Saturday, February 17, 2018

Happy Chinese New Year of The Dog...

Happy New Year to my friends, family and followers! 
May love, happiness and success follow you throughout the year of the Dog!

Resharing from my brother Marten Go over on his site Preserved Dragons:

So what does the year of the dog have in store for us?

2018 will be a year of blossoming, to achieve things, and to thrive-- PD. Furthermore, from what I've read: "Dog is a true companion, associated with loyalty, honesty, intelligence, and a strong sense of right and wrong. In other words, this year of the Dog may see people fighting for the causes they believe in. This influence could manifest itself as large-scale political movements or something as simple as local community work and small acts of kindness." With how things are going around the world, it certainly is shaping up that way.

Note: Those born in the Year of the Rabbit, will have the best year, followed by those born in the Year of the Tiger and Year of the Horse. People born in the years of the dragon, sheep and rooster are expected to have a difficult time. And those born in the Year of the Dog, should pay attention to your health due to the risk of burnout.-- PD

Photo Credit: Preserved Dragons

Preparing for a BeAsT of A FeASt to entertain with the big family over at my parents!

My kids getting crackin' for Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs
and my prep for beancurd salad, beancurd stuffed rolls and egg rolls.

Wrapping my dim sum fave Pan-Fried Stuffed Beancurd Veggie Rolls.

Upon arrival to my parents house, a family joint prayer by burning incense. Incense sticks are lit up, held between clasped hands, wishes and prayers are silently chanted while performing a sequence of three standing bows. Then the sticks are placed into the rice bowl and left to burn until finished. We do this first looking to the sky facing the window for overall blessings and then again in front of a mini altar dedicated to our ancestors, or a food offering display. This is to pay respect to the loved ones who've passed on as well as asking for protection and good luck for the gods above.

"Bi Sun"-- prayer to the heavenly Gods and our ancestors. 

The kids and their cousins make their wishes and "bi sun"!

Pan-Fried Stuffed Beancurd Veggie Rolls

My dad was the captain chef doling out the cooked and stir-fried dishes.

Spicy Beancurd Veggie Salad

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs

Yes, I made Egg Rolls too, and added chicken!

Lots of store-bought "jam lieu"- Chinese deli- roasted pork, roasted duck and steamed chicken.
No making from scratch this year, but do see the elaborate preparations in the previous years
in my DIY posts for Roasted Pork (siu yok) and Roasted Duck (siu ap).

Talk about a BeAsT of A FeASt!! :D

We've got dumplings, tofu salad, Chinese greens and shrimps too!

Hope you all had a fantastic celebration with your family and loved ones!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

TDSB's Welcoming Communities for Newcomer Youth and Kids...

It's been a wait but I'm ready to share my good news! I've taken on the role of Culinary Consultant at TDSB's Welcoming Communities for Newcomer Youth and Kids. I will be supporting the newcomers' culinary program (lunch or after school) in 15 schools (and growing), facilitating cooking classes with parents & kids, and promoting the great work by our facilitator hosts and students on social media & through blogging. Unknown to many, the Welcoming Communities division at TDSB is dedicated to ease the transition of both newcomer adults and youth & kids to Canada (within five years of arrival), and to foster a sense of belonging through various programs-- and what better way than to connect and unite over food with cooking classes? :) I am OveRJoyed as this role culminates everything I am passionate about and have been working towards-- celebrating multiculturalism, advocating real food and food education, and cooking with kids. To me, it's giving back my best to the community and next generation with all that I have been blessed to learn and experience in my culinary career and with my volunteer work at Food Revolution #cookingwithkids #foodeducation #vocationnotwork #heartforthecommunityandkids #livethelifeyoulovelovethelifeyoulive

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world."-- Gandhi

Sharing my photo gallery of students in action during my recent school visits... 

Each school has such a diverse newcomer population, it's always so interesting to see what the students are interested in learning to cook, incorporating both their cultural foods along with Canadian fare in the classes.

So happy to see this previous Families Studies kitchen is put to great use at Henry Kelseys Senior Public School.

Cooking up Chinese Sweet & Sour Pork and Hot & Sour Shredded Potatoes
with this awesome group of eight graders!

On another occasion at Henry Kelseys, a team Master Chef Challenge baking up frittatas!

My favourite cooking task-- work those knife skills!

Getting the eggs ready for customizing and baking!

These muffin-tin frittatas have pork, tomatoes, onions, pepper and cilantro! YUM!

At Beverley Heights, these eager grade 6, 7 and 8s made no-bake mini cheesecakes during their lunch hour.

With lovely facilitator hosts Alicia and Sho.

Over at Sir Ernest MacMillan Public School, grade 8 students rolled, cut and baked up tender fresh cinnamon buns with a cream cheese frosting! Deelish!

Downsview Secondary School diverse newcomer high school students made meat bolognese over pasta. I got excited hearing their conversations about what they may prepare next-- Bahamian curry or Vietnamese fresh rolls anyone? :D

Enthusiastic engaging students enjoyed cooking and eating together!

Silver Springs Public School has predominantly Chinese newcomers in their after school cooking program. This particular week, they made chicken burgers and smoothies! Chinese New Year is upon us and host Colin will be working with the students to make my marbled tea eggs and dumplings to celebrate! Can't wait to visit and check them out :D

These grade 5, 6 and 7s were very hands-on and enjoys cooking.

Healthy customized smoothies for everyone!

The best part of all- enjoying the fruits of their labour and eating together!

Update: The kids at Silver Springs did an awesome job at preparing the tea eggs (symbolizing good luck) to honour Chinese New Year! Let's Get Crackin' and Brewin' ! Oooooh, look at that lovely marbled finish!! :D

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs

Facilitator Host Colin Rome and a happy student!

Each school has different facilities, resources, demographic of students-- age and heritage, cooking skills, expectations and wishes. My goal is to enhance the culinary program experience for both the fabulous team of hosts and students by tailoring to their needs! I'm looking forward to share more with you here... see you back!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sunday Baking...

Sunday baking with my youngest. From start to finish, he was right there, eager at every step of making my delicious oatmeal cookies-- scooping, measuring, leveling, cracking (eggs), mixing, beating, rolling, placing, baking, lifting and the much-deserved rewarding finale of course--  devouring!

Thank you for stopping by! I've been busy working on some exciting things and my blog had to sit by the sidelines... 
I'll certainly be back to share some news soon...

And when I say he was there every step of the way... I meant it :)


Susan's Crispy Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Raisin Cookies

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Five Spice Salt and Pepper Squid Tentacles...

As a dim sum aficionado, pretty much everything appeals to me, and the splendid array is vast and glorious. We try to make it to a dim sum house every so often, but when we haven't for a while I'll think about tinkering with some dishes I'm craving from home. Well, tonight it was fried squid tentacles... Oh yes, the one specialty dish that my kids must ask for when we step foot into such eatery, and one I am more than happy to oblige. You can simply do it basic with salt and pepper, but I like to add five spice powder for savoury-sweet depth. Golden fried until fragrant and twisted like fingers beckoning, one crispy slightly chewy bite will awaken your euphoric senses and ask for more. I had just fried up a bunch of egg rolls so my frying oil was darker than I wanted resulting in brown rather than golden brown squid. The delicious taste more than made up for the aesthetics, and that's a very good thing :D

Five Spice Salt and Pepper Squid Tentacles

500g squid tentacles, fresh or frozen, thawed

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup potato starch (this makes the food crispy)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1 tsp. Chinese five spice
1/2 tsp. sea or kosher salt, and more at the end as a finishing salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, sliced
lime wedge
Oil for frying

Rinse the squid and slightly pat dry. Remove the head area and any hard cartilage. Slice between the tentacles.

Combine flour, starch, both peppers, and salt in a bowl. Add squid tentacles a few at a time and coat with dry ingredients. Place separately on a plate. If you toss them all together in the flour mix they tend to stick together and you lose some of the coating.

I double coated for added crispiness- let them sit after the first coat for ten minutes
(they'll get a bit moist) and then recoat a second time.

Heat oil in a sauce pan until hot. Cooking in batches, deep-fry squid for about 30 seconds until golden brown and crispy. Remove onto a paper-towel lined plate to drain excess oil. You can cook the minced garlic in the oil by putting it on a strainer ladle and dip into hot oil for ten seconds. Remove and drain.

Place tentacles on a plate and top with garlic and green onions; sprinkle with a bit more salt. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Fragrant, crispy, savoury and delicious! What's not to love?

Ok kids, stop playing with your food...

If you are a dim sum fan like me, check out my post The Splendour of Dim Sum Delicacies for a run down of the favourites and how to try your hands at some from home.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Crunchy Chicken Rice Paper Spring Rolls (Chả giò)...

I scream, you scream, we all scream for spring rolls!!! Ok it doesn't have the same ring, but it definitely stirs up the same mouth-watering effect :). I make Chinese spring rolls, pan-fried stuffed beancurd rolls and my dad's egg rolls, but the Vietnamese-kind is my first. It's such a popular appetizer eating out at a Vietnamese pho restaurant, with just one delectable bite you'll know why. What makes chả giò so unique and also challenging to make is the ultra crunchy skin- softened delicate rice paper that serves as the wrapper and gets ridiculously crisp-crackly when deep-fried. Inside, the meat and finely chopped vegetables create a harmonious flavour combination with a textural character. Of course, there is also a deelish vegetarian option using taro to replace the meat. Serve with a Thai-style chili plum sauce or its usual partner nuoc mam, and a Vietnamese herb salad to cut the oil, and to balance the heavy with the light. I'm trying my hands on a chicken version and I'd be lying if I said it was an easy process. It is certainly labour-intensive with the multiple fine chopping, meticulous wrapping preparations and batch-frying. Could this inherently be the reason why I waited so long? Seeing my family devour them, the effort was well-paid off and it'll be indeed added to my friendly repertoire of deep-fried home-style Asian rolls.

Crunchy Chicken Rice Paper Spring Rolls (Chả giò) (adapted from Helene An's An: to eat)
Makes 25 spring rolls

2-1/2 lbs. of ground chicken meat
2 medium white onions, minced
2 large carrots, finely chopped
1 small jicama, julienned into long strips (for crispy texture)
8 dried shiitake mushrooms*, hydrated and minced
1-1/2 cups dried wood ear mushrooms*, hydrated and minced

1 pkg. 50 g transparent vermicelli cellophane noodles, cooked (snip with scissor a few times)
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
25 sheets medium-sized rice paper
3 cups cooking oil like canola or peanut
* hydrate mushrooms by soaking in water to cover an extra 2-inches for at least two hours or overnight.

For the herb platter:
green leafy lettuce or bibb lettuce
fresh basil leaves
fresh cilantro 
fresh mint
Thai-style chili plum sauce or/
(Nước mắm cham) (Makes 3/4 cup):

Dissolve 1/4 cup granulated sugar in 1/3 cup boiling water. Mix in 2 Tbsp. fish sauce and 2-3 Tbsp. white vinegar and leave to cool. To season, add 2 finely chopped garlic and Vietnamese garlic chili sauce (sambal oelek) to taste. 

Making Vietnamese spring rolls is a work-out for your hand and knife skills... There's a lot of slicing, slivering, dicing and mincing! We're only making enough for 25, imagine the labour going into just these appetizers at a bustling Vietnamese joint? Then there's the wrapping and deep-frying too! Whew! 

In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the onions, carrots, jicama and mushrooms.  Add the noodles and mix well. Add the oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Get your wrapping station ready. Set up a shallow dish filled with warm water, a flat surface area for wrapping (I use a cutting board) , and a large plate or several to contain the finished rolls. 

Dip the rice paper by horizontally sliding the rice paper into the water and rotate so the entire paper has been quickly soaked. Place onto the flat surface.

I toggled between wrapping on the board and on a plate to make it go faster.

Let the paper dry slightly (it will begin shrivelling at the rim). You will need it pliable for wrapping. Put 2 Tbsp. of the meat mixture in a horizontal line about one-third of the way up the wrapper from the bottom, leaving a finger-width border on either side. Fold the bottom of the wrapper over the meat and start rolling upward, making sure to tuck in the sides as you go. Don't roll too tightly or the wrapper may tear. TIP: Roll each spring roll back and forth under your palm on the counter to release the air bubbles inside (this prevents bubbles from forming on the skin). Place the roll on a plate and repeat with remaining wrappers and meat filling.


Holy rolls!!

Heat the oil in a deep skillet/wok or pot over medium heat. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Once the oil is hot, place three to five rolls at a time and cook them until their outsides turn golden brown, about seven to ten minutes. Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer the cooked rolls to the baking sheet to drain. Repeat with remaining rolls.

Sometimes you will get many uglies before you get to the pertties... A few rolls split during the frying process and cooked up burnt on the wounded areas. Here are some TIPS for crispier spring rolls with an even golden-brown colour.

Cook's Notes: If the skin is too wet, it can cause a tear when it hits the fryer. Also if the paper doesn't wrap around the contents twice, it will be too thin skinned to bare contact with the heat and will split as a result. Have a skimmer on hand to scoop up spilled debris.

Use coconut water instead of water to wet the rice paper. The sugar content caramelizes under high oil temps that browns the rolls nicely. Add a few drops of fresh lime juice to the frying oil before it is heated to make the rolls crispier.

Serve the spring rolls hot along with the herb platter and dipping sauce. 

My herb platter consisted of mint and cilantro. Usually Thai basil would be in too.
Tear a piece of green leafy lettuce to wrap a roll and add a bit of onions.

Crunchy exterior giving way to a moist and textural interior with juicy chicken, crispy jicama and fun threads of noodles.

Go on son, enjoy the crisp-crackly goodness paired with some green!

For a much lighter and refreshing fare that is popularily called summer rolls, try the traditional rice paper roll filled with shrimps, pork and a bouquet of fresh Vietnamese herbs. 

Fresh Shrimp and Pork Salad Rolls