Everyone’s welcomed – Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival, 2014

HK Wine & Dine Festival

Words: Henry Yuen      Pix: S. Yuen

When I was growing up in Hong Kong, there was this annual “Trade Fair” where all kinds of businesses lined up in one place to showcase their wares. Apparel manufacturers displaying the latest fashion trends; food companies promoting newest products; international brands demonstrating the next must-have appliances; there were household supplies, hard wares, gadgets, toys games and much more. Young ladies in beautiful tailored-made uniforms standing in front of the stalls, encouraging people to  try, test, taste and buy.  Adorned by flashy flirting signs, musical performances and non-stop actions, the fun-filled annual event was something both adults and kids looked forward to every year.

Spectacular opening night performance

Similar yet more vibrant atmosphere and high energy were felt as I walked around the   Wine and Dine Festival in Hong Kong on their opening night; a wine glass in hand, I was elated to be there! The original plan of holding this much-anticipated event in Central was altered due to the demonstration taking place in that area. Kudos to the super organizing power and determined efficiency of Hong Kong Tourism Board and the team of organizers who turned things around as if with a magic wand. Upon entering the site, I was awed by how elaborated the just-erected site in this replacement outdoor venue was! Glittering with lavishing stages, tasting rooms and different themed zones, hard to believe it was all set up in a matter of days. Held at the runway of the old Kai Tak Airport with record attendees, this food and wine event have been fully embraced by the locals and visitors alike, despite the last minute location change.

The Wine & Dine Festival attracted these groups of folks: Those who came to sip the wine, those who came to sample the food, and of course, those who enjoyed both the food and the wine; and those who simply there to cherish the gleeful festivity!

Hong Kong has been well-regarded as a food and wine paradise; the month-long Festival provided a very approachable platform even for first time comers. There is a Chinese saying that you work to keep your stomach full, clothing and lodging come secondary.  Indeed, food has always been an integral part of the Chinese social fabric.  No surprise that the last minute change in venue did not hinder the popularity of the Festival; in fact, the Kai Tak location helps raised the allure as those who are yet to step on it welcome the opportunity to come take at its Cruise Terminal look.

Hong Kong’s affluent wine culture is no doubt the backbone of the huge success of the Wine & Dine Festival. As the wine-drinking society matures in Hong Kong, wine with food, wine on its own, wine for gift-giving has become more or less a social trend, a lifestyle mean and a wind-down tool to ease the everyday hectic paces.

The fabulous setup and the long lineup at the food and wine booths avouched my thoughts and observations. A tasting zone dedicated to the ever popular Bordeaux is a true manifestation of the superiority of the Bordeaux wine reputation in the heart of the Hong Kong wine circles. Not just any French wines but only those from Bordeaux – the allure, charisma and status of a Bordeaux label lives forever in their heart! The very considerate Everyday Wine Zone is there to showcase arrays of wallet friendly wines, a perfect introduction to the new and novice drinkers indeed.  The Discovery Zone where wine merchants brought in rare, unknown and hard to find wines is, needless to say, draws in wine lovers of all levels. The Party Wine Zone focusing on sparkling wines, sweeter and dessert wines are enjoyed on their own or served in various cocktail concoctions. The Country Zone that features wines from popular wine producing regions of the world plus some emerging Eastern European countries such as Georgia and Romania is for exploration and great learning experience.  To top it off, the Riedel Grand Tasting Pavilion with a list of impressive high end wines is the see and to-be-seen arena where folks clamour for and where veteran wine lovers who are there to compare tasting notes and purchasing powers.

Everyday French wine

While there is no doubt people still gravitate towards Bordeaux wines, it is good to see that other wine regions are gaining recognition and consumers begin to realize their wines are well worth their attention and curiosity. The “Drink nothing but Bordeaux” mantra is fading and most people look for value rather than just reputation.

I had a frank discussion with a Mr. Choy  of MegaWill Wine, a wine merchant at the Festival who confessed the Bordeaux popularity and status is not a novelty among those knowledgeable wine folks anymore. When he imports Bordeaux wines, instead of exclusively high end labels, it will now be those Bordeaux labels that are more price-friendly to the drinking public. It is difficult to make a lot of money importing high-end wines since only a shrinking group of elites still clings to that mantra. Due to the geographic proximity to the Asian Pacific countries, Australian and New Zealand wines are equally popular. California wines are also welcome due to the palate acceptance of full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel etc.

Henry & Mr. A. Choy I was amazed by the large number of wine merchants prying their trades at the Festival. I guess the ever increasing drinking population and the relaxed tax rule on wines in Hong Kong readily support more entrants to the wine trade. A case in point was that at one of the Discovery Zone booths, there was this young gentleman Mr. Wing Yau urging us to try his wine. As it turned out, he was the winemaker of a plum wine made locally in Hong Kong. Under the umbrella of Hong Kong Royal Wine Ltd, only a few hundred cases were produced and he hadn’t had time to line up any distributorship or enlisted any restaurants to put his wine on their wine lists.  It was no doubt a relatively new venture for him. Ask where he got the idea and impetus, his answer was it was his love of wine which drove his interest and desire to make wine. “It would be fun to try and make my own wine!” He said so with a grin. Consistent with the self-assurance of most folks in Hong Kong, he welcomed the challenge and was not deterred by the steep learning curve facing him. That’s the spirit of the Hong Kong people that we adore and I wish him the best of luck in his new endeavour.

Henry & plum winemaker Wing Yau

While most tasting events in Vancouver charges a higher admission fee, the wine tasting portion at each booth was free. You can taste all the wines you like and would not get drunk by spiting. Spitting is in fact encouraged. Whereas the Hong Kong Food and Wine Festival charged a very low admission fee of about $3-$4 Canadian but each tasting cost a ticket. More expensive wines cost two or three tickets each. As a result, it was difficult to taste a multitude of wines unless you buy a lot of tickets. And you tend not to spit since there was no spit bucket provided. The expectation was that you would finish each glass since you’re paying for it. I guess it makes perfect sense since a low admission fee could lure even casual fans who are free to choose and decide how to spend their dollars by either drinking a little or a lot.

Yak milk wine

With over one hundred and fifty booths and more than ten wines at each booth, it was impossible for me to try too much wine without spitting. In the end, my exercise involved studying each label carefully before selecting and sipping which called for lingering a lot longer at some booths. That was something I didn’t mind at all since the food and ambiance was good and the conversations were enjoyable. Not having to worry drinking and driving, thanks to the free shuttle bus that took us back to the subway station conveniently, definitely elevated the pleasure.  My first Hong Kong Wine & Dine experience was a great one, no matter how I looked at it. I have no doubt the wine trend in Hong Kong will only get better overtime and the public will appreciate and embrace the wine arena more profoundly!

Foodie on Foot – Hong Kong

Words: Stephanie Yuen    Pix: Henry & Stephanie

A recap of our footsteps during our latest visit in Hong Kong, as heard on our food, wine & travel segment with Deborah Moore on AM1470 past Tuesday.

An evening flight landed us at Lantau Airport at 10:15pm. It did not take long at all for us to zip through immigration and customs. Thanks to the superior transportation system of Hong Kong, when we arrived at Mei Food Estate, it’s only 11pm. A 5-min taxi-ride took us to our hotel, Heritage Lodge located within Jao Tsung-I Academy.

Patio

The fascinating history of The Academy was the main reason why we chose to stay here; very friendly room rate was the number 2 reason; Ginkgo House the restaurant where senior power jiving at its best was the other deciding force.

Heritage Lodge(翠雅山房)

http://www.heritagelodgehk.com

Reception area

There are five 2-storey buildings housing 80+ rooms. Clean, tidy and comfortable, the rooms and facilities are comparable to any 3+star hotel, but at a much wallet-friendlier rate. Located at the upper deck of the compound, the lodge is 2 long flights of stairs from the restaurant and the Academy. Shuttle bus that takes riders to the main road, the MTR station at Mei Foo and the entrance to the Academy runs till 9:30pm daily.

Jao Tsung-I Academy (饒宗頤文化館)

800, Castle Peak Raod, Kowloon, Hong Kong. http://www.jtia.hk

An iconic project under the “Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme” of the Development Bureau of the HKSAR Government.

Antique brick buildings and a zen lotus pond

A lush green urban oasis lies atop Lai-Chi-Kok Hill, the compound has played significant roles in the social history making of Kowloon Peninsula. It was a customs station in 1887, a transfer shelter for Chinese labourers recruited by the British Empire to work in mines in South Africa from 1904 to 1906 that later on became a quarantine quarter.  A decade later, it was used as a prison and in 1940’s, it became Lai-Chi-Kok Hospital. In the year 2000, it was the home for the psychiatric rehabilitation centre.  Finally in 2009, the name “Jao Tsung-I Academy” and its cultural status was recognized and officially granted.  Today, the hide-away Academy is the gateway to tranquility, natural beauty and cultural events. It houses a gallery, workshops, exhibition halls, lecture rooms, activity rooms and a theatre and offers free guided tours.

Gingko House (銀杏館)

http://www.restaurant.org.hk

An ordinary looking restaurant with extraordinary missions and a fabulous food philosophy and practice, Gingko House is an integral part of an amazing senior project strategically designed to provide inspiring opportunities for seniors to maintain and enhance their healthy living and to energize the well-beings of their minds and souls after retirement. The senior project is the turning wheel fabricating jobs, providing training and dispatching resources for seniors. A majority of the staff are capable citizens who used to work in key positions. The project invites them to be productive and to belong. Their ability and willingness to contribute, no matter the age, subsequently lead them to regain their confidence and self-respect. With a central kitchen, an organic farm, two Gingko House restaurants and catering service, participating seniors wake up every day to a friendly environment to communicate and learn; to work and be involved in the community. Though situated within the compound of the Academy and share a mutual support with each other, Gingko House is owned and operated independently. With a unique background – physically, historically and culturally; both the Academy and Gingko House are well-regarded and frequently visited by local communities and foreign groups, especially those in the arts and culture field.

Stuffed gluten puffs with light curry sauce

With the organic farm supplying Gingko House and the catering arms, the restaurants thrive on their healthy menu offering; super-friendly and attentive attitude. Having the legendary Sir Run Run Shaw’s very own chef Mr. Low who won Sir Shaw over with a plate of ‘Canned Spicy Pork Fried Rice’ who now works as the Executive Chef for the restaurants and the catering service, superb food quality with a healthy conscience has been the main reason why folks of all walks and ages become regulars here. Gingko House opens for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.

HK$38 salad & soup buffet at Gingko House

Highly recommended:

1/ Salad and Soup Buffet

2/ Chef Low’s Fried Rice with XO sauce

3/ Dong-Bor Style Ribs

4/ Stuffed Gluten puffs stuffed with mushrooms (vegetarian)

5/ Hot drinks: Lemongrass Tea and Organic Pu-er Tea

Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival, 2014(香港美酒佳肴巡禮)

This is a trade and consumer event that takes place in November of every year. Usually held at Central, Hong Kong, this year’s event was relocated to the Cruise Terminal at the old Kai Tak Airport. Glittering with neon signs, the outdoor venue gave the Wine & Dine Festival a new look and vibrant energy. With non-stop entertainments, 270 stalls, hundreds of international wines for sipping and purchasing; global gourmet cooked by master chefs on the spot, the 3-day extravaganza attracted record-number attendees.

HK Wine & Dine Festival

Shum Sui Po Foodie Tour (香港風味行深水埗)

www.hongkongfoodietours.com

Operated by Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tours,this 3¾-hour tour was led by a young lady who spoke fluent English. Besides tasting generous portions of nostalgic food: fresh from the oven jumbo Pineapple Bun, fluffy and steamy plain Rice Rolls, 5-spiced brined Goose meat and Pork Hock slices, Tofu pudding, Hand-made noodle with shrimp roes, Chinese cookies in 6 different eateries, the tour guide also took us on a history walk and talk into the livelihood and many facets of this blue-collar district.

Foodie Tour 1st stopTofu pudding with barley

Made In Hong Kong Restaurant

Shop L1-13, Level 1, APM, Millennium City 5, Kwun Tong

www.madeinhorestaurant.com/index.html

A delightful and well-run café-mall restaurant that has no doubt impressed both the locals and visitors such as myself with its open-floor dining room, well-designed décor and professionally-trained staff. The indigenous Hong Kong style café menu offers array of food items familiar to those who grew up in Hong Kong in the 60’s and 70’s. Tasty and well-presented grubs, good price points and generous portions are the reason for line-ups out front.  The rare-found Chicken A La King caught Henry’s eyes and appetite at first glance, silkily creamy but not heavy atop nicely-buttered rice showed the chef’s attention to details. My fully-loaded sizzling hot plate of mixed grill with just the perfect amount of red-wine jus, was served with well-executed baby beans, snow peas and broccoli.   Chicken A La King - Creamy with full-flown flavour

My sizzling plate of mixed grill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tai-O Eco Tour (昂坪與大澳遊)

http://www.discoverhongkong.com/

360 degree of breath-taking viewThe exhilarating 6-hour tour began with the 5.7km cable-car ride across the sea to Ngong Ping Village where the Tian Tan Buddha, Asian’s 2nd largest outdoor Buddha statue, followed by an exploration of the 800-year old Fishing Village Tai-O which took us back in time where living was simple laughter generated by sweat, blood and tear. In an inland log house, the owner showed us how to prepare duck egg yolks for sun-drying and how to make a sweet soup by grinding white and black beans in a clay pot using a big guava stick the fisherman’s way. Needless to say; the owner had a pot of ready-to-eat sweet bean soup set aside for us to indulge.  fish maw and angular squash

We took a boat ride to look for white dolphins beyond the levee but found none, however, the beautiful South China Sea view and the dolphin search put us into lunch mode. The 5-course lunch featuring local seafood in a neighbourhood restaurant meant non-pretentious home-style cooking which rhymed in perfectly with the sea village setting.

fishmongers selling just-caugh fish

268 steps takes you to the huge Buddha statue

Foodie on Foot – Kobe, Japan

Kobe ChinatownWords & Pix: Stephanie Y

For serious foodies, Kobe means one word – BEEF! It indeed was the renowned Kobe beef that drew us in.  We were lucky enough to experience two Kobe beef encounters, for snacking and for a late lunch; all took place in Kobe Chinatown bordering Motomachi, the most crowded, noisiest and tastiest part of town.  Both encounters were sensational and needless to say expensive, the three grades were $3000-yen apart (C$30), glad to say every bite was worthy.

Kobe beef encounter #1

Kobe beef bowl

It was the young man yelling and waving a cardboard with the food pictures and the phase “Kobe Beef” that stopped us, we then noticed the line-up in front of the street corner where an  open kitchen was located.  The kitchen was the restaurant and the street was the dining room – our definition of true street food! Approximately 40gm of Kobe beef was served in burger form; sliced, sauteed and put on rice; or strip of loin, grilled and cut on rice.  Y$1200 gave you the AA-equivalent grade, $1500 AAA-grade and $1800 champion-grade. Our chosen AAA-grade beef was grilled to our desired doneness, medium rare, sliced to ¼” thick, served with chopped green onion and the beef jus on rice.

Kobe beef encounter #2

Kobe Beef restaurant

In a tiny but comfortably arranged restaurant offering nothing but Kobe Beef  that were grilled and served like steak. Though there’re only 25 seats, the restaurant was one of the quieter eateries in this neighbourhood. Perhaps not too many folks were willing to cough up that kind of money for a piece of steak; or likely because the restaurant charged 5% on top for paying with your credit card, even when the bill was a 5-digit one.  The “set” came with a bowl of soup made with the beef jus, a nice salad and a bowl of rice.  The same three grades applied here and the price ranges similar but since this was a real western-style restaurant, the dollar figures tripled.  For Y$8800, Henry chose the 120gm Champion grade which came certified. I was not quite ready to pay C$88 for a steak dinner hence opted for the next grade which still cost me $5500 (C$55). Both beef dishes came with pan-fried vegetables and were beautifully plated.  Along with the salad, the soup, the beef sets were substantial enough.

Beef-biting notes:

Champion-grade Kobe beef is without a doubt, heavenly! Supreme marbling knits in the al dente mouth feel. The ‘oh mine’ thrill upon entering the mouth echoes with the crisp yet moist; meaty yet buttery euphoria your palate will remember for a long time. Each bite gives you the first bite umami that keeps making love to your senses.

Kobe beef

AAA-grade Kobe beef worked fine medium rare since a little bit of chewing will expand the flavour profile and enjoyment. The thick slices of beef carried a melt-in-your-mouth texture but charred outer layer and the tender core layer combined to create a demanding depth.

If your wallet does not object, go for the champion grade and order it ‘rare’ – the only way to embrace the divinity of  the flavour and texture granted to Kobe beef to the fullest. We both agree the 120gm set of Kobe beef is good enough to satisfy the indulgence, however, the qualitative pressure beef bowl is produces as good as the well-plated beef set in the restaurant. But of course, if you so desire, do go all out.

Happy Moon Festival

Mooncakes

Words & pix: Stephanie Yuen

The beautiful thing about working as a spokesperson for Loblaw is that I get to talk about Chinese traditions, culinary culture and recipes. For instance, I shared moon folklores and reminisced on fun childhood memories with the Vancouver Sun readers on Mia’s article; went onto CTV Morning and Global Noon News and cook with taro roots and fall roots and vegetables – two easy-to-do dishes to be had any time.

The moon festival happening today came early this year. Besides adoring the bright and full moon, we ought to be thankful for what’s been granted to us, in our daily living. For harvesting does not refer only to farmers, it also refers to how we embrace life. A good harvest can be as simple as food on the table, shared with friends and families!

Moon Festival 2014 – Stephanie Yuen’s recipes

 a/ Wok-fried Noodles with Chicken and Garden Vegetables

Serves 4

3 pc T&T brand Dried Shiitake mushrooms

300g T&T brand Fine Dry Noodles (1.8kg box package)

200g Chicken breast, julienned

3 Tbsp cooking oil

2 Tbsp chopped shallot

100g Julienned jicama

2 stalks  Julienned celery

½ red or orange pepper; julienned

½ tsp sea salt

2 tsp T&T brand light soy sauce

2 tsp Chili bean sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp sugar

1/ Rinse mushroom and soak in 1 cup of hot water for 30 minutes or until softened. Remove caps and julienne mushrooms. Set mushroom liquid aside.

2/ Follow cooking instructions on box to cook the noodle.

3/ In a bowl, mix chicken with 1 tsp soy sauce, ½ tsp sesame oil and ½ tsp sugar.

4/ Place wok on high heat, add 1 Tbsp cooking oil, add shallot and brown for 15 seconds. Add remaining oil and chicken, stir and cook for 2 minute on medium high. Add jicama, celery and pepper, stir and cook for 30 seconds. Add noodles and remaining seasoning, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add 3 Tbsp of mushroom liquid. Stir, cover and cook for another minute.  Enjoy!

Wok fried noodles with celery & jicama

Turkey, Taro and Shiitake Stew

Serves 4 on rice

300g turkey breast, cut into ½” dices*

2 Tbsp cooking oil

1 Tbsp oyster sauce

6 pcs T&T brand dry shiitake mushrooms

200g taro meat, quarter first and cut into thick slices**

1 tsp chopped ginger

1 tsp dark rice vinegar

1 tsp cooking wine

½ tsp sea salt

1 tsp sugar

¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro (optional)

1/ Marinate turkey with 1 tsp cooking oil and 1 tsp oyster sauce for about 15 minutes.

2/ Rinse mushrooms and soak in 1½ cup of hot water for 30 minutes. Remove caps and quarter mushrooms. Set mushroom liquid aside.

3/ Heat remaining oil in wok on high heat, add ginger, brown for 10 seconds.

4/ Add turkey, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and taro. Stir well.

5/ Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Stir in mushroom liquid, bring to a boil. Cover and cook on medium for 10 minutes or until 20% of liquid remains.

6/ Add cilantro and serve with rice.

 

*Can be replaced by pork or beef tenderloin.

** Taro skin contains certain enzyme which causes itchiness. Wear kitchen gloves when peeling skin off taro to avoid getting itchy. Once skin is removed, handle the meat normally.

 

 

 

 

Beyondchopsticks.com on AM1470 with Deborah Moore

Close encounter with Thai Cuisine at the Royal Thai Consulate-General’s residence.

First there were beautiful displays of fruit carvings; and then a picturesque line-up of Thai ingredients, herbs, spices and sauces. Next came the authentic Thai dish -cooking demonstration by two big-named chefs from Thailand who were also professional Instructors at Suan Dusit Rajabhat University:  Dr. Naruemon Nantaragsa and Mr. Siriseangphaiwan. They did make cooking Thai cuisine simple and easy!

IMG_7465

According to Dr. Nantaragsa, authentic ingredients are the keys to eccentric Thai dish. These are the must-haves for the two popular menu items found in most Thai restaurants in town.

1/ Pad Thai

Key ingredients: Dried shrimps, palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind juice, chilli powder and pickled white radish.

2/ Penang Curry

Key ingredients: Coconut milk, Thai basil, palm sugar, fish sauce, Penang curry paste, kaffir lime leaves.

Being only a week away from the Moon Festival, the Chinese Mid-Autumn Celebration (Monday, September 8) was naturally the focus of the September 2nd segment.

When Real Canadian Super Stores and No Frills display red and gold boxes of moon cakes, and ingredients for cooking a celebrative dinner, you know that Moon Festival (the Chinese version of Thanksgiving) is no longer an Asian celebration but a fun and delicious reason for anyone to bring families and friends together.  Moon cakes are great dessert pastries, to be enjoyed with a pot of tea or your favourite coffee, along with a table full of fresh fruits, candies and nuts, they are the centre piece for the after-dinner full moon celebration in the yard, the patio and even an evening picnic at the park – just go out there and adore the moon and be thankful for a good harvest.

Traditional moon cakes available at The Real Canadian Super Stores and No Frills

A special TWG treat (Urban Tea Merchant Downtown Vancouver)

Come Moon Festival celebration time, a box or two of moon-cakes as a token of appreciation and respect to your parents, the elderlies and all the loved ones may seem boring, may even be a bit too convenient sometimes? What more can you do?

IMG_7509

A decadent and unique “Moon Festival Tea Service” at The Urban Tea Merchant located at Georgia/Alberni @ Thurlow (Tel# 604-692-0071 ) that is.  Decadent is their specially crafted and assembled platter of gourmet delicacies: Miso-glazed sable fish, “Dignitiary’s Tea” chicken cone, chilled prawn ceviche, Fois Gras, fresh tropical fruit and TWG Tea Mooncakes.

Unique are inarguably those Tea Mooncakes – classic shapes of round mooncakes and traditional styles to enhance the celebrative mood but are loaded with tea-infused paste. This year, TWG’s Tea Mooncake edition is called “Red Lantern”, last year was called Silver Moon – enticing and very fitting terms for this Chinese Thanksgiving and get-together celebration. The tea mooncakes are: Red Lantern, Emperor, Constellation and Moonlight are the four flavours. These are limited-time editions available in 3 packaging: 4 and 2 with a special red and white blend of “Red Lantern” tea and the single box.  Check them out soon because they may not be available after September 15.

Moon Festival Buffet for the whole family at Pan Pacific Hotel

For many years, Pan Pacific Vancouver has established its own longstanding tradition of offering a sumptuous Asian-influenced brunch, complete with trademark moon cakes, made in-house by our pastry chef, Hans Pirhofer.

This year, the Chinese Moon Festival Brunch in the Café Pacifica will include a wide range of delights with inspiring salads, a dim sum station, fresh sushi, cold seafood – salmon, snow crab and jumbo prawns, and, of course, our legendary dessert buffet.

Pan Moon Cakes

***Other Events***

5th Tomato Festival at Provence – Chef’s Tomato Menu

Provence Chefs/Proprietors Alessandra and Jean-Francis Quaglia have been giving the season’s wonderful tomatoes the highest note of praise through their creation of Chef’s Tomato Menu. “We are fortunate to have so many heirloom varieties available locally,” says Chef Jean-Francis. “There isn’t any flavour that says ‘summer’ more to me than tomato. The flavours are so intense and each variety is completely different from the other but all are equally wonderful.”

Jean-Francis & Alexandria team up with wholesome tomatoes

Provence Mediterranean Grill’s menu ($45) starts with Tomato Three Ways that includes chilled tomato ‘cappuccino,’ buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad and a Provençal tomato tartlette. Once you’ve polished that off, you must then decide between one of two main courses – how do you choose between Duck Breast Scaloppini or Pan-Seared Mediterranean Sea Bass Filet? Both come accompanied by smoked tomato and bacon marmalade, fiddleheads and sun-dried tomato gnocchi. For dessert, there is Candied Tomato Panna Cotta served with rhubarb honey and a pistachio tuile.

These amazing dishes, from salad to soup, cold and hot appetizers to even desserts, promise to wow your visions and palates. Chef’s Tomato Menu is now being offered at the two Provence Restaurants till Monday, September 22nd.

Provence Marinaside and The Wine Bar (water front @Davis, Yaletown Tel: 604-681-4144 ) and Provence Mediterranean Grill (W. 10. Tel: 604-222-1980)   http://www.provencevancouver.com

Chefs for Ocean

Join Chef Bell to celebrate his return from a successful journey across Canada, at the grand finale event  – a not-to-be-missed food event for a very important cause.

Chef Ned Bell preparing an Asian dishWhere: The Four Seasons Hotel on

When: Friday, September 12 from 6pm to 8pm.

Chef Bell has partnered with like-minded chefs across the country to host 20 sustainable seafood events from coast to coast, and the final event in Vancouver is no different.  Co-hosted with the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program and SeaChoice, Chef Ned will be joined by the following chefs for an evening of decadent seafood tastings, storytelling and celebrations.

  • · Rob Clark, The Fish Counter
  • · Quang Dang, West Restaurant
  • · Frank Pabst, Blue Water Café and Raw Bar
  • · Tim Bedford, Vancouver Aquarium
  • · Dino Renaerts, Bon Vivant Group
  • · James Coleridge, Bella Gelateria

Ticket prices are $40 with free admission for children aged 12 and under.  Event proceeds support the Chefs for Oceans journey and a portion of net funds will be donated to its’ three primary beneficiaries, Vancouver Aquarium’s ocean-friendly Ocean Wise ™ program, SeaChoice and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

To purchase tickets via Eventbrite: http://www.cfovancouver.eventbrite.com

Restaurant of the week:

Left Bank – Newest French Bistro on Denman

Stroll down for restaurant review…IMG_7413

 

A pot of comfort food

A claybpot of milky fish soup

Words & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

If you come into my kitchen, the first thing you’ll notice is a large clay pot.  As a matter of fact, the 15-quart drum-like clay pot is sitting on the stove top, loaded with simmering creamy chicken congee and emitting warm and ravishing aroma right now.  The congee, which takes about 2 hours to perfect, will be served with Chinese donut sticks, chopped green onion and cilantro, along with a platter of wok-fried pork and mushroom vermicelli for our family brunch today. Around the table the family will gather to indulge in a simple but healthy homey meal while sharing laughter and events of past week. This is a regular weekend scene in the Yuen’s household and, I am quite sure, in many other Asian households as well.crab & fish maw soup

The same pot is also used for making specialty soups made with certain herbs, vegetables and meat ingredients. Known as ‘Lo-For Tong’ (Long-boiled soup) that requires few hours of simmering, different ingredients are combined to provide different holistic needs human bodies require due to climatic changes and what life throws at us from time to time. Summer heat? Caught a bug?  Not sleeping well? Overworked? Feeling weak?  There is a pot of soup for that!      braised whole papaya soup

According to traditional Chinese medicinal studies, the well-being of our bodies rely largely on the well balance of energy and strong blood flow. A healthy yin and yang equation can be garnered by consuming the right food at the right time.  Our bodies need a break from heavy eating and senseless consumption of junk food, alcohol and other substances regularly. Chinese believe wholesome soups or congees not only induced healthy effects into the body, it also helps cleanse the internal system and replenish vital energy loss which often are the reasons behind immune deficiency.

Quite a few Chinese restaurants here in Vancouver are known for their gourmet Lo-For Tong as a lure to attract diners. Do not let the remedial functions of these soups stop you from trying; they are guaranteed to be more delicious than most of the soup broth you’ve tasted. Besides seafood, lean meats and soup bones, goji berries, dried longan nuts, honey dates, even papayas and pears play an important role in the pot of soup. So go ahead, take a sip!

For those who want to make a pot or two at home and have no clue what get or do, T&T Supermarket and other Asian super stores offer lo-for soup ingredients already packaged for you to take home. Go to the meat cooler section or ask a store clerk to show you.

 

 

Stephanie celebrates Lunar New Year on TV – Recipes

S. Yuen recipe dish - crispy vermicelliWords & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

Jan 28 (Tuesday) Global News Noon

Pan-fried vermicelli, shiitake mushroom & bean sprouts with Kalbi Sauce (Gold & silver noodle)

Recipe:

1 pkg 300 gms Taiwanese dried vermicelli

6 pcs T&T brand shiitake mushroom

8 oz. bean sprouts

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

¼ carrot, skinned and julienned

3 slices of ginger; leave skin on

2 cloves of garlic; crushed and remove skin

3 Tbsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinate Sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp sea salt

2 stalks green onions, into 2 inch julienne

Preparation:

-Soak vermicelli in cold water for at least 60 minutes, transfer to large drainer and let dry 10 minutes before cooking time.  Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cross cut the noodles a few times.

-Rinse mushroom well, hot water for at least 30 minutes or until softened

-Rinse bean sprouts and let dry in a drainer

Method:

Remove mushroom and squeeze off excess water, cut off stems and julienne. Keep 3 Tbsp of mushroom water and discard the rest.

Heat wok on high heat, add oil. Place ginger and garlic in oil, sizzle for 10 seconds, add mushroom, stir and cook for 2 minutes, add in bean sprouts and carrot. Stir and cook for another minute.

Add vermicelli, mix well. Add in all seasonings and mushroom water, stir and mix well. Cover and cook for 3 – 5 minutes. Add green onions. Ready to serve.

 

Jan 29 (Wednesday) CTV Morning – 8:40am

1/ Pan-fried Nian-gao (New Year cake) with shrimps and spinach, seasoned with Kalbi sauce.

Recipe:

2 cups of water

6 slices of ginger; leave skin on

8 oz. shelled shrimps

¼ tsp sea salt

4 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cloves of garlic; crushed and remove skin

1 pkg. 300 gm Nian-gao

3 Tbsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinate Sauce

1 tsp chili bean sauce

1 tsp oyster sauce

1 tsp sugar

8 oz. spinach, cut in halves

Method

Place 3 cups of water and 3 slices of ginger a small pot; bring to a full boil. Add shrimps and ¼ tsp sea salt. Cook for 30 seconds or when shrimps turn orange-red. Scoop shrimps into an icy bath. Drain and let dry when cold to the touch.

Heat oil in wok on high;  add remaining ginger and garlic, sizzle for few seconds. Add in Nian-gao. Stir and mix well, add in all seasonings. Stir and pan-fry for 2 minutes. Add in mushroom water, stir in spinach.  Mix and cook for another minute;  ready to serve.

2/ 10 mulit-grain rice pudding with coconut-milk (Sweet & harmony) garnished with  dried mango

Recipe:

Makes 4 bowls

½ cup T&T brand 10 multi-grain rice

1½ cup water

4 Tbsp brown sugar (more can be added as desired)

½ cup T&T brand coconut milk

4 slices T&T brand Philippine dried mango, thinly sliced.

Method:

Place rice in a medium stock pot, rinse 3 times and drained. Add 1½ cup water and bring to a boil on high, covered. Remove lid and stir the rice. Reduce heat to medium low, cook for 5 minutes, covered. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 – 8 minutes or until water is almost all gone. Add sugar and coconut milk, mix well. Cover and simmer for 1 minute. Scoop into 4 even bowls; add mango slices on top, ready to serve.

Jan 30 (Thursday)  CTV Noon News

Dish: Dumplings with Kalbi dipping sauce (Pan-fried or steamed)

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 pkg Frozen Chinese dumplings (your choice of stuffing) – keep frozen until cooking time

½ cup water

Method:

Place wok or pan on high heat. Add oil. Place dumplings in wok; bottoms down. When all dumplings are  in; cook for another 30 seconds. Empty water into wok, cover and cook for 4 – 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium, cook for another 2 minutes. Check for doneness by poking a sharp knife into a dumpling, if juice comes out clear, turn off heat. Serve with dipping sauce.

Veg dumpling

Kalbi Dipping Sauce Recipe (This can be cooked ahead of time)

¼ cup T&T Korean Kalbi Marinate sauce

2 Tbsp Chinese dark vinegar

1 tsp garlic chili bean sauce (optional)

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp chopped ginger

Place all ingredients in a small pot, bring to a boil and serve in a bowl.

 

Jan 31 (Friday) The Rush on Shaw TV

Broiled dumplings in T&T brand chicken stock, seasoned with Kalbi sauce, garnished with julienned T&T brand shiitake mushroom, chopped green onion & cilantro.

Recipe: Serves 2

6 cups of water for boiling the dumplings

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 pkg T&T brand dumplings

1 can T&T brand chicken stock

½ cup water

3 pcs T&T brand Shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, stem removed and julienned, keep mushroom water.

1 stalk green onions, chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro  

1 tsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinade Sauce

Salt & white ground pepper to taste

Method:

Add 6 cups of water to a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Add oil. Place dumplings in the pot, cover and cook on high heat and bring to a boil. Remove lid and cook for another 5 – 8 minutes or until they are cooked through.

While waiting for the dumplings to be cooked, put chicken stock, ½ cup of water,  mushroom and mushroom water into a pot, bring to a boil on high, reduce to simmer.

When dumplings are ready; scoop 10 each into 2 large bowls. Distribute green onion, cilantro and Kalbi sauce evenly into each bowl. Using a slotted ladle, transfer dumplings into the bowls.  Bring soup to a light boil on high, ladle into the bowl and serve.

 

A Chinese New Year Feast prepared by T&T

IMG_6042

Words & pix: Stephanie Yuen (http://taiyangbao.ca/food/311675/?variant=zh-hans )

Want to find out what the Imperial Emperor’s Chinese New Year dinners were like? No need to go to China, just head to T&T!

T&T has been doing a fine job when it comes to celebrating Asian festivals, especially Chinese New Year, which is just around the corner – Jan 31! As the Year of the Horse approaches, what greets you at T&T is a sea of red and gold.  Aisles lined with arrays of New Year goodies attract extra flows of traffics, even my non-Chinese friends are drawn in by that robust and joyous atmosphere.

IMG_6045Fares of all kinds: Savouries, sweets, nuts and seeds, ready to be popped into eager mouths; all bears auspicious meanings to render positive energies to this significant celebration. Their take-out Chinese New Year dishes are so well-received; the kitchen team at T&T has been working hard to come up with a more engaging menu.   Hence this year, the most eye-catching display is awarded to Imperial Chinese New Year dishes; designed and prepared by Chef Ge Fen, T&T’s very own culinary master leading their central kitchen. He delivers not only the divine flavours enjoyed by the emperor and his royal family, but the authenticity and blessings of traditional Chinese New Year gourmet!IMG_6037

In the large clay pot is layers of delicacies including abalone, sea cucumber and large shiitake mushrooms. Over there is a tea-smoked Fraser Valley goose, accompanied by fluffy buns.  Behind the goose is a poached to perfection whole chicken, complete with head, tail and a red sash for extra good luck.  The double-cooked and slow-steamed Pork Belly with fresh bamboo shoots glitter with shiny and seductive colour. In the other pot is the famous and very healthy herb and ginseng chicken soup which I tried and loved.  I also tasted the pot of Japanese meets Taiwanese pot of sticky rice topped with grilled eel.  And of course, everyone must have a little, no matter how full – the traditional round and steamed New Year cake for dessert.IMG_6040

Do not just adore the big and obvious platters; do take a look at the fine details Chef Ge attends to. What about the cone-shaped fluffy steamed buns? Those who’ve enjoyed the hot to the touch 6” steamed ‘Long John’ style white buns consist of soft strands known as “yin-zhee-juen” in Mandarin restaurants will find themselves biting into the same delectation – cushion- soft, silky, aromatic and reach-for-the-second buns.

All these imperial dishes are yours to take home, complete with re-heating instruction, so you can stay at home to enjoy a gourmet multi-course Chinese New Year dinner with your loved ones, but without the hassle of chopping and cooking!  Do phone in ahead to order so T&T can prepare them accordingly.

Happy ‘Year of the Horse’ to you all!

Tea with Dad

 

TeapotsWords: Stephanie Yuen

We lived in a government housing estate near the old Kai-Tek airport where we would go anywhere within 20 kilometer radius of home on foot. My dad used to walk us to the park to throw basketball, to the dock side to watch ferries rolled in and to catch half-priced matinees in the Kowloon-Seng district. Having a dad who’s a teacher gave us plenty of outdoor activities together. As the daughter who showed immense interest in anything edible even at a young age, Dad had endowed me with special trips to home kitchens, snack joints and this hold-in-the-wall tea shop his friend Uncle Wong owned. As much as I enjoyed family playtime, the recollection of those tea shop visits were endeared moments that belonged to just Dad and I.  The tea sets, tea stories and the many shades of gold and green colour teas in those tiny tea cups casted the fondest childhood memories.

The tea shop, whose name I never registered, located in Kowloon-jai, the ghetto adults warned their kids about. It housed many strange shops, legal or not, and was the source of many nightmares and crime stories. To be able to go inside was an adventure; to walk through the winding alleys, my little hand in Dad’s big, warm palm, was simply fascinating.

The 5’ by 8’ tea shop, dark and shabby and looked every bit like a closed-in patio, occupied the front portion of a ground-floor suite in an old building. We had to step over a narrow ditch running along the alley-side in order to get in.

The soft-spoken Uncle Wong, upon seeing us, would grin and stand up from a bamboo stool, and fetched another stool for Dad to sit on. Since there’s no more space to put in another stool, and no more stool in fact, I stood and observed. As a kid growing up watching my father perfecting the pleasure of drinking tea; and later on as a teenager learning how to brew and sip different kinds of tea, there was this one tea shop occasion that planted my love of Pu Erh Tea, which I treasure dearly to this day.

While chitchatting with Dad, Uncle Wong started to maneuver around while busy with his two hands. Like magic, he pulled up a beautiful old wooden tray in which a 4” dark colour tea cake in a piece of thick yellow silk wrap, a set of Zhi-za teapot including a bowl and six cups laid. Reflecting a nostalgic glow under the 20 watt light bulb, the brownish-purple tea set was as delicate and adorable as a set of fancy toy we could never afford. Uncle picked up the tea cake and with the help of a teeny wooden hammer, broke off a corner and dropped it into the teapot.

Somehow in the tight corner to the left of the narrow counter, a small kettle started to breathe out hot air. He turned off the single kerosene stove, removed the kettle and poured hot water into the teapot which was then emptied onto the cups. After rinsing and warming up the cups with the tea, he dumped every drop from the cups into the bowl.  He filled the pot with hot water once again and then picked up the teapot and distributed into each cup ¾ full of the greenish-brown tea. Without waiting for the invitation, Dad picked up one cup, drank it empty; and the second cup, then the third. “Ahh…” he signed, putting the empty cup back onto the tray. Sitting next to him, Uncle Wong did the very same thing. This they repeated five or six times. The colour of the tea was getting darker and darker but gradually lightened up.   藍標宋~1 

“Wow, such good tea!” They said in unity.

“You still have a few left?” Dad asked, pointing to the cake.

“May be four or five,” Uncle answered. “I left one for you!”

“Thank you!” Dad said with a smile, and to my surprise, handed the cup of tea, now almost dark as ink, to me. “Take a sip!” he told me. And I eagerly obliged.

“What is this?” I took a small sip and started feeling the indescribable sensation that attacked my tongue and side. red label puerh photo[1]

“You find it bitter?” Dad asked.

“Just a bit, but it’s now getting sweeter!” I took another sip, and another.

“This is one of the best old Pu-er tea cakes Uncle keeps.”

“How old?”

“Oh, may be 50 year-old. That’s why it’s so smooth and delicate. It’s very good for you!” said Uncle Wong, as he brought the cake closer to my nose, he added, “Smells very good too!” Absolutely unprepared, I smelled nothing, but the tea certainly was flavourful.

“It’s OK.” Said Dad gently, turning to Wong, he continued, “this should help settle my upset stomach, too much oily stuff in the last couple days!.”

“You bet!” Wong replied, filling the cups with another round of hot tea.

Their conversation with the 9-year old on that day may be short but the arc-shape, firm Pu-er teacake and the dark-brown cups of tea stirred up my interest in Chinese tea to no end. The more I learn about Chinese Tea culture, the stronger my love of tea.

Years later in Vancouver, I met up with Eliza Lam of Aroma Tea House on Granville (at W. 65th) who shared her immense tea knowledge with readers of a magazine I was editing for. I had the pleasure of meeting her Dad Mr. Lam, a tea master who owned one of the major tea shops in Hong Kong over a pot of Jasmine blossom tea he picked out and brewed for me. We talked about all aspects of tea culture and the different kinds of Chinese Tea, from white tea to herbal tea; for drinking pleasure and for healthy life style; from tea sets to tea ceremonies. With a display of different shapes and sizes of Pu-er teacakes, he explained to me the history and folklores behind Pu-er tea and the significance of the teacakes. The tea dialogue with Mr. Lam that afternoon opened another door that led me into the ancient tea wonderland. Thanks to Mr. Lam and Eliza, the taste of every cup of tea, expecially Pu-erh has never been the same!          

Mr. Lam brewing tea (HK)

 Special notes on Pu-erh tea cakes: Eliza told me real Pu-erh tea cakes of 50 years or older are now rare commodities. Anyone who has such tea cakes lying around in the storage room or hidden in trunks but has no desire of ever drinking them, dig them out and send them to Aroma Tea House for verification and if the price is right, sell them! Drop by Aroma Tea House or call Eliza at 604-266-7738 to find out details.

Chili Oil Supremacy – XO Sauce

Stephanie Yuen

My sister gave me a jar of home-made XO sauce she brought back from Hong Kong which we opened and consumed spoonfuls right away with my wok-fried vermicelli. What a mean jar of flavourful hot chili oil this Hong Kong friend of hers made!

When eating out Cantonese these days, don’t be surprised to see a charge of $3 or more added on to the bill for the XO sauce you asked for. There are exceptions of course, but you have to either be a regular customer, a VIP, a friend of the manager, the chef or the boss. 

A few fine dining restaurants do offer complimentary XO sauce but only at dinner time for obvious reason – to flatter you the paying customers who in fact are already paying for it indirectly without knowing so!

Some Chinese restaurants here are selling house-made XO sauce for around $15 to $20 per 250-300 gram jars.  Price tags on imported ones, available at Asian markets, are $10 to $25 each depending on the size, the producer and what ingredients are used. 

What is XO sauce? Why so expensive? 

XO Sauce

The name ‘XO’ is in fact a term borrowed from the same cognac label referring to the luxurious extra old age brandy.  This symbol of exquisite quality best defines the superbly prepared XO sauce filled with fine ingredients such as dried shrimp, dried scallop, cured ham and even abalone, the very same reason why it is regarded by as the supreme chili oil!

XO sauce’s rich flavour and versatility makes it the most sought after condiment in Cantonese restaurants. Quite often, it is the only sauce customers ask for and may have perhaps replaced other sauces including chili paste and mustard.  The demand and supply rule certainly applies here, all those fine ingredients do not come cheap! The time, labour and particular skill, plus the chef’s very own secret touch… all combine to put XO sauce in the gourmet category.  If there is such a sauce that compliments 90% of the food on Chinese and even other ethnic dinner tables, say with stews, meatloaf, pulled pork, pasta with tomato sauce, baked short ribs and roasted chicken, it’s got to be XO Sauce.  

XO sauce debuted in the 80’s as a marketing idea; a delicious lure created by top-ranked Cantonese chefs in Hong Kong.  In order to stay ahead in a fiercely competitive market, chefs have to constantly come up with new culinary concepts to please the diners.  Like food trends, majority of those concepts come and go, but XO sauce catches on and manages to stay forever.  “It is all about the ingredients, the colour and flavour that promise to sensationalize your palates.” Executive Chef Gordon Chan whose XO sauce calls for pre-ordering well in advance stated, “Good XO sauce with the right heat, is absolutely addictive!”

It took a few years before XO sauce came to Vancouver but soon after landing, it gained huge popularity.  Nowadays, chefs of most fine-dining Chinese seafood and dimsum restaurants are expected to come up with their own XO sauce to stay in the race and to keep customers happy.

The all-purpose chili oilChinese restaurants offering awesome XO sauce:

1/ Sun Sui Wah Restaurant (Richmond & Vancouver)

2/Empress Seafood Restaurant (Richmond)

3/ Hon’s Wunton House (Available in jars)

4/ Gingeri (Richmond)

5/ Rain Flower (Richmond)

6/ Red Star (Richmond & Vancouver)