Let the magic of BBQ Duck enchant the New Year tables

Peking duck is a delightful party food great for New Year celebrations, at home!

Stephanie Yuen

No matter how it’s done – roasted, curried, braised or barbecued, with or without the bone – duck has always been my meat favourite.  So when it comes to holiday celebrations or festive meals, there has to be one or couple duck dishes.

When there is more time on hand, I would start off from scratch.  The best place to buy frozen ducks is at Asian supermarkets where they charge less than $20 for one.  After defrosting and cleaning the duck, prepare a double soy marinade by mixing brown sugar, a tablespoon of red wine and 2 oz each of light and dark soy sauce and brush evenly on the inside and outside of the duck, and marinate for at least 6 hours and hang it dry overnight (place a large bowl underneath to catch the dripping).  The next day, deep fry the whole bird till golden brown.  While waiting for the duck to cool down, stir fry 1 cup of glutinous rice, 1 each of diced lap cheung (Chinese sauce), deiced shitake mushroom and 1 tbsp of dried shrimp till the rice is semi-cooked. Stuff inside the duck and steam for 4 hours.  Yes, this is one time and effort consuming recipe, but the tender fall-off-the bone duck meat and the amazing-flavoured sticky rice are worth every minute!

What about one very easy, fun-to-do and great party food (each duck is good for around 10 people) and very appealing duck recipe – a DIY 2-course Peking duck: Duck skin wrap and lettuce wrap.

To kick start, go to your favourite Chinese BBQ shop and purchase a BBQ duck; make sure you tell the butcher not to cut or chop the duck. You also need 1 head of lettuce, a bundle of green onions, 1 Japanese cucumber, 1 carrot, 1 medium onion, 1 red pepper and 6 shitake mushrooms. Don’t forget to pick up a package of 10” flour tortilla!For seasoning, you’ll need both light and dark soy sauce, hoisin and oyster sauce, and a small amount of peanut sauce.

Place the duck on a large plate once home. Line a baking pan with tin foil and put the wire rack on top of the foil.  Use a pair of scissors and a paring knife, remove the skin while cutting into 2” X 1.5” pieces and place them onto the rack.  Cover lightly with wax paper or foil, put aside. Remove as much meat from the duck, the carcass is great for making congee (or soup), so save and freeze it. Dice the meat and put in a bowl. Put aside.

Cut 4 pieces of tortilla into 4 even quarters, stack and foil-wrap them and put aside. You can prepare more later when needed.

With the help of a pointed knife, carefully take the lettuce leaves apart.  Try to keep the leaves intact since they will be used as containers for the 2nd course.

Julienne the white parts of 3 green onions and the cucumber; put them into 2 separate bowls. Small-dice and place everything else in separate bowls.

While start serving your guests with dips and cheese, preheat the oven to 300F. .

For an easy peking duck sauce, just squeeze it out of the hoisin sauce bottle. But for a better-tasting sauce with the right texture, this is a good time to make your own. Bring 2 oz of water, 1½ Tbsp of brown sugar, 2 oz of peanut butter, 1/2 cup of hoisin sauce in a saucepan on medium high heat to a soft boil, stir in 1 tbsp of sesame oil. Turn off heat and empty sauce into a serving bowl.

When the oven is ready, remove the wax paper or foil cover, place both the duck skins and the foiled-tortillas inside and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. While waiting for the skins and tortillas to be re-heated, why not cook the duck meat?

Place wok on high heat. Bring 2 tbsp of cooking oil to a medium boil. Add diced carrot, onion, red pepper and mushroom respectively at 10-seconds intervals and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add 1 tsp each of hoisin, oyster sauce, dark and light soy sauce, brown sugar, cold water and mix well.  Add duck meat and sauté for another minute, empty into a large bowl and serve with lettuce leaves and peking duck sauce.

Place a whole tortilla on a large round plate.  Remove duck skins from the oven and transfer the skins onto the tortilla (to absorb the grease) and serve with the quartered tortilla.

Enjoy these fun duck courses and help yourselves to a delicious, healthy and happy 2012!

Harmony in traffic chaos – a tourist’s survival guide

                           

   By: Henry Yuen

          Where and how do you find “Harmony in Chaos”? The traffic in Hanoi, Vietnam  is surprisingly fitting.

 

          Everywhere you go, trucks of all sizes, buses old and new, vans big and small, cars mostly imports, motorbikes and bicycles often with drivers and cargoes, and hand-carts gather together on the same road, going at all directions.  Amazingly, the accident rate is extremely low here – according to my observation during my recent 5 days of stay, I saw only one fender bender.

 

Little markings; if any at all, and limited crosswalks are ignored by drivers and pedestrians. You cross the road whenever and wherever you desire and make turns as pleased. Crisscrossing amongst pedestrians and vehicles is regarded as a must.  Driving on pavements is normal during rush hour. Despite all these mayhem on the road, however, everybody – drivers, bikers, hawkers and pedestrians – all share the same road in harmony! There are no visible stress and very little confusion.  Locals seem to take in the traffic with good spirit and flow along smoothly. Albeit slower from our standards, the traffic always moves along without stoppage and congestion unlike what we encounter in high-traffic cities in North America.

 

Honking in Hanoi is absolutely normal and necessary for good reasons: To manoeuvre around the traffic and as an audio signal to fellow drivers.  Nobody honks senselessly or annoyingly, and the honking receivers never seem to mind but know exactly what direction to swerve to and at what speed. If you are in a hurry, you drive a bit more aggressively; and if you are not in any rush, you allow other vehicles to pass at ease.  Unlike the civilized North Americans, honking seldom elicit a finger from the other drivers, not even mean words, let alone swearing, even tailgating is occasional and without fist fights. Everybody accepts this crazily over-flown traffic as part of the daily living. Road rage, what road rage?

 

Pedestrians and hawkers are at ease finding their momentums and step in and out the sidewalks without ever frowning.  They never hesitate or run, but simply walk into and slide swiftly through the sea of vehicles.

It’s easy to walk from point A to point B in Hanoi, crossing the road is therefore inevitable. The first few attempts would obviously be scary. You may even ask yourself, “How am I going to do this?” or simply refuse to try.  But do not be despair or alarmed, to successfully cross the road in Hanoi is easier than J-walking in Vancouver, BC!

 

As tourists, crossing the road is a surely challenge at first, but do spend some time watching how the locals do it. Follow them closely as they are the ultimate survivors, day in and day out.  It won’t take long for you to pick up on these essential road-crossing techniques:

 

1) Walk with a steady pace no matter how chaotic the traffic is, but don’t run!

 

2) Never stop and go while crossing the road – it is suicidal. Hesitation only interferes with the flow of the wave of  traffic  – drivers are not good at guessing games. So be firm, take a deep breath and stride.

 

3) From your body language and the speed of your pace, drivers and bikers know how to adjust and avoid blocking or hitting you. Have confidence, let them do their job.

 

4) Drivers are used to be surrounded by other vehicles, mopeds and bikes alike. They know how and where to shift and even slow down just enough to allow you to cross, but they will not STOP! Stopping creates blockage and will likely cause the following vehicle to jam up or pile up.

 

5) Be sure to look all 4 ways because traffic comes from different directions, even on one way streets and sidewalks.

 

6) Don’t take sidewalks for granted because they are the extra lane during rush hours, be vigilant!

 

7) Absolutely no eye contact with the oncoming traffic! This is to avoid splitting up everyone’s focus and allowing what you see to disturb your pace. 

 

Last but not least – good luck and have a wonderful time in Hanoi! Just a reminder – make sure you purchase full travel insurance before you go!

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

This is the season to be giving

It is not always about getting and receiving! This holiday season, let’s remember the less fortunate ones and do a bit more to help out the community!

Gifts that give back – CANADAHELPS GIFT GUIDE

CanadaHelps is urging Canadians to forget the mall line-ups and instead give the gift of giving to those on your list. CanadaHelps.org is a one stop shop for giving that allows Canadians to donate to any Canadian charity with a few simple clicks. With over 86,000 Canadian charities listed on CanadaHelps, you can find the perfect present for mom, dad, grandparents, friends, clients/ colleagues and a favourite teacher all in one spot.

Make a donation in someone’s name to an issue or cause that is near and dear to their heart. If you’re not sure which charity to choose, you can purchase a CanadaHelps Charity Gift Card and recipients can donate that value to any Canadian charity through CanadaHelps.org.For more information and to search for your charity of choice, log onto http://www.canadahelps.org.

Help Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society

With the giving season upon us, residents in Metro Vancouver can help support local food banks by purchasing a limited edition box of PC Blue Menu Deluxe Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese Dinner.  In each $5 box, $1 cash onation and $4 -worth of nutritious, non-perishable food, including the box of macaroni and cheese, will go to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society. This unique box of mac n’ cheese is part of Loblaw Companies Limited 2011 Extra Helping National Holiday Food Drive, launched last month. From now to December 15, local Real Canadian Superstore, nofrills, Extra Food and Read Canadian Wholesale Club stores are encouraging shoppers to help re-stock the shelves of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society and feed those in need in their communities.

This year, the goal is to raise $1.2 million and 1.2 million pounds of food for local food banks acrossCanada.

Bring your Holiday Spirit to The Sutton Place Hotel

845 Burrard Street  Vancouver, BCV6Z 2K6
(604) 682-5511 www.vancouve.suttonplace.com

Help celebrate the festive season while raising funds for a very worthy cause:

6th Annual Home for the Holidays Sutton Place Hotel

Now to January 4th, 2012

Come and view the gallery of trees that have been decorated by local
Vancouver designers, stagers and retailers. Choose your favourite tree and make a donation.

Festival of Trees at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver

791W. Georgia Street(at Pacific Centre) 604-689-9333 www.fourseasons.com/vancouver

Now to January 5, 2011
Nothing will get you in the Christmas mood faster than a stroll through our lobby – now transformed into a festive forest of creatively decorated Christmas trees. The annual BC Children’s Hospital Foundation fundraiser is a must-see holiday highlight.

Dundarave Festival of Lights

 

DundaraveBeach,West Vancouver www. 2mevents.com 

Now to January 6, 2012

Enter the forest of sparkling trees, enjoy free concerns while raising funds for North Shore Shelters.

Special Holiday gifts for food, art and/or craft lovers

A) Gifts from ‘One of a kind’ artisans and artists This weekend at Vancouver Convention Centre West

Besides the gourmet aisle showcasing home-made food products, from spreads and spices, to vinegars and chocolates, look for more than edible flavours in thisYears, the largest yet One of a Kind Vancouver. Talk to the artists, see some of them at work and be amazed at their craftsmanship and creative minds!

Kay Wong uses aromatic natural essential oil to make hand-made bath and body care products in her townhouse that’s why you can find her in her ‘The Other Eden’ booth at the Oneofakind Show.

Mally Designs of Mission, BC, creator of the original leather baby bib, shows and sells a few practical leather gifts at booth E17. The warm pastel-coloured bibs, however, catch most of the attention.  The reversible bibs with a food-catch pocket on one side and magnetic snaps at the back are not only functional, they are very durable too!          

And there are much more! Painters and carpenters, jewelers and fashion designers…oh, do bring a shopping bag – arts and beauty are hard to resist!

 

B) Sakekasu edibles  from Artisan Sake

1339 Railspur Alley,GranvilleIsland,Vancouver. 604-685-7253 www.artisansakemaker.com

Chocolates – who doesn’t get at least a box or two throughout the holidays? But katsu truffles? Bet most of your foodie friends have yet to try them.

Masa Shiroki, the one and only Artisan sake maker inWestern Canada, is more than a sake buff but a culinary crafter as well. He is the mastermind in creating many recipes using kasu (fermented rice residues) obtained from his sake-making brewery.  And yes, he keep coming up with some daring recipe ideas using  kasu: Citrus dressing, cherry drinks and his newest creation – kasu-filled truffles which he appropriately named kasu bonbons to refer to the European French sweets and dipped chocolate goodies. 

These decadent bonbons, bursting with a good doze of fermented wine flavour that brings a naughty note to the bonbons, are made with sakekasu, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin and natural vanilla, dairy-free so even those lactose-intolerants can enjoy them!

So head out toGravilleIsland, create your own holiday kasu-goodie bags and don’t forget those kasu bonbons.

 

Cheap and Cheerful – Bubble Tea Cafe

These days, they are everywhere! Big or tiny; fancy or enclosed; bubble tea cafés are so popular they might well be one of the top competitors to other beverage joints.

As daunting as Starbucks in N. America, bubble Tea café is the place to hang out for the young generations, especially high school kids that are still underaged to go boozing in public. Perhaps this explains why the Drink Menu outlists the food menu most of the time. To these youngsters who somehow roam freely even at mig-night, these fancy drinks are make-shift cocktails without the alcoho. Look at the names: ‘Blue Baby’,‘Passionate Love’ or ‘Young Girl’s Dream’, obviously, the fantasy and pleasure is far beyond what’s in the drink!

And yet, to call these cafés ‘bubble tea café’ is somewhat misleading, since they offer a genre of Taiwanese snacks as well. In fact, more and more bubble tea cafés categorize themselves as Taiwanese bistros and have successfully expanded their client base to include families and boomers.

Taiwanese cuisine; influenced by Japanese culture and aboriginals; is also an adaptation ofFujianand Hakka cooking. The Japanese gives them an artistic approach found in room décor, the wares, the plating and the sculptured icy drinks. Set meals, come with soup, side dishes rice are often served Bento-style. Taiwan-aboriginals’ rural form of food preparation and the usage of roots, herbs and wild vegetables; along with authentic Fujian and Hakka recipes, turn out intense flavoured soup, noodles, meat and seafood, along with other one-of-a-kind dishes and comfortating table-top hot-pots.

Don’t worry about exotic dishes, though they will be some, but 90% of the menu items are Joe and Jane proof.  Dishes like Minced pork on rice, Wok-fried live clams, Taiwanese chicken nugget, assortment of noodle soups, original beef noodle soup loaded with deliciously braised shanks, grilled pork chops, pan-fried vegetables and fried rice…the list goes on and on. There has to be a dish or two that appeals to even the fussiest diner.

And the best reason to dine in a bubble tea bistro? Extremely wallet-friendly!  How friendly?  What about $10 – 12 for a eat-till-you-drop  shared multi-course dinner?