Is that bacon in my beer?

Henry Yuen

Ready for something different? You bet! So when I heard the word ‘Bacon Stout’ at a recent Whole Hog dinner at Refuel, I rejoiced.

Let’s look at it this way, having 2 roasted pigs’ heads in the dining room as a showcase was awesome; biting into their ‘ear & brain’ was exotic, but gulping R&B’s Bacon Stout? Totally ecstatic!

The whole hog dinner is now an annual food fest at Refuel. Nobody could predict what Robert Belcham comes up with, you kind of know what you’re in for yet have no idea what you’re going to eat, that’s probably why the hog dinner is always a sold out.

That evening, good for Andrew Tape and Todd Graham, the Brew Masters from R&B Brewery who showed up with a couple unique cask beers to make the evening more wild and fun. Imagine if this took place during summer in a backyard, when I could down those beers in my shorts?

OK, back to Refuel!

I chose the Lemongrass Sungod Ale to go with the Asian wrap-style pork shoulder, served with condiments of fresh chili, pickles, lime and cilantro. Never knew that lemongrass and ale can go so well together. What I like about this Sungod Ale was the gentle lemongrass hint, the fragrant was not overpowering at all. It is definitely a lighter beer with the intention of providing freshness and balance to this aromatic appetizer dish. I’ll drink it with any sports program on TV.

The Bacon Stout was an eye-opener!  Bacon? Oh, yeah! Brew Master

Todd said, “Why not?” But it was not easy at all!  You see, oil and water don’t mix, so after many trial and errors, the light bulb finally lit above his head.  He adopted the coffee grind method and was able to extract the flavour not the grease from the bacon. The result? A darker, full-bodied stout loaded with strong note of bacon.  This stout and the Confit Pig’s head with ‘pan-fried potatoes, savoy cabbage; ear & brain and eggplant salad, salsa verde’ (it’s a mouthful, but so delicious!) was a marriage made in Refuel!  The richness of the stout and this course went hand-in-hand and took my dining pleasure to great distance! 

I’m going to my favourite Chinese BBQ store and get myself some 5-spiced braised pig’s head and ear, a pound of roasted pork and settle in my couch with some unique creations from R & B Brewery. Wanna join me?



Is that bacon in my beer?

BC’s very own artisan sake

This cloudy wine is great for pairing Asian cuisine

Henry Yuen

Confused about Sake?  You are not alone!

There are no doubt misconceptions, such as drinking Sake hot; only goes well with Japanese food; is made with rice only and we are to drink it as is.  Well, thanks to Masa Shiroki, the genius behind Artisan Sake Maker (604-685-7253 at Granville Island where he makes small batches of premium Sake locally, we get a much better understand of how Sake should be appreciated.  He’s also the sake ambassador, the passionate wine-maker that introduced the fine arts of Sake making into BC.  

In a recent ‘Sake Re-visited’ dinner held at Shuraku Sake Bar & Bistro (833 Granville Street. 604.687.6622, Masa-san greeted the guest with an array of his own Osake labeled Sake as well as imported sake wines. Executive Chef Masahiro Omori enhanced the evening with a uniquely crafted tasting menu.  Dishes like Dashi stock marinated Brussels sprout leaf on sushi rice; Orange infused egg tofu and Japanese sliders were my first. 

According to him, Sake is best served lightly chilled.  Why, that is when the wine is at its prime!  While the fragrant of warmed sake is released into the air and taking its distinctiveness with it, but like chilled wine, the aroma, flavour subtlety retain in chilled sake. Expand your wine categories – be it western cooking, Asian cuisine or Japanese repast, chilled sake is now a good choice to be had. Yes, if you go visit Masa-san in his Artisan Sake Maker bourtique winery, you can discover and sample the different varieties of sake.

We all know rice is the key ingredient, but premium sake calls for premium grade rice. Farming, handling, choosing and then grinding of the rice are all important steps. Other ingredient such as sweet potato is also used to enhance the flavour and sweetness; and combining with rice and sake is an effective way to manipulate the alcohol level and style.

Sipping note:

The Osake-Junmai Sparkling Sake is crisp and light.  The 25% sweet potato mix induces a   seductive sweetness. This is a beautiful sparkling wine that starts off any gathering nicely. 

Osake-Junmai Nama Genshu – A heavier but drier wine loaded with charming tropical fruit bouquet.

This wine pairs well with pork, beef and seafood dishes.

The Masukagami-Junmai Ginjo Premium Sake is dry and rich with nutty flavour and floral tones. I prefer to sip this premium wine on its own.

The Osake-Junmai Nama is creamy with a very gentle sweetness. Its cloudy character allows the flavour to intensify and is a good match with heavier dishes.

The Ochame Premium Shochu with red sweet potato is not common but is well-liked by discerning shochu fans.  This is a wine that can be enjoyed on its own or served with mineral or soda water like a cocktail.

Toshimori Sakehitosuji-Jungin Black Junmai Jinjo is another full-bodied wine and is definitely loaded with character.  This wine is soft, well-balanced and I love it with the beef sliders with sticky rice patties.

Osake Junmai Nigori – A cloudy wine with distinct flavours that goes well with spicy food

Sakehitosuji – Junbaishu is a plum sake and best enjoyed as a dessert wine.  Filled with plum, prunes and spices, the fruit-forward aroma is easy to the nose and to the palate.  


Alaska King Crab – Eat like a king

Alaska King Crab – Eat like a king in Chinese restaurants

Stephanie Yuen

We see them, those big claws, boiled and served cold, at buffet tables.  But in most Chinese seafood restaurants in Metro Vancouver, the big claws are attached to giant Alaska King Crabs, which are still moving in the live seafood tanks, a must-have feature for all Chinese seafood restaurants.

Another short Alaska King Crab season is about to begin in Metro Vancouver, Weighing an average of 10 – 12 pounds, these king crabs can turn out 3-5 courses, a feast fit for a king for sure. Thanks to the communion Chinese meals, the king feast is perfect for sharing.

What are the 3 – 5 courses?  Thought you never ask!

Deep-fried Salt & Pepper Knuckles; Open-face claws steamed two ways: with fresh chopped garlic and with eggwhite and wine sauce; Baked coconut-curry rice in the shell and Sauteed San-mein noodle with the crab jus from the steamed claws. Each King crab course presents a different flavour and texture while each bite brings new sensation to the palate.  Once you try it, you’ll agree Alaska King Crab not only worth the price, it is also a divine gourmet experience.

Those who have not yet savour them, may I ask why?  Get a group of at least 8 people, so besides the multi-coursed Alaska King Crab, there’s till room for a plate of seasonal green, a meat dish and dessert. For 8 people, a 10 lb. crab would be ideal.  For 10 or more, pay attention to the monstrous king crab when the waiter brings it to your table to show you.

 My favourite restaurants for Alaska King Crab dinner:

Jade Dynasty Restaurant: E. Pender near Main, Chinatown. 604-683-8816

Sun Sui Wah Restaurant: Main & E. 23rd, Vancouver. 604-872-8822

Ken’s Chinese Restaurant: Kingsway at Glen, Vancouver. 604-873-6338

Excelsior Restaurant: 6340 No. 3 Road. Richmond. 604-278-2616

Kirin Seafood Restaurant:  New Westminster @ No. 3 Road. 604-303-8833

Buk Jang Do Ga Korean Cuisine



By: Stephanie Yuen

When my Korean friend told me about a small Korean restaurant with a name which meant ‘Symphony of Korean drums’ out in Surrey, and that it’s worth the drive, I decided to pay a visit.  On a sunny Saturday afternoon, my husband and I went for the drive along Fraser Highway; destination Willowbrook Mall area, where Buk Jang Do Ga Korean Cuisine locates.

I had no idea how big the Korean community was in this neighbourhood until we got there. Besides the iconic Hi-Mart, other Korean signs are visible everywhere. We found Buk Jan Do Ga nests away a few doors down Hi-Mart. The visage of the restaurant does not reflect half of the rustic beauty inside. I later found out it was the restaurant owner Mr. Bob Chung’s very own design and making. Even the wooden frame of carving of the band of drummers on top of the kitchen counter was hand-crafted by him. While printed menus are available, there are poem-like posters of menus on the wall.    

Wood tables and benches, built by Bob, put diners right into a Korean farmer’s dwelling. The wall papers resemble ancient style rice paper with Korean calligraphy, embellished tastefully with pieces of wooden peasantry items.  This is one very clean, simply homey-feel dining room that stands out from those in other Korean restaurants I’ve dined at.  I was definitely impressed once I stepped inside of it.

While printed menus are available, there are poetry-like posters of menus on the wall; where some non-familiar names of dishes are shown. “It’s my dream to introduce to the folks here what authentic Korean cuisine is really like.” The very fervid but humble Bob explained, “Here, every dish has its own distinct flavour. We use seasonal produce, prepare our own marinates and spices. Everything is done in small batches to make sure the food we serve is as authentic and as fresh as possible.”

 The first menu item that caught my eyes was the Mung Bean Pancake.  Served with a Ponzu-style light vinaigrette sauce loaded with shredded raw onion and chopped scallion, the pancake was a flattened mashed mung bean patty mixed with Kimchi cabbage and tiny amount of ground pork, then pan-fried till golden. We enjoyed the between mushy mashed potatoes and grainy wheat texture and loved every bit of it with the onion and scallion.

Who could say no to beef ribs, especially sweet gingery flavour, manually tenderized short ribs served on an individual hot-grill pan? The bowl of Korean rice was naturally the best companion for the ribs.  The other beef dish, also served on an hot grill was the stir-fried slices with mung bean noodles and julienne green onions. The marinade for this dish was on the sweeter side and was very enticing.  Bob put a bowl of generously loaded soup using the same meat and ingredients just to show us the other way Koreans enjoyed the same style of beef. He also delivered a small plate of Cat fish logs sauteed in Kimchi and bean sprouts for us to sample.  “This is simple and cheerful country-style cooking – very hot, very appetizing, and very good with Korean rice.”  Bob assured.

 We were so full by then so the other dishes, such as the Potatoe Broth with Rice for 2 (dinner set) and the Assorted vegetable and sausage pot stew I had my eyes on would have to wait till my return.

 Buk Jang Do Ga Korean Cuisine

19539 Fraser Hwy (at Route 10), Surrey


Opening hours: 12 to 12

Closes Mondays



By: Stephanie Yuen

 How much do you know about steak?

 Ask Mark Schatzker, the guy who went on a ‘round the World’ excursion seeking for answers to a good piece of steak.  He checked out steak houses where ever he went, talked to ranchers and farmers of different regions, breeds and grazing land; picked the brains of fellow steak enthusiasts; sank his teeth into all sorts of steaks and while doing all of the above, he scripted tons of notes.  As a result, this book!

 Carnivores will not argue the simple pleasure a divine piece of steak presents – the tenderness, the juiciness, the primal volatility! How Mark decided to take on such a journey and filled hundreds of pages on steaks is beyond me. This is, however, not just a book on steaks, but dialogues and vital information; in fact, it is a handbook for steak lovers!

It’s about a guy and his quest for an ideal piece of meat, his diligent and enduring search for the perfect bite.  Mark dissects all the key elements: from nature’s doing to human’s maneuvering, what’re necessary for the making of perfect bites. From Texas to France, Japan to Argentina, he shares the facts, the good and the bad behind the meat. ‘Steak’ is a reconciliation of basic human need when it comes to ultimate palate satisfaction and sensual happiness, the moment of truth around and beyond Ribeyes, T-bones and whatever cuts it may be.   

 No doubt, one has to be a food lover, much more so, a steak fanatic to willingly embark on such a devouring journey, perhaps a perfect task for the male gender?  Yet, even for female readers, the study, the approach and expectation towards a piece of steak, from the moment you choose the cut, to when it touches your tongue, will never be the same.



Author: Mark Schatzker

ISBN 978-0-670-02181-9

Penguin Books

274 pages 


Brand chaser or wine lover?

By: Henry Yuen

They are out there! The self-acclaimed wine aficionados who proudly declare: Bordeaux or nothing!  They are so obsessed with what they call ‘the only drinkable wines’ that they do not even try wines from other regions of France, let alone drinking wines from other countries. There’s really no right or wrong here, but for the sake of wine enjoyment, perhaps your palate deserves gratified varieties acquired from educated, non-biased choosing. I certainly do not want to see Bordeaux taken as labels such as Channel, Gucci, Armani, Benz, BMW and other brand name products and become mere symbols rather than their true virtues.

 No doubt, Bordeaux wines are full of history, tradition and certain characteristics, and because of their limited releases, are in higher demand. True wine lovers appreciate good wines from other regions as they enter the wine world with open, humble minds and the fervid willingness to learn.  They all know other regions and winemakers do and can produce exceptional wines.

 Take a look at Burgundy, for instance.

 I admit not knowing too much about Burgundy and consider myself very fortunate to sit in an educational and palate-opening session, led by decorated wine writer Allen Meadows, the expert in Burgundy wines, recently at Marquis Wine Cellers (1034 Davie Street. After tasting a few Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Burgundy, my overall perception is renewed.

 According to Allen, the three elements to decide wine quality in France are: 80% terrain, 10% viticulture and 10% winemaking. Human interception is usually kept to the minimum.  The growing is left to the land itself which broils down to the soil and weather; and on terrain geography, consequently, wines do naturally vary from one year to another, ergo the vintage talks and ratings. In fact, some Burgundy wines are as pricy as those from Bordeaux because of the very same reason plus one more key factor – expensive land.

Allen explained to the audience the importance of the winemaking process and why certain wines call for decanting and how the supreme quality of the wines can be fully exposed. He also dissected the grape-growing regions, wine making procedures in Burgundy and how the skills of the winemakers could enhance the essence of particular wines. With such valuable knowledge gained on Burgundy wines, I am now walking down the aisle in the wine stores with added confidence and shopping pleasure!

 Those who may want to collect other than Bordeaux wines, take note:

The grapes, according to Mr. Meadows, didn’t do well in 2004 due to less than desirable weather causing infestation in the vineyards. However, the infestation all cleared out and 2005 happened to be a good year.

Whites: The buttery 2007 Domaine Leflaive Chardonnay with a hint of baked apple is well-balanced and has good concentration. The 2006 Domain Droulin Beaune Blanc Chardonnay is intense and elegant with a grassy, earthy nose and a hint of grape fruit and melon on the palate.

 Reds: 2006 Dominique Laurant Cahmbolle-Musigny Pinot Noir has body and depth, as well as an appropriate level of oak.  It is fruit forward with subtle berry flavour and light tannin.    

 The pricy Domaine d’ Eugenie 2007 Pinot Noir ($280 per bottle) is medium-bodied with less alcohol, good acidity and full of dark berries.

 Want to learn more about Burgundy? Want to expand your cellar labels other than Bordeaux, check out Allen Meadows’s website: