Foodstuff: Tamarind Soup Mix

Tamarind Soup Mix 1

Of late, our supermarket has stocked quite a wide variety of spice and seasoning blends for all sorts of International dishes. This product is made in the Philippines and is meant to result in a Tamarind soup to which you add your own seafood ingredients. For those unfamiliar, Tamarind is used in many dishes to produce a natural sour flavor… However, in looking at the ingredient list, I saw that, while the product does contain Tamarind powder, it comes fairly low on the list compared to Citric Acid which appears as item number two and is, quite clearly, the chief souring agent in this preparation. Generally, I prefer making things from scratch rather than using processed preparations, but once in a while, I end up buying things just ‘to see what this is like’… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Tamarind Soup Mix”

Notable Nosh: The Fish Taco

Highlander Fish Tacos

A while back, I dropped into the Highlander Pub in Ottawa for a beer and decided to partake of their $5 taco special. I am not a huge fan of Tex-Mex food, and usually give tacos a miss, but there was a choice between chicken, pulled pork, tofu, and fish, and I was rather hungry. I have only ever had fish tacos once before (and those were actually a Japanese-fusion sort of thing), and so I decided to give that selection a try…

The tacos themselves were pretty simple and straightforward, consisting of just a plain flour tortilla, along with some tomato, shredded lettuce, and a Chipotle Mayo for enhancement. The last time I had fish tacos, the fish was Yellowjack that was sliced and then just lightly floured and seasoned before being grilled. Here, the fish was, as far as I could tell, cod that was battered and deep-fried just as it would be in a regular old fish-and-chip special. It might sound a little mundane and boring but, in fact, the crunchy batter and thick succulent flesh worked really nicely both in terms of texture and flavor.

The only criticism I really had was that the large, rather oddly shaped chunk of fish made it a bit difficult to folds the tortilla around it and the eating of it was a bit messy. Probably two or three thin strips would work a little better. The spicy mayo was okay, if not particularly spectacular, but on the whole, I like this nice little lunch. I have been meaning to try making fish tacos ever since the first ones I tried, and, when I finally do, I may give the battered strips a shot first…

Foodstuff: Chuan Pi Broad Bean Sauce

Chuan Pi Broad Bean Sauce 1

I try many different Sichuan Broad Bean Pastes with Chili, which typically are identified, in genuinely Chinese products, by the characters 辣豆瓣酱 … this product, however, is somewhat different than those I usually counter. I don’t plan on buying it again, but I thought I would share my experience … Continue reading “Foodstuff: Chuan Pi Broad Bean Sauce”

Notable Nosh: Japanese General Tso’s Chicken

Japanese General Tso

General Tso’s Chicken (or some spelling variant thereof) has become so ubiquitous that most people who have dined in a Chinese restaurant have had it at one time or another. Surprisingly, though, even though the dish has been popular for a decade or so, it was only last year that I tried it for the first time. There are many different variations on the basic theme, of course, and one can almost so that no two representations are more than passingly similar. After my first try, I decided to order it in various locations and see if I could get a handle on the range of different preparations …

My first experience was in a fairly westernized Chinese restaurant in Vancouver. Just recently though, I was down in Ottawa and I came across an appetizer version in a Japanese restaurant. It was an ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ Sushi place and it had a small section of ‘Chinese Food’ listed on its extensive menu.

Anyway, the result you see here was … well, interesting. Even in my limited experience with this dish, I can pretty much guess that experienced aficionados would probably say that, whatever this dish is, it is NOT General Tso’s chicken. There are no vegetables in the mix (although, to be fair, this was meant as an appetizer so ‘filler’ was not needed), but the sauce that covered the chicken was completely off base. The chicken itself was actually pretty good… it was only dusted with flour rather than being battered (which is a plus to mind), and it was fried to the point of being nicely crispy on the outside. As for the sauce?

Well, as far as I have been able to tell, General Tso’s Chicken is supposed to have a bit of a fiery bite to it. It is not a ‘hot’ dish, as such, but it should have a little chili somewhere in the mix to give it a little spark. Here, though, the spicy heat quotient was zero (zip, zilch, nada, nyet, niente… etc.). The actual result was much more like the sort of sweet and sour sauce poured over chicken balls in the lower end ‘Chinese’ restaurants. It was, to my mind, quite a bit like ketchup diluted with a little vinegar, and with extra sugar added. Not horribly bad, at all… just not right. I rather think the good General might be rolling over in his grave at the thought of this production in his name…

Foodstuff: Fake Parmesan

Fake Parmesan 1

Well, ‘Fake Parmesan’ is clearly not how the manufacturer actually identifies this particular product… rather it is identified on the label as a ‘Grate Soy Topping’ with “Parmesan flavor”. Now, I have to say, here, that the double quotes around the ‘Parmesan flavor’ in the previous sentence are intentionally applied there because, having been curious enough to sample this item, the description is just a bit…well, optimistic… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Fake Parmesan”

Foodstuff: Beef Marrow Bones

Beef Marrow Bones 1

Marrow, the rich, fatty substance in the center of certain animal bones, has long been used as a food by humans. It is very nutritious, and thus has been used for eminently practical reasons, but it has also, at various times, and in various cuisines, been regarded as something of a delicacy.

Chiefly, one finds bones being used in the preparation of hearty stocks, and occasionally  extracted and eaten as sort of a ‘side benefit’ in certain dishes, but, for a long time, the idea of marrow being a treat in and of itself has been a bit dormant in the west. This, however, has been changing in recent years, and the appetizer of roast marrow bones you see posted above, and for which a recipe will follow, is a common representation of the trend … Continue reading “Foodstuff: Beef Marrow Bones”

A $200 Shot of Scotch…

Laphroig 30 1

Well, I am just kidding of course. I would never pay $200 for just a single drink of Scotch …

I did pay $190 though!

Now, I can imagine a few people are shaking their heads and wondering how I could do such a thing, so a bit of backstory is in order …

First, Last month I ended up flying to Ottawa for a bit of a serious medical issue. I won’t bore you to tears with all the tedious details except to say that, in the end it worked out pretty well. The process was unpleasant, but I managed to get away with having two cardiac stents inserted (via an artery in my arm) and I  was then released on my merry way.

On arrival in Ottawa, though, I faced the very real prospect of having a quadruple bypass. I didn’t know if I would be released from hospital within a day or two, or a few weeks, or… given the risk of either route, possibly not at all. Accordingly, I rather felt like treating myself to something outrageous … something that I will never do again and, for that matter, will never do again.

Anyway, the libation in question was, to be more specific, a 30 year old, limited edition, Single Malt Scotch from the Laphroig distillery. Now I have explained why I decided to sample this very rare (and expensive drink) … for those interested in what I actually thought of it… read on Continue reading “A $200 Shot of Scotch…”

Pasta Salsa Cruda

Pasta Salsa Cruda 1

‘Salsa Cruda’, in Italian cookery, is simply a term that means ‘raw sauce’. As such, in can, in theory, be composed of just about anything, but the basic version is usually a blend of chopped tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and basil. You can of course, jazz it up with whatever herbs or raw vegetables you like and, for today’s recipe, I have used several additional ingredients beyond the basic.

Mostly, a salsa cruda is used as a pasta sauce, as I have done here, but it could also be prepared as a topping for Bruschetta, a side for cold cuts or raw vegetables, or even as a ‘relish’ to use in sandwiches… Continue reading “Pasta Salsa Cruda”

Shrimp Salad Boats

Shrimp Salad Boats 1

My typical way of serving Shrimp Cocktail (not that I do very often), is to lay tiny cocktail shrimp on a bed of shredded lettuce and top it with a creamy mayonnaise based cocktail sauce enhanced with horseradish and chili sauce. Today, I have departed from my usual style and combined the shrimp and sauce, then served it in hollowed out tomato halves. For either version, frozen cocktail shrimp are best but you can, as I have done here, use the canned variety as a decent substitute… Continue reading “Shrimp Salad Boats”