It was one of those weekdays that I needed to get away from the office just to clear my head even though it is just for an hour or two. Good thing I had the camera with me that morning having left the camera in the car the night before. So I thought I just drive and look for a place to have a nice solitary lunch and blog about it.
I found a quiet little corner Vietnamese restaurant which name looked familiar. I vaguely recall coming across this name at some point before but I was not too sure. It looked authentic from the wordings with diacritical mark on the sign and sandwich board. Well, as long as I can’t read what they serve, it is worth the adventure of checking it out.
Truong Thanh is very much a hole-in-the-wall … very homey and very much a neighborhood kind of a restaurant. The customers seem like they know the restaurant owners personally judging by the way they greeted and talked with each other. I was the only one in the restaurant that day who doesn’t speak Vietnamese.
The service was warm and personal. There was the usual tea and menu promptly served the moment I sat down.
Truong Thanh has the usual pho items on their menu. Even though I had not had pho for a very long time, I am not about to order that. I was looking for something different, just not pho.
My eyes were on the one item that is the most expensive on the menu. It is $10 while the other items were just $7-$8. That looked perfect because it has fish cake, fried fish on fish soup — all fish. So this is like the fish version of the pho which is made up of beef parts and beef soup.
I don’t see a lot of places that serves green papaya pickles (top picture). I like that for its crunchiness and sourness — great for whipping up an appetite. The green herbs and lettuce is also something I appreciate over the usual bean sprouts.
Looking at it, I was thinking that this is totally unlike … More on following page. Click here to continue reading
Update 17-April-2011: This restaurant is now closed.
Dylan made sure that the Jiangsu cuisine is one that everyone will never forget. He had set a standard so high that it will make it more difficult for future dinners in the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine (8GTCC) series to measure up to.
Last week was the second in the series of the discovery of the 8GTCC cuisine dinners. It was based on a cuisine that I had very little knowledge of. Dylan and the rest of the 8GTCC team did a lot of research and provided input that produced an excellent introduction to the Jiangsu cuisine. During the course of the planning, I personally learned a lot about the people, the history, the province and finer points of the Jiangsu cuisine.
The dinner was held in the Shanghai Village restaurant. The restaurant is located on Cambie Street.
When we started hashing the whole idea of the 8GTCC project, we were quite uncertain on how we could do the more obscure cuisines. We knew it would be easy to do Cantonese, Sichuan and Hunan cuisines because these cuisines were so well represented in Metro Vancouver. It was only with the collective effort of the team that we managed to find a restaurant that could do Jiangsu cuisine.
It was not easy. I mean who would have thought that a restaurant by the name of Shanghai Village would be the one? It was Sarah, a chowhound, who alerted the team that the chef behind Shanghai Village restaurant is from Nanjing, the capital of the province of Jiangsu.
This dinner is dubbed 8GTCC Jiangsu.
In all counts, this dinner surpasses the initial 8GTCC Hunan dinner in Alvin Garden. In the 8GTCC Hunan dinner, we had 52 people attending. In this dinner, we had 67 seats filled.
We think that the number would have been higher if not for the fact that this dinner is more expensive ($36+tips per person) compared to the 8GTCC Hunan dinner ($20 rounded). But then we know we cannot compare just on the prices alone. For one, this dinner has an astounding 19 dishes(!). I can safely say that I had never had a dinner with so many dishes before in my life.
The 8GTCC team debated on the number of dishes fearing that it would be too many. At the end, we all went ahead with 19 dishes, not wanted to cut any dishes from the initial shortlist.
Moreover, in Dylan’s words, the 8GTCC Jiangsu dinner is a journey from the humble farm houses of Hunan to the palatial ancient Chinese capital of Jiangsu. This dinner is more refined with a number of seafood dishes of lobsters, crab, fish, and prawns. There are also complete servings of duck and chicken.
Logistically, this dinner was a bit of a challenge when we found that the table arrangements were less than ideal. That called for some last second changes. Our dinner party was spread over 6 tables of various sizes and spread out through the length of the restaurant. That put paid to any pre-dinner speeches and all. I wanted so much to properly introduce all the people who worked so hard on this event (particularly Dylan).
The dinner started off with two types of soup.
Shanghai Village’s specialty is their soup. Their menu dedicates two full pages of their claypot soup and carries 35 different kind of soups.
The two soups are Ribs with Lotus Roots (left) and Ranch chicken with Tea Tree Mushroom (right).
The soup are double boiled soup cooked in individual claypot.
I like the Tea Tree Mushroom soup, particularly the medicinal mushroom which has a long stem with a woody smell.
The Nanjing Salty Duck came next. If there is one dish that associates most closely to Nanjing (the capital of Jiangsu), it is this. I was told that in Nanjing, you see this hanging from many city restaurant windows.
I had associated duck dishes with very lean dry meat with sharp bones. However, this Nanjing Salty Duck is very different. It is quite meaty and has a nice fatty layer under the skin. Served cold, the dish showcases the purest flavour and texture of the duck. Because this is such a classic dish, we had a full duck for each table.
Next came the Cold Dishes platter.
In the middle is the Qinhuai bean jelly — a cold dish of green bean jelly, named for the former pleasure district of Nanjing.
On the top left is the Five Spice Smoked Fish. it is cooked in the red-braised style, flavored with anise, cloves, cassia, and dark soy sauce.
On the top is the Preserved Beancurd which tasted pleasantly sweetish. I can’t recall this dish being planned but am not complaining if this is an addition.
The Marbled Preserved Egg is not exactly a Jiangsu specialty. This is the creation of Chef Ming which captivates the attention of everyone. This dish is a playful take on a cold dish of preserved duck egg: a salted duck yolk and a century egg combined in one shell.
Sorry for mentioning this but I felt it was funny that one of us actually ate the whole thing together with the egg shell. LOL! I understand. How is everyone to know right? This sort of things happens to the best of us and this is part of the learning of foreign cuisines.
The next one was my favourite … the Soy Sauce Braised Spot Prawns.
Taking the Jiangsu cuisine philosophy of eating what’s in season, Shanghai Village served the local prawns and had it cooked simply.
Chef Ming served the best and largest spot prawns that is so satisfying. For me, the proper way to eat this is … More on following page. Click here to continue reading
The last element in the Pabellon Criollo dish is the Fried Plaintain Slices. Plaintain is generally used for cooking. Unripe plaintain is starchy and not suitable to be eaten raw. Plantain also has a firmer texture than sweet banana. That’s why they are usually steam, boil or fry before eaten.
When buying plantain, you want to pick those with brownish skin for a more ripe plantain which tends to be sweeter.
- 3 plantains, peel and cut into long slices
- Mozzarella cheese, grated
- oil for frying
Prep time: 5 minutes; Cook time: 10 minutes; Serve 4 to 6
Simply fry the plantain with a couple tablespoons of oil until both sides are golden brown. Serve plantain with grated mozzarella cheese.
This will complete the series for the Venezuelan national dish, Pabellon Criollo con Barandas. Maria, thank you for sharing with us.
The third element in the Pabellon Criollo dish (Venezuelan’s national dish) is black beans. If you want to learn more about bean, check out the post ”All About Beans’ here.
Maria prefers her Caraotas Negras Fritas to be sauteed to almost dry and not soggy.
- 1 large can black beans
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, finely chopped
- oil for sauteeing
- 3 green onions, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
Prep time: 15 minutes; Cook time: 20 minutes; Serve 4 to 6
Typically, shredded beef is served in the Pabellon Criollo, Venezuelan’s national dish. However, Maria substituted the shredded beef with beef meatballs.
Maria made giant beef meatballs, almost the size of golf ball. These Carne Albondigas is great and it can be served with spaghetti or in a sub too.
- 1 kilogram ground beef
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 red pepper, finely diced
- 2 eggs
- 1 large can crushed tomatoes
- 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, more or less
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- Worcestershire sauce to taste, optional
- 1 carrot, finely grated
- 1 or 2 beef bouillon, optional
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
- oil for frying
Prep time: 30 minutes; Cook time: 40 minutes; Serve 8 to 10
Maria from Venezuela demonstrated Venezeula’s natioanal dish in the Caring Place Community Kitlchen. We were so excited to learn about this dish.
Venezuela’s national dish is called Pabellon Criollo. It is has rice, beans and beef. Maria made a version called Pabellon Criollo con Barandas which also include fried plantain. Branda is Spanish for guard rail. The long fried plantain slices are placed on the sides to keep food from falling off the plate. Fried plaintain slices are called tajadas.
Panellon Criollo is one of the most representative of Venezuelan cuisine. It is full of colours and flavours which shows represent the union and integrity of the country.
This dish is made up of a few elements. The first item is the rice which is called Arroz. The rice may look plain but it has lots of flavour in it. I will blog about the other elements in following posts.
- 1 kilogram of white rice (about 4 cups)
- 1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 green or red pepper, cut into quarters
- 1/2 cup oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- green onion, sliced (optional)
- 6 cups water
Prep time: 10 minutes; Cook time: 30 minutes; Serve 8 to 10
Oh Boy! Am I glad this is a long weekend. I had been running on fumes for the past two weeks. That is why I did not post any weekend musings last week. I really look forward to catching up on the millions of to-dos over this long weekend.
The boys are away in camp this long weekend too. So Suanne and I are home alone. It is so quiet around the house this morning. I already missed Nanzaro interrupting me with his random questions while I am in the middle of writing a blog post. He always does that which annoys me. LOL!
Remember we were told by our hosting company (GoDaddy.com) that chowtimes is causing an overload to their servers? They told us to fix it or they will have no choice but to kick us out. Alternatively, we need to move to a $165 a month plan! Gosh … from a $16 plan to a $165 plan … we can’t afford that!
Well, I am glad to tell you that the worst is over. We did a lot of changes on chowtimes. Most of it is under the hood and they are not really visible to you. The good thing is, GoDaddy re-examined chowtimes on May 15th … and they gave us the thumbs up. The changes we had made are good enough, at least for now. The site is lighter in many ways.
Whew! For a moment we were so worried they will kick us out like the dastradly BlueHost.com folks did to us last year. They did not give us any notice and just shut our site down. No warning at all that our site is overloading their CPU!
At least GoDaddy gave us one month to sort this out. So … GoDaddy Go!
One of the blog post I really love to follow is Tana’s blog called the Cheap Appetite. In his post about Fried Chicken in Chinatown, someone brought up the link to our old chowtimes blog.
I had completely forgotten about that first chowtimes blog. Looking back at chowtimes in 2006, I can’t help but to think how … More on following page. Click here to continue reading
Update 28-Apr-2011: This restaurant had closed for some time already.
So I was out with the 8GTCC boys and girls. We had just gone to the Shanghai Village restaurant meeting with Chef Ming and finalizing the plans for the 8GTCC Jiangsu dinner. You know, if you think that the 8GTCC team has perks from the restaurants, you are mistaken. Even when the 8GTCC project brings recognition to the restaurant concerned, we do not get a free meal out of the restaurant at all. At best, the restaurant serves us Chinese tea. That is why I am so thankful for the sacrifices demonstrated by the team.
After we met Chef Ming, the plan was to go for a dinner at a restaurant called City Temple of Shanghai on Main Street. When we got there, it was closed! Dylan said that he checked the day before and was told they will be opened. However, when we got there, the restaurant was locked. The sign outside says that they were supposed to open that day. Strange.
Anyway, without a real Plan B, we quickly coordinated between the few cars to drive across town to Spicy Legend for hot pot on Kingsway and Joyce. After driving all the way, we found to our chagrin that we need a reservation in that restaurant. Wow. This is the first time I had seen a hole-in-the-wall eatery requiring a reservation. That restaurant is so small and can fit maybe 15 people (?). I gotta check that place out sometime.
So instead of driving to another location and forced to drop our standards, we walked down Kingsway looking for Plan C …
The Jin Chuan Restaurant looked promising. None of us noticed this restaurant before. It looked new. If I remember correctly, this is the spot where the Popular Chinese Cuisine used to be. We loved that restaurant.
Apparently, Jin Chuan is new, really new. They had just opened for five days. Interesting. We thought maybe perhaps this place would be a “find” if the food turns out great.
We noticed that their chopstick wrapper has Meishan Restaurant name printed on it. Meishan is a restaurant in Crystal Mall. The logo of Meishan and Jin Chuan is almost identical.
I like their menu. I thought it was one of the better looking ones except it would be great with a few pictures of their specialties.
If you take a close look at their prices (click above to see larger image), the lunch specials are very good too … $6 to $7. I am going to go back one of these days to try their lunch special since my office is just a short drive away.
Ordering was left to the experts. I do not know what some of the dishes are called. It’s the kind of dinner I like — no brain work involved.
I am beginning to see a pattern having dined with the 8GTCC team. It seems they like mainland Chinese food with spicy bolder dishes and exotic meat and stuff.
The spicy water boiled zebra meat was delicious. I never had this before. I was … More on following page. Click here to continue reading