Sunday, February 5, 2017

2017 Chinese New Year Dinner: Poon Choi ("盆菜")

Happy Chinese New Year to all my Chinese friends! 2017 is the year of the Rooster, and because I have no idea what that entails, I googled it. I found this nifty graph showing how people born in a year of the Rooster (i.e. 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, and 2029) will do in 2017 when it comes to work, love, wealth and health. Check out how scientific the folks at Chinahighlights.com made it all look:


This shows what's lucky and unlucky for Roosters. Note the cockscomb (obviously) and how Roosters should never, ever, venture east.


I'm not superstitious at all but it's fun to look at horoscopes sometimes, especially during Chinese New Year! But y'all know what's more fun than zodiacs during CNY? Eating the food my Mom makes.

This year, my Mom switched it up a bit. Instead of making multiple dishes, she made poon choi, or 盆菜, which literally means "basin vegetables" in Chinese. Ingredients are cooked separately, layered carefully and topped with an assortment of delicacies. Each person at the table takes food from the "basin", layer by layer, from the top to the bottom. Eating 盆菜, or "big bowl feast", signifies abundance and richness in the coming year.

FYI. According to Wikipediapoon choi was invented during the late Song Dynasty. When Mongol troops invaded Song China, the young Emperor fled to the area around Guangdong Province and Hong Kong. To serve the Emperor as well as his army, the locals collected all their best food available, cooked it, and because there were not enough serving containers available put the resulting meal in large wooden washbasins.


There are all the ingredients that went into my Mom's poon choi:

⇒ Bottom layer: white radish, carrots, cabbage (白蘿蔔, 紅籮蔔, 長紹菜) 
 2nd layer: roasted duck, oil chicken, roasted bbq pork, brined pork stomach (烧鴨肶, 油雞肶, 烧肉, 鹵水猪肚) 
 3rd layer: fish maw, sea cucumber, shiitake mushroom, dried scallop (花膠, 海参, 冬菇, 瑤柱) 
 Top layer: black moss, abalone, soy sauce marinated tiger shrimp, egg tofu and broccoli (發菜, 鲍魚, 豉汁明蝦, 玉子豆腐, 西蘭花) 

A short Instagram video of my Mom pouring homemade chicken broth into the pot on the stove. That sizzle thooo (don't mind my Dad talking in the background).


Each bite of the poon choi was such a treat - I wouldn't change a thing. The poon choi fed the five of us no problem..there was so much food in there!

Before I go, I want to mention the most precious ingredient in the poon choi, which was the abalone. My mom bought this "Gold Price" boiled canned abalone from the supermarket. With just two abalones inside, this can was close to $70. The mollusks were tender with a bit of chewiness to them, and due to the salt water they lived in, the meat tasted a bit salty.


Like always, my Mom totally spoiled us :) Thanks, Mom!


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Doma

French-inspired Korean cuisine. Have you tried it before? Not me, at least not until I visited Doma back in December. Doma (Instagram: @domatoronto, Facebook: Doma) is a French-inspired Korean restaurant that meshes French cooking techniques with traditional Korean ingredients and flavours (or vice versa). According to Doma's website, their menu changes every month, which is in line with chef/owner Paul Kim's philosophy of using local ingredients as much as possible. Each month's menu would include Kim's new creations, as well as two to three popular dishes from the previous month.

Located on Clinton and College, the Doma space was previously occupied by Backwoods Smokehouse, and before that Red Sauce, and before that Acadia. The decor is minimalist and simple; clean lines with white walls and light-wood furnishings. I personally find the room a bit bleak. Also, maybe it's the OCD in me but because all the tables and chairs are angled diagonally, I had a really strong urge to move everything so that they would be parallel to the wall.


Anyway, enough about the room, let's talk about the food. I was really eager to try Doma because I always viewed Korean food as a more casual type of cuisine; as in, I've never experienced "Korean fine-dining" or "refined Korean food" before. Which is why I was really excited to try Doma, especially having heard that chef Kim studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa. Combining his knowledge in French techniques with his Korean background, I was pretty sure that Kim would be debuting a refined menu that none of us have ever tried before.

By the way, I love the long and slender cutlery at Doma. They are a more stylish matte black versions of the silver ones you would normally find in traditional Korean restaurants. 


NEXT GENERATION ($13)
Soju, Perilla, Maple, Lime, Ginger Beer
OLD BOY ($13)
Cucumber infused Boodles Gin, Rice Vinegar, Soy, Daikon


My friend and I chose the $65 per person tasting menu which consisted of an amuse, six courses and a dessert. You basically get to try the entire menu with this tasting so I highly recommend getting it.

AMUSE BOUCHE
Steam bun filled with mushroom, caramelized onion and sweet doenjang




Sunday, January 15, 2017

Spicy Mafia Hot Pot

It's f%^&ing frigid outside. It's so cold that when wind hits your face it stings. Ughhh! Well, for most Chinese people, myself included, one of the first things we think about when temps drop below 0°C is hot pot. Actually, "winter" is synonymous with "hot pot" for us. For whatever reason, we all suddenly crave cooking a bunch of raw stuff in hot broths.

Morals Village currently ranks as my favourite all-you-can-eat ("AYCE") hot pot place. With locations in downtown Toronto, Markham and Mississauga, it's really easy for me to get to. Food quality is on point, veggies are cleaned thoroughly and service is always good. They offer a wide variety of meats and veggies for all your hot pot needs, and their sauce station and sweet buns make me happy.

Having said that, not everyone who wants hot pot necessarily wants to do AYCE every single time. I certainly feel that way because 1) restaurants usually charge a higher price for AYCE, and 2) I don't want to give myself that added pressure of having to "eat my money's worth". Let's face it, when it comes to AYCE we all end up eating way more then we should, with most of us hating ourselves afterwards.


 Spicy Mafia (Instagram: @spicymafiato, Facebook: Spicy Mafia) in Markham is where you wanna be if you are looking for good, bargain hot pot that's not AYCE. From the same owners as Morals VillageSpicy Mafia is catered towards a younger crowd, made instantly obvious by the restaurant name itself and this large mural of mafia-style characters inside.


At Spicy Mafiaeach guest orders from a prix-fixe menu and gets their own personal mini hot pot.


Hot pot combos are either $12.99 or $13.99 depending on the type of soup base. The combos come with your choice of:

1) Soup Base: Signature Spicy, Exclusive Spicy, Housemade Pork Bone, Chinese Angelica or Sweet Tomato Pork Bone;
2) Noodle: Rice vermicelli, fresh rice noodle, instant noodle, rice or Japanese udon;
3) Meat: New Zealand spring lamb, sliced pork or certified Angus beef; and
4) 2 Dipping Sauces: House made sesame, chopped garlic in oil, spicy powder, herbal sauce, house made spicy oil, house made fermented bean curd, coriander or scallion.

Additional meats, seafood, veggies and other toppings can be added to your combo, and they range from $1.50 to $2.50 per order.




Saturday, January 7, 2017

Dufflet After Dark: Dessert & Wine Night at Dufflet Beach

Happy New Year everybody! Sorry for going MIA for almost a month 😄 Looking back at previous years, I seem to always slack off in December when it comes to posting. I guess it's hard for me to want to stay home and write when there are so many things going on during the holidays. Come January, I would feel extremely guilty for slacking off; seeing all the backlog also makes me cringe! So, enough with the excuses, right? Let's get straight into it and start the year off with something sweet, Dufflet After Dark.


A dessert and wine night held on Friday evenings between 8pm to 11pmDufflet After Dark at Dufflet's Beach location offers guests a quiet and cozy oasis to relax, sip on wine and indulge in a variety of delectable cakes. 

What a warm and pretty room! The soft glow of tea lights creates such an intimate ambiance. The snowflakes combined with the view of the garden makes the space extra cozy; it's winter outside, yet it's warm and toasty at Dufflet (Instagram: @duffletpastries, Facebook: Dufflet Pastries).


I've been to this location before when Dufflet introduced their high tea service. Take a peek here if you're curious to see how this room looks like during the day (hint: it's just as pretty).


For $25 per person, guests at Dufflet After Dark can enjoy:

1) 8 different kinds of desserts, including a selection of cakes, pies and petit fours;
2) A complimentary glass of red, white or sparkling wine; and 
3) Dufflet drip coffee, Americano, espresso and Sloane Fine Teas.

Additional red, white and sparkling wines are available for $6-8 (5oz). Baileys coffee is also available for $5.




Saturday, December 17, 2016

truLOCAL: Delivering Locally Sourced Meats to Your Doorstep

There's no doubt about it, we certainly got a taste of winter this week. I don't know about you but when the roads are slick and temperatures are well below freezing, all I want to do is hibernate at home, especially after a long day's work and a treacherous commute, there's no way I'd want to go grocery shopping. Straight home I go! The problem, naturally, becomes "what am I going to have for dinner?". Actually, even if there is no snow, finding time to shop around for quality meats can be hard, especially if you don't live near a good butcher shop. Here is where truLOCAL comes in.

Launched in February 2016, truLOCAL (Instagram: @trulocal , Facebook: truLOCAL) delivers high-end, locally sourced meat products right to your door. They work with some of Ontario’s best suppliers and provides customers with meats that are all free run, antibiotic-free with no added hormones. Here is how truLOCAL works:

1. You choose your box size and how often you would like it delivered (every 2 weeks, every 3 weeks, every month);
2. You customize exactly what you want in your box; and
3. truLOCAL ships the package out to you the next day.

truLOCAL delivers anywhere in Ontario and shipping is free with your subscription.


truLOCAL's high quality EPS insulated coolers keep products frozen during delivery until the end of the delivery day, so it's perfectly fine even if you're not home to receive it.


To ensure the products stay frozen from the time they leave truLOCAL's facility to the time they reach your house, truLOCAL also uses dry ice along with the cooler (everything will technically stay frozen for up to 36 hours). Their packages are fully recyclable so you can re-use the cooler or simply break it down and put it in the recycling.


All of truLOCAL's products come portioned, blast frozen, and individually vacuum-sealed, making it perfect for meal prep and portion control. You'll never have to worry about freezer burn with their premium packaging.


My sample box from truLOCAL includes:

Bacon
Boneless Pork Loin Chops
German Sausage
Lean Ground Beef
Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
Lean Ground Chicken

All the products were clean, tightly sealed, neatly packaged and clearly labelled.


One thing I would love to see from truLOCAL is more recipes on their website, specifically recipes utilizing the products they feature. I think it'll be super helpful and valuable to customers.

Thank you, truLOCAL, for sending me these high quality meat products to cook with. With another snowstorm looming in the forecast, there's no better time to stay in and cook :)



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Winner of the Maillard.co Gift Card Giveaway is...

@KellyLee905

Congratulations, Kelly! You just won a $100 gift card to Maillard.co, an online butcher shop delivering exceptional quality meats right to your doorstep! Please email me at foodjunkiechronicles@gmail.com to find out how to claim your prize!


A big THANK YOU to the 46 people who participated in this contest! 

Here's a snapshot of the Excel spreadsheet where I tracked the #fjcmaillard hashtag from day one of the contest. The tracking was done using chronological order, as in, #1 was the first person to enter the contest. To enter, the person had to tweet "I just entered for a chance to win a $100 Maillard Gift Card! Quality meats delivered to your doorstep! http://bit.ly/2fZDAvK #fjcmaillard". Each person could tweet once a day for the duration of the contest. Once the contest was over and everybody's entries were accounted for, I checked to see if they followed me (@foodieyu) on Twitter. Below are the 113 valid entries:


I used "True Random Number Generator" from random.org to pick one winner for me.




Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Citizen

The Citizen opened in 2014, which means it took me roughly two years to visit... but heck, I made it! Located at the former Brant House space, The Citizen (Instagram: @thecitizen_to, Facebook: The Citizen) is King West's version of a casual sports bar.


Inspired by the restaurant-bars of the early 1900's, The Citizen's space gives off an old school rec hall atmosphere. Patrons can catch sports games from the eight flatscreens mounted above the wraparound bar.


In a nod to Toronto’s heritage, you'll also find numerous vintage accents, including original floating beams from the historic Gooderham and Worts distillery.


Retractable screens printed with vintage photos separate the large restaurant, allowing for private parties and gatherings.




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Maillard.co Gift Card Giveaway - CLOSED

I'm giving away a $100 Maillard.co gift card!

Maillard.co is a brand new online butcher shop that offers over 100 different cuts of meat of all sorts, free of artificial colouring, from beef and veal, to pork, poultry and lamb. I was sent a sample Maillard.co box last month to try so I'll share my experience with you here. If you like what you see, make sure you enter my contest below!


All Maillard (Instagram: @maillard.co, Facebook: Maillardproducts come in a 100% recyclable isotherm cooler that allow the meats inside to remain frozen for at least 30 hours following their shipment. When you open the box, you'll also find a layer of dry ice blocks used to maintain an inside temperature of -80 degrees for maximum preservation. The cuts of meat – sold by unit or in boxes – are individually vacuum sealed then instantly frozen. All online orders are delivered the next day.


Maillard.co guarantees its meat to be free of artificial colouring. From slicing to shipping, all of their meat, except their flattened chicken which is packed directly from their supplier, is processed in their HACCP-certified facilities located in Terrebonne, Quebec. Their beef is selected according to its high-quality grading (AA, AAA and Prime), which guarantees optimal marbling, tenderness and flavour.

"From slicing to shipping, all of our meat is processed right here in Quebec at our Terrebonne facilities that are HACCP certified, which are the highest food processing standards in the world. Our customers will enjoy choice cuts of meat that have been carefully selected and prepared by our artisan butchers year-round." - Pascal Arsenault, owner of Maillard. 

For my Maillard sample box (valued at $85), I received:

The Maillard Grilling Guide
A Maillard apron
1 pkg AAA boneless ribeye steak (Selection 1913)*
1 natural flattened chicken
I pkg trimmed boneless chicken breasts
1 pkg boneless duck breast
1 pkg frenched bone in pork chop

*Selection 1913 is Maillard's finest tasting product. The best meat in categories AAA and Prime is selected according to marbling, colour and musle size. These choice cuts are aged for 45 days for optimum flavour and tenderness.


With all the wonderful cuts of meat in my freezer, it was time to get cookin'! My box came with several recipe cards, so I decided to use one of them, their "Portuguese Piri Piri Style Chicken" using their flattened chicken (there are currently more than 20 featured recipes on the Maillard website that shows you the different ways you can cook your choice cuts). We seasoned the AAA boneless Ribeye with some salt and pepper, and pan-seared it to a nice rare to accompany our piri piri chicken and roasted vegetables.




Sunday, November 27, 2016

Moo Frites

Moo Frites (Instagram: @moofrites, Facebook: Moo Fritesmakes hella good fries. Their fries are actually the best I've ever had so far in Toronto. It's a bold statement but I'm sticking with it!


Nestled in Kensington Market on 178 Baldwin St., Moo Frites is a small fry shop that serves up thick-cut, Belgian-style fries, accompanied by a variety of different house-made dipping sauces (there are 18 sauces to be exact). 


Owner Ambrose Lee fell in love with Belgian frites during his backpacking trip through Europe several years ago. When Ambrose came back home, he made it his mission to perfect the Belgian frites and introduce it to Torontonians. After extensive research and numerous tests, Moo Frites was born in November 2014.


I dropped by Moo Frites after work several weeks ago. It was my second time there and I knew going in that I wanted 1) Their regular Belgian frites, 2) Several different kinds of dipping sauces, and 3) One of their specialty fries (more details on my first visit at Moo Frites here).

So, first things first, Moo Frites' 18 dipping sauces:

FRITE SAUCEBelgian/Dutch mayo, the classic
JOPPEECurry mayo, Dutch specialty
ANDALOUSETomato & chili pepper based, Belgian specialty
SAMURAIBelgian warrior armed with spicy Tunisian chili
GARLIC MAYOEveryone's favourite, bad breath enhancer
CHIPOTLE MAYOSpicy & smokey blended with smoke dried jalapeno
GEM SAUCEUtah's favourite fry sauce
NOSY WASABIJapanese horseradish mayonnaise
PARMESAN PEPPERCORNCreamy mayo fighting for the spotlight
LEMON DILL - Imagine dill-pickle chips
SPICY SRIRACHAIt's pronounced "see-rah-cha"
SPICY TARTARTartar sauce on fire
SPICY KETCHUPKetchup with a kick
CURRY KETCHUPSweet & sour ketchup, Dutch specialty
CHIPOTLE KETCHUPSpicy & smokey ketchup
GINGER KETCHUPFor the ginger-crazed
PEANUT SAUCEIndonesian peanut satay, Dutch specialty
GRAVY Poutine gravy, eh!

With so many options, I was a bit overwhelmed. Thankfully, Ambrose helped me pick a few sauces, all of which are traditional sauces for frites in Belgium/Netherlands:




Saturday, November 26, 2016

Vegetarian Kamayan at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen

Exactly two years ago, I wrote about my first ever kamayan dinner at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, a Filipino feast where beautifully presented food is laid out on banana leaves. There are no utensils or plates; you eat with your hands because that is the kamayan way. It was an unforgettable experience, from watching the chefs expertly plate each component on the table, to finally devouring the wonderful, delicious-looking spread in front of me. What topped it off was the interaction at the table. My friends and I would trade tips on how best to pick up rice with our fingers, what sauce tasted incredible with what, and just occasionally hearing friends say things like "Oh my God, this garlic rice!!" then seeing everyone at the table nod 'cause we all feel the same way...it's precisely this sort of interaction that made my first kamayan experience so memorable.

So, needless to say, I was thrilled to be invited back to Lamesa (Instagram: @lamesato, Facebook: Lamesa) last week for yet another kamayan dinner, this time, for their vegetarian version. To be honest, I've never dined at a restaurant and not order at least one meat dish. What can I say? I love my meat. Naturally, a part of me was bit weary about this whole vegetarian kamayan idea, but at the same time, I have full confidence that the Lamesa chefs will put out something great because they always do. If anything, I was more curious and intrigued about what they have up their sleeves!


Lamesa's cocktails are generally pretty basic looking, no frills or any fancy garnish, but trust me, all of them are very good. Also, their names are hilarious, like "Manila Heat" and "Tequila Negroneezy".

BAGUIO BAGYO ($12)
Star anise infused dark rhum, calamansi juice, ginger beer
LOLO COOL J ($12)
Bourbon, ginger, pineapple syrup, and lemon


Lamesa's kamayan "hand-to-mouth" dinners are offered every Sunday evening from 5-9pm. It is a set menu priced at $40 per guest ($10 per child). It is worth noting that besides regular and vegetarian, they also have a pescatarian kamayan option.

Without further ado, let's get right into it! Here we have owner Les Sabilano (in green) and executive chef Daniel Cancino taking turns plating the table. I really like how they would tell the guests what they were plating, sometimes even with a little history/background of the ingredient and its origin.


After what seemed like an endless amount of food being plated, it sadly came to an end. And take a look at this spread, will you? Isn't it gorgeous?