Friday, January 28, 2011

Another wonderful lunch at Chesa Swiss restaurant, Bangkok


My family has been loyal patrons to Chesa for the last 6 to 7 years.  We value the consistency in the quality and authenticity of fine Swiss cuisine being served here.  One of my pet peeves is going to restaurants that do not stay true to the flavours of the cuisines.  I've spoken to an English teacher in Japan who once complained to me,
"While I love Japanese food, and it is delicious, I truly miss North American style fast food.  I absolutely cannot find a good pizza or hamburger here."
It is fortunate that Thailand has a larger and more diverse mix of foreigners coming to open up restaurants in the country.  With more competition, they drive to excel by not only being innovative, but also emphasizing authenticity of their native cuisine.  Chesa is no exception.  The head chefs here work very hard to train Thai chefs, whether new or with experience, to refine their cooking skills in Swiss cuisine, creating impeccable meals.  We noticed that around 85-90 % of the regular patrons are all Europeans.   Should my observation and experience be of any indication, I can vouch that Swiss fare at Chesa is the real deal.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wasting money at Dusit Thani Hotel Bangkok

While on our way to finding dinner one evening, my parents decided to make a quick stop over at Dusit Thani Bangkok, a 5 star hotel located in the heart of downtown Bangkok.  My family has been visiting the hotel frequently ever since my sisters and I were little.  Last year, the hotel suffered heavily from the civil unrest and has renovated since.  We were off to a bad start that night just by pulling into the parking lot.  As my dad signalled his car to park for a spot, the parking lot security let a Mercedes that came out of nowhere after us to steal our spot instead.  I think we were all frustrated and wanted to start a riot, or at least say something. But since we didn't think it was worth our time, especially when the parking security seemed to be absolutely clueless and oblivious, we brushed it off and walked down to Dusit Gourmet to pick up some breakfast sandwiches.  While I love their delicious seafood and prociutto sandwiches, I remember hating the arrogant, indifferent customer (no) service based on our experiences ever since the previous year I was visiting.  Basically, once their gourmet bakery goes on sale at a certain time (whenever they feel like), they start treating customers like second class citizens instead.  Alas, I was still standing there, waiting to get those yummy sandwiches for half price and receiving the usual cold attitude service.

Dusit Gourmet

 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nam Prik Ong, Ground pork chili dip recipe


Being in Thailand, I am surrounded by local traditional Thai dishes, especially a wide range of chilli pastes.  This recipe I'm posting is called Nam Prik Ong (น้ำพริกอ่อง), a type of chili dip which is a staple food in northern Thailand made with ground pork.  It's a similar version of chili stew, but more concentrated with bolder flavours and served with fresh and steamed vegetables such as cabbage, cucumbers, long green beans.  Beware, the pork dip is very addictive with chicharrones or any type of crispy chips.  However, you can definitely adjust the amount of heat to your taste and it can also be served with tortilla chips instead.

Different types of Thai chilli pastes
Ingredients:
1 tbsp. Kang Som Paste (can be found at asian grocery stores)
1 tsp. minced garlic
7 cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup ground pork
1 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. fish sauce

Preparation:
Cut and seed tomatoes.  Pound with Kang Som paste in a motar until a smooth paste is formed.  In a saucepan, heat oil at medium heat.  Sauté garlic until golden brown.  Add paste and stir well.  Add ground pork, sugar, and fish sauce.  Keep stirring until pork is well cooked.  Serve the dip in a bowl accompanied by vegetables and pork rinds.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wine Connection Deli & Bistro

Going out in Bangkok with Miss J wouldn't be complete without a stop over at some kind of a trendy restaurant/lounge.  This time, she brought me and my other good friend, Pam, to a fairly new bistro called Wine Connection Deli & Bistro.  As a wholesale wine supplier, Wine Connection has branches all over Bangkok and well as other cities in the country.  As the largest wine store chain in Southeast Asia, the company focuses on importing selected wine and premium spirits from all over the world. Located at K Village, Wine Connection Bistro allows customers to be able to enjoy their wine along with delicious European food.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Afternoon stroll and food haul at Thailand Megashow, Impact Centre

After lunch at Nai Ngok, my family took me for a stroll at Thailand Megashow 2011 at Impact Exhibition and Convention Centre which started on January 15 until January 23rd.  The show features exhibition of various products ranging from furniture to cosmetics, fashion, and my favourite part, food.  When we got there it was absolute packed.  The place was huge but we weren't too impressed with the grade of most of the products in other categories, but definitely did damage when we shopped for a variation of Thai food from vendors all over the country.

One of the most interesting things to watch is the southern style of making milk tea or "cha chuk", which in Thai means "pulling tea".  The performance of "cha chuk" involves the tea maker pouring milk tea from one cup to the the next seamlessly without splashing a drop, and even includes a couple spins.  Check out the video below!

Fresh roti on the grill
 

The entire hall was filled with rows and rows of vendors from all over the country, offering endless variations of both traditional Thai food to Chinese, Japanese, and European style bakery.  It was fascinating seeing all kinds of food and absorbing the cultural aspects that tie to them.  The following pictures illustrate what I'm talking about.
Dried roasted fish and mini crabs
These little guys make crispy munchy snacks

Sunday, January 16, 2011

First meal in Bangkok this year @ Nai Ngok (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือนายหงอก)

 After the first day of arriving Bangkok, my dad gave me options of where I wanted to go eat.  We agreed on going to Nai Ngok, a noodle place that is very close by our place.  For a low price point restaurant, Nai Ngok is situated in a large plot of land with spacious parking space, 2 snack and beverage shacks, and 5 different dining sections.  I was excited we were heading to Nai Ngok because of its variety of tasty Thai dishes I was deprived from back in Canada.
 

 
We walked into the open air restaurant that was covered by a giant tarp in the middle and aluminum tiles on the sides.  Extra umbrellas are set up here and there to give more shades.  A whole bunch of fans, large and small, were turned on all over the place.  It gets boiling hot without air conditioner most especially in the afternoon.  There are plants and fountains set up to give a cool, garden-like, serene atmosphere. You wouldn't want to be sweating from the heat and sweating some more eating spicy food.


 
Despite being very spacious, Nai Ngok is always busy and filled with office workers during the lunch hours.  The owner/server warned us that there was a reservation of 60 coming soon and we should order asap to avoid the delays from the kitchen.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Les Faux Bourgeois

The night before taking off to Bangkok, V introduced me to Les Faux Bourgeois, a busy and popular French bistro located on Kingsway.  The ambience is low key and casual, a great place to kick back and socialize with friends after a long week. The bistro offers lower price point than Pied a Terre bistro on Cambie, but both offering traditional rustic French dishes.  It is always very busy during the dinner rush and reservations should be made in advance.   

 
We started off sharing the tarte flambée Alsacienne ($10), caramelized onion puff pastry tart, lardon, ricotta, and creme fraiche with a side of a small arugula salad.  I dug my fork into the crispy layers of the puff pastry, making sure all the ingredients were on each bite.  It was a successful marriage of sweet and savoury, balanced out by the creaminess of the ricotta and subtleness of creme fraiche.  I really enjoyed it and might even try out a version of my own back in my kitchen one day.

 
V ordered the medium rare hanger steak and (a mountain of) frites with red wine shallot jus ($17).  The fries had the two most important elements, very crispy and well seasoned.  As I happily dipped them in the garlic aioli, I almost forgot about my own entree.  The steak was tender and juicy. As you can see, they were not stingy on the jus and there was plenty left for the fries.  I most likely will come back and order this dish again with the green peppercorn cream sauce next time.   

 
Several days ago, I saw a picture of  T W's picture the duck breast she cooked up her hubbie on Facebook, I couldn't get that craving out of my mind.  So when I saw the special of duck breast l'orange with roast potatoes and braised red cabbage ($23) written on the board, I knew it was my calling.  The roast potatoes were crispy and tasty.  The duck breast was firm, yet tender, although I may have preferred the skin to be just a bit more crispy.  The orange sauce was a bit too sweet, and I kept stealing V's steak and frites which were more salty.  I wasn't a fan of the braised cabbage, and left most of it just because I found the cabbage taste to linger a little longer than I wanted.  By the time we were done dinner, I was stuffed to the brim and had no more room left for desserts.  If anything, I think those fries were my dessert.  

Despite the bistro's casual atmosphere and lower price point, nonetheless, I was happy that they didn't take away professional service and quality of food we received.  Thanks for taking me V!

$$

Les Faux Bourgeois on Urbanspoon

Afternoon tea at Faubourg


 
My sister and I checked in at Faubourg right away after she picked me up from YVR.  Located in Kerrisdale, it is surprising that a cafe that has only been opened for 6 weeks was that busy already.  The window display, also a refrigerator, showcases beautiful, daily made decadents Faubourg has to offer. 



Friday, January 14, 2011

Kobe Japanese Bistro

Personally, I keept going back to Kobe partly because, each time, I always felt comfortable and welcomed being there.  The ambience is casual and welcoming, and the staff always made sure I was content with my dining experience.  Unlike many places, I feel like they actually pay attention to the quality of their food and caring about what customers' feedback.  Even when they make mistakes on orders, they are still very polite and never hesitate to correct it.  Therefore, it is probably one of the top go-to Japanese restaurants in the city.   


 
The 8 piece rainbow rolls ($12) are not too big or too small, just in perfect bite size with a fresh array of sashimi.  I find their sushi rice tastes better than other Japanese restaurants and I believe it's because of the brand of the rice vinegar they use.  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How ancient people made ice without electricity

Modern day tasty pappingsu in Korea


 So as I was sitting at home watching K drama Sungkyunkwan Scandal, there was a scene where a teacher was handing out "pappingsu", a delicious treat made of shaved ice, red bean and rice cakes.  Several centuries ago before modern technology, ice was valuable and very expensive.  It got me wondering, how did people back then, especially those in countries with warm climate produce and preserve ice???
The Romans' ice-making method required that you be in the desert, or at the very least in an area with low humidity to facilitate heat loss and lower temperatures at night. The method described below was used a lot in North Africa and Palestine, for example.
The Romans would put water into a pit that was well-insulated with straw. The pit would be covered with highly polished shields during the day, to reflect the heat of the sun, while at night the pit would be uncovered so that the water within could lose the maximum thermal energy. Ice often began forming in the evening, and would typically be ready for harvesting by 3 or 4 a.m. Once harvested, the ice would be taken to the nearest icehouse for storage.
The more water placed in the pit, the more resistant it is to freezing overnight. But this method does work, without refrigeration, and without electricity, and was used by the Romans to augment their seasonal ice harvests.

Source: Making Ice in Ancient Rome, Everything2.com

My thought: It still baffled me how people back then figured out the process of thermal energy.  I had to go back and re-watch the documentary "Ancient Astronauts".  With all the science and work put into it just to cultivate the impossible, I can't imagine how expensive ice would be back then and only the filthiest of the richest could afford it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fried food delights at Jumbo

We got to Jumbo around 11 am on a Tuesday.  With only a few tables settled and it was absolutely dead, we had to order from a menu instead of the usual dim sum carts circulating around until more people show up.  Sometimes, I feel like I like that method better because you never have to wait to get what you want. My sister took charge and checked a dish of pan fried custard buns we haven't noticed before.  When it arrived, the buns looked like porcupines with crispy edges sticking out.  I don't really like sweets, but after much convincing I tried it.  I took a bite into the freshly fried, crispy exterior and greeted by a layer of soft white bun, filled with yellow egg custard.  I think my eyes may have rolled back a little.  It was sublime! I've never seen this dish circulating in the dim sum carts ever.  So the next visit to Jumbo I looked for them in dim sum carts but no luck, they weren't out anywhere.  I tried ordering it from the kitchen and explaining to the servers, describing the porcupine buns.  They were puzzled.  Finally, I showed the the picture I took and I received a big "AH!" They still didn't tell me what it was called though, so I guess I'll have to show them pictures each time I want to order it lol.

 
The next best thing on my list is the pan fried shrimp cake with chives which is only good when served hot and fresh.  If they're not freshly fried and crispy, then it's a lost cause.  Again, I tried ordering it from the kitchen and getting a puzzled look.  Of course I showed another picture of the shrimp cakes.  The server understood as he laughed and joked "Any more pictures you want to show me?".  Yes, I will never stop taking pictures from now on, because you know what? That's the good thing about being a food nerd and taking pictures of everything.  There's never a miscommunication and I'll get exactly what I want.  This leads me to an idea of saving pictures of everything from food to utensils, glass of water, etc.  So when I go travel to countries like Korea, Japan, I won't have to rely on charades and miming anymore lol. 
 
For everything else we had that day:

 Fried taro with ground pork filling

 Fried chicken wings.  They are pretty big, well marinated, and oozing hot oil when you bite into them.  

 Steamed chicken feet

 
Siu mai, they are quite big, but I wish there were more shrimp.

 
Ha gow, shrimp dumplings, Dim Sum essential.

 
My staple dim sum food, fried shrimp wontons.

 
Pan fried tofu wrapped shrimp

 
Ham Siu Gok, fried rice cakes with ground pork filling

I've been going to Jumbo for years since it's probably one of the better dim sum restaurants in town and it's close to my home.  Price is reasonable, most of the dishes are descent (except for the kebabs, I'm not a fan of those dried meat drenched in sweet sauce).  I never paid much attention to how friendly the service was. Especially when it's usually busy, everyone just focuses on table turnovers.  As long as I was getting what I want, I don't care if I get a smile from the staff who were running around in circles trying to meet everyone's demands.  The past visit was pretty good though, I think after I showed the server my food pictures when I was ordering, he will always recognize me from now on.  As I was leaving, he made sure to bid farewell with "Show me more pictures next time!!".   

Oh yeah, definitely try to order the porcupine bun if you can.


Jumbo Dim Sum Dining on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pepe's Pan-Fried Tilapia recipe

 

While I was waiting for Pepe to cook me lunch, I complained to her why she was frying the tilapia. I looked at the ingredients she used, and there were only 2 or 3 things aside from the garnish.  I wasn't too excited (ugh so basic! boringggggg). But when she served the dish and I ate it, I just shut up. It looked good; golden brown and flakey inside.  It was also crispy and well marinated (in just 10 mins WITH 2 things??).  Okay, it may be a simple dish but it definitely was delicious and worthy of posting! As for P's response? "NEVER DOUBT MY SKILLS AGAIN!"


Ingredients:
2 pieces of tilapia, butterflied then cut in half to make 4 pieces 
3 tbsp of fish sauce
3 tbsp oil for frying
a pinch of ground black pepper
chopped cilantro and green onion for garnish
fried onions and garlic
a slice of lemon

Preparation:
1. Marinate the tilapia in fish sauce and black pepper and leave for about 10 mins.
2. Heat up the oil in a non stick frying pan in medium to high heat.
3. Once the oil is hot, add the fish into the pan and fry until each side is golden brown and crispy on the edges. This should take about 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on the size and thickness of the fish.
4. Once both sides are cooked, plate the fish and top with chopped cilantro, green onion, fried garlic and onions. 
5. Squeeze lemon on top of the fish when serving. 


Pepe's Black Peppered Prawn recipe

 
What I like about cooking with my sister, Pepe, is that we counteract what the other person lacks when making certain dishes.  For example, I love making sauces, fusion dishes, appies, and anything with loads of cheese in.  But I'm horrible at making stir fry dishes and they usually turn out abominably bland or overcooked that I just want to trash it.  Meanwhile, anything P can find can turn into delicious, flavourful stir-frys, but she won't know what to do with a block of cheese and a spaghetti squash.  So when she was visiting from Vancouver, I took advantage and let her take charge and cook me something to eat that I wouldn't be able to make myself.  So she was able to come up with the black peppered prawn and the pan-fried tilapia for me to polish off in just one meal. This dish only took her less than 15 minutes to make so she didn't have to deal with my hunger wrath.  How awesome is that?


Ingredients:
3 tbsp olive oil
1.5 cup tiger prawns, thawed and deveined
2 tbsp. minced scallion or red onion
3 chopped garlic
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon granulated or brown sugar
2 pinches of ground pepper
2 tsp. chopped green onion and cilantro

Preparation:
1. Heat the oil in a pan using medium to high heat until hot, add chopped garlic and scallion.  Fry until golden brown
2. Add tiger prawns. Cook until the prawns are pink on both sides. This usually only takes 2-3 minutes. Do not overcook the prawns as the worst thing to happen is to end up with hard and chewy prawn  meat!!
3. While the prawns cook, add soy sauce and sugar.  Stir the sauce with prawns well.
4.  Season with black pepper
5. Turn off the heat and plate the prawns. Garnish with chopped cilantro and green onion.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Wild Tangerine


 
Opened for 6 years, Wild Tangerine is a family owned and operated restaurant. I visited the restaurant about four years ago and couldn't remember what I ate except for the shrimp lollipops.  TC finally convinced me to go one night after I told him about those lollipops.  We got there around 9 pm and it was a fairly quiet week night.  As we flipped through the menu, I felt that, for the ambience and price point, they could put more effort into the aesthetic of their menu cover.

 
They got the bison short rib from Rimbey! That's a small town south of Edmonton near Red Deer where I went to high school! I just had to do a shout out since no one ever goes there or has heard of it (represent!).

TC was definitely adamant about getting the shrimp lollipops (essentially what we went there for).  We anticipated the worst when the owner told us they ran out of several appetizers.  But alas, we managed to get the last remaining 3 lollipops (*phew).


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Oyster, 2 ways: oyster salad and baked oysters recipes

 
This oyster salad is inspired by how raw oysters are served in Thailand; with 10 million sides (k, not that many).  Using this concept, I thought it would be interesting to dress the oysters with a bunch of flavourful herbs to balance its taste.  
Deliciously fresh and sweet raw oysters in Thailand