April 20th, 2013. Chilled Minty Sesame Soba Noodles with Soy-Wasbi Dressing

minty sesasme soba noodles

minty sesasme soba noodles

Don was having a potluck and karaoke birthday get-together at his place and of course my immediate thought was “what can I bring on a budget?!”  I also had to factor in the fact that I’d be working all day and would have very limited time to actually cook anything if I wanted to get to his place on time.

I looked in my fridge and staring back at me was this almost whole bunch of mint that I seriously didn’t want to waste. “Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!”, I thought, cold soba!  I’d been having a craving for something like this anyways and Don’s birthday potluck was a perfect excuse to try my hand at something new 🙂
minty sesasme soba noodles

minty sesasme soba noodles


Although I did end up going out and buying most of my ingredients for this dish it was actually very affordable to procure all I needed.  So I went out and got some grated lemongrass, cucumber, asian white radish, tobiko and wasabi and started developing the dish.

I actually made my own pickeld vegetables! And even bought a mandoline slicer just for this occassion!  I hoped the dish would be a hit just on this fact alone.  Hey, I went out and bought a kitchen appliance just to make this dish. You better all like it!  I made a pickling liquid out of vinegar, salt, sugar and grated lemongrass.  Then I dunked the julienned radish and cucumber and left it in the fridge overnight tasting every few hours to see how much the veg had soaked up the juices.  I wanted it to be crisp, but packing lots of flavor.
minty sesasme soba noodles

minty sesasme soba noodles


After cooking the noodles and putting them in an ice bath I drained them and then coated them with a little sesame oil, salt and pepper.  I then mixed in the pickled veg and mint and even used some of the pickling liquid to keep the noodles nice and moist.

I rolled the noodles into “balls of yarn” slightly smaller than the size of my fist and sprinkled with tobiko for that “POP” and then dusted it with ground sesame seeds.
minty sesasme soba noodles

minty sesasme soba noodles


The dressing I made with soy, wasabi, grated lemongrass and some sugar and took it on the side so guests could add to their preference level of spiciness.

You know what? I impressed myself!  The dish was simply aromatic with a juxtaposition of sweet, savory, minty and tart.  It even had umami making me crave more after my first taste!  Mmmmmm~~~ this was a success in my books and I think everyone at the party enjoyed it as well!  Yay, me!!!!
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Pearl Hot Pot (Burnaby)

February 14, 2014

March 11th, 2013. Sister Date Day~

pearl hot pot

pearl hot pot

 

 

 

Eunice suggested a sister date of hot pot and a movie.  How could I resist?  What a wonderful idea!  She recommended a place she’s been to in Burnaby called Pearl Hot Pot.

pearl hot pot

pearl hot pot

 

 

 

Usually hot pot is a communal food activity, but in this case they bring out individual pots per person and you can choose your own hot pot type.  There are base “combos” dependant on the protein that include veggies and choice of noodles and each combo comes with a soft drink and dessert, too!

pearl hot pot

pearl hot pot

 

 

Dim sum meets hot pot; you choose off the menu which base hot pot you want and then you have the option of checking off on your menu sheet any additional items your’d like to add on such as vegetable, seafood, or meat items.

pearl hot pot

pearl hot pot

 

 

It is fun to eat as a group out of a big pot, but I felt that the individual is a nice way to go as well especially if you want different things or if you come by yourself.  Also, it comes with a raw egg, which I love!  I’m egg poacher 😉  I like to drop it in gently and swirl the egg whites but keep the yolk intact and give it a slow poach so it cooks through!

pearl hot pot

pearl hot pot

I think the ingredients are not bad (just not great), the fish balls can be kind of a miss as you can see from the gray-ish color it is in the photo….but the meat and seafood are fine, the veggies are firm, and the broth is decently flavored, so I would say that overall it’s okay 😀  As always, hot pot is just super fun to eat and hot soup and dipping things in it is always yummy and interactive!

 

May 21st, 2012. Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Spritzer

homemade strawberry lemonade spritzer

homemade strawberry lemonade spritzer

 

 

 

 

 

So, not only did Rachel heap me with Asian goodies the other day, she also bought me a case of farmers’ market strawberries!  Now, I knew there’d be no way I could finish the whole batch by just eating it straight, so I started to think about how I could make the most out of them before they start developing any kind of natural growth…

homemade strawberry lemonade spritzer

homemade strawberry lemonade spritzer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter, $20 hand-held blender from Superstore!!  I’d been wanting some sort of device that would help me in the kitchen with puree-ing, blending and mixing.  Happened to see these at the store and thought, “Hey, this would work perfectly!”  It’s easily portable,doesn’t take up much counter space, easy to store and super duper handy!

homemade strawberry lemonade spritzer

homemade strawberry lemonade spritzer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To amp up this juice I decided to use organic lemonade and grapefruit soda and agave syrup.  Tartness from the citrus notes, sweet from the sugars and agave to bring out and enhance the natural flavors of the strawberries!

homemade strawberry lemonade spritzer

homemade strawberry lemonade spritzer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to say…I was pleasantly impressed by how well the blender worked!  It did a great job of blending the strawberry chunks, it has 2 speeds so you can use the slower one get the initial cutting happening and then the faster speed for a finer blend.

homemade strawberry lemonade spritzer

homemade strawberry lemonade spritzer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, refreshing, fruity, lightly fizzy and delicious!!

Axum Ethiopian Restaurant

February 17, 2013

April 20th, 2012. Axum Ethiopian Restaurant

axum ethiopian restaurant

axum ethiopian restaurant

 

After a fun but loooong business trip what’s a good way to get back into the groove of things at home?  Why a group dinner!  I’d been wanting to try either Ethiopian or Afghan food for the longest time now and with my best bud Brent visiting from California  was successful in getting together a pretty good group for dinner!

axum ethiopian restaurant

axum ethiopian restaurant

 

 

 

I literally drive by this place ALL THE TIME whenever I’m driving into downtown Vancouver.  I’d always thought it was interesting..but I was sketched out by the location.  However, after some research on Yelp it turns out that this is THE PLACE to go for Ethiopian food.  Can’t hurt to give it a try!

axum ethiopian restaurant

axum ethiopian restaurant

 

The interior is much cleaner than you’d think from looking at the exterior…and the wait staff is actually very warm and friendly.  You get the feeling that it’s a true family run restaurant.  They even started to set up for some down-home live performing at the front of the house!  Entertainment courtesy of your favorite Ethiopian uncle 😉

axum ethiopian restaurant

axum ethiopian restaurant

 

 

I had done some research prior to dinner and had looked up some of the recommended dishes, but seeing as no one in our group really had any idea wwhat we were getting into the server was very kind in explaining things to us and giving suggestions.

axum ethiopian restaurant

axum ethiopian restaurant

 

 

 

 

First things first; the Injera!  Because there are no utensils in Ethiopian cuisine we were coached that the injera is our utensil.  The injera itself is slightly sour and spongy.  It’s got a slight tang and springy in texture.  Very different from other breads.

axum ethiopian restaurant

axum ethiopian restaurant

 

 

 

The different foods that we ordered will be piled onto the big injera on the main plate and then we take the rolled ones, unroll them and use it to pick up the different items and sop up the saucs with it.  Good thing no one in my group had any reservations about eating with their hands!

axum ethiopian restaurant

axum ethiopian restaurant

 

We chose a few items so we could try a bit of everything.  We opted for the vegetarian combo which consists of all 4 vegetarian options, Gomen (the green stuff) is spinach simmered in mild sauce seasoned with spices and herbs, the yellow puree next to that is the Kik Alicha (stewed yellow split peas), in the middle is the Miser Wot (split lentils simmered in spicy sauce) and in the far right we have the Tikil Gomen (cabbage, carrot and potatoes simmered in mild sauce).  Good flavors, plenty of sauce…not too shabby 🙂

axum ethiopian restaurant

axum ethiopian restaurant

 

 

In the far back is the Dora Tibs, chicken breast marinated & sauteed onion, garlic, jalapeno, fresh tomato and spices (we got ours spicy).  In the very front is the Lega Tibs, boneless leg of lamb prepared basically the same as the dora tibs except mild.  Tender meat and good flavors 🙂

axum ethiopian restaurant

axum ethiopian restaurant

 

 

The Gored Gored is this authentic and unique dish of lean beef chunks warmed in spiced butter served raw with homemade cheese on top.  I mean…this dish could be extremely weird…or very awesome…..couldn’t decide whether to order this or not, but  Winston’s enthusiastic insistance pushed the vote to a “yes”.  I will say…I tried it, I found it to be weird…but Winston loved it and at least I can say that I gave it the good ol’ college try!

 

We had such a fun time!!!  Everyone was so fun about the dinner, and despite
being such a hodge-podge group everyone was quick to make friends.  Another
successful dinner!!

November 20th, 2011. Hello Vietnam~~~

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

   After a few activities on Unicorn Island, a canal boat ride and another boat ride we arrived at Coconut Candy Island and……….lunch!! Over looking the Mekong River, this little place specializes in the local delicacy…Fried Elephant Ear Fish! Caught straight from the murky waters of the Mekong. Well…when in Rome…..!

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

  So, this wonderful spread was waiting for us as we arrived. The Elephant Fish in the middle and on each of our plates and pancake. Time to dig in!!

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

We each had these Pancakes in front of us to start with.  Nice and fluffy, light and thin 🙂

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So our lunch attendant picked the fish apart and with the flesh, some veggies and some rice noodles wrapped it all up in a rice wrap and handed one to each of us.

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

How great does this look!  Wrapped right in front of our eyes~~!

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We dipped this Elephant Ear Rice Wrap in the individual peanut sauces in front of each of us and let the freshness just burst in our mouths!

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Shrimp yumminess!  Again, these were hand-peeled for us.  Tender, flavorful, and just so clean.

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

This very interesting puffed up Sticky Rice Donut!  Our server cut it up into pieces, and advised us to eat it with fresh basil.

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sticky, crispy, sweet, fresh, delicious!!

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some greens.  Nicely cooked, tender and vibrant.

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously a lot of Korean tourists must come by because the locals try to cater to a Korean sensibility when they see Koreans.  This was their version of Korean Kimchi Jjigae served in a flaming bowl.

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gotta wash it down with some good ol’ Coca Cola 😉  Great way to polish off a great meal!  Sure, we were all super full, but somehow it didn’t feel uncomfortable or heavy.  Just this nice, satisfying feeling 🙂

January 16th, 2010. Birthday Dinner at Basta Pasta!!

basta pasta

basta pasta

So for my birthday aunt and uncle invited me out to Basta Pasta for dinner. Now this isn’t your average pasta place. It’s a Japanese pasta place! Sure enough, at a cursory glance the menu looks Italian but upon closer inspection there are some small twists and delightful surprises! For a place that’s been open for over 20 years in the city you know it’s gotta be better than good!

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

The bread!  Served with a healthy helping of fragrant olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a starter we got the Gnocchi di Zucca.  Wonderfully fluffy and light pumpkin gnocchi in a beautiful lemony sage cream sauce. Heaven!  Everyone at the table was impressed and we couldn’t stop eating it!

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

 

Asparagi Gratinati: yes..asparagus pops up everywhere.  Come on, folks, you know how I feel about this particular vegetable.

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appetizer #3 is the Cartoccio di Funghi Misti: 3 kinds of mushrooms baked inside sealed cooking paper with thyme, garlic and herb infused olive oil.

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

The waiter punctured and opened up the package before our very eyes and then drizzled it with this herb infused oil, which really brought out the flavors of the mushrooms. Aunt and Uncle LOVED it!

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The discussion at the table quickly turned to shop talk: Exactly what kind of paper is this? Is it do-able at Hangawi? What could we use? Hahaha!

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

 

SPAGHETTI CON PROSCIUTTO E PARMIGIANO: Spaghetti with Parmigiano Reggiano & Parma Prosciutto, served in a half wheel of Parmesan cheese at the table.
(This was for the table next to ours. I would have ordered it as my meal..but I was moonlighting as a vegetarian this night…sad!)

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

PAPPARDELLE ALLA SICILIANA: Homemade pappardelle with eggplant, basil & fresh tomatoes in tapenade. Aunt ordered this dish. If you want a pasta dish that is light, this is the one!

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

Uncle and Cousin Mark both went for the vegetarian version of the SPAGHETTI CON MOZZARELLA, POMODORI E FUNGHI: Spaghetti with shiitake mushrooms & basil in fresh tomato sauce.

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

CRESPELLE CON FUNGHI E RICOTTA: Homemade silk handkerchief pasta with mixed mushrooms, lemon zest & ricotta cheese.

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know, I know, what am I doing with ordering a mushroom dish??!!  I just felt it was the safest bet in terms of vegetarian option as well as being easy to eat and was counting on it not being too carby so I could finish most of it. I was right. And the mushrooms were surprisingly good, too!

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I even got a surprise birthday dessert and song with a ukulele! Thanks, Aunt & Uncle~~ ♥

basta pasta

basta pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, to sum up the dinner?  I can definitely see how this establishment has been able to sustain their business for so long.  The food seems simple but each component is so well done.  From the fresh made pasta, to the ingredients, everything is just so clean.  And the whole vegetarian aspect?  Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.  I actually had a very satisfying meal and enjoyed how fresh everything tasted!

Franchia Vegan Cafe

October 9, 2011

January 8th, 2011.  Starting a New Life in NYC

franchia vegan cafe

franchia vegan cafe

 

 

 

 

Day 2 of NYC Life: I had an early morning getting into Midtown for a job interview with a successful Korean restauranteur.  The “interview” stretched out a lot longer than I expected as I was given a task as a sort of test.  As this was going on I realized I had left my phone in the cab I rode in on and there was nothing I could do about it!

franchia vegan cafe

franchia vegan cafe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panic set in, but I got the task done and was on my way to meet with Ryoon Seok Samchon & Terri Sookmo at her restaurant, Franchia, a vegan cafe.

franchia vegan cafe

franchia vegan cafe

 

 

 

 

Franchia is such a warm and inviting place.  In contrast to the stately serenity of Hangawi, Franchia is more of a tea house.  Though it has the same quite demenor the general operation of the place is more casual.  I fell in love with the high ceilings, the breathtaking ceiling installments and the concept of a 3-tier balcony type layout.  Terri Sookmo really went to great lengths in thinking through the concept of the place.

 

–>Citron Paste Tea, you soothe my spirit… 🙂

Hangawi – New York

September 20, 2010

July 31st, 2010. jenn hearts nyc: hangawi!

hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

 
  I was supposed to meet my long lost “uncles” for an early dinner in Koreatown, so after my lunch I walked around some more, eventually walking by Madison Square Garden as well as the first Macy’s in the process.  Hangawi is right in the heart of Koreatown amidst other Korean eateries and businesses all squeezed into an alley way.
hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

 Waiting for my uncles to arrive I snapped some photos and ordered a beverage.  I loved how the interior had very traditional decor as well as atmosphere.  It was actually quite a contrast to the modern, vegetarian interpretations on the menu.  The philosophy behind it is to have a spiritual experience while nourishing your body with healthy food.  Even just walking in to the space you get a sense of calm; like this is a retreat you come to in order to get away from all the business and stress.  I had read some amazing reviews online about this place and was really impressed by how ingeniously Hyung Gi Uncle had been able to focus on a very specific niche market.   

 
hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

   

I’m wary of vegetarian places because I’m a carnivore.  Without meat a meal just doesn’t seem like a meal, but I honestly have to say, I was blown away by the food at Hangawi.  They use ingredients that are organic and apparantly delivered from a farm that Uncle sources.  Again, I was completely impressed!

 

hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

 

 

  I ordered an Iced Pomagranate Tea to cool off from all the walking.  The server brought out this leaf bowl with ice in it, set it on a polished stump that’s used as a side table and poured the tea into it, then set it in front of me.  How novel!

 
 
hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

 

Appetizer Green Pancakes.  Such a wonderfully light texture and taste!  Great way to start the meal!  Our other appetizer was the Sweet & Sour Crispy Mushrooms, which, unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of.  I don’t like mushrooms.  I LOVED that dish though!  Mmmm……pillowy mushroom texture on the inside, light crispiness on the outside and the delicious sauce!

hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

 

 

  Pumpkin Noodle Salad?  Again, extremely fresh!  And really amazing flavors.  The pumpkin noodles are not only pretty for the color, but have a great texture and a sweetness to them, too.  It was dressed in a refreshing sauce.  I think I detected a hint of sesame oil in it?

hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

hangawi korean vegetarian restaurant

 

Dessert was this magnificent martini glass full of goodies: Peach & Soy Ice Cream with Blueberries and Vegan Marshmallow Cookie!  Thinly sliced peach fanned the sides of the glass while a ball of soy ice cream rested on the bottom.  There were blueberries as well as an organic whipped cream (omg, so yummy!!).  The winner was most definitely the chocolate and cookie encrusted organic and vegan marshmallow!  Uncle was explaining how he’d been on a quest to create and find a truly organic marshmallow…and really, this one takes the cake.  A but firmer than regular ones, but it has it’s own unique taste while still being a marshmallow!  It’s genius!

 

  Dinner was pretty great!  I got to visit one of my uncles’ restaurants, and was treated to a seriously innovative and creative take on Korean vegetarian meals!