue duck and saute for another 3 minutes.  Slow add the remaining coconut milk, and water.  Stir continuously and bring the curry to boil.  Add winter melon and grapes.  Season with fish sauce and sugar.  Let simmer for about an hour until the oil starts separating.  Add the shrimp just before turning off the heat and cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Serve in a large bowl and garnish with basil.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Deliciousness of Duchess Bake Shop

After reading about the reviews and hearing the reputation of the Duchess Bake Shop,  I had to check it out for myself.  One evening, during one of the worst snow storms in Edmonton this year, I marched in through the snow banks to the famous bake shop.  I have to add on a side note that for the location that it is at, I would have to say that this place is a "hidden gem". The atmosphere of the bakery was warm and inviting with a wonderful, lingering scent of freshly baked pastry. If there wasn't for the snow storm, I would've liked to stay and enjoy a cup of warm latte.   As I pressed my face against the display case, I don't really have a sweet tooth, but I was mesmerized by the arrays of delectable desserts and pastries.  The cakes and tarts were presented very elegantly, while the pastries, pies, and sandwiches looked enticingly rustic.

Holidays special-candy cane macarons

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Afternoon drama munchies: shrimp crackers, veggie chips and chili dip

As my homemaker mode kicks in, I love to curl up on my couch and watch my K-drama marathon.  The favourite right now being Secret Garden (Thanks to my sister!).  Of course while watching a juicy drama, you need something to munch on the ease the intensity or heighten the enjoyment.  I like to choose snacks that have flavours resemble to the mood of the drama I'm watching, just to REALLY get with the program.  Hours would go by, and by the time the drama marathon is over, I would probably gain about 10 lbs.

So when I'm watching intense Asian drama with a lot of emotional roller coaster rides, my pick for snacks are shrimp crackers and veggie chips with chili dip.  The shrimp crackers can be bought package or you can buy the uncooked kind and fry them yourself.  Personally, I prefer frying them myself since they are bigger, fresher, and I love watching them expand in the fryer. The flavour of the chili dip is as bold and intense as the drama I'm watching.  Both are as addicting, and I simply can't have one without the other.  

The chili dip is made out of Thai chili paste called Nam Prik Pao.  Don't let the name scare you.  Even though it is made up of roasted chili and ground dried shrimp in soya bean oil, it is sweet in flavour and not very spicy at all! It is often used for preparing the infamous Tom Yum Kung, and a bunch of other stir-fry dishes.  And this time, I'm using it as a dip!  The flavours are sweet with the aroma of roasted chilies and a bit citrusy, not something that you would get sick of real quick. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Son-in-law Eggs Recipe

This recipe goes out to my dear friend Tammy Chan Tse who absolutely loved this dish from the first time she tried it.  I normally would never even look at hard boiled eggs, let alone eating them, unless they are devilled eggs or this spectacular "son in law" eggs.  So most people reading the name, if they are unfamiliar, must think...wth is in this dish??? Well, let me explain.  "Son-in-law" Eggs, or "Kai Look Kaey" (ไข่ลูกเขย) is a Thai dish consisting of fried hard boiled eggs, topped with sweet tamarind sauce and friend garlic and onion.  I did some research to where the "son-in-law" part came from, and unfortunately, there are no side stories or relevance behind its name.  Traditionally, the dish was often made for special ceremonies, such as weddings, which was probably how the name got stuck.  If you haven't tried it, it is definitely worth a try.  It is filled unique flavours you never thought you would taste with eggs!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Smoked salmon canapés

I don't know if anyone's with me on this but when I live by myself, I find little motivation to get up and cook a meal.  It just seems like so much hassle sometimes, most especially when I have the whole day of doing nothing ahead of me.  So to trick myself, I would make fancy cocktail appies even though no one was coming over (yes, sad isn't it?)... But it works, since I am more appealed by fancy looking bite-size hors d'oeuvres.  So whether you are hosting a cocktail dinner, or a lonely diner like me, here's my way of making smoked lox salmon canapés.  Hang on, I've heard so many different terms; smoked, gravlax, lox.  What are the differences??

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How I made a WTF cake...

Birthday Rum Cake Wtf Cake
So for my grandma's birthday this year, I decided to bake a rum cake.  To be specific, I wanted to make it like this Italian restaurant does, or at least similar concept.  The top layer of the cake is very dry and airy, and the creamy icing and the bottom layer of the cake is nicely drenched with rum flavour.  I knew I won't be able to make it exactly like that, but at least had the same concept it mind.  So on the day of, I had everything planned, including all the shortcuts.  Everything was pretty much pre-made and it should've been simple enough...

The reason why I enjoy cooking food more baking is because cooking is more of an art, while baking revolves more around science.  There is very little room for tweaking and free-styling without the risk of your baked goods collapsing.  It is also the reason why I only bake once a year.  I dumped a shot of rum in the dough, and another shot in the icing.  From what I read from an online recipe, 2 shots should suffice.  I was proved wrong.  The bright side was that I got to use the spatula I got from Foodbuzz Festival... Yay.....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thai Flavours: Finally! Authentic Thai food in Edmonton!

I never ever thought I would find it, but without any expectations, Thai Flavours definitely showed me the way.  I've had prejudice about most local Thai restaurants being way overpriced and making food too sweet.  Thai Flavours is yet the first one I've come across to have the authenticity of the motherland.   Opened since 2007, the family owned restaurant is fairly small in size with only around 10 dining tables and more catered towards takeouts.  The entrees are around $ 12.95 while the salads and appetizers are around $ 7.95 to $ 9.95 which are still on the ball park for Thai food prices here.  I was there for my aunt's birthday and they were able to accommodate and cook up special dishes that may not otherwise be listed on the menu. The appetizers and Laab Moo are on the menu, while the seafood were special requests.  If you are are interested, just give the restaurant a call and request in advance.  They should be able to give the price list for the dishes.  The restaurant also offers catering as well.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The perfect green curry recipe

Thai green curry is a famous Thai dish that is easy to make.  There are certain tricks and cooking steps one must know in order to achieve authentic flavour.  Once you master it, there is no need to order take out from a Thai restaurant ever again.  For green curry paste, I use Thai brand, Mae Ploy, which I will list the links for Amazon on the bottom of the page.  

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. green curry paste
1 chicken breast, sliced
3-4 kaffir lime leaves
1/4 pumpkin, cubed (optional: can be substituted with your favourite veggies)
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp. fish sauce
30 ml Thai basil
2-3 chilies

In a saucepan, heat oil at medium heat.  Stir-fry green curry paste for a minute.  Add chicken, fish sauce, and kaffir lime leaves.  Stir fry until chicken is cooked.  Slowly add in coconut milk, then pumpkin. Bring the curry to boil.  Stir until the paste is well mixed into the coconut milk.  Lower the heat and let simmer for 1-2 hours.  A good curry comes with patience.  When the oil starts to separate from the curry, all the flavours from herb and spices have come out and it's ready.  Add fresh thai basil.  Remove from heat and serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Get the ingredients from the link below:

Thai Taste Fish Sauce (200ml) Coconut Milk Organic (400 Brand: Ontario Natural Food Co-op Tilda Fragrant Jasmine Rice (500g)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wine tasting in Napa

Earlier in November, I geared up for my first trip to Napa Valley, and was quite delighted that it was a beautiful sunny day.  I was ready for a full day of culinary and wine tasting adventures.  Being my tourist self, I purchased the Go San Francisco card which included Taste Napa Downtown (a $20 value).  It was an easy, no brainer guide which enabled us to "taste hop" certain vineyards and tasting rooms in the downtown area.   Even though I wanted to see the beautiful Castello di Amorosa, I decided to save it for the next trip when we will have more time for sightseeing.