RSSArchive for September, 2010

Dakshin Indian Cuisine on King George Highway and 80th, Surrey

Updated: 21st June 2012: This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com

At my place of work, we have a number of contract staff from India. They had been with the company for over a year already. A couple of weeks ago I bumped into them at the coffee machine. We chatted and of course I had to ask them this question “what is the most memorable Indian food you had ever tried in Vancouver?”

I still remember a long time ago when I had dinner with Michelle. Michelle is a another foodie who follows chowtimes but she hardly participated in comments. She knows her food and travels the world in search of good food (I like her lifestyle!). Well, knowing that she is familiar with East Indian cuisine, I asked her the same sort of question … “Is there a very good Indian Cuisine restaurant in Vancouver?” She could rattle off names of a lot of other type of restaurants … and she couldn’t come up with one that is Indian.

Yet another friend, also East Indian, said that it is hard to find really authentic home made Indian food too. He was telling me that the perennial Vancouver favourite, the butter chicken, is so westernized that he hardly want to try them in restaurants. He said that many restaurants will cream up the curries with whipped cream.

Yeah … there is so little I know about authentic Indian food although I grew up with Malaysian food which is heavily influenced by South Indian cuisine.

Back to the contract staff at the coffee machine …

Their answer to my question was unanimously “Dakshin”. My question launched them into an excited description of why Dakshin is their favourite restaurant. I enjoyed that conversation as obviously these guys are passionate about food as much as I do.

All of them are from South India and two of the more vocal ones are from the city of Hyderabad. They gave me a crash course on Hyderabadi cuisine saying Dakshin is an authentic Hyderabadi restaurant and the restaurant makes the food like they have at home in Hyderabad. The one dish they spoke so much about was the Hyderabadi Biryani.

So for the entire week, each time I bumped into them at the coffee machine, we were mostly talking about Indian cuisine and Dakshin’s dishes.

By the time Suanne and I got the chance to go to Dakshin on our Friday date night, I felt I already know what I wanted to order.

Dakshin is a long drive from home. It is in Surrey, a part of the Lower Mainland that I hardly go to. I am very sure that there are a lot of good restaurants but I know so little of the place. Anyway, Dakshin is located on King George Highway at the intersection with 80th Avenue. It’s easy to find.

Dakshin is a nice big and spacious restaurant. It is clean; a little dim with soft lights. Sorry, I color corrected the picture above and it turned out to be brighter than it is. LOL!

It was quite empty on that Friday night. Despite the size of the restaurant which can seat … ooh … 60-70 people at least, there were only 3 other parties.

We were initially served by a young Indian girl. She was soooo soft spoken and shy. I asked too many questions and she appeared unsure in her replies. So she got someone else to help us — a guy who seems in charge of the floor that night. He was really helpful and obliging with all the dumb questions I had. He was also very knowledgeable too.

Click on pix above if you can’t read the small prints.

Here is a bit more info … the name Dakshin simply means “South”. This restaurant specializes on food from Hyderabad and Chattinad. The waiter told us that they spare no effort in making their famous Biryani the way it is uniquely done in Hyderabad — no corners cut. He also told us that their chef is a chef who used to work in the Taj Palace (it’s a hotel, not a palace BTW) in Hyderabad. I thought the way he said it like its a big deal adding that the Taj hotels and palaces are the finest hotels in India.

The waiter also told us that Dakshin is one of only two Hyderabadi restaurants in Metro Vancouver. The other one is also owned by them a few blocks away which serves crepes and snacks. Dakshin had been operating for the last 1.5 years already — so, pretty newish.

They don’t have a big menu. Just four pages of it. Captivating.

Their prices are OK — not too expensive. The Indian contract staff at my office told me that they had recently lowered their prices because at one point it was very expensive. For instance, the Biryani is $12 now. It used to be $14-$15.

A few days before my visit, I mentioned about Dakshin on vanchow. Someone took a look at their menu and pointed out that they even have Chinese (eg. Chicken Corn Soup) and North Indian food (eg. Butter Chicken) on their menu … that kind of watered down Dakshin’s claim to being authentic Hyderabad. So I just HAD to take this “issue” up with our waiter. He laughed and told us that he just had to put in a bit of everything to cater to more people’s taste — a fact of life in Vancouver’s restaurants.

Other than the Biryani, the other highly recommended dish from my colleagues at work is the Chicken 65. This is one interesting dish.

Chicken 65 is traditionally eaten as an appetizer. But what an appetizer. This is $9 but there are so much chicken in this that you might as well have this as an entree.

The origin of the name Chicken 65 is interesting. There are no such thing as a Chicken 64 or a Chicken 66 and yet in Indian if you ask for Chicken 65, everyone knows what it is. Don’t try to ask them why the name because everyone would have their own version on how the name came about.

So I checked this up in Wikipedia. Here are some of the possible origins:

  • It is made with 65 ingredients
  • It is made with 65 types of chili
  • It originally costs 65 rupees
  • Each piece should weigh 65 grams (unlikely)
  • It was invented in 1965
  • It takes 65 days to make the marinade
  • The chicken used must be 65 days old
  • The most interesting one is this. Some Indian troops from the north were stationed in the southern part of the country. They couldn’t speak the local language but they love the item #65 on the menu of this particular restaurant. So they always ordered Chicken 65.

Like I said, there is no Chicken 64 or Chicken 66. However, the waiter told me that there is a Mutton 56. LOL!

Lovely, is how I would simply describe Chicken 65. This is a perfect appetizer with the right flavour that you don’t need this with rice or bread. The chicken is boneless and it is batter fried … so it does give a nice crunch and a light crisp but at the same time not at all like fried chicken. It is moist … spicy with a hint of tanginess. That spiciness leaves a nice lingering heat on the lips. We love it and couldn’t stop munching on them.

THIS … this is what the folks in the office was raving about.

And I want to say up front that I never had Biryani this good. The name is Hyderabadi Dum Ki Lamb Biryani and it is $11. If you come to this restaurant, this is the only dish you need to order if you just want only one thing. You can have the chicken version but lamb is the way to go.

The million dollar question I had to the waiter was “So what makes this so great?”. His eyes brightened up and went on to explain that there is nothing like this on this earth (he he he … don’t they always say that?). He explained in such minute details in such quick speed that some of it went swoosh over our head.

Here is what makes it such a big deal: More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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“Wind Sand” Chicken Wings from Parker Place Food Court

You folks who read Chinese would have heard about “wind sand” chicken wings before. Not me.

For the past few weeks, several people had commented on chowtimes or sent me emails about “wind sand” chicken wings. And yesterday, neige-tyro commented about the Taikoo being an original gangsters of wind-sand chicken wings. I just had to find out what “wind sand” chicken wings are … and why that name.

It turns out that I HAD wind-sand chicken wings before, just that I did not realize it. It was in Taikoo (blog entry here) that I had them. I did not know it was called wind-sand chicken wings. I thought it was just plain out deep fried chicken wings.


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Some one mentioned that the Parker Place food court also has the stall that is famous for the wind-sand chicken wings. I thought this stall would also be one of the original “gangsters” of the sand-wind chicken wings. Moreover, we wanted to make a return visit to Parker Place to have a closer look at the Shanghainese food stall. Our earlier blog entry on the Parker Place food court is here on this link.

From the way the name wind-sand chicken wings is pronounced in Chinese, we knew it must be a Cantonese stall. The thing is, the food stalls here in Parker Place is mostly Cantonese. We went around every stall looking at the menus knowing that we can never trust the English translations. A few of the stalls has “deep-fried chicken wings” but we are looking specifically for wind-sand chicken wings.

It was hard reading hundreds of menu items in the stall. We knew what the Chinese characters roughly looked like for wind-sand. Finally found it in the Parker Good Foods stall (just next to the popular Joy’s stall). It was the smallest of prints on the menu on the wall. Moreover it was handwritten too. It was only later when we sat down that we saw the BIG words in Chinese on the wraparound of the counter (the last six yellow colored characters in the picture above).

Here it is … the Wind Sand Chicken Wings from Parker Good Food.

A quick visual comparison between Taikoo’s (see image here) and Parker Good Food shows that Taikoo’s is better.

Price wise, it is $5.50 for four wings in Parker Good Food and in Taikoo, it is $3.75 for three wings. So it is about 15 cents cheaper per wing in Taikoo’s.

It is a good thing that the lady who manned the counter was really chatty. So I said to her, “What a strange name for chicken wings. Why do they call this the wind-sand chicken wings?”

I would have been happy if she just told me the answer in a single sentence but she went into a long story. LOL! I like her.

She told us that in the old days in China, More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Peanut Butter: Heaven in a Jar

Peanut Butter Infographic.

Infographic by Culinary Schools.org

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Beijing Cuisine on Cambie and Sexsmith, Richmond

May I have your permission to get excited again … please? LOL!

Let me cut to the chase … this is a restaurant that:

  • serves good food
  • portions are big
  • waitresses speaks English and very friendly, and
  • most importantly, very reasonable prices.

We just chanced onto the Beijing Cuisine last weekend while driving around deciding where to eat next. That’s what we do sometimes when we don’t know where to go to and we don’t want what’s on the to-try list. In Richmond, there are plenty of places to eat. Every now and then, you see new restaurants opening.

The Beijing Cuisine is located in the Continental Center which is on Cambie and Sexsmith in Richmond. This exact location can be considered another “restaurant graveyard”. Before Beijing Cuisine, this was called Taiwanese Cuisine (blogged in June 2009) … and even before it was Taiwanese Cuisine, it was Vogue Chinese Cuisine (blogged in April 2008).

We were drawn by the simple bright red sign. With darkened windows, we thought this would be one of the higher end restaurants. We were wrong.

The interior is exactly the same as we remember it when it was Taiwanese Cuisine. Even the furnitures and the lightings are the same.

Service was friendly and surprisingly all three waitresses speaks very good English. That helped a lot because we could chat with them and ask them all sort of questions.

At a glance at the menu cover, I thought that looked very familiar and saw it somewhere before.

The name of this restaurant in Chinese is translated as “Old Beijing” or “Traditional Beijing”. But it was the red cover with the yellow fonts that I remember. When I flipped open the menu, the sections and selections also look awfully familiar.

It was after a few minutes when I ask the waitress “Are you by any chance related to the Beijing Noodle House on Buswell?”

“Yes” she said adding that they had only opened for 10 days. She even flashed all her 10 fingers to emphasize that. I think she was kind of proud that after just ten days operating they are running almost full house.

She told us that the owner of Beijing Noodle House (we blogged about them here before), had just sold that restaurant and opened this one instead. The Beijing Noodle House is still there, sporting the same name. If you go to that Beijing Noodle House blog entry and look at the menu on the table in the second picture, you will see the identical red menu.

See? I have good memory of good menus. :-)

I like menus like this. There were so many to go over that we took our sweet time. The waitresses came by twice asking if we are ready to order and on the third time, we told told her we will just order the appetizer first because we need more time.

If you want to check the menus above, let me tell you a little trick. Just right-click each image and select “Open in new window or tab”. That way you don’t have to flip to the menu, come back to this post and click the next one.

The appetizers are as cheap as $3.00 to $6.50. The Mouth Watering Chicken was supposed to be $7.95 but they scratch it out to say $12.95! Now that one is expensive.

Here are some of their other price ranges:

  • Main dishes are mostly $10 to $13
  • Soup are $6 to $12
  • Noodles are mostly $7 to $8
  • Beijing style snacks are $5.00 to $7.50
  • Dessert are $4 to $5

The prices are not too bad right?


The above was the get-off-our-back-we-need-more-time-with-the menu order.

Actually it was recommended by the waitress … the Beijing Style Sauteed Pork with Green Onion in Bean Sauce and Pancake ($11).

Actually I didn’t want to … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Amigo Restaurant on Alexandra Road, Richmond

It was only of those rare nights when we went out for a movie. I tried to get both the boys to come along but only Nanzaro was willing to come along — somewhat reluctantly.

We chose a rather random movie. We chose it more because of the movie timing than the show. It was called “The Town”. It was about robberies, shoot outs with a bit of romance thrown in. Suanne doesn’t like such shows but Nanzaro and I does. But she likes Ben Affleck (who incidentally also has a role directing this film).

Nanzaro and I checked before we left the house. The movie is rated 14+ but they have two of those “ahem” scenes. It was kind of awkward, especially for Nanzaro. The show was totally predictable … enjoyable but I thought I saw this story line a hundred of times on TV already.

After the movie, we went to look for a small bite. Not wanting to drive far, we went to Richmond’s glutton street. We could not find one that we had not blogged about before and yet will stay open at least until 11PM.

Come to think of it, we don’t usually dine out after 9PM. That is why we were kind of surprised that many restaurants were already closed or were closing by 10PM.

Without much of a choice left, we went to the Amigo Restaurant. Among the many HK Style Cafes in Richmond, this is one place we had never had the want to check out. I am not sure why. Maybe it is because people don’t talk about this place or maybe I thought this is an Asian teenager hangout.

Apparently. it was not a teenager hangout. This is very much like the usual HK Style Cafe you find elsewhere in Richmond. The whole place seems so slow, it even seem so listless. The customers were so quiet, like they are there just for a bite and don’t talk to each other much. It is weird … everyone look so tired.

Service was good. Very prompt. We got everything we needed when we need them.

There was not much of a choice already at that hour. The waitress handed us their “Afternoon Delight/Late-night Special” menu (click to show in larger image).

It is small, just 32 items. All of them very normal HK Style fare. Nothing particularly exciting or stands out for us. They are mostly $7 and that came with hot coffee or tea ($1 extra for cold).

Suanne wanted something super light and found the lightest to be the Sweet Soy Sauce Chicken Wing (6 pcs).

This is $8 for … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Canning Zucchini, Squash and Tomato Ratatouille

With the abundance harvest of zucchini, Ian made a Zucchini, Squash and Tomato Ratatouille. This is very similar to the Mixed Vegetables Relish he did in an earlier workshop. However, since there is lesser variation of vegetables, this can be cooked together instead of individually.

For this Zucchini, Squash and Tomato Ratatouille, Ian used various kinds of tomatoes, i.e. tomato sauce, sun dried tomato and fresh tomato.

Ian told us he uses the organic tomato sauce from Costco for pasta or cook it down for pizza topping.

Ian also used the above canned tomatoes for this recipe.

Ingredients

Ian’s recipe as above, plus chopped onions.

The zucchinis were huge. Just remember to remove the core as they are spongy.

Source: Ian Lai

More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Canning Gooseberries in Lavender Syrup

I had came across gooseberries in a lot of Western dining. Gooseberries are often used to garnish dessert. I have never try to eat them before.

Ian encouraged us to try one if we have never eaten one before. They are really sweet and nice when they are ripened. The left over gooseberries seemed to disappear from the bowl as many cant stop munching it.

The gooseberries can be eaten with plain yogurt. As for the lavender syrup, you can add it to soda pop to have a lavender infused soda pop.

As usual, Ian did not provide the exact amount of ingredients for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • gooseberries
  • sugar
  • water
  • lavender

Source: Ian Lai

More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Canning Tomatillo Salsa

This year, the Richmond Sharing Farm has a bounty harvest of tomatillo. Due to the unfamiliarity to the usage of tomatillo, the sales at the Steveston Farmers Artisans Market was not good. There were lots of tomatillo left for canning.

The Tomatillo Salsa made in the canning workshop will be used to make Fish Tacos at the Applepalloza event in Fall. The Applepalloza event will be held at the Orchard, south end of Gilbert Road, before the dyke in Richmond on October 3rd. It’s an apple tastings event with games in the orchard, salmon BBQ, music and more.

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups chopped husked tomatillos (about 2 pounds or 27 medium size tomatillos
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1 large)
  • 1 cup chopped green chilies (about 2 medium)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 4 (8oz) half pint glass perserving jars with lids and bands

Quick tip: when cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.

If tomatillo is not available, you can substitute it with green tomato.

Source: Karen Dar Woon

Yields 4 (8oz) half pint glass preserving jars

More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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