Friday, January 14, 2011

Getting Married

Sorry about the lack of blog postings.  I am getting married!!  I promise to post more soon!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Iki Mandala Bistro

There are two Iki in the Kits area: The main one, Iki Japanese Bistro is near Broadway and the other one, Mandala Iki Asian Bistro is on 4th Ave. Unlike the stereotypical sushi houses, Iki offers more diverse menus, authentic dishes, and unique (and daring) creations. They were also one of the pioneering restaurants offering brown rices for their sushi.

Seaweed Salad
Mandala is the little sister of the Japanese one. It is not my favourite, but that's just a personal preference. Instead of specializing in one cuisine, Mandala does the opposite by offering a little bit of everything from every Asian cuisine: Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese. (The menu is not the same!) Do they make all these dishes well? No, they are average or above average, catering to Western palettes.

Veggy Pho
You might be inclined to think that their menu needs a Restaurant Makeover, but I actually enjoy bring wble to have a bowl of healthy pho while Dennis have his sushi rolls.  Their pho is not super oily, salt, and full of MSG, and they even cook the bean sprouts before serving it.  You will find it slightly under flavoured compared to the standard pho.

Like other Iki, this one is understaffed too.  Sometimes, there are only one dude serving the lunch rush, but they still manage to keep the service and the quality of the food pretty consistent.  He just has difficulty checking up on everyone regularly.   However, once I got a hair in my food, and it was not reimbursed.

Mandala IKI Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Iki Japanese Bistro

There are two Iki in the Kits area: The main one, Iki Japanese Bistro is near Broadway and the other one, Mandala Iki Asian Bistro is on 4th Ave. Unlike the stereotypical sushi houses, Iki offers more diverse menus, authentic dishes, and unique (and daring) creations. They were also one of the pioneering restaurants offering brown rices for their sushi.

Volcano Roll
Iki Japanese Bistro on Broadway specializes in Japanese cuisine and creating unique dishes.

Iki's sushi rolls are noticeably better crafted than Mandala Iki or other average sushi restaurants. The rolls are compact, perfectly cut, and come with beautiful designs. The quality is always good and consistent. The specialty rolls such as, Spinach and Feta Roll, are pretty expensive ($7), but they were all thoughtfully out together. Especially try their Volcano Rolls which come with yam tempura fries and spiced miso sauce.

Edamame Hummus
If you are looking for something more healthy and calories conscious, Iki's also offers lots of delicious and affordable options on their daily menu such as the Power Sushi Bowl which has edamame, avocado, seaweed salad, cucumbers and other greens on a bed of brown rice for $9. My favourite is the Seared tuna, Salmon, Cashew with Chili Salad. It comes with tons of season greens and is full of flavour, fitting right into any low carb or gluten free diet.

If you are simply looking for bargain bento box deal, they have that too. The veggie box is especially delicious; they grill the tofu just right.  Their lunch special is $9 while the dinner is $12.

Do not go here when you are in a rush.  They are constantly understaffed, and it may take a while for you to get your orders.  However, the lounge music, dark wood, leather seats make it pretty ideal for a long romantic date with style and within budget.

Dennis and I regularly visits this restaurant for their salads.  You might run into us.

Iki Japanese Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Turmeric Fused Olive Oil

The oil drizzle on the plate is a combination of paprika and turmeric infused olive oil
You can use this method to make flavoured olive oil from just about any spices such as paprika, curry powder, even chilli pepper. Then, use it to season food into that flavour.  For example, you can make turmeric flavoured roasted potato.  If you had added turmeric powder directly to the potato, the spicy can be grainy, smoky, and burnt.  With turmeric infused into the olive oil, the spice is incorporated into the food.
Here is a few ideas for applications:
- curry infused oil with pasta or rice
- salty chilli oil on steam chicken
- red paprika drizzle on cream soup.

1. In a small pan or pot, place 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder and 2 cups of olive oil
2. On the lowest heat seating, warm the olive oil for 20 minutes.
3. Place 2-3 coffee filter inside a strainer, and place it over a bowl (large enough to support the strainer).
4. Pour the oil into the coffee filter.
5.  The left over grinds can be recycled back into cooking as regular spices.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Frying Pan 101: Good Non-stick Options

Part 2: Basic Metals
Part 3: Teflon

Sarah, a representative of DuPont, has commented on the previous Frying Pan 101 post with information regarding PFOA, a cancer causing chemical emitted from when Teflon is overheated.  According to Consumer Report, the amount of PFOA emitted from the pan, in proper use at 400F, does not contribute much to your total PFOA exposure.  Various products such as waterproof fabrics and electronic part also releases PFOA. Nevertheless, extra precaution and care are still necessary when using Teflon non-stick cookware: always use ventilation, don't put empty pans over high heat, discard pans that has been scratched or started flaking.

There are two non-stick options (that I am aware of) that are completely free of PFOA and PTFE and are environmentally sound.

Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 9-Inch Skillet with Iron Handle, RedEnamel Cast-Iron Skillet has enamel exterior and on the cooking surface. Enamel is a type of fused glass which is non-reactive, while the cast iron inside offers great heat retention. This would be the perfect frying pan for cooking up a thick piece of steak.  The pan will not cool down when the steak first meet the surface, so it would brown evenly and perfectly. Enamel is non-reactive on the ion level, so food actually tasted better and the cookware won't have the left over food smell from the last use. This pan is also more durable than aluminum or copper, and it is safe in dishwasher and oven friendly. Because of it's (light) weight, enamel is especially ideal for water-based cooking and camping. However, because enamel is a type of glass. It can be prone to chipping and cracking. For example, a low quality enamel pot may crack, when you shock it with cold water after cooking. The glass will end up in your food and the rust from the steel will end up in your body. Also, low quality enamel may contain cadmium, which is harmful for your body (this is illegal in Canada, but not regulated in places like China). I would recommend Le Cresuset and Chantal offers high quality ones with lifetime warranties on their enameled cookware.

The Green Pan:
GreenPan Stockholm Skillet - 8" - Non-stickThis is the new kid on the block.  Green pan is an aluminum based pan with ceramic exterior.  It is completely free of PFOA and PTFE, and its manufacturing process emits 50% less carbon dioxide.  Aluminum has better thermal conductivity than a cast iron skillet, meaning it heats up faster. The non-stick quality of the green pan is so good that you can cook an egg on this pan without any oil, making it perfect for any low fat diet.  It endure higher heat than Teflon pans, but it is not dishwasher safe.  Teflon is a form of plastic/silicon and is actually a heat inhibitor.  This is why it is recommended that people not fry or sear meat on Teflon pan. On the other hand, the green pan conducts heat super well and is oven friendly. I am not entirely sure about the differences between the different brands of the green pan, but look for Green Pan: The Original.

I would recommend having one of both pans.  A larger size enamel cast iron would cook larger cooking projects and/or large quantity of food evenly and consistently.  Then a smaller green pan for for smaller portion and lighter foods such as omelets and fish fillets.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Brown's Social House

In this season of social outings, it's comforting to know there is a healthy port in the storm of unhealthy casual dining. Browns Social House offers a delicious low calorie, protein packed dinner option outside of the usual salad. Their "Healthy Social Bowls" featuring either blackened chicken, halibut or Tahitian tuna come with almond rice and a salad featuring walnuts, dates corn and soybeans. To make your meal less then 500 calories, amazing braised red cabbage with goat cheese is substituted for the rice to make the meal a "spa bowl".

I had the tuna and felt the dish was satisfyingly flavorful, light but very filling. Leaving room for a glass of 4$ Social white wine to complete a delicious meal. Steer the crew in the direction of Browns on a night out and keep your healthy eating happily on track!

The Brown's Point Grey Location is a test kitchen for the other 7 social houses.   They offers slightly different menu than the rest.  While the consistency of the food is a wonky, the service is very good and they are more than happy to hear your comments about the restaurant and your food.

All of them are sports bars with above average price menu.  Like Christina said, they offer a lot of healthy options and as well as unhealthy bar food.  They also offer delicious brunch in the day time.

Browns Social House (Kitsilano) on Urbanspoon

Browns Social House (Point Grey) on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 3, 2011

Taiwan: Fast Food

This is why KFC cannot compete.
At Ji Guang Fried Chicken, you could get a combo of ribs, steam veggie, stew seaweed, cream of corn soup, salad, a bowl of rice, and a bubble tea - all beautifully plated on real plate wares for $6 CND.

I was invited to eat (for free!) at this fried chicken franchise.  This supposedly fast food fried chicken joint has gorgeously interior design with chandelier and comfortable leather.

Next is Asir, another fast food chain (not franchise) with gorgeous interior design and discount gourmet fast food, situated within the Taichung city night market right next to the university.  The service was impeccable and the wonderful staffs were high spirited, personable, and very humorous.  The owner came to give as a two hour speech about his road from rag to rich, his amazingly delicious healthy food that did not contain any MSG or similar flavour enhancer, and the beauty of having a central kitchen.  If you happen to visit Taichung, definitely visit this place.

This is the menu and also the order sheet.  Fill it up and order it through the staff or pay for it directly at the cashier.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Real Thailand Restaurant

Vancouver doesn't have much in terms of delicious authentic Thai food.  In fact, Dennis grew up thinking Thai food is the atrocious peanut-oil-on-everything and refuse to eat at Thai restaurants until age 27, when we were living in London Ontario. Bangkok Pad Thai Restaurant changed his life forever.  If you happened to visit London Ontario, it's worth checking out, along with Black Trumpet.

Anyway, Real Thailand Restaurant was in walking distance from our friend's house in Annex.  It was, well, an average Thai restaurant in Ontario standard, since good Thai food could be found in any medium size or bigger Ontario city.   However, it was way better than anything Vancouver has to offer.

Duck Curry
They had a wide range of dishes for every palate and three spice levels (well, maybe not spicy enough for the hardcore Thai food enthusiast).  Their Pad Thai was done correctly with perfectly cooked rice noodles, served with egg, tofu, peanut, chicken, tiger shrimp, lemon juice and bean sprouts - not ketchup.  Awesome!

My favourite was the duck in red curry with lychee, bamboo shoot, and grape tomato.  I was not entirely sure if this was an authentic dish, but I was definitely impressed that the restaurant was daring enough to use exotic ingredients.  I grew up with lychee and bamboo shoots and I loved them, but I know plenty of people who might prefer not to having these in a curry.  In my opinion, this curry had complex flavours with the perfect balance of sweetness, spiciness, and smokiness and different contrasting textures.  It was flavour country!

If you live in Annex, this restaurant is definitely worth checking out.  For less than 20 dollars, I promised you would leave stuffed full and happy.

Real Thailand on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy new year my beloved readers! Thank you for putting up with me for the last 14 months. I have learned a lot about cooking, wine, and blogging, and new year resolution is to get better at all three!

I hope to also put up more video in the future, cook through a cook book or two, and hold a coulee contest involving rewards. Maybe make a logo and some business card!

What would you like to me to blog about? Something new or more of a particular subject? What can I improve on?

Thank you so much for reading!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad