Anyone for Tako Poke?

Tako Poke Kim Chee Style

Tako Poke Kim Chee Style

Anyone who has been in Hawaii is familiar with ‘Poke’ and btw, you pronounce it as ‘Pokey’. Most of the time you run into ‘Ahi Poke’ which is a nice marinated mixture of ahi tuna with shoyu sauce and some green onions. Costco in Hawaii varies it up by adding wasabi to it or baby asparagus. Both are delicious but don’t eat too much if you have high blood pressure or a high cholesterol count.

On my last trip to the Big Island, I found a mixture of poke that I haven’t tried before. It was ‘Tako Poke Kim Chee style’ and it was GOOD. I found it at the KTA Supermarket for $11.99 lb but was on sale for $7.99 lb. Once I had a mouthful, I had to stock up. After falling in love with it, I had this breakfast, lunch, late afternoon snack and dinner. I would have continued if my wife didn’t remind me of the high cholesterol in octopus.

When I got back from the islands, I had to learn how to make it. I went down to E-mart on 17th Ave SW and bought all the ingredients. I mixed it up and let it marinate overnight. I found that the flavour was quite similar to what I had in Hawaii.

If you’re interested in the recipe, drop me your email and I would gladly share it with you.

Mangosteens at 60,000 VND

Farmers Market

Farmers Market

On the topic of fruit, I tend to like ‘exotic’ fruits more than our local varieties. If given a choice, I would prefer pineapples over oranges, mangosteens over plums, purple passion fruit over apricots and lychees over cherries. Unfortunately, shopping for exotic fruits can get expensive in YYC.

On my recent trip to Vietnam, I had the opportunity to shop at a few farmers’ markets. In Ha Long Bay for example, I had 20 minutes to shop at a huge local market. Vendors inside sold everything from stove elements to nuts and bolts, souvenirs and dried food, silk embroidery and wood carvings. Vendors on the outside sold fresh meats, fruits and vegetables.

 

When I came upon this stand, I was interested in one particular fruit. I had promised myself to look for this fruit in Thailand but there was no opportunity to stop and shop. Mangosteens are sold at the T&T Chinese , market in Calgary but at $5.99 per pound. For that price, you can buy about 4 of them. At this market in Vietnam, I pointed at the mangosteens and she spoke something in Vietnamese that I could not understand. I took out my wad of money and she picked out 60,000 dongs. She took a shopping bag and started filling it up with mangosteens. There was more than a dozen of fruit in the bag and it weighed about 5 pounds. Using a Dong to CDN converter, that came out to $3.18 Canadian.

Next time I have a craving for mangosteens, you know where I will be flying off to.

Exotic Fruits

Exotic Fruits

Exotic Fruits

I’m glad to report that some exotic fruits have made it passed customs and into our supermarkets. Exotic fruits that I have tried in my travels and have fallen deeply in love with. They include a long list such as mangosteens, rambutans, yellow pitaya, passion fruit, pomelo, cherimoya, atamoya and creamy apple. If you haven’t heard about them yet, stay tuned.

The two fruits that seem to be available now are the yellow pitaya and purple passionfruit. The yellow pitaya looks like a thorny mini football with a soft skin. The skin actually looks rubbery. If you see any green leaves protruding from the top, beware. The leaves can be quite sharp because the fruit comes from a cactus like plant. I’ve heard farmers’ stories about how workers have had their arms cut off when picking these fruits.

The other fruit is a purple passion fruit. If you’ve been to Kauai or the Big Island Hawaii then you might have seen yellow passion fruit they call ‘lilikoi’. The yellow variety is more sour or tart. The purple ones are the sweetest varieties but less juicy. The yellow ones from Hawaii are more juicier but less round.

To eat either one of these fruits, take a knife and slice them in half. With the yellow pitaya, take a spoon and scoop out the flesh. It’s like eating a kiwi fruit. Both flesh and seed are edible. With the passion fruit, take a spoon and scoop out the seeds that are encapsulated with flesh. Again, both are edible. When eating the passion fruit, don’t worry about the seeds. Ignore them and try to enjoy the flavour. It is like eating pomegranates but you will find the flesh of the passion fruit is more pleasant and tastier.

Both fruits can be found at your local Superstore. Thanks to Superstore, they have imported both of these fruits from Columbia which I heard are available year round. The yellow pitaya’s sell for $4.98 each and the purple passion fruits are for $1.48 each. They are certainly pricey but if you are in ‘exotic’, I really recommend you try it. But one thing, don’t buy them all.

Little Mouths to Feed

Doctor Fish

Doctor Fish

When I was in Singapore a few weeks ago, I stopped by a foot spa on my way to the Singapore Flyer which turned out to be like the London Eye but over Singapore instead. There were a lot of commotion at this foot spa because people were crowding around a fish tank full of fish and a few people had their feet in it. What kind of foot spa was this?

It turns out that the fish is known to be of the ‘doctor fish’ variety and they like eating dead skin. People paid 30 Singapore dollars to have their feet immersed in a fish tank for 30 minutes. Once your feet hits the water, doctor fishes swarm to them and start eating. It’s like a scene from Indiana Jones with piranha fishes going at fresh flesh.

Azim was a paid customer and had his feet photographed. I asked him how it felt and he said it tickles at first. There are literally hundreds of these fishes fighting to get the dead skin from your feet. You have hundreds of little mouths to feed and an endless supply of dead skin.

These foot spas are very popular in a lot of Asian cities but there are very controversial at home in Canada. FYI, they are illegal here to open and banned in Canada and the US.

Serving Civet Cat Coffee

Civet Cat Coffee

Civet Cat Coffee

When I was in Vietnam a few weeks ago, I had asked the tour guide ‘where to buy the best Vietnamese coffee from?’. He told me the best Vietnamese coffee to buy was the ‘weasel coffee’ which I had never heard of. Before visiting Vietnam, I had tried the Vietnamese iced coffee and liked the taste. I like the strong brew over ice and served with condensed milk.

He went on to telling me that the best coffee to buy was coffee that went through the digestive tract of a weasel. He meant ‘civet cat’ which has a liking for cherry coffee berries. The cat would consume these coffee berries and poo out the seeds (or beans). People would gather up the beans from the cat’s poop, clean the beans then roast them.

The end result is a highly prized, highly sought after coffee that is strong, smooth and unique. Our tour guide took us to the central post office in Ho Chi Minh City and introduced us to the owner of a little store on the right side of the post office. She had a shelf full of coffee containers and the one she recommended was in a wood barrel. There was even a picture of a civet cat over the cherry coffee berries. The price was rather steep but both the tour guide and the shop owner was raving about how good the coffee was. It was priced at 600,000 dong (about US$30) so we picked one up.

When we got home, I tried making a cup of coffee following the instructions of our tour guide in Vietnam. Three teaspoons with 8 oz of hot water in a french press. Let it steep for 30-40 seconds and mix condensed milk in it. I can tell you it was strong but very smooth. There’s nothing like it.

If you’re in the market for some civet cat coffee, let me recommend the Bean Stop in Eau Claire market. I heard a cup will set you back for $25 and 50g of the grinds will run you about $60. If that sounds high to you, don’t get tempted with eBay prices because there are a lot of counterfeit coffees out there.

The Bean Stop on Urbanspoon

Pizza with “Permissible” Meats

SPU - Best Pizza in Town

SPU – Best Pizza in Town

If you’re looking for halal meat on a pizza then this is the place to call for pizza. SPU is located at the corner of Patterson Drive and Coach Hill in the SW. It shares the strip with 7-Eleven, Shell and Treasures of Saigon. Halal is an Arabic word that means “permissible.” In terms of pizza toppings, it can never be pork and the meat was obtained from an animal that was slaughtered under strict Islamic guidelines.

I have to admit, it wasn’t the ‘halal’ that attracted me in. Instead it was their street sign that promised ‘unlimited toppings’. For as little as $11.99 for a medium 12 inch pizza, you get all the toppings you want for free. There’s quite a selection of toppings too such as the regular stuff like mushrooms, green peppers, red peppers, ham, bacon, pepperoni, sausage and tomatoes but there are some premium toppings like shrimp, feta cheese and tandori chicken. I think I saw donair meat too.

Their regular pizza dough format is thick but if you want thin crusted, be sure to ask for it when ordering. I inquired about thin crust at the till when I 0rdered my pizza but I got a thick crusted pizza when I got home and opened the box. Next time, I’ll have to order it instead of asking whether they can make it thin.

On the wall reads ‘SPU – Best Pizza in Town”. With that in mind, I was anxious to get home and sink my teeth into.

The crust was fair to good. It’s nothing like my favourite (ie. Pizza Bank) but it’s comparable to Pizza 73. I was a little disappointed with how the toppings were placed. Most of the toppings were placed around the center of the pizza with no topping near the edges. When you get about 2-3 inches from the crust, all you get is cheese and a very light coating of the tomato pizza sauce.

For $11.99 (medium), $13.99 (large), $15.99 (x-large) and $19.99 (giant) with unlimited toppings, it’s awesome and worth a second try. It doesn’t come close to my absolute favourite which is still Pizza Bank at Glenmore Landing so I disagree with their claim that it’s the best pizza in town.

Crab Envy

Ginger and Green Onion Crab

Ginger and Green Onion Crab

When in Vancouver, you have to eat Asian food and ordering crab is a must-do. But be forewarned – it is one messy meal and you can’t eat it on the sidelines neither, meaning that you have to get in with both hands.

You can ask for a finger bowl but good luck on someone understanding what you want. Instead, make yourself one by taking your rice bowl and pouring some hot tea in it. If you can get yourself a slice of lemon, squeeze some juice into the tea and you have yourself a ‘finger bowl’.

Now get your fingers dirty by grabbing a piece of crab and tasting the sauce by sucking the juices off it. Let me recommend the Ginger and Green Onion sauce because it’s the tastiest and most popular.

Where to go? In Burnaby, you have to go to Rose Garden Seafood Restaurant on Kingsway, just east of Joyce Street. Order the special meal for 4 or 6 or 8 people and you’ll get the crab dish for free.

There will be plenty of food because their servings are very generous. And everything is so delicious there.
Rose Garden Seafood Restaurant 嘉好海鮮美食之家 on Urbanspoon

Getting Prickly

Meat of Prickly Pears

Meat of Prickly Pears

I am on my way out to Superstore to pick up more of these prickly pears. Have you tried them yet? If not, I urge you to read a blog on squidoo about the prickly pear. I did and look at me, I am hoarding them wherever I see them because they are good.

At Superstore, they sell them for 58 cents each or 50 cents each if you buy them in multiples. After reading this post on Squidoo, I decided to try it.

The sound of watermelon and bubble gum had me excited so I decided to pick some up. With a glove and knife, I peeled back the skin and the red fruit appeared. It had the texture of a pear but colour of a really sweet watermelon.

I cut it up into pieces and tried one. Interesting. It was like biting into a pear but it tasted like a watermelon. It would be been better if they came seedless because the seeds are a pain in the you-know-what. They say you can swallow the seeds but they do get in the way.

I sliced open a second one, hoping to find a way to remove the seeds. It was tough but possible. Another variation is to juice it. Put the whole thing in a juicer and extract the juice which will dye your clothes if you’re not careful. It can even dye your hands if you’re not wearing gloves. The juice is nice and light and reminds me of a watermelon slush. And strangely enough, the bubble gum taste is there too.

Mt Snow

Mountain of Snow

Mountain of Snow

It was the perfect setting for a Himalayan restaurant, a mountain of snow, the size of Mt. Everest. Lucky for the sign, we would have easily drove past it.

Don’t be like us and arrive without reservations. We were lucky to beat the rush and was seated next to tables and tables with ‘Reserve’ signs on them. Ok, it’s a popular place on Friday nights and everyone who eats here is a regular.

We started off with the traditional appetizer, the Vegetarian Momo.

Vegetarian Momo

Vegetarian Momo

They came shaped as leaves with a curry-like dipping sauce. The contents reminded my wife,  of Taiwanese buns with strands of vermicelli and slices of vegetables. The mozarella cheese also made the momo’s less doughy.

Next came the house special, pappadums served with a yogurt mixture with mint and a sweet chutney.

We decided to order two dishes and share them among us. My wife wanted to try the lamb but was worried that it would be too gamey. The waiter assured us that they grill the lamb first before cooking it in the tomato based sauce. I wanted something to ward off vampires so I ordered the Himalayan Garlic dish with chicken.

Lamb on the Left,Chicken on the Right

Lamb on the Left,Chicken on the Right

When the entrees were served, they came on individual serving dishes with a scoop of saffron rice and a small salad. The saffron rice was slightly yellow and the salad was tossed with a light yogurt dressing. Both entrees came with a thick sauce with a few chunks of meat in them. Imo, the entrees were too small to be shared. With 5-6 pieces of lamb and the same for the chicken, it was barely enough for one.

Because we shared the dishes, we were tempted to order another entree but decided against it. Somehow after eating the rice and flatbread that is served with the entrees, the food started expanding in our stomachs and we found ourselves quite full.

The Himalayan on Urbanspoon

To top off the night, we ordered the Himalayan Cake which topped off a great evening. It was made with cassava root and coconut. It was served warm and was quite dense. We both enjoyed it very much along with our choice of entrees and appetizer. It’s a definite thumbs up for us.

Himalayan Cake

Himalayan Cake

Fresh Rambutans available

Rambutan

Rambutan

I love summer across Canada because of all the available fruit. Among the local fruits, I enjoy shopping at T&T in the NE for exotic fruit. This week, people are scrambling and loading up on rambutan.

Rambutans are from Thailand and are hairy looking fruit. To eat it, you have to peel away a shell to reveal a white skinned fruit. It’s a lot like lychees, another exotic fruit but from China. The rambutans are more firm and less sweet. Some people rather have rambutans than lychees but I think it’s close.

This time of year, we are lucky to have these fruits flown in fresh. Most of the time, they are only available frozen. It’s not bad eating rambutans that way but fresh is always better.