Weekend Musings (03-Apr-2010)

I am glad this is a long weekend. It allows me to catch my breath and catch up on sleep. I am half groggy sitting here right now.

Do you Facebook?


I had setup the chowtimes fan page on Facebook last night — finally! There was a lot of help I got from Me Plus Food who pointed me in the right direction.

If you are on Facebook, you can do a search for chowtimes and you should land on the chowtimes fan page. Be a fan … please? I was told that I need at least 25 fans before I can get a pretty URL like http://facebook.com/chowtimes.

Chowtimes is also on Twitter too. Our Twitter page is on http://twitter.com/chowtimes.

The 8GTCC Project UpdateAroma-Garden-Hunan-34-150x150The response is pretty good to the Discovery of the Hunan Cuisine dinner. After 24 hours, we have 31 people confirmed and another 21 people who had not confirmed yet. At the rate we are going, there is a chance that we will probably take up the entire restaurant!

I had sent emails to some of you from my ben@chowtimes.com account. Just as a reminder … for some who wonder why you had not received my email even though you had indicated your interest in attending, my email could possibly be in your spam folder. Look in there for me, please and take me off your spam list? For some reason, emails from my chowtimes account often end up in email spam folders.

The project team and I are excited about the dinner.

Thinking of Exotic Coffeekopi_luwak-150x150I have something new brewing, pun intended. We have in our hands some Kopi Luwak courtesy of a reader. We might even have Blue Mountain coffee too, courtesy of another reader.

So am trying to organize a fun event. It will be something along the line of a light lunch and then adjourn to a nice place for the coffee. We had already identified the place which is just perfect for a cuppa after lunch.

I am thinking of doing a blind tasting sort of thing and see if we can contrast the taste between:

I’ll let the Hunan thingy over first before I do this next one. This too will be fun for sure!

Thinking of Suckling PigSuckling-Pig-Botin-Madrid-1-150x150I had been bombarded literally with suggestions and discussions of Suckling Pig the whole week long. Now I can’t shake it out of my head. Now I am determined to hunt for the best suckling pig in Metro Vancouver.

Suanne and I remember very well the excellent Suckling Pig when we were in Madrid last summer. That was in a restaurant called Sobrino Botin which is the oldest restaurant in the world — well, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. That was some awesome meal in such a historical setting. Goya worked there as a waiter and Hemingway dined there often too.

So far I only know of … La Brasserie and the Irish Heather — both places I had never been to before. Are there any other places you know of?

Jackie Chan Selling Fish in SingaporeJackie-The-Fishmonger-150x150He he he … Angie sent me a link and I thought it was so funny. I just gotta share this with you.

This guys looks like Jackie Chan, doesn’t he?

He is NOT Jackie Chan. He is a fishmonger in Singapore. Apparently he is very popular because he resembles Jackie Chan — the nose, the hair and the muscles.

Read all about it here.

Last But Not Least … Happy Easter!The-Empty-Tomb-150x150It’s a long weekend. Sometimes I feel that all these long weekends we have in Canada have lost its meanings. We don’t really celebrate much and we take these holidays as just another day when we don’t have to work.

Yesterday’s day off was to remember Good Friday which is a sacred day for the Christian community. Tomorrow, it is Easter. In our world today, Easter is about egg hunts and bunnies. Not too long ago, Easter was about hope, new life, salvation … and an empty tomb.

Hope you all have a good weekend as you spend it with your family and friends … and as always, EAT WELL!

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  1. fmed

    Did someone say suckling pig?

    Osteria Napoli (Renfrew/1st Ave) is having a Pig Roast event on April 11th. (I don’t think it is a suckling pig – more like a 50-60 lb-er). Go there around 6-630 to watch the pre-carving parade.

  2. Jame

    Hi Ben,

    I hear that Congee Noodle House has the best suckling pig and that people tend to order there for weddings and stuff! Not sure if it is true or a myth!?! Can’t remember if I have eaten theirs before…

  3. fmed

    If Chinese style pig is acceptable, then try one of the BBQ Houses for sure…Money’s, Parker Place, etc.

  4. Jonnek

    According to Tony Bourdain, the Philippine style roast pig (lechon) is the best one in the world. Maybe Pinoygourmet knows someone who makes authentic Filipino lechon in Vancouver area.

    1. Ben

      Hi Jonnek:
      I had lunch with Pinoygourmet today and he mentioned that Goto King is opening a Lechon specialty place within the next two weeks. This will be a few doors away from Goto King on Joyce.

      1. Jonnek

        Yeheey thanks for the info Ben. Finally a good lechon place in Vancouver. Cabt wait to dig into the crispy skin of authentic FIlipino lechon. Nevermind the cholesterol.

        1. Ben

          Hi Jonnek:
          We’ll see if that new Lechon place lives up to the hype. BTW, PinoyGourmet told me that the best Lechon cannot be made in the oven. It has to be made under the watchful eyes of the Lechon master, slowly turning the pig under an open fire.

  5. el_lobo_solo

    I’m hoping (but not getting my hopes too high) that the Lechon place will be of the same crispy quality I saw on Bourdain’s No Reservations. Most Filipino places that serve lechon usually deep fry the pork. Cucina Manila has spawned Goto King and the forthcoming Lechon place. They’re building an empire on that block of Joyce one store front at a time.

  6. fmed

    Good news on the new Lechon place. There used to be a couple of “underground” Lechoneros that Filipinos would get their Lechon from, but they are no longer in operation. I hear many get them from Money’s BBQ on Fraser St. You can ask them to do it “Filipino-style”.

  7. pinoygourmet

    Actually even Money s doesnt really get it Filipino style.I have tasted the “sample lechon” at a private tasting and they got the taste.The place will also offer roasted chickens “litsong manok,”barbeque pork”liempo” available as rice toppings.Yumyum

    1. fmed

      Money’s is a Chinese BBQ so they do theirs like siu yuk/sio bak (Chinese roast pork). They probably just leave out the five-spice salt to make it “Filipino style”.

      I would imagine that the skin is also quite blistered – which is a Filipino Lechonero attempts to avoid. I also here that Money’s take out the belly meat “to make it cook faster”.

      The Lechoneros who formerly operated here used specially built spit ovens that operate lower and slower than the Chinese roasting ovens.

    2. Jonnek

      Wow, aside from authentic Pinoy lechon, they will also offer lechon manok like Andok’s in Manila. Yummy!! I think I will move to the Joyce street area.

      BTW, authentic lechons are typically cooked over an open pit using charcoals. Here’s the youtube link of the lechon that Anthony Bourdain called the best roast pig in the world. It’s a newscast in Filipino but the person doing the preparation narrated it in English.


    3. el_lobo_solo

      So will Joyce BBQ / Manila Lechon have liempo on a regular basis? Whether Cucina Manila has it is always hit and miss, usually a miss for me whenever I go. I hope the new place won’t charge for the vinegar sauce, like another unsaid Filipino resto does now.

  8. pinoygourmet

    That is correct,The Chinese Ovens are set at a higher temprature.They got a different kind of oven that cooks at a lower temprature over a longer period and They found a Filipino pig farmer in Surrey to raise pigs with less exercise and have a fatter”less lean”pig for lechon

    1. Jonnek

      Fat rules!! Thats why pork belly dishes are so popular in Asian cuisines.

  9. We’ve been looking for honest-to-goodness Filipino lechon for more than 15 years! LOL

    So I am very eagerly awaiting Goto King’s latest. . .happiness!

  10. HM

    Thanks Ben for the info on the upcoming Lechon place here in Vancouver. Very much looking forward to good suckling pig. In Spain last year, we had the Cochinillo Asada (roasted suckling pig) as well as the Cordero Lechal (roasted baby lamb) at the Meson de Candido, Sergovia. Both the pig and lamb were so tender. What a great foodie experience!

  11. keev

    hmmmm…. love roast piggies…. the fatter the better with crispy roasted skins. i am no expert. sounds like you guys are very knowledgeable on this matter.

    when is the lechon place in joyce scheduled to open?

    yes open spit fire would be ideal for cooking the pig. ideally a whole pig or at least a side as oppose to a smaller cut..

    suckling pigs are normally pre-ordered item. i certainly prefer suckling pigs to their larger cousins.

    still looking into getting a sous vide. will want to sous vide some pig and throw it on a rotisserie. hear that is a good way to go about it.

    but roasted baby lamd… hmmm any pics?

    1. Ben

      Hi Keev:
      For roasted, it is all about the skin isn’t it? I had been thinking about blistered skin or smooth skin. The Chinese are into blistered skin which I like but been hearing that the Filipino style smooth skin is superior. We are going to find out seen enough when the new Lechon place on Joyce opens. Heard that it is any day now.

      1. fmed

        It’s definitely all about the skin. Some styles aim for blistering (eg Chinese style) and will use special techniques and ingredients to the skin to enhance the process (eg hot oven, pin-holing, baking soda rub). You are aiming for a nice “honey comb” bubbly structure throughout the epidermal layer right down to the fat.

        Other styles strive for un-blistered skin (Filipino, Latin American, etc). Here they are aiming for a lacquered crispy layer on top…medium dry heat (hence the preference for open air spits), salt rub, but most of all – the pig itself: young pig with lots of collagen in the skin. The older pigs have thicker, tougher skin that will not get crispy no matter what you do.

  12. LotusRapper

    Blistered or smooth, it’s the crunch that does it for me. And the juxtaposition of the jelly-like fat right underneath, followed by a firmer (but still tender) meat at the bottom, all sandwiched in delicious bite-size pieces. Heaven.

    How do you guys eat your roasted pig (Chinese or Filipino style) ? I like mine best with either a bit of the Chinese peppery salt, Chinese mustard sauce, or ………. Worcestershire (Wooster) Sauce. Don’t recall how the latter came about, must have been when I was little and I used Wooster Sauce on almost everything. Somehow for roast pig, I’ve kept that habit going.

    Dang, 2 hrs to go until lunch. Maybe I have to hit Crystal Mall today if I can’t shake my roast-pig crave of the moment !

    1. fmed

      For Chinese roast pork – I usually ask for green onion – ginger sauce (that usually goes with steamed “white” chicken.)

      Filipino style – usually plain with rice. If the liver sauce is homemade, then a bit of that.

  13. Jonnek

    Filipino lechons are eaten crispy skin first sans meat. They usually leave a portion of the crispy skin uncut. It is then dipped in lechon sauce. The lechon sauce is a sweet brown sauce made of mashed liver and other stuff. You can buy the bottled version from T&T’s Filipino food section under the label Mang Tomas all purpose sauce. A common practice is to stew left over lechon using this lechon sauce and lots of garlic and some vinegar. It becomes paksiw na lechon, another Filipino delicacy.

  14. Pinoy Gourmet

    News Alert Manila Barbecue had its soft opening today,I had Lechon and It tastes like the real deal and the Litsong manok,Filipino style Roasted Chicken tastes just Andok in the old country.Its located on Joyce near the Skytrain Station

    1. el_lobo_solo

      Had the lechon for lunch today. It’s good, and the skin is definitely crispy–partly smooth and a few pieces blistered. Still without the benefit of a spit and lechonero (love that job-title), it’s not going to have the reddish hue. The dipping sauce is like Mang Tomas and not as liver-y as homemade versions. Sadly, they won’t have the grilled pork / liempo.

      And to avoid posting on another thread: Thanks Ben for the Hunan dinner last night!

      1. Jonnek

        Hello El Lobo Solo, So their lechon oven roasted? Thats not very authentic then. Its good that they were able to get the skin crispy. If its cooked in an enclosed oven, the steam from the cooking meat would lessen the crispiness of the skin. BTW whats the price point on the lechon?

        1. fmed

          It is actually possible to design an oven that is enclosed but not sealed (so the steam escapes and some of the heat is re-directed to the pig).

          Some of the best lechon I have ever had were roasted in ovens such as this. The lechon was definitely Filipino style and very good.

        2. el_lobo_solo

          IIRC $6.99 / lb and $5.00 / lb for the head

          1. Jonnek

            E_L_S, thanks for the prices. Its a tad cheaper than the Cantonese roast pork.

            Wow fmed u already tried it?

          2. fmed

            @Jonnek – No I haven’t tried it. The phrasing of my last post must have been confusing or unclear.

            I’m certainly looking forward to it.

  15. Jonnek

    Thanks for the heads up Pinoy Gourmet. I’ll try it next week for sure. Too bad its a bit far from Richmond. Its 2 skytrain rides away.

  16. DylanK

    I saw the Grand Opening banner and thought about grabbing some, until I saw the lineup. Gonna check it out soon, though.

  17. Pinoy Gourmet

    Actually They used a made to order oven suitable for Lechon,It is genuinely Philippine style,The other Filipino restaurants were not willing the 5 figures for the for said oven,Only the growing Cucina Manila Group was willing to invest.BTW Richmond their 5th Restaurant opens next week .

  18. Jonnek

    Thats another good news. Where is their new Richmond branch? I wonder if they would sell lechon in their restaurants. (not the lechon kawali.) Thanks for the news PinoyGourmet.

  19. timetochow

    the lechon was good. takes time to learn and master a perfect roast pig. so there’s room for impovement. and i hope they can improve on it.
    they didnt have the homemade liver sauce. they ran out at 130pm????? so they served the bottled ones mentioned here…

    1. Ben

      Fancy bumping into you at Bo’s yesterday timetochow. On the way home we had a peek at the Lechon place. We thought we saw the roast pig skin with blisters — like Chinese style. There was no line at that time.

  20. Jonnek

    I think the only way to get unblistered lechon skin is to have a lechonero manually turning the lechon over an open charcoal pit. With the high cost of labor here in Canada, I dont think thats possible to have. However as long as the seasoning is done Filipino style, then its still good lechon.

    This is how its done in the Philippines.


    1. fmed

      I have used an special “low RPM” electric motor with a gearbox in spits and so forth.

      It is really the heat intensity that makes a difference. High heat = blistering
      Low heat = smooth

      The key is to keep the heat medium-low and temperature below (over simplifications coming up….) the skin’s “boiling” temperature. The skin’s fluids – water, fat, collagen, etc. start to boil and it creates a bubbly protein/fat/etc “foam.” (I hope that sort of makes sense.)
      Chinese style roast pig aim for a lot of this blistering because it is perceived as crispy.

      The pig does taste better done traditionally…with slight hints of “smoke”. If you generate too much smoke from the dripping, burning fat, then the pig tastes acrid. Modern roaster designs are smoke-free because the drippings do not hit the flames.

  21. timetochow

    yes a pleasant surprise! it was pretty quiet at Bo’s too.

    yup theirs is blistered. wonder how much effect the different pigs we have here in Canada vs Philippines have to do with it.

    it is take out. cant imagine a line up lasting for long.

    they did have some Filipino sweets and desserts which were nice, hearty and sweet.

    great looking lechon pig.

    open spit fire is best as the fat dripping off the meat can create will smoke and provide some additional flavor.
    the fire should not be directly below the meat but off to the side, so you can control the cooking process manually. i prefer low temp cooking over a longer period in general.

    fmed knows more about modern lechon roasting. the pics he sent me looks similar to jonnek.

    1. fmed

      It will take them a few tries before they get it right. You should go back after a couple of weeks to see if they found the right formula.

      I think that as long as they use young enough pigs – they can get some nice skin. (…the type of pig and feed probably does make a difference).

      I’ll have to check it out myself soon.

  22. LotusRapper

    Any of you familiar with the Hawaiian style pig roast ? I was too young when I was last there so I haven’t exactly explored Hawaii from a culinary perspective. But I’m curious.

    1. fmed

      That’s were you bury the pig with hot rocks? Yes…I’ve done this myself, but on one pork shoulder. Rubbed with a spice paste, the wrapped in some banana leaf ,and buried with rocks under a fire, etc. It’s a low and slow method of cooking which yields tender, moist meat. The skin becomes moist and tender too (- so not at all crispy). It’s a different style…more like braising.

      1. timetochow

        The residual heat from the hot rock is a good temperature control. You cant really burn the pig. also read if you cook a whole pig, you have to keep piggy’s mouth open to let the air/steam through. Hence the apple in the mouth.

  23. timetochow

    Polynesian pig roast? But like femd mention not technically a roast since it is not a dry heat that cooks it through.

    The imu is the underground oven. The Hawaiian Kalua(probabaly the best known) pig is served at traditional luau feast. There are other’s like the New Zealanders’s Hangi and the Curanto that has made it way to Argentina and Chile.

    Also similar is the Traditional Berber’s mechoui whole lamb(skin on) roast. Some include the internal organ that ‘help’ flavor the meat. They eat everything too. Including intestines, liver and EYES!!!!! 😛 Talk about extreme eating. Maybe something to consider in your extreme dimsum conversations.

    Talking about Chinese food and cooking in open fire. Have you heard about the origin of the Beggar’s Chicken? Chicken stuffed with herbs, wrapped in lotus leafs and covered in clay then cooked in an fire pit.

  24. LotusRapper

    I made a (failed) attempt at lunch at Joyce Jiaozi on Joyce today. Bad sign was walking up and seeing the “open sign” not lit. Inside was dark but I saw a lady inside doing some cleaning. Knocked on door and she came to open it, and told me they *may* be open for lunch on Friday, but had this real tentative tone it. I thanked her and left disappointed (wanted to try their “rou jiao mo” before their rumored closure).

    Walked north and saw Joyce BBQ, with an adjacent Manila Lechon sign. Hmmm, very curious so I walked in and realize it was this thread that you guys were talking about them. The pig looked moist and succulent. There was quite a line so I didn’t stay long. Damn if they’d only offer the BBQs with plain rice-to-go !!

    Will have to go back and investigate more closely.

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