Tag Archives: food

Shortrib Kimchi Jjigae

Shortrib Kimchi Jjigae


There’s nothing better on a snow day than staying indoors and digging into a hot and hearty comfort meal. This Shortrib Kimchi Jjigae is just that. Meaty, mouthwatering, fork-tender beef shortribs braised in a kimchi broth with caramelized onions and chewy tteok. Add some fresh steamy rice and prepare for a meal that will make you wish every day could be a snow day.

You will need:

  • 2 lbs yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 – 3 lbs beef short ribs (4 ribs)
  • 2 cups kimchi
  • 700 ml anchovy stock (or Japanese dashi)
  • 2 cups tteok (Korean ricecakes)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to season
  • ¼ cup mirin
  • fresh bean sprouts
  • julienned carrot
  • green onion
  • white and black sesame seeds

In a large pan on high, heat the canola oil and butter. Add the onions, turn the heat down to medium, and slowly cook until the onion get caramelized and brown. When the onions are done, put them in the bottom of a pressure cooker or dutch oven and set aside.

Season the shortribs with salt and sear in the pan on high heat with more oil til they are browned. When they’re brown, place them on the onions.

Deglaze the pan you just seared the ribs in with the 2 cups of kimchi. Stir the kimchi around until all the fond comes free from the bottom of the pan. Place the kimchi over the ribs.

Finally, add the anchovy stock to the pot with the other ingredients. Cover and pressure cook for one hour, or bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 2 – 2.5 hrs or until the shortribs are tender.

Near the end of the cooking time, heat a pan with the sesame oil and saute the minced garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the tteok and continue cooking until they are lightly browned. Add the tteok to the pot of jjigae and let simmer for about 5 minutes until the tteok is done.

Taste the jjigae and season with salt if you need it. Add the mirin, give a final stir and get ready to serve.

Ladle the jjigae into individual serving vessels with one rib per serving. Place under a broiler for 5 minutes to give the meat a little colour. Garnish the servings with fresh bean sprouts, carrot, green onion, and sesame seeds. Serve with steamed rice and enjoy!

What is your favourite winter meal?

How I Got Started In The Restaurant Business – The Crunchy Skin

chicharron

Have you ever watched an episode of Kitchen Nightmares or Restaurant Takeover and wonder how some of these people ever thought it would be a good idea to open a restaurant, some of them with ZERO previous experience in the industry? It boggles my mind and amazes me at the same time how someone can take a leap like that. I mean, it takes some serious cojones to take your pile of chips, push it all on the table and just take your chances. I see some of the people on these shows clearly that have no business to be in a kitchen, trying to make a go of it and wonder why their business and savings are going down the drain. As much as this kind of thing is viewed as ‘entertainment’ these days, it’s also tragic. Money is money. It’s hard to earn and it hurts like hell to lose.

Throughout my time getting into this business, I learned a lot of things – mostly about money. In this case, the art of managing it well and keeping it. You never buy your equipment straight up, some things are better used, and there are people you always have to be in bed with – your partner, your landlord, and your banker. Once you get the common sense stuff out of the way, there’s that issue of the food. Oh yeah, that part. Believe it or not, the food part as important as the you think it is, is a small cog in the machine. But like any machine, if it’s missing that all-important cog, the machine just won’t run.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted my food to do 3 things: share a culture, be approachable, and be unique. The identity for Eats of Asia was to be a new Asian Street Food Experience. I took the simplicity of a food truck concept and basically adapted it for my purpose. Simple menus of great food with a few choices that would change from week to week, a special (a chance to play), and a chance to highlight different country’s cuisine. Most of all, I wanted the food to be fun. After all, I love what I do (and, at the time, I couldn’t afford a truck).

Sharing a culture was something that was important to me because I wanted to further demystify Asian cuisine to the masses. Yes, even in this day and age, there are still folks out there completely intimidated by Asian food that think it’s all about the sweet and sour pork, chicken fried rice, and chunky egg rolls with Wing’s egg roll sauce packets. People have an idea of Asian food from the food courts and take outs, but what about the night market culture? How many people in Calgary know what coffin bread is, or gua bao, or char kway teow? Night markets are the soul of Asian casual dining and almost all of those vendors specialize in one item. That’s unheard of here. Taking a few of those night market favourites and sharing them here was a must for me, whether it was the steamy bao, fresh noodle, or coconut laced aroma of a hot bowl of curry laksa.

Approachability in this case is a simple matter of making the food straight forward, non-pretentious, and most of all easy to relate to. It’s not just an “East meets West” thing. One of the items we regularly feature is gua bao. It’s a Taiwanese-style ‘slider’ (I’ve heard the term, Taiwanese hamburger as well). Basically, a steamed bun that’s filled with the traditionally red-braised pork belly slab with cilantro, hoisin, crushed peanuts and a touch of red sugar. Take the best aspects of that formula and sell those – the steamed bun are like the ones in Chinatown that they fill with char siu, plump, steamy and soft. The pork belly, slow braised until meltingly soft. Sinfully decadent and flavourful. A little crushed peanut for texture and cilantro to cut the richness of the pork. That’s a formula for greatness and we didn’t re-invent the Taiwanese wheel. For people that don’t get the pork belly, that’s ok. We also do one with chicken kara-age (Japanese style fried chicken) and a fried tofu version as well. Calling them the Lucky Pig, The Phoenix, and The Buddha was a little fun too as an homage to the mysticism of 70′s era Chinese food that I was raised on.

Specials are where we really have fun. There are times when our specials were made the night before or during a prep day when I happen to have extra ingredients to make something new. One of those times, we were making lumpiang shanghai (Filipino pork spring rolls that we call Shanghai Rolls). We ran out of wrappers and had some pork left over. I went to the fridge, got some wonton wrappers and made a couple hundred wontons. In the deep freeze I had some leftover broth from a Thai dish called Khao Soi (a Northern Thai coconut curry noodle dish with chicken). We decided to make an Asian poutine/nacho lovechild that we called Crispy Thai Wonton Melt (Hey, it was the night before…gimme some slack). We thickened the broth to a gravy consistency, ladling it over deep-fried wontons and cheese curds, topped it with our kalua pork and garnished with cilantro and fresh lime. Some of the vendors that day were like, “Ok,  I’ll try the special…”. Soon, some of the shoppers were curious too as they saw the boats go out (Paper boats are the best for street food btw. You want others to see the food as your customers are walking around.) and wanted to try it as well. A few hours later, we were sold out. The Crispy Thai Wonton Melt was a hit.

I don’t think we’re really pushing new boundaries here. Every so often, I’ll get an idea to create something new and original, but it all boils down to making things that I like to eat and in turn, you like to eat. It is a business after all. There’s not much to breaking down cultural barriers when it comes to our food. I mean, crispy pork skin is delicious whatever language you speak, and there are so many cultures in the world that appreciate it. I think that’s why our menu is so pork-centric sometimes.

How I Got Started In The Restaurant Business – The Kitchen

Char Siu Bowl from Eats of Asia

Passion. You hear that word all the time. It’s the cornerstone of success according to almost everyone who’s ever talked about climbing their own personal mountain to the pinnacle of their professional or personal lives. Like I said in my last post, there’s nothing wrong with passion. In fact, I am fuelled by it, but the key is not to let it get you stupid. It’s like the hit of nitrous you see in the Fast and the Furious films that shoots the car into a blurred haze. It can rocket you to victory, so long as you can still steer the car and not end up as a burning heap of twisted metal and charred flesh. You can have the fastest car, but if you can’t drive it, you’re fucked.

Before the race, before strapping yourself in, before even getting in the car, you have to understand something. Passion is like love and it comes with all the things that make you feel good, but also all the things that make you mad, frustrated, sad, disgusted, sickened, discouraged, and everything negative as well. Like a relationship with a person, you have to take the bad with the good. You have to ‘like’ what you do and not just say you ‘love’ it. Does that make sense? I hope so, it’s just the rest of your life we’re talking about.

Gua bao - a new menu item for summer - photo by Terry Lo

Gua bao – a new menu item for summer
- photo by Terry Lo

You might be a good cook, hell, you may be a great cook. As you flip that chicken breast in your Jamie Oliver T-Fal to the amazed gasps of your friends, and expertly plate up the evening’s meal like something you saw on Food Network, you’re feeling pretty good. People may tell you all the time that you’d have a successful restaurant and that you should open up a place of your own. As you take a moment to bask in the compliments of your guests and consider that thought, pause.

“Wow, you are quite the chef.”

“Thanks for the delicious eggs benedict, chef!”

Chef is a ubiquitous term. In everyday life, it carries the same weight as when your barber calls you, “Boss”. If you are seriously entertaining the thought of opening a restaurant to feed your ego and expect your friends to come in and make you successful, you’re probably delusional, from the fumes from that T-Fal teflon coating.

I’ve been working in kitchens on and off for over 20 years. Though I spent a big stint of time in the corporate world, I was always brought back to the kitchen. Divorce brought me back to the kitchen. Relationship breakdown brought me back. When I was young, the kitchen was a way for me to bring food to the table, go to school, and buy diapers for my daughter. It was a necessity. More recently, it was a way to get away from the despair of feeling lonely or depressed. It was a way for me to learn a business, learn a cuisine, learn a new language, and earn money. It was my education. I owe my life to the kitchen.

Me, in the kitchen.  - photo by Terry Lo

Me, in the kitchen.
- photo by Terry Lo

The kitchen doesn’t judge you. It doesn’t care about your credit score, your grade point average, or your tattoos. You work hard and you come back tomorrow, you slug it out together as a team and you gain yourself some brothers. There is no place for political correctness or tact in the kitchen. If you are offended by f-bombs, jokes about your genitals, jokes about your sexual persuasion, or your ethnicity, perhaps you should start a nice online business selling scented candles on Etsy. This is just how it is. Anthony Bourdain already said it all in “Kitchen Confidential”. If it wasn’t true, that book wouldn’t be the classic that it is.

All I’m saying is that one of the best ways (and cheapest ways) to learn about a business is to work there. You could go to school and take some courses on small business, get the logic and theory of running a business, but spend an evening after a busy dinner service with the boss, drinking a cold beer (cold beer after a busy dinner service is the BEST tasting beer EVER) and you’ll be surprised how much wisdom you can learn.

Now let’s say you’re a dishwasher or cook at a restaurant. You work a few nights a week, get off work at 11 o’clock, have a beer and take out the garbage after mopping the floor and cleaning the prep surfaces (hopefully not in that order). You’re exhausted. Times that by 10, work 7 days a week and you might have an hint of what it’s like to be the owner of that business.

How passionate do you feel now?

There is a good reason why people with their own businesses tell you how much hard work it is when you ask them. Because it’s true. Jo had no previous kitchen experience before starting Eats of Asia with me, but what she did have was a very long retail experience with exemplary people management skills. In the middle of cowboy country, having someone like Jo with the perspective she has with Asian food was crucial in selling bibimbap and gua bao to people that have no idea what our brand of Asian food was all about. I remember the first market day we had last October. It was the first weekend after taking over the old concession and everything was suddenly changed.

Jo, converting some new fans. - photo by Terry Lo

Jo, converting some new fans.
- photo by Terry Lo

To the locals and regular shoppers, it was a burger and fries joint that changed overnight to a multicultural ethnic street food fest that I billed, The Saturday Street Feast. We were one of five independent vendors that moved in to bring some diversity to the dining choices that were previously in place. We led the charge that day with Curry Laksa, a Malaysian noodle bowl with rice noodles, fish balls, prawns, chicken, and fried tofu in a coconut curry broth. We took a huge chance, but I was confident that the food would be well received. I stuck to the idea that I wanted to make food that I loved to eat. I also wanted to take the best elements of Asian food, bring them together and brand them to be accessible and approachable. That day, we made about $500, but we felt triumphant.

The comments were good. They went from, “This is so goood.” to a local rancher that said, “Tofu!? This is ALBERTA, man!”

I still laugh when I think of that one.

How I Got Started In The Restaurant Business – Passion Can Make You Do Some Crazy Sh*t

Eats of Asia - photo by J http://gotellyourmom.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have been following along for some time now, you’ll know that I, or Jo and I in this case, started our first foray into the restaurant business last October. Our place, Eats of Asia, is located in the famous Millarville Farmers Market, about 20 minutes or so southwest of Calgary. The Market itself has been around for over 30 years nestled in the heart of the Millarville racetrack which has been around for over 100 years. When the opportunity to get into this hallowed location came up, I almost said no. It was actually Jo that slapped the reality of this unique gift into my head. When I look back now, I wonder if I was high that I considered turning down what eventually became the start of the most important crossroad of my, or our lives.

Okara Fritters by The Aimless Cook

That’s me and Darren Maclean at his restaurant Downtownfood shooting the “Okara Fritters” show

For as long as I’ve been doing The Aimless Cook, people always told me in the video comments that I should open a restaurant. I’ve always dismissed the notion, knowing not only that it’s one of the most riskiest business ventures out there, but also that people who start to invest their money and quit their comfy salary jobs to pursue that dream of owning a place of their own often end up crashing and burning into oblivion. So what the hell am I thinking?

Well, I’ll be honest with you. Passion can make you do some crazy shit. The key is that you keep it real, make good decisions, and not be stupid. If I were to put it into terms that most people would understand, “Don’t be like a young lovestruck teen, letting your dick make your decisions for you.” How’s that? One of the first rules I learned about the restaurant business from my mentor, “Never buy anything you don’t need. Cash flow is everything.” This opportunity didn’t come sooner because I wouldn’t have been ready. I’m 41 years old, I’ve been divorced, I’ve gone through the worst that relationships can give you, and in addition I have the best that relationships can give you. I have 4 wonderful children that mean the world to me, and looking back I wouldn’t change a thing. You could say that the experiences that I’ve had made me super skeptical and yet always hungry for more. I would say that I’m ready. I can also safely say at this point in life that I know what I don’t need.

So what pushed me over the edge of being nestled comfortably in the safety of corporate life into navigating the often treacherous waters of entrepreneurship? Well, in my case, take a few of the well-known elements of success and throw in some key players who walked into my life, a unique opportunity, and my current mental state and I think you have it.

Everyone knows that passion is key to pursuing your dreams, and I’ve had a lot of dreams. I think during the course of my life I’ve wanted to be a comic book artist, a rock star, a writer, a financial planner (don’t ask how that one got in there). The difference now is that something always brings me back to food. Like an old friend, you never appreciate what you have, but they’re always there for you no matter what and no matter how many years go by. I love to cook good food, share Asian culture, and making a career out of it made perfect sense. A noble pursuit indeed.

In the next few posts, I will be writing more on the subject of my adventure in the industry. If you have your own dreams of opening a restaurant, I hope that this memoir will serve as a guide, or at least give you an idea of the realities of pursuing your own passions.

 

Calgary Stampede 2013 – Midway Food!

Stampede 2013 with The Aimless Cook

The Calgary Stampede is back and so is all the excitement that comes with it. I was on the Stampede midway last night and sampled some of the latest offerings that the food vendors had to offer. Among the classics, like corndogs, tacos, flautas, mini-donuts, and ginormous turkey legs, the bar was raised once again with the typical deep-fried shock-fest of offerings such as deep-fried Oreos, cheesecakes, Philly Cheesesteaks, and butter. Yeah…deep-fried butter. Here are a few of the items I had the pleasure (or displeasure) of sampling…

The classic corndog

This is my favourite food item under the “meat-on-a-stick” category. Whenever I visit the Stampede, this is one thing I cannot leave without having. Crunchy battered exterior, yielding to a perfectly cooked mystery meat in tube form underneath. This is street food genius on a stick. Just mustard, please!

Eggroll-on-a-stick

This is basically exactly what it says it is, and as a result of eating this, I ask the simple question…why? Eggrolls are finger food, meant to be eaten with your hands. They’re already made into a form that promotes portability and ease of consumption. Why complicate things by adding a stick? Now grab some wontons, make them super-sized, fry them up and put 4 on a skewer. There’s something I can enjoy on the midway!

Chocolate-dipped Jalapenos

I honestly thought I would enjoy these. The heat of the peppers in play with the dark chocolate sound intriguing, but I was dead wrong. Since the jalapenos are fresh, they emit that raw, very powerful heat that just overwhelms the palate in a way that the chocolate just can’t compete with. Another one of those snacks for late night drinking challenges when it’s time for truth or dare.

Deep-fried Butter

This just sounds wrong on a lot of levels, unless you’re a huge fan of Paula Deen’s cooking. Chunks of cold butter are wrapped in pie dough and deep-fried. As a result, what you end up with is a pile of deceptive little morsels of molten-hot, artery clogging pastry bites. Since the butter inside is melted, you get this crispy on the outside, raw dough inside bite that’s just not appetizing at all. They’re a little better dipped in ice cream, but if you want a better experience for your buck, just get churros and ice cream.

Naaco TNT

Calgary food truck, The Naaco Truck, brings their unique spin on Indian cuisine to the streets, and at this year’s Stampede, they have brought the Naaco TNT. The TNT is chef and owner, Aman Adatia’s take on the famous Indian street snack, Jhal muri which features a colourful and refreshing mix of local produce, puffed rice, fried chickpeas, cornflakes, cilantro, lime and a tangy tamarind dresssing. Put that mix into a paper cone, add a stick (in this case, a tongue depressor) to scoop it all up, and go hard. I love this dish. Unlike all the other fried offerings that are constantly trying to out-shock each other, the Naaco TNT is fresh, healthy and incredibly delicious. The textures of the dry ingredients interplay with the crisp cucumbers and sweet corn to give your mouth a very pleasant experience.

The flavour profile focuses on the fresh, local vegetables and are a nice complement to the tang of tamarind and lime juice in the dressing. The pineapple also adds a nice hit of sweetness to round things out. Beautiful.

There are a lot of foods on the midway that are out to challenge your perception and tastebuds. Some are way out there while there are still the good old classics. What are some of your favourite midway foods?

Okara Fritters – The Aimless Cook at Downtownfood

Okara Fritters by The Aimless Cook

On today’s show, I am with Chef Darren Maclean from Downtownfood as we make some delicious okara fritters on part 3 of our special on soybeans.

The first thing you’re gonna need is some okara. Okara is the leftover lees, or pulp from the soymilk making process, and if you haven’t watched our soymilk episode, you can watch it by clicking the annotation or on the link in the video description below.

We put together something simple using some minced pork and vegetables that we’ll include in today’s recipe, but you can use whatever ingredients you have on hand.

You will need:

  • 7 oz. okara
  • 3 oz. minced pork
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • ½ cup oyster mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons kimchi
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup dashi

Combine the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix well to make a batter. Put in saucepan on medium high and cook slowly for about 6-8 minutes, stirring often until the mixture absorbs most of the liquid. You should have something like thick pancake batter or mashed potatoes.

Heat some oil in a pot or deep fryer to about 325F. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop the batter into the oil and cook for 4-5 minutes until golden brown.

Drain well on paper towels and serve with your favourite toppings.

We used green onions, nitsume (unagi sauce), gochujang, and kewpie mayo.

The first thing I should say about these okara fritters is that they are very light and fluffy in texture. The okara absorbs flavours very well resulting in a very tasty bite.

What is your favourite deep-fried food?

Silken Tofu – The Aimless Cook at Downtownfood

Silken Tofu with Downtown Food

Silken tofu is incredible when made fresh, and Chef Darren MacLean from Downtown Food shows us how he makes his own tofu in-house daily. This is part 2 of our 3 -part special on soybeans!

You will need:

  • 3 cups fresh soymilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons gypsum powder, available at the Asian grocery

Make a slurry by combining the gypsum powder with a teaspoon of water. Add the mixture to the soy milk and mix well to combine. Put into a ceramic vessel and set aside.

Heat up a steamer on high heat til you have a rolling boil. Lower the temperature to med – med low until you have a gentle steam. carefully place the soymilk into the steamer and cover, leaving it slightly ajar to let extra condensation escape. Steam for about 6 minutes per inch of soymilk in the container.

*The tofu is done when it looks the consistency of custard.

Serve with your favourite toppings and enjoy!

Some of my favourite toppings include green onion, ponzu, mirin and soy reduction, sansai, dashi broth…

How do you enjoy your tofu?

Soy Milk – The Aimless Cook at DTF

Soymilk by The Aimless Cook

On today’s show, I’m with my friend, Chef Darren Maclean from Downtown Food. In this first episode of a 3 part special series, we’re cooking with soy beans!

Soy milk is amazingly simple to make and delicious. In Taiwan, it is enjoyed hot as a traditional breakfast item with freshly fried youtiao (Chinese crullers). In our special series on soybeans, we will show you how to make your own soymilk at home.

You will need:

  • 2 cups dried soybeans, soaked in water overnight

  • 1 litre fresh distilled water (your favourite spring water is also perfect)

 

Drain the soybeans and put them into a blender. Add 3 cups (750ml) of the water and blitz on high until the beans are completely blended.

Pour the mixture into a large pot and gently heat on medium high, stirring occasionally until the mixture reaches about 140F. You will see the mixture start to get frothy on the top. When it comes to tempurature, take off the heat and pour through a couple layers of cheesecloth.

Squeeze the cloth to extract the excess moisture, then open up the cheesecloth. Use the reserved cup of water (250ml) to pour over the soy pulp (okara) and give it another final squeeze.

Return the milk to the pot and give it another gentle heating to 140F. This is important as this will improve the flavour, removing the raw bean taste and breaking down the natural trypsin inhibitors thus improving the nutritional value as well.

When that’s done, strain again and put into a container. Refrigerate and enjoy!


What is your favourite soy product?

Guangzhou-style Fried Chicken

Guangzhou-style Fried Chicken

Inspired from Martin Yan’s China

This chicken recipe was inspired from a street stall in Guangzhou and is featured in Martin Yan’s book, “Martin Yan’s China”. I have never seen a marinade using fermented tofu for fried chicken. It piqued my curiosity for sure!

Marinade:

  • 2 cubes (1 oz) red fermented tofu
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon white pepper

And then:

  • 1 lb chicken thighs, boneless/skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • oil, for deep frying
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • 1 green onion, chopped

In a medium mixing bowl, mash the fermented tofu into a paste with a fork. Add the sugar, salt and white pepper and mix well. Add the chicken, cover and marinate in the fridge for 1 – 4 hours.

Heat 2 inches of oil to 350F in a wok or medium pot. Mix thecornstarch and a couple eggs in another medium bowl with a whisk. Add the chicken and stir to coat evenly. Working in batches, deep-fry the chicken, stirring gently to prevent them from sticking together until golden brown and crisp (about 5 min). Remove and drain on paper towels.

Put into paper cones, garnish with green onion and serve.

What is your favourite stinky food?

Steamed Bao – Chinese Steamed Buns

Steamed Bao by The Aimless Cook

Steamed bao are Chinese buns which are made by steaming a simple bread dough. They can be made plain or have a variety of tasty fillings like custard, meat or bean paste. In this recipe, I make the buns for my favourite Taiwanese style slider, gua bao. Enjoy!

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, melted
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

Combine water and milk in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Slowly stir in the water mixture, and when absorbed, stir in the shortening and vinegar. Turn the dough out to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover the dough and let sit under plastic for 1 hour.

Makes 16 bao.

What is your mealtime staple where you live?