I believe that food like good music and a good book is a solace to a person's soul. Food is both a science and an art - a yin-yang balance to your body and also an appreciation of colors, textures and sensory experience.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant

Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Gator went to have dim sum at Pink Pearl sometime ago. Gator heard a lot about Pink Pearl and how it stopped operations for a while due to some mysterious fire. But Gator was never around the area during lunch time. Finally, we happened to be at the vicinity one day and decided to have some dim sum.

We ordered mostly from the push-carts. It was super convenient and fast.

One of Gator's standard orders: Siew Mai: It was moist and quite lovely
I think this had shrimps and chives inside. Nice :)

Scallop and fish roe dumplings: one of my favourites
Bean curd with stuffed pork filling

Shanghainese Steamed Soup Dumplings or Xiao Long Bao. Sometimes referred to as juicy dumplings
See the soup inside the Xiao Long Bao

Chicken Feet or Feng Zhao (Phoenix Claws). Gator's collagen intake
Gator never say no to desert and who can resist egg tarts?
Among the 7 dim sum dishes, Gator ranks the chicken feet as my favourite dish from Pink Pearl. Gator knows a lot of friends who either love or loathe this dish. Pink Pearl stewed the Phoenix Claws so well that the skin from the chicken feet was literally falling off the bone. The gravy was oh so flavourful. No. 2 on my list was the scallop and fish roe dumplings - the seafood was just so fresh. Gator's least favourite dish was the xiao long bao - the skin was way too thick for my liking. In fact, one of the drawbacks of the dim sum here is that the skin of the dumplings were just a bit too thick - maybe, they wanted to pile on the filings. But it takes more effort and finesse to make thinner skin with just the right amount of filling.

Overall, the dim sum was not the best but Gator was won over by the service. Also, if you are really hungry, it really helps that food is served quite quickly. Price was also reasonable.

Overall Experience:

Deco: 3/5 - this place is spacious. Ample seating arrangement and the restaurant even has a huge stage.
Quality of food: 3.5/5 - Gator is a bit of a dim sum snob.
Value for $$: $$$$/5 - great value. The bill came up to about $30 plus which was reasonable and we were stuffed.
Overall Experience: Service was excellent. The servers waited as we were taking pictures of the food before serving us and they were extremely polite. Unlike most dim sum restaurants where you generally pay at the front, the server brought us the bill and even the credit card machine to our table.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Its Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas!

So on the day when there was an unusual amount of snow in Vancouver, Gator was crazy enough to make my way to campus only to find that the Provost has shut down the entire university.

Trees all covered with snow

Cars all covered with snow

A wintery wonderland

An overview of the library and the clock tower

A panoramic shot of campus

When rain came and the snow started subsidizing, Gator decided to go to the Christmas Market - figured that it would not be crowded. They served German food and had a good variety - unfortunately, the prices were not friendly to the wallet! Isn't it the case for most food sold at fairs?

Potato Pancakes and German Schnitzer
A close up shot of potato pancake - 2 pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream. I think it cost like $7 bucks. Expensive!!

German Schnitzer - with pita bread & salad

The German Schnitzer close about $10 - pretty pricey. It was nicely done - crisp and the pork had no smell. Its too much to eat by yourself so do share it with your friends. The potato pancake with the apple sauce and sour cream was also crisp - the potato was well seasoned. By then, Gator's tummy was feeling a bit warm - yet, still proceeded to share a cup of hot chocolate - it had quite a lot of cinnamon - Gator liked it.

Now comes the fun  - the carossel ride. Gator was hoping to ride on the pink horse but ended up riding on a white horse. Anyways, the lady manning the carossel ride was so fierce - we tried cracking a joke with her but she had a stoic expression on her face. And then before we proceeded to hand her the ticket, she said that we had to sit on horses at the outer corner. But there was no space for one of us and then, she kinda barked and said that we had to sit on the carriage. We said no way and she was nice enough to allow me to sit on the kiddie horse but warned me not to bounce around. Maybe, she had a bad day. I wasn't going to let her spoil my evening after making our way through the crazy traffic and after paying so much money. Anyways, it was a fun ride and also a bit painful for the wallet - $3 for each person.

The pink horse Gator never got to ride on
Lights and decorations on the Merry-Go-Round

We walked around a bit, got a nice angel as a Christmas ornament for the tree and then got distracted with more food. Ordered a Shupfnoodle with double smoked salmon prosciutto and sourkraut for another $9. I personally liked the German Schnitzer more than the Shupfnoodle. Nothing wrong with the pasta though - maybe, it was just a tad bit too dry.

Shupnoodle anyone?
Overall Experience:

Deco:3/5 - There was some attempt to make the entire market more Christmassy. A huge Christmas tree, little drummer boys and a live band playing Christmas music. I think it will be nicer if they have more Christmas decorations though - maybe, some angels and even Santa.
Quality of food: 4/5 - its pretty good
Price:$$$$$/5 - very expensive. A small jar of hot apple cider cost $4 (you pay $6 and they give back $2 if you return the cup). I like that the Christmas market made an attempt to be environmentally friendly - there are bins for you to recycle your food as compost and  people are encouraged to use mugs. But still, $4 for an apple cider is too much.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Return to Heritage - Teochew (Chiu Chow Food)

Top Chiu Chow Cuisine 潮州世家海鮮菜館 on Urbanspoon
Vancouver has a great selection and offering of Chinese cuisine. However, I feel that most of the Chinese cuisine is geared towards Cantonese, Szechuan and Northern Chinese cuisine.  This reflects the current demographics of the Chinese population in Vancouver. Gator was pleasantly surprised to find Teochew (Chiu Chow) cuisine in Richmond. Gator did conduct a bit of research online as  I was hankering for some typical Teochew fare and read about Top Chiu Chow Cuisine in Richmond.

Gator was a little disappointed that the restaurant did not serve traditional Teochew congee with dishes. But there were other dishes that made my evening so memorable - BTW, this dinner was for a little celebration about 2 months ago and it was a special treat.

One of the characteristics of Teochew dishes is that it generally focuses on braised and steam dishes. Among the major Chinese dialect groups in Southeast Asia, Teochew food is deemed to be less oily in nature and the taste is more subtle and light. So, we ordered braised duck. I really enjoyed it - it was really done very well - the duck was tender and succulent. 

Braised duck in its glory - the dark sauce served with the duck went well with rice.

The next dish was equally good - oyster omelet. It was fried in a crispy style. I missed dipping the omelet with a tangy chilli sauce but they had other sauces on hand. The omelet was fried to the point that it became more of a pancake - surprisingly, it was not as oily as I anticipated.  Gator thinks that they probably add some flour to the mixture.

I am not a fan of oyster but I never say no when it comes in an omelet form.

A close up shot of my more than weekly intake of calories
Finally, we round off with a bowl of yam desert with gingko nuts - known as orh ni in Teochew. I think that that they made an admirable version. However, its kinda dry and was missing something - which is lard or oil. Gator knows that it sounds scary to have oil in desert but seriously, it adds a bit of oomph to this dish.

Traditional Teochew dessert - a tad too dry
Overall Experience:

Deco: 3/5 - its pretty small but the place can literally pack quite a lot of people
Quality of food: 4/5 - its pretty authentic
Price: $$$/5
Overall Experience: 4/5 -  worth a second visit. I am literally drooling typing this post.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gator Cooks - Some Random Food

Gator has been cooking up a storm lately. Home cooked food is always nice, provided that you have time to prepare. Otherwise, its simply survival mode. But cooking does put Gator in a good frame of mind, provided that Gator is not pre-occupied with something else. You just have to shut down, plan on what you can whip up and try to depend on your sensory system to make something tasty and hopefully, something healthy as well.

One of my usual stir-fry dishes is beef with green onions. I usually buy pre-sliced beef from the Asian supermarket. All you need to do is to add:

a) Soya sauce
b) Corn starch
c) Sesame oil
d) White pepper

I marinate the beef slices for about 15 minutes with the above ingredients. Some people would add a dash of salt but I usually just add a little bit more soya sauce. Next, stir fry some sliced ginger, add the beef and marinate and then add spring onions. I wish that it will look more appetizing but here you go. I normally sprinkle additional white paper towards the end.

Beef with green onion
My other favorite dish is simply omelette with preserved turnip. You can buy preserved turnip at most Asian grocery stores. I usually give it a quick rinse and dab it with paper towel. Break 2-3 eggs, beat it well with chopsticks or a fork, add the preserved turnip and white pepper. Personally, I prefer that the oil is heated up till its quite hot before adding the eggs and then I slowly turn down the heat. Sometimes, my omelette is pretty hard because I want to eat it with porridge or congee. If I am eating omelette with rice, I make the eggs a little more runny in texture.

Omelette with preserved turnip
I am planning to post a food review in my next post.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gator Cooks - Braised Pork with Soya Sauce

Gator has been cooking and has been trying out some recipes with varying success. This post and the upcoming post are strictly non-halal.

The first dish - Braised pork with soya sauce is a typical dish served in many Malaysian and Singapore Chinese families. It is commonly known in Hokkien ( a Chinese dialect spoken in Malaysia and Singapore) as Tau Eu Bak. Tak Eu meaning dark soya sauce and bak as pork.

It is very simple recipe and the result is pretty good. I adapted my recipe from this Malaysian blog (http://kyspeaks.com/2011/03/06/ky-cooks-tau-eu-bak-braised-pork-belly-with-soya-sauce/)
The author of this blog is pretty hilarious.

The main ingredients are :
  • Pork belly
  • 8 dried mushroom - I left it to soak for about half an hour and cut away the stems
  • 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 cloves
  • 1 Teaspoon of 5 spice powder
  • 2-3 hardboiled eggs
  • 3 tablespoon of dark soya sauce
Gator first brown the pork belly with about 1.5 tablespoons of dark soya sauce on each side of the belly. And then Gator basically added all the ingredients (except the eggs) together with about 1litre of water. Try to add in enough water to just cover the pork belly, push the pork belly down with your ladle occasionally and basically simmer the liquid with the pork to a thick broth. You don't want too much liquid but also just enough gravy to eat it with steamed rice. Add the hard boiled eggs last. Finally, Gator "rest" and cool the pork for about 10-15 minutes before slicing it.

And now, some pictures..

The aftermath - after slicing the pork
A pile of pork
Sliced pork with all the codiments - suggest to remove all the spices before serving so that it looks more pleasing
Tucking in - what a gooey mess
This receipe is basically quite successful and its pretty authentic. Thanks to KY blog :) Warning: It does look very messy and sticky but its a great comfort food. It is also very important to select the right cut of the pork belly - with just enough fat. If the pork belly is too lean, it kinda defeats the overall purpose of this dish. And if there is too much fat, the dish will be way too oily and you will feel quesy after eating it.

End the meal with a nice pot of pu-erh tea.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sweet Revenge Patisserie, 4160 Main Street

Sweet Revenge Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Sweet Revenge was introduced to me by a dear friend of mine. Gator tried going there recently but there is always a large crowd of people waiting for a table. We took the chance to go there one evening and thankfully, the waiting time wasn't that bad.

What I really like about Sweet Revenge is the ambiance. I really love the red walls and the tea set. The only drawback - Sweet Revenge is only open in the evenings till late at night. So, if you go there after dinner, you might have difficulties getting a table, particularly since the place is really small with less than 10 tables. Even if you go get a table, it can be stressful at times seeing the huge line-up and at least for me, I feel pressured not to dilly-dally, pay up and go.

The quaint table setting - it matches with Gator's hat
Everything matches here - it is pleasing to Gator's senses
Each corner of the wall has some unique pictures - its an eclectic mix.. Since its Halloween, Sweet Revenge has taken an effort to include some unique decorations - I spotted a head inside a fishbowl and a portrait of Mona Lisa morping into some skeleton.  Our side of the table seemed pretty normal and uneventful.

There were small picture frames on our side of the wall.

A little skeleton head overlooks our meal

Now, comes the yummy bits. We ordered two types of desert - creme brulee with blackberries and Sweet Revenge with vanilla ice-cream on the side. I liked the creme brulee, although Gator must confess that I prefer a classic flavour. Unfortunately, they only had 2 seasonal flavours - blueberries or raspberries. The Sweet Revenge was a pretty little cake but I much prefer my cake with a bit more sponge - still, it went very well with the vanilla ice-cream on the side.

I must say that this creme burlee does not look appetising - looks like with blueberry chickenpox. But it sure is yummy
One lonely raspberry on top
The Sweet Revenge cake - with its acronym, SR

It has a crumbly texture - Gator prefers a smoother feeling to my cake
Slowly devouring the SR

Of course, nothing completes desert with a cup of tea. Gator is fussy about tea and Gator totally approves of the tea at Sweet Revenge. We ordered a lavender rosehip - it had a nice scent and was quite calming. The temperature of the brew was perfect. Also, I love the teacups. Probably from Royal Albert - I did not check. It was a daintier version of Gator's own tea set.

Pretty tea cup and saucer

Gator loves the gold coloured rim
Lovely little rim
The large pot of tea - love the rosehip bits
Overall Experience:

Deco: 4/5 - lovely place. A bit cramp though
Quality of food: 3.5/5 - cakes are great but not excellent
Value for $$: $$$/5
Overall Experience: 4/5 - service was pretty efficient but I felt so pressured to leave, seeing the line-up forming just in front of me

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tenhachi Japanese Restaurant - 1125 West 12th Avenue

Tenhachi Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sorry for being incommunicado on this blog. Been swarmed with a multitude of things. Hungry Gator is now back in action and promises more exciting news! Gator has been eating in a lot lately except for some interesting episodes. Should take pictures of home cooked food. But usually too busy and hungry (hehehe).

Tenhachi is a quaint little Japanese restaurant located at a lobby of a service apartment and/or hotel. They served home cooked food and it came highly recommended from a Japanese friend. As Gator was there to celebrate an occasion, we decided to go there for a splurge. Verdict: It was worth the experience. Gator was fortunate that the meal was a treat - otherwise, I will be eating instant noodles for a number of days :)

We ordered two sets - Una Don and Katsu Don. My dinner companion thought that the Katsu Don was good but was not the best. I personally liked my una don set - the eel was done very well. And both of us enjoyed the miso soup - it was rich, flavourful, had choke-ful of vegetable and and not the standard salty miso paste.

I thought my eel was done beautifully
I really like the egg - goes very well with the breaded pork and rice

A close-up shot of the breaded pork

This ought to be one of my the best miso soup I had.

We also ordered tempura as an appetiser. There was a little signage on the table stating that food is cooked using Oil Guard which contains less saturated fat and makes food crisper. We asked the waitress about details of the Oil Guard and she proceeded to ask the kitchen staff. She came back and asked us to check the website for further details because they bought the oil directly from the supplier. That was interesting - we thought that they would have done some research on this beforehand.

Nevertheless, we had our tempura. I would not say that it was the best but it was pretty good.

Our prawn tempura platter
Catching prawns by the tail :)
Trying out this photo app

We concluded our meal with sesame ice-cream. Gator loves it - Yum Yum!

Our sesame ice-cream with sesame powder. Beautiful!
My black seasame ice-cream: one of the best that I had

The deco of the place was really quite interesting - a bit retro and somehow stuck in the time zone of the 1970s. I love it though - it added a more interesting atmosphere to our dining experience.

Our dining area
Overall Experience:

Deco: 4/5 - very quaint. Gator likes it :)
Quality of food: 4/5 - Me thinks its pretty good
Value for $$: $$/5 - its pretty pricey. The dinner came up to be around 60 bucks including tips. I later found out that they have an early bird special (20%) from Tuesdays to Sundays between 5-6:30pm. Urgh - should have gone there earlier. See http://www.facebook.com/pages/%E5%A4%A9%E5%85%AB-Tenhachi-Japanese-Restaurant/161346733905275
Overall Experience: 4/5 - I had a lovely time; service was excellent. We left our car keys and our server came out looking for us.