Monthly Archives: September 2012

word up

Fall is officially here: time to eat oatmeal with diced apple, my first apples of the season!

And time to make a pot of spicy lentils with kale and sweet potato, from this recipe. After an unpleasant experience with jalapeno peppers when I was about ten, I have a slight fear of handling peppers, so instead of seranno pepper, I sprinkled on some red pepper flakes.  Cooking bucket list item?

I stopped by Word on the Street for a couple of hours on a rainy Sunday fall afternoon.  I enjoyed seeing the different publishers and magazines all around Queen’s Park Circle.

I must admit I was mostly there to see Food Network celebrity chef Michael Smith speak about cookbooks. He was pretty honest about his status in the book world, when he acknowledged that he was following a talk by John Ralston Saul and preceding one by David Suzuki and Jeff Rubin. He made, however, a very passionate case about the food we eat and where it comes from.

After the talk, I picked up his new cookbook, Fast Flavours. I met him briefly when I got the book signed — indeed, he is very tall!

Tonight I made a recipe from Fast Flavours: apple chicken with rosemary vanilla chutney.  Well, I didn’t have dried rosemary so I used thyme; I guess that would make it thyme vanilla chutney. I also felt like adding cinnamon to go with the apples and so I did, in true Michael Smith fashion. The key to the “fast flavours” was browning the chicken before cooking it covered to speed up the cooking time. It was quite a pleasant fall dinner.

There are a lot more recipes from Fast Flavours I hope to try. They actually seem approachable both in terms of ingredients and the time required.


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It’s funny that it took a game of evening lawn bowling to make me comfortable with fall approaching, since lawn bowling is more of a summer sport. The brisk air made me think of pumpkin pie. Lawn bowling was such a great break from school.

West Toronto Lawn Bowling Club

Dreamy mural at Keele subway station, near the lawn bowling club.

Last week I made a batch of ratatouille following Michael Smith’s recipe, which called to saute the veggies including the zucchini and eggplant separately first to develop their flavours, instead of throwing everything into a pot. It took a bit more effort, but it was worth it. One evening, I had the ratatouille with brown rice and a fried egg.

Weekend breakfast of scrambled tofu with onion and a couple of tomatoes that my sister lovingly grew on our balcony (and I lovingly ate) + basil/parsley also from the balcony garden + tortilla.

On Friday I stopped by Gourmet Gringos, a Latin American street food truck, to get some chicken tacos. The food truck was parked in Corktown Gas — yup, a gas station. It was also raining when I went, but that didn’t stop people from lining up. It was quite funny watching people put down their umbrellas to add hot sauce to their food and then scramble away to eat their lunch. I did exactly the same 🙂

There was a generous portion of braised chicken, which was moist and flavourful. The cilantro added brightness to the dish. I didn’t like the mayo sauce as much, but that may have been just personal preference.

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Toronto Eats: Whatta jerk! (Mr. Jerk)

After finishing my summer job, I spent a couple days trying out some of the restaurants that had been on my Toronto “bucket list” since last year. As some background, Mexican and Caribbean are two  cuisines that I like, but know little about. What I’ve tried though, I’ve loved. After seeing Mr. Jerk on a few top 10 lists for jerk chicken in Toronto, I knew that would be a good place to broaden my repertoire.

Mr. Jerk is a small unassuming place on Sherbourne and Wellesley. It is easy to miss or to brush off. It seems to cater to locals in the neighbourhood and definitely the take-out crowd as there are only about five seats inside.

The jerk chicken was kept hot in an oven by the window. There was also a selection of Caribbean dishes such as curry oxtail and dumplings kept warm and ready to be scooped up. There was definitely not just jerk chicken and pork for sure, and I hope to go back to try goat or the salted fish. However, this time, I went with the quarter jerk chicken dinner which came with rice and peas, gravy and coleslaw, for just a bit over $7. The server was very friendly asking if I wanted more gravy or a bag to go with my takeout.

I liked this jerk chicken for its subtle flavor and spice combination. It was not too spicy at all. I would have preferred a bit more kick, but I respect the control. Also, the chicken was incredibly moist, and the jerk formed a slightly sticky crust on top of the chicken. The portion was generous. The rice and peas and the coleslaw were standard, but tasty. Indeed, the jerk chicken at Mr. Jerk is well worth trying.

Mr. Jerk is located at 209 Wellesley Street East  Toronto, just east of Sherbourne Street.

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With the first week of classes over, here are some smatterings of the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year.

Last Music in the Park with the Happy Pals. Some good jazz, bluegrass and fun times.

Pistachio and rum and raison gelato from G is from Gelata at Jarvis and Adelaide.


Lovely accompaniment to the concert.

Near the end of summer I had a sudden panic/realization I’d have less time to cook once school started so I made a bigger-than-expected batch of tofu chili. Eight portions! These are now in my freezer.

A finer affair: green beans with almonds.

Free TCBY from one of Canada’s telecommunications conglomerates.

St. James Park, always lovely.

Tonight I tried  “cooking without a recipe” (as per Michael Smith). I browned some Italian sausage without the casing and added some sliced Brussels sprouts and peppers. It was pretty tasty thanks to the sausage, but that Brussels sprout flavour did not come through as much. I actually quite like the taste of Brussels sprouts so it was a little disappointing!

Over the weekend I plan to catch up on sleep and readings. Hope you have a good weekend!

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Lazy, hazy summer days | Cheung Chau, Hong Kong

I had a low-key, but pleasant, Labour Day long weekend spent with my parents. This was the first Labour Day in a while that I hadn’t had a big moving experience, since I was living in the same place in Toronto as I had been for the last couple of months (and past year). This also made me realize that this is my second last first day of school… ever? As I see more friends entering the workforce, I am feeling a little old, which I know sounds silly, but that’s reality as well.

It was fruitful and rewarding summer. Hong Kong was just amazing. July and August flew by, probably because I working on job applications. Even though I am totally improving my time management skills, I still have one more big Hong Kong blog left to post: my trip to Cheung Chau!

On my last full day in Hong Kong, I went with a fellow student friend from work to one of the outlying islands, Cheung Chau, southwest of Hong Kong Island. I boarded the ferry late morning from Pier 5 where all the other ferry piers are located to go to the other islands such as Lamma and Lantau. We had the choice of either a fast ferry which was either a 35-40 minute trip or the ordinary ferry for 55-60 minutes. We chose the latter to enjoy the view.

Bikes by the pier.

What a beautiful, perfect day. It was a Tuesday so there were not as many people. What I didn’t realize, though, was that Cheung Chau had an established residential population. There were banks, grocery stores and restaurants/cafes oriented to locals. Cheung Chau is also the location of the Bun Festival, where people used to clammer up a tall vertical tower covered in buns to grab a bun for good luck. Some vendors sold little bun souvenirs, but I thought it would only be appropriate to buy them if I were actually there for the bun festival.

“City Centre,” and ongoing revitalization project

We didn’t plan on our trip very well, so by the time we got to Cheung Chau it was around noon. While it was sunny and gorgeous outside, it was also super hot. We attempted to avoid the sun by having lunch first. Somehow we got lost in this little town, and ended up at a local cafe. I had pork chop and salad. This was a Hong Kong style salad which meant some canned fruit and potato covered in Miracle Whip. This lunch was totally comforting, in a weird sorta way!

And so, we hit the beach. We settled down at Tung Wan Beach.

You can see the coal-fired power station on Lamma Island.

Looking back on Tung Wan Beach

We then walked towards Kwun Yam Beach just beside Tung Wan Beach where there were fewer people.

Hong Kong’s first Olympic gold medallist trained here for the windsurfing event.

We took a short hike along the “Mini Great Wall,” which is a path that goes around the coast, to look at the interesting rock formations.

“Vase rock.” This reminded me of the Hopewell (Flower Pot) Rocks in New Brunswick.

“Elephant Rock”

“Human Head Rock”

By this time the sun was beating down on us, so we decided to cut our hike short and go back to the beach. We unfortunately missed seeing the cave where a famous pirate supposedly hid his treasure, as well as the beach my dad went to when he was a child. Hope I can go again some time.

We had quite a few tasty treats on our day to Cheung Chau.

Curry fish balls. These were so large relative to a normal fish balls; they were at least larger than a golf ball! These were so tender and yet still had some bite and elasticity.

Some red bean cake: fresh and hot from Hometown Tea House. These were written about in Frommer’s travel guide, apparently.

I tried this crazy fried potato, which I later learned was called a tornado potato in North America and was quite popular at festivals in Toronto including the Night Market and Buskerfest. It was a bit thicker cut than a chip and deep fried. Yummy, but well, it was still just a potato.

Mango mochi. Mochi is a sticky rice flour paste cake. Traditional Cantonese mochi is filled with peanuts and sugar, but sometimes it is plain. This was my first mango mochi and I loved it. So squishy and soft, and very fresh.

My friend found out about Wan Shing Dessert Shop (允升甜品) in the town centre, near the ferry pier. What a refreshing end to a sweaty day. I had mango rice flour rolls (“cheong fun”), one sesame flavoured (the darker one) and the other plain. Cheong fun is usually a savoury dish. Usually shrimp or beef are rolled between thin sheets (noodles) made out of rice flour. This time it was mango wrapped in rice flour sheets, a dish I did not even know existed. It was served cool. The roll was “springy” when bitten and smooth. I had to slurp up the mango and roll in one go or else the mango would slide out!  This was fresh and utterly delightful, to say the least. It was also only HKD 20, less than CAD 3!

We were both so tired from a day out in the sun, but it was the best way to spend my last day in HK: out of the city, in nature and on a beach. If you have a day to spare when you’re visiting Hong Kong, I recommend going to Cheung Chau.

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Hong Kong Revisited: Breakfast Edition (Tsui Wah + Kam Fung)

Earlier this summer during the months of May and June, I was working and living in Hong Kong. I still have remaining a few entries I’d like to blog about, so please excuse the lateness!

I have been asked what people in Hong Kong eat for breakfast. I conducted some primary research by asking locals and seeing what restaurants offered. One breakfast that may be a bit different from a North American breakfast is soft pasta in chicken broth with ham. Don’t expect al dente in the slightest, and you may like it. My mom used to make it for me and my siblings when we were sick. Now I know where she got it from. Sometimes families will have dim sum for breakfast on the weekend. People also have noodles or congee. Eating more “lunch time” meals for breakfast is normal here. Others may just eat toast or cereal.

Here are a couple breakfasts I had dining in Hong Kong, which are more similar to North American breakfasts, but with a slight twist: porridge and  a baked good: bo lo bao (pineapple bun), to be exact.

First up, we have Tsui Wah. Tsui Wah is a ubiquitous line of restaurants that began as a humble cha chaan teng. It is now a well-known restaurant for typical Hong Kong fare for all meals of the day. Over the summer, they even went through an IPO. I’ve heard some negative comments about Tsui Wah, but, to me, they serve standard and consistent food in an efficient manner.

Tsui Wah offers savoury dishes including curry rice and noodles. For breakfast, they have the pasta dish as I mentioned earlier, as well as a crispy bun with condensed milk. However, my mom highly recommended their porridge, so I tried that even though I would not associate porridge/oatmeal with Hong Kong.

This porridge is also called “double milk” porridge because it is made with two kinds of milk: evaporated and condensed milk. It came a huge bowl — I actually took some home to enjoy later. Was this oatmeal ever creamy, thanks to the milk. The condensed milk added a hint of sweetness. They also gave a small “shot” of condensed milk to pour on top. I think I might have to put some condensed milk in my oatmeal here for a little indulgence now and then. If you are looking for something plainer, but still delicious, try the porridge at Tsui Wah.

Milk tea, my staple.

There are many Tsui Wah branches in Hong Kong. I went to the one  in Central, Wellington Shop, at G/F-2/F, 15-19 Wellington St., Central, Hong Kong.

Later on in my stay in Hong Kong, I went to Kam Fung Cafe  (金鳳茶餐廳) in Wanchai, because I heard that it had (one of) the best bo lo bao in Hong Kong. I was game.

I like the people waiting outside reading a newspaper.

Kam Fung is a cha chaan teng with modest decor, like many other cha chaan tengs. It was still quite charming. I called in the morning to make sure they were open since it was a holiday Monday. Well, when I got there, the place was packed full of families, so I should have known better!

I got a bo lo yau which is a pineapple bun with a slice of butter (“yau“) about an eighth of an inch thick. I was really looking forward to this, so unfortunately, my bun was cold and slightly damp on the bottom. That ruined the rest of the eating experience. I did enjoy the denseness of the bun. The sweet topping was interesting since it had a tighter grain. It was a bit out there to eat that slab of butter, but this was actually one of my favourite (and a little guilt-ridden) parts. It added some contrast to just eating bun, as much as I like eating bo lo bau on its own.  I wish I could have had a warm, fresh bun, but I suppose that’s timing. The chicken pies are also good here, apparently.

The milk tea got a solid grade: steeped long enough for a bold flavour.

Fresher buns?

Kam Fung is located at 41 Spring Garden Lane  Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Wanchai in the morning.

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