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5 Things to Eat Before You Die!

I was recently tagged by two food bloggers: Bruno from Zinfully Delicious and Sam from Becks & Posh for “The Food Bloggers Guide to the Globe – 5 Things to Eat Before You Die”. A guide started by “The Traveler’s Lunchbox“. Trying to narrow the search to five things is a huge task for this foodie, however, I felt I better start now or I could end up changing my mind many times over.

1) Lobster Suppers in Prince Edward Island, Canada – If you only visit PEI once, don’t miss a traditional church basement lobster supper. Some restaurants do imitations, but it’s better to go authentic and head to Saint Ann’s Church on Route 224 any day but Sunday. Saint Ann’s started lobster dinners in its basement to raise money for the church and other church charities. It’s been serving customers for over 40 years. For a set price, you get mussels, chowder, lobster, potato salad, homemade pie, ice cream and tea – with a side of local colour and congeniality.

2) Dim Sum – Ah, if you haven’t tried this Cantonese cuisine you are in for a treat. Dim sum literally means, “to touch your heart”. It consists of a variety of dumplings, steamed dishes and other goodies such as the famous egg custard tarts. There’s no ordering; instead you choose from a wide assortment of snacks that the waiters bring out on carts and trays. It’s a noisy affair and the best way to enjoy dim sum is with a large group; otherwise you’ll fill up on a few items and miss the opportunity to sample everything.

A few of my favorite items are: steamed pork spareribs, char siu bao (steamed buns with roast pork), har gau (shrimp dumplings with the translucent skin), mini spring rolls, siu mai (steamed pork dumplings), rice noodle rolls with shrimp, haw heung tsun chu gai (steamed sticky rice with chicken in lotus leaf), pot stickers, yiu chu law bak go (steamed turnip cake) and anything with eggplant. Finally, there’s dessert. Custard tarts are a must; you may also have a choice between mango or almond pudding. All of the above are washed down with copious amounts of tea.

3) Dulse! – You’re probably wondering what that is. Well, it’s a red seaweed that grows attached to rocks and is commonly used in Ireland and Atlantic Canada as a food snack. I grew up eating it and it is an acquired taste. The closest example of taste comparison I can think of is a sushi roll. If you enjoy the green wrap, then dulse tastes a bit like that. One must try this delicacy and the best dulse comes from Grand Manan, NB Canada.

4) Jane’s On The Common – Located in Halifax, NS Canada this bistro is small (37 seats) and gets busy during peak hours. It’s amazing that a city the size of Halifax (around 350,000) has over 350 restaurants! There seems to be a push for all things natural and support for the local farmers and fishermen. Jane’s delicious food and a varied wine list coupled with a neat atmosphere and a diverse set of customers make this place a reason for people to come back wanting more. I know we did. My husband and I were on holiday in Halifax in July and managed to eat there twice (once for lunch and once for dinner). An absolute pleasure to dine there.

5) Restaurants in Wineries – In August 2005 my husband and I were in New Zealand’s South Island for two weeks. We had never been to New Zealand and had planned our trip to celebrate our anniversary there. We both love wine and what better a place to celebrate than in a winery. One of our favorite NZ wineries is Pegasus Bay.

If you enjoy wine and food then I highly recommend eating in a winery. Usually these restaurants offer outstanding dishes and the value for money is amazing. Chefs prepare the food and a winery cannot afford a poor rating in its restaurant as that would reflect on the winery itself. A good winery restaurant will either pair its food with its wine and or suggest wines to compliment the meal. We’ve eaten in many winery restaurants (South Africa, Australia, and now New Zealand) and I have to say we’ve never been disappointed. In this category trying to choose one was also a difficult task. Pegasus Bay, however, was special for us in that we celebrated our anniversary there. Our waiter walked us through some suggestions giving us feedback from other customers along with his own personal recommendations. The food was brought to us in a timely fashion and towards the end, we didn’t want to leave.

Asia’s Exotic Beauties

There are many exotic looking fruits in Asia and trying to figure out which ones to eat or how to eat them can be daunting. I’ll do the research and hopefully the upcoming postings will encourage you to sample these beauties.

What is this hairy fruit? Surely it’s not something for human consumption. When I first saw this fruit I didn’t think it was edible and thought it was in the market for decoration. Oh, how wrong I was. The red, pink, or yellow fruit, 3-5 cm long, consists of a single seed covered by a translucent, juicy but firm, sweet pulp. The fruit is sold fresh and can also used in making jams and jellies.

It’s a close relative of the lychee. It distinguishes itself from the lychee by its soft, red hairy rind. Sometimes, it is called the hairy lychee and it derives its name from the Malaysian word for hair, “rambut.”

To open rambutans, partially cut through the skin, or just break open using a strong thumb-nail. The large seed is not to be eaten as it is bitter.

It’s so prehistoric looking that one could imagine only dinosaurs enjoying! The jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, weighing up to 90 pounds (you won’t find me resting under that tree!). At first I thought it was a big Durian but then the Durian has a very hard shell whereas the Jack Fruit I’ve seen doesn’t. However, for exporting purposes Jackfruit does come in the ‘hard shell’ variety!

Each jackfruit contains large, edible seeds – up to 500 of them – known as breadnuts. The seeds are starchy, like chestnuts, and are similarly roasted, processed for flour, and candied. The seeds are wrapped in bulbs of yellow or pink flesh. When ripe, the flesh takes on a thick, chewy texture, and is candy-sweet. Unripe jackfruit flesh can be cooked as a starchy vegetable.

If you do come across a whole jackfruit, there are several ways to tell if it’s ripe and ready to eat. Its pale green skin will turn yellow or brown, and as the fruit expands, the skin stretches, causing its spikes to stand apart from each other. The smell of a ripe jackfruit is another dead giveaway. Many people say it just plain stinks. However, once cut, the inside of the jackfruit smells delicious, like bananas and pineapple.

As I watched the lady in the wet market dissect the fruit, it was as if she was unveiling little presents all neatly wrapped up.

Peachy Grilled Chicken Salad

Hong Kong is still quite warm and as I write this the thermometer on our balcony reads 28c at 9:30 am. I have acclimatized to this sub-tropical city and I don’t mind the heat when cooking hot dishes but every now and then a quick and easy cool recipe allows more tolerance when the heat is on.

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons of fine sea salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
4 small skinless boneless chicken breast halves (about 1.5 lbs.)
2 green onions, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon honey-Dijon mustard (I used plain Dijon)
2 peaches, peeled, pitted, diced
1 small avocado, peeled, diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced radicchio (can omit as some mixed greens will have it already mixed in)

4 cups mixed baby greens (about 2 1/2 oz.)

Whisk 1 tablespoon olive oil, lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in 11×7 inch glass dish. Add chicken and turn to coat. Marinate 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Prepare barbeque (medium-high heat). Whisk remaining 4 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, onions, shallot, vinegar, thyme, and mustard in a large bowl to blend. Mix peaches, avocado and radicchio into dressing; toss to coat.

Grill chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to work surface; cut crosswise into thin slices. Mix baby greens into dressing bowl. Divide salad among 4 plates and arrange chicken alongside and serve.

Makes 4 servings
Bon Appetite
August 2006

The Culinary Chase’s note: Add the avocado to the salad a few minutes before the chicken is ready otherwise the avocado tends to get a bit mushy. Next time I’ll try grilling the peach slices first and then chop up.

A little taste of India

The first time I ever tasted Indian food was while I was still living in Toronto (10 years ago). A couple of my co-workers were Indian and they would bring their lunch in which was prepared by their spouses. Out of curiosity and because the aromas were so inviting, I asked what was in their lunch. Both asked if I wanted to try the food and I couldn’t resist. From that day onward, Hitesh and Sanjay brought extras for me to sample. I must say, Indian’s are very hospitable and they enjoy sharing their food with others.

As in many countries, the food varies from North to South and India is no different. Indian cuisine changes with its regions, with its people and with the changing economic times. At one time one could instantly identify the cultural heritage of an Indian simply by looking at the food he or she ate. Today it is open to all. Eating out was once taboo to the upper classes but today if there is one thing that unites Indians it is the food. However there are still some restrictions with respect to religion and preferences. The Hindus, the Sikhs and the Zoroastrian Parsees do not eat beef. Pork is taboo to both Hindus and Muslims but is popular in Goa among the Christians.

The following recipe is from Atul Kochhar’s book, “Indian Essence”

Gosht Ki Biryani (lamb cooked with rice – North India)

500g lean boneless leg of lamb (cut into 2.5cm cubes and place in a shallow dish)

6 medium onions, finely sliced
oil, to deep fry
200g natural set yogurt, whisked
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste (finely chop garlic & ginger)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt

For the marinade, deep fry the onions in the hot oil until crisp and brown, drain on paper towel and cool. Put the cooked onions in a blender and whiz to a paste, then add the yogurt with the rest of the marinade ingredients and process briefly until smooth. Coat the lamb with the mixture and leave to marinate in the fridge for 2 hours. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a heavy based pan and sauté the whole dried red chillies for 1 minute. Add the lamb with its marinade and cook on a low heat for 45 minutes, or until the meat is cooked.

To Cook:
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 dried red chillies
5 cm cassia bark or cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 cloves
10 black peppercorns, crushed
500g basmati rice, washed and drained (this removes the starch so the rice doesn’t stick together)

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in another pan and sauté the whole spices and crushed peppercorns for a minute until they splutter. Add the rice and sauté for 2 minutes, then add 1.5 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil and boil for 12-15 minutes until the rice is almost cooked. Drain the rice and spread to 2.5cm thickness on a tray. Allow to cool slightly and pick out the cinnamon, cardamom pods and cloves.

To Assemble:
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons mixed almonds, cashew nuts and raisins (optional)
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoon garam masala
Pinch of saffron threads, infused in 100ml warm milk
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves

Deep fry the thinly sliced onion until crisp brown; drain on paper towel. Deep fry the nuts, and raisins if using, until the nuts are light brown and the raisins are plump; drain.

Brush another heavy based pan with a little melted butter and add half of the cooked lamb in a single layer. Cover with a layer of rice, 2.5cm thick, and sprinkle with garam masala and butter. Repeat these layers once more, then drizzle the saffron milk over the top layer of rice. Scatter the fried nuts and crisp fried onion over the surface, cover tightly and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Uncover, fork through to mix, then sprinkle with the mint and coriander leaves. Serve at once, garnished with tomato strips and accompanied by the raita.

To Serve:
Tomato strips, to garnish
Cucumber and mint raita

Cucumber Raita:
Lightly whisk 200g Greek yogurt, then stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 diced red onion, 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves and 1 tablespoon grated, peeled cucumber.

The Culinary Chase’s note: I wish recipes came with tangible measurements. For example, a medium onion; what size is a medium onion? Is it the size of a tennis ball or ping pong ball? I used what I ‘thought’ was a medium onion and ended up with too much marinade. It was a shame to let it go to waste so I added it to the layers of rice and meat. Ok, so my version turned out a bit darker. Nonetheless, the flavours were delicious. I’d make this again!

Berry Good Daiquiri

A hot and humid night in Hong Kong. The temperature on our balcony at 7PM was 30C and 80% humidity. This called for more than a glass of wine.

Frozen Berry Daiquiri:

5 dl. ice
125g-200g frozen berries (softened 15 minutes)
.5 dl sugar (to taste, depending on the berries and how tart you enjoy it)
Juice of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 dl. dark rum (add more if you like!)

In a blender, combine ice, sugar and berries. Pour in juices and rum. Blend until smooth (like slush). Rub the rim of a glass with a lime, dip in sugar or salt. Pour daiquiri into glass.

The Culinary Chase’s note: The berries I used came mixed together in the package and consisted of strawberry, blackberry, blueberry and raspberry. Make sure to press these berries through a strainer before adding to the blender otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of seeds in your drink. I also used superfine sugar which dissolves easier than granulated sugar. You can substitute any frozen berry you wish and if you feel its too thick, you can always add some fruit juice. Have fun experimenting with other tropical fruits. Of course, you can always omit the rum for those who like mocktails.

Meat and Two Veg!!

My husband always likes coming home to some Western food after spending a week in China. So tonight was no exception (ok, so there was more than two veg!). Everything was cooked on the BBQ. The warm vegetable salad went well with the Australian Angus Beef sirloin steak. It was a joint effort as my husband enjoys using the bbq. First, bbq the vegetables and then the meat. The recipe below is courtesy of Good Taste magazine, September issue. The sweet orange and basil dressing makes this dish of grilled vegies irresistible. A definite repeater!

Warm vegetable and bocconcini salad:

2 small sweet potato (kumara), peeled, cut into 1cm slices
1 red capsicum (red pepper), deseeded, thickly sliced
2 large zucchini, ends trimmed, thickly sliced diagonally
1 large ripe tomato, thickly sliced
1 large red onion, thickly sliced into rings
1 raddicchio, leaves separated, washed (I only used a few leaves per plate)
8 (about 220g) large fresh bocconcini, drained, torn


1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh orange juice

1. Combine the sweet potato, red & green capsicum and zucchini in a bowl.

2. To make the dressing, place the basil, sesame oil and garlic in a mortar and gently pound with a pestle until almost smooth. Add the olive oil and orange juice and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat a large frying pan or chargrill on high (we used our bbq). Pour half of the dressing over the vegetable mixture and toss to coat. Cook the vegetable mixture on the grill for 2-3 minutes each side or until golden brown and tender. Transfer to a plate and drizzle the tomato and onion with a little of the remaining dressing and cook 2-3 minutes each side or until tender.

4. Arrange the vegetables, radicchio and bocconcini on serving plates. Drizzle over remaining dressing.

The Culinary Chase’s note: Oooops! I forgot to buy the bocconcini! No worries as it still tasted great!

Grilled Shrimp Caesar Salad

This recipe is so easy and will wow your family or friends! The dressing is made with low fat cottage cheese and low fat mayonnaise instead of egg yokes and oil. It tastes great with about one quarter of the calories.

1/4 cup (50 ml) 1% low fat cottage cheese (I have also used sour cream or plain yogurt; if substituting one of these, just add more parmesan)
1/4 cup (50 ml) low fat mayonnaise
2 anchovies, chopped (I add more as I like the tatse)
2 tablespoons (25 ml) lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon (5 ml) chopped garlic (add more if you like)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
2 tablespoon (25 ml) grated Parmesan (add more to taste)
Freshly ground pepper

12 large shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and dried (salad spinner will do or use paper towel)
2 tablespoon (25 ml) chopped fresh parsley

Puree cottage cheese, mayonnaise, anchovies, lemon juice, Worcestershire, garlic and olive oil in food processor until smooth. Stir in Parmesan and pepper. Season to taste. If dressing is too thick, thin down with a little warm water. Toss shrimps with 1/4 cup (50 ml) dressing and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes. Tear romaine leaves removing the thickest part of the stem. Toss with remaining dressing.

Preheat broiler or grill pan on medium-high heat (I like to bbq the shrimp; one less pot to clean!). Drain shrimps (I just pop the shrimps on the bbq with the sauce clinging to the meat) and broil about 1 1/2 minutes per side, or until pink and slightly curled. Divide salad among 4 plates and top each salad with 3 shrimps. Garnish with parsley. Serves 4.

The Culinary Chase’s note: As in all my cooking, I ‘usually’ follow the recipe but then add more or take less of the ingredient(s). Cooking is a matter of taste and only you know what tastes good and what your family will enjoy.

Serenity Now

Sometimes a busy coffee shop with barista’s shouting out “latte” “cappuccino” just doesn’t seem like the place one goes to unwind or relax. I’ll explain why. The flat above us is being renovated, there’s street construction below and the building across the way is being prepared for demolition. Peace and quiet while savoring a good cup of java was in order. I found such a place to escape to in Soho, Central. Antique Patisserie & Fine Chocolates (32 Lyndhurst Terrace) was just what I needed. Once inside, the noise disappeared and somehow I am already feeling like I’ve found my own sanctuary. Now to make a decision as to what to have with my cappuccino.

After looking at all the possibilities, I finally narrowed my search down to ‘Nouvelle Une’ (white chocolate orange mousse cake). I’m in heaven! The cappuccino is served in a generous cup of fine bone china from Villeroy & Boch. My dessert consists of a sponge cake wrapped around white chocolate mousse and topped with fresh berries. So light and so easy to consume.

Antique opened October 2005 and has recently opened another shop in the basement of Sogo. There are plans for another location in the Lee Gardens. The pastries are all locally made while their chocolates, Whittamer are imported from Belgium. The coffee comes from an Australian company called Vittoria Coffee.

Looking for a place to go for afternoon tea? Antique offers a good selection of tea sets starting from HKD$45.00 and they offer this all day long.

Lunch in Shenzhen

I promised to take my daughter to Shenzhen this morning as it was a nice break from our Saturday routine. It’s an easy 50 minute train ride from Tsim Sha Tsui East train station and we had timed it perfectly to arrive just in time for lunch!

Lo Wu Commercial City (LCC) is a huge shopping mall that is open from 6:30am until midnight. The mall has 1,500 shops laid out over five floors. Hong Kong dollars are welcome and change is given back in Hong Kong dollars. There are eight banquet size restaurants scattered throughout the five levels. Our choice today was King Elephant restaurant on the fourth floor.

Eating in China is unique and often amusing when it comes time to ordering food. But don’t fret; most of the restaurants in LCC have English menus and some staff speak a bit of English. Another way is to look around you and see if you like any of the dishes being served. Most people don’t mind if you point to their food. Personally, I feel the best way to enjoy Chinese food is to get some of your friends together and have each person order a dish. When the food arrives it’s placed in the middle of the table for everyone to share.

Ok, so today we are short a few people but nonetheless we ordered three dishes and enjoyed every bite! I ordered Bolay tea (also know as Pu-erh) as it is a good choice to serve with food especially dim sum or other hearty South East Asian fare. Many southern Chinese drink Bolay tea everyday for taste and also to improve digestion.

When the drinks are ordered, the waitress brings condiments to the table such as roasted peanuts, pickled vegetables or marinated tofu. Today it was tofu and quite nice.
Ok, down to the good stuff! Eggplant stuffed with minced pork (above), deep fried garlic spareribs (left) and Yeung Chow fried rice. Our bill came to CNY$149.00 (USD$18.70). In a word, YUM! Of course, afterwards, we needed to walk off our lunch and did so with a bit of shopping! Can our Saturday’s get any better?

What the heck is a wet market?

A wet market refers to types of markets not necessarily selling live animals, but one that is selling fresh vegetables, meat and fish in the open and gets washed down with water regularly.

Hong Kong has many wet markets and if you have never been to one, you are in for a treat! Yes, all five of your senses will be activated! I personally like the one in Causeway Bay (near Times Square) and the one in Central (in and around Peel St, Gage St. and Graham St.). I have been told that chefs frequent these places due to the freshness and abundance of quality foods which is something all Hong Kongers enjoy and insist on!

I am always impressed how the owners of the stalls have their goods laid out in an orderly fashion. Within the wet markets one can also find shops that sell dried goods and condiments such as rice, noodles, pastes, oils etc.

With freshness being key in these wet markets, I cannot see why anyone would not frequent them. The markets are always alive and buzzing with merchants calling out to entice the passerby to shop at their stall. And, you can’t beat the price!

I bought these 3 tomatoes, lettuce and sugar snaps all for HK$21.00 (less than US$3).

Of course, Hong Kong has its grocery stores offering local and international brands and some even have an element of a wet market inside (such as Park n Shop in Coda Plaza).

All in all, the wet market brings an ultra fresh element to whatever you decide to cook in terms of freshness, flavor and color. What else does a personal chef need?