[CRA 2011] BBQ Pork from HK BBQ Master

The question of who has the best Roast Pork (Siu Yook) in town will never be settled. The thing is, different people have different preferences. Whatever the preference is, a lot of people are certainly passionate about their favourite Roast Pork.

Although this post is about the award winning BBQ Pork from HK BBQ Master, I like to take this opportunity to get your views about their Roast Pork. Personally, I am not a big fan of BBQ Pork.

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The HK BBQ Master is a really small restaurant and located oddly in a covered car park. Although it is small for a restaurant, it is big considering all the big time Chinese BBQ shops do not even offer a sit down area. Yeah, most Chinese BBQ shops are to-go kind of places.

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HK BBQ Master is located at the ground floor car park of the Real Canadian Superstore on No 3 Road. The Superstore is not normally a destination that you would associate with great food but yet this one does.

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Let’s face it. This tiny place is extremely popular. There is always a constant stream of customers even at off peak meal times. We thought we be smart and go at 3:30 PM but … (more…)

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Pork Belly Beer House on Bidwell and Robson, Vancouver

Updated: 12th Nov 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com

This is the type of food that is up my alley. Totally.

I find it very exciting writing about places like this. This is a no name restaurant. The awning outside has no indication that it is a restaurant at all. The only sign in English that says that this is a restaurant is written on a couple of 50 cents cardboards. They must have bought it from a dollar store. On the cardboard is only the words BBQ, Beef, Chicken and Pork. It doesn’t tell you much, does it? This has got to be the worst restaurant signboard in Vancouver … maybe even in the entire country.

This restaurant is so unknown that I can’t find any mention of this on UrbanSpoon or on Dinehere.ca or Yelp. To think that this place existed right in the middle of the busy Robson St and there is nary a mention on the internet just adds to the mystery.

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I would not have found this place myself. Shirley wrote to us detailing this place. She was telling us how she accidentally chanced on the restaurant and how excited she was having found this place. Yeah, she can’t tell us the name of the restaurant but she gave us directions.

That place is called Pork Belly Beer House. What a name huh?

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I’ll let the food do the talking for a while.

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What do you think?

It is all you can eat too. $16 per person.

That included rice, soup and bancan. We did not even bother with the rice and soup.

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If you ever poke your head into the restaurant, you will likely just head out. It is greasy and disorganized. The lightings brightens up the place unevenly. The walls are adorned with pictures of pretty Korean actresses and actors … and warnings that uneaten food will incur a fine of $10.

The tables and chairs are a joke. There has to be four, maybe five different types of chairs. They probably bought it from an auction or Salvation Army … something like that. Almost all the tables that we could see are different too. They even have exactly the same IKEA table I have in my study room … just one IKEA table and that did not align quite right with the adjoining tables.

Yeah … most people will just head out seeing this place.

But the place is full. We are the only non-Korean there that night. Most of the customers are … (more…)

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Dai Jang Kum Korean Restaurant on St Edwards Drive and Bridgeport, Richmond

Dai-Jang-Kum-Richmond-12-200x300The thing we enjoy most in blogging is getting to know people. We had made a lot of friends over the years through this blog.

Some of you guys may remember this book on the left.

When we blogged about Pinpin right after our Spain vacation, we also mentioned the Culinaria Spain book which we enjoyed reading. It is the book we used as a reference in planning our gastronomic vacation in Spain. Rey was kind enough to loan us the book and we mentioned that we returned it to him.

Well … Kan-Man, who was a silent reader of Chowtimes until recently, wrote to us saying that he had the same book. He asked if we wanted it before he donates it to the library.

As much as we were reluctant to accept it, Kan-Man was kind enough to insist that we take it, given that I mentioned I enjoyed this book. This book that Kan-Man gave us is in hardcover.

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We made arrangements to meet up and have dinner with his young family. We always enjoy meeting up with our blog’s readers.

We went to Dai Jang Kum. Dai Jang Kum is located on Bridgeport at the intersection with St Edwards Drive. It is on the same place as The Bricks.  The restaurant is owned and operated by Koreans. So it is as authentic Korean as it gets.

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Dai Jang Kum is named after the main character of the popular Korean period drama called Dae Jung Geum. The pictures of the Jung Geum actress adrons on the walls. I am not sure why the name got spelt as Dai Jung Kum. Maybe it is because it is spelt phonetically according to Chinese characters.

Have any one watched the TV series before? It is a series based on Korean history of a girl named Jung Geum who rose from the imperial kitchen to become the emperor’s personal physician. I heard that in the TV series there were always a part where they show Korean cuisine.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_92j9P7ja3k]
Here is a youtube of what I mean. The above is 9 minutes and is a series of several. Check it out … you might be as mesmerized as I was.

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Unfortunately what we had did not come close to what is on the youtube video. LOL!

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However, like a feast that Korean cuisine is used to, we were served 8 types of Banchans (Kimchee, potatoes, salad, seaweed, daikon, beancurd, soy bean sprout, and eggplant).

Kan-Man made the order mostly since he had been here several times before and is familiar with the menu. Dai Jung Kum’s menu is large but generally has about the same items that you will find in most Korean restaurants.

There were two families dining and so we had a 2-person BBQ Combo, 2-person hot pot, a pancake, and oxtail & knee bone soup. Oh, we also had Chicken Fried Rice for our boys.

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The meal came with five bowls of rice which I think came with some of the food we ordered. The metal bowls are hot from the steamed rice.

Did I tell you this before? Unlike Chinese and Japanese, Koreans do not lift the bowls from the table when they eat. So it is OK then that they serve rice in a metal bowl.

We also had three bowls of soup which came with something. Again, I am not sure what they are for.

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The above is BBQ Combo A which is a combination platter of BBQ meats including chicken, beef, beef short ribs and pork. We had the order for 2 person which costs $29. (more…)

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Nando’s Chicken on Marine Way, Burnaby

ChowtimesNoWord32x32This is a complementary meal from Nandos. We are not paid for this post.

Nando’s wrote to us out of the blue a couple of weeks ago letting us know that Rochelle Schätzl, the world’s foremost authority on Peri-Peri Chili, will be in Vancouver asking if we would be interested in meeting her.  Rochelle is an award-winning author and chef from South Africa, the home of the Peri-Peri Chili.  She had written a book about it called “Peri-Peri: The Contrasts and Contradictions of the African Bird’s Eye Chili”.

We said yes, because we knew it will be an opportunity to learn more about the Peri-Peri Chili and its exotic flavours … and boy, was that some learnings we had!  Never in my imagination could someone share non-stop about everything Peri-Peri for two straight hours.  LOL!  We had a great time and this is what we learned.

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After a few email exchanges, Mark suggested that we meet at the new Nando’s Restaurant in South Burnaby, in the new big boxes shopping mall by Marine Way.  We were greeted by Nick, the owner of this outlet, and Mark and Rochelle.  Believe it or not, Suanne and I had never been to Nando’s before because we thought that it was just a spicier version of fried chicken.

We found out how different Nando’s is from KFC and Church’s and that it is not quite the fast food the way we know it.  Well, it is like a cross between fast food and slow food is how I would describe it.  You place your orders at the fastfood style counter and given a wooden block with a number where there will bring the food to your table when it is ready.

This particular store was busy during lunchtime when we were there during a weekday.

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Nando’s originated from South Africa in 1987 and is a restaurant with a Portuguese theme.  Nando’s operates in 35 countries today with their biggest market in South African and Britain.  There were a lot of other fascinating stories about Nando’s history and beginings but am not going to bore you with those.

Anyway, this restaurant we visited carries the South African theme with African decor and artifacts.  The restaurant was pleasant, clean and tastefully designed.

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Rochelle gave a copy of her beautiful book on Peri-Peri.  It took her two years of research to write it.  It was a privilege to be given the inside scoop of this brilliant pepper and how it is impacting the global culinary landscape.  Specialty Food Magazine recently listed the Peri-Peri Chili as one of the Top 10 Flavour Trends of 2009.

From our time with her, we can clearly see that Rochelle is proud of South Africa, it’s food, people and culture.  She told us how the tiny Peri-Peri Chili represents very much a way of life of the South African adding that all restaurants in South Africa will have some form of Peri-Peri.

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Peri-Peri is the African version of the Bird’s Eye Chili.  It is very much like the South East Asian version of Chili Padi or Thai Pepper.  This chili packs a punch despite its size.  Peri-Peri is used in a dry form and not fresh.  Do you know why?

Let’s see a comparison of Scoville Scale (a measurement of hotness) of Peri-Peri Chili against other common peppers:

  • Law enforcement grade pepper spray: 5,000,000 Scoville Rating
  • Naga Jolikia (Hottest chili in the world): 1,000,000
  • Habanero: 100,000 to 300,000
  • Peri-Peri: 50,000 to 175,000
  • Thai Pepper: 50,000 to 100,000
  • Cayenne Pepper: 30,000 to 50,000
  • Tabasco Pepper: 30,000 to 50,000
  • Chipotle Pepper: 10,000 to 40,000
  • Jalapeno Pepper: 3,000 to 8,000
  • Bell Pepper: Zero!

There had been attempts to cultivate Peri-Peri Chilies outside of a small region in southern African but all attempts had failed.  Rochelle said that the Peri Peri is a chili with a bad attitude … the harsher conditions and weather, the meaner the chili gets.  There had not been much success in cultivating the Peri-Peri commercially.

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Suanne and I sampled a lot of food at Nando’s but there is one I love a lot … the Chicken Livers ($7).  Oh major yum.  I guess it is not for everyone but if can get over the texture and the thought of it, chicken liver is really delicious.

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We ignored the bread that came with the Chicken Livers.  We can’t help but notice the tempting looking Portuguese Garlic Bread ($2) … (more…)

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Meok Ja Gol (MJG) Korean Barbeque Restaurant on Kingsway and Nelson, Burnaby

Updated: 15th Dec 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

I bet you will find Meok Ja Gol (MJG) interesting enough to want to check it out — we did.

Even though I work one short block away from MJG, I had never paid any attention to it.

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This is because MJG is hidden in a recess from Kingway in Burnaby.  The best way to find it is to know that it is located east of Nelson on Kingsway.  But then the address is not really Kingsway … kind of weird I know.  If you are driving and want to get to MJG, the entrance is on the short road almost parallel to Kingsway called Newton St.  Forget what I just said … just drive to the back lane on Kingsway!

I feel for MJG.  They are a very unique and interesting restaurant and yet the location sucks.  What a shame.

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MJG is so authentic Korean that they can hardly speak English at all. They were so authentic that they even have loads of Korean magazines and newspapers neatly stacked for the customer’s use.  Even the TV was playing Korean serial drama.  They asked if we wanted to switch to another channel but we told them we’re fine … Suanne loves Korean love drama with dashing young handsome Korean actors.  LOL!

Suanne and I went before 5PM … the place was empty at that time.  Actually, MJG had only a couple of tables taken the whole time we were there.  We like the cleanliness of MJG and also the rustic villagey feel to it.

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They brought us some hot tea in a plastic container just as we got settled down.  I assume that Korean restaurants commonly serves tea this way.

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They have a really big menu … 16 pages of glossy pages with lots of pictures. Even their take out menu is printed in high gloss and comes in a 16 page booklet.  You can’t beat that, can you?  If there is an award for the best take out menu, MJG will win hands down.

Without even bothering with the rest of the menu, Suanne and I already know what we wanted.  It is on page #1 … the one thing that MJG is known for … the MJG Dinner BBQ Combo.  Read on … this is NOT any kind of Korean BBQ you normally see around.  This one is high tech.  LOL!

Ordering is simple:

  • For 2-3 people: $49.95 with 12 (best) items
  • For 4-5 people: $99.95 with 13 (better) items
  • For 6-7 people: $149.95 with 17 (bestest) items.

With this combo, you don’t need to order anything else.  There are more than enough food for everyone — trust me!

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We were warned that it will take at least 30 minutes to prepare.  Sure, we could wait said … we had all the time in the world that afternoon.  I was actually quite pleased with the wait because it meant that good food cannot be rushed.

Since everything is Korean, it was hard to entertain ourselves during the long wait.  If you go, bring along a book or something.  Let’s talk a bit about ho hum matters.  OK … for one, they have one of those wireless service buttons on each table.  I was not sure initially what it is because there is no icon or something to indicate what it is.  I guess this also acts as a panic button of sorts in case the BBQ flares up.

I can’t get used to Korean chopsticks.  They are so flat and narrow that it’s hard to get a grip.  Japanese and Chinese chopsticks are easier to handle.  Also, you will notice that Korean spoons have very long handles.  I think there is a practical reason for it but am not sure why … anyone knows?

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The above is their high tech BBQ computerized device (their brochure said so!).  It was pretty interesting.  It is a complete eating system designed from the ground up not just for table top charcoal BBQ but also for soup, etc!  Read on … you will know what I mean.

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This is what the wait was about … the charcoal.  They need 30 minutes to heat it up.  It was a pretty glow-y sight … and very hot.  I can feel the heat radiating from where we were sitting.

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They do everything for you.  When they left the charcoal by the side of the table I thought I am supposed to handle this myself!  They opened up the grill and put in the two baskets of charcoal.

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Underneath the charcoal is a tray of water.  I guess the water serves a dual purpose of moderating the heat and also to prevent the entire BBQ’ing cavity from getting too dry.

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The delicious looking meat is put on skewers specially to rotate at a constant speed in the BBQ machine.  Our combo included beef ribs, beef ribeye, chicken and prawns.  Mind you, I am not even half way there on this blog entry!

(more…)

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Grilled Pepper Poppers

I got this recipe from Safeway on one those free recipes stand. I made it for a BBQ get-together with Polly and family a couple weeks ago. It is a great cheesy appetizer — not to mention it being so colourful.

The filling in the sweet peppers consists of chopped tomatoes, chopped red onion, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded cheese and salt to taste.

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The peppers are grilled over medium heat for 5 minutes or so until the peppers blistered and slightly charred on the bottoms.

_MG_7329_edited-1 (more…)

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