Review: Hung Sum Restaurant

On our trek down Somerset last Friday, my wife and I wanted to try out the Dim Sum in Ottawa.
When we lived in Calgary, we would go on a “Dim Sum Date” every month or two, and having been without dim sum for over three months, it was about time to go and find something and pray that it would satisfy.

A quick perusal online resulted in the suggestion to go seek out a little dim sum eatery called Hung Sum Restaurant.
While there were some larger restaurants that offered dim sum, we opted to try this one first and at some other point go to the other two larger restaurants.

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The Secret Behind Beef Stir-Fry

I confess that I have not been able to contribute to this blog as much as I could given the fact that I have been cramming like crazy to keep up my GPA and finish my masters degree in the next few weeks and God willing, graduate with the rest of my friends in April. It’s a lousy excuse, but I want to keep my doors open for a Ph.D. at some point in life, if my wife allows it… =)

All joking aside, I’ve been meaning to write more regarding recipes and cooking and I thought why not write about what I cooked for this evening’s dinner?

Stir-Fry is one of those “Anything Goes” type of cuisines in Asian culinary arts that really can be done with anything that you have on hand[1], granted you need the following as a base: vegetable oil, garlic, onions, ginger, rice wine, and some light soy sauce. This base for your stir-fry will be able to get you started on any type of combination of stir-fry that you can think of. The beauty of stir-fry is that it is contextual – it really is “anything goes”! I often like to look in my fridge or freezer to see what I have as a protein and a vegetable and go from there. You can layer on as much or as little veggies as you want, and typically you will have at least either chicken, pork, or beef as your main protein in your stir-fry.

At this point, you may ask:

Where’s the photo of this beef stir-fry?

And my answer:

It’s 11:30 PM… I am too lazy to go take a photo of the darn thing!

I’m not really going to elaborate much on stir-fry cooking per se in this blog, I’ll leave that for another day.
What I will pontificate is the secret behind how you getting a succulent slice of beef with your stir-fry when typically stir-fry is a quick and very hot cooking method.

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Review: Harbour City

One of the things that I want to do more of is write down reviews of some of my favourite restaurants. I think because I am Vietnamese, I am always asked, “What’s the best Vietnamese restaurant to eat at in town?” … And my typical reply is “It depends on what you want to eat.”

And so, I start off my reviews of some of my favourite restaurants with a restaurant that is actually not on my favourite list – in fact, it was on my most avoided list for the better part of the last ten years of my life.

Harbour City Restaurant is located at 302 Centre Street South in Calgary, AB. I remember going to Harbour City as a child for dim sum and there was never anything particularly stunning about it in my mind. I have also gone to Harbour City several times for a couple of weddings, and again, nothing spectacular with the food.

However, yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to a birthday party for a friend’s 18th birthday and was quite pleased with my experience.

The menu for the evening included a starter of crackling from a 20-30 lbs suckling pig, cornstarch dusted fried butterflied shrimp with a light splash of mayo and generously covered with tabiko on a bed of steamed broccoli, scallops on top of a bed of al dente asparagus, a duck and mushroom soup, Chinese fried chicken with shrimp crackers, the roast meat from the suckling pig, pineapple sweet and sour pork, special house fried rice, stir-fried hand tossed noodles with shiitake mushrooms and the evening was finished off with steamed lotus paste buns and a walnut and peanut soup (actually very delicious!).

Of the twenty-three years that I have been in Calgary, never once had I tried something from the dinner menu at Harbour City and boy am I glad to have experienced that culinary delight yesterday evening; it was by far the best birthday meal I’ve ever had!

One of the best items on the menu yesterday evening was the pineapple sweet and sour pork. The pork was succulent and tender and fried with just the right amount of batter. I typically stay away from sour foods because it is not a familiar (or welcome) taste for my palate (we do not have that much sour foods in Vietnamese cooking, other than tamarind).

However, the sweet and sour flavour for this dish was achieved by the stir-frying of freshly cut pineapples and the allowing of the pineapple to carmelize slightly prior to adding the deep fried pork into the mix and then returning the items back into a bowl fashioned out of the pineapple skin.

The dish was actually very light and did not feel heavy and bogged down with artificial sauce and sugars that are typical of most sweet and sour pork dishes.

 

My dining experience was superb and I would recommend that you go and give the dinner menu a try at Harbour City!

From Nose to Tail

Yesterday, two good friends of mine had mentioned that they had seen a book at called The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating at a store and instantly thought of me. In Vietnamese culture, as in many other cultures, when preparing an animal for consumption, often the entire animal is put to use as much as possible.

I’ve only ever grown up eating an entire chicken or parts of the pig or beef (often called offal) that you would not find in Western cuisines.

So when I went to a birthday party yesterday, I was absolutely delighted to see an entire suckling pig presented to each table at the party!

An interesting exercise that I often partake is then to observe people and how they react to an entire animal being presented for dinner. Some people were obviously alarmed as the only part of a pig that they had ever seen was a hotdog (and really… we know that a hotdog really doesn’t just have pork in it…). Others were excited with curved smiles that would make a banana jealous.

Still eating something as simple as roasted pork skin (or crackling) is an oft missed opportunity in North American cuisines, let alone the soft and succulent portions of meat found on a pig’s head (e.g. the cheek or the jaw meat).

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Musings On the Forbidden Fruit

It’s durian season and that means many Asian supermarkets in Calgary stock up on this frozen fragrant fruit. For many people, it’s a love-hate relationship when it comes to durian.

My father loves durian. My mother abhors it.

I like durian, my wife thinks I am crazy.

I think it receives such a love-hate relationship because really… it’s a fruit that is just so weird and wild!

Think about it… what would possess a person to look up a durian tree (yes… they grow on trees!) and say: “I wonder what that thing tastes like on the inside?”

Don’t you think God put spikes on the darn thing for a reason? Doesn’t it scream “Don’t eat me or you will die!”?

That’s why I think the forbidden fruit mentioned in the book of Genesis was probably a durian. Too many people think it’s an apple – seriously, what’s so scary about an apple? But the durian… one look at that and you can’t deny that there was something inherently forbidden built into its design!

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