Green Onion Pancake at Café Orient

Green Onion Pancake at the Café Orient Restaurant in Ottawa

If you are not very familiar with the classic Dim Sum dish known in English as the ‘Green Onion Pancake’, you can take a look at my Dim Sum Gallery post featuring the 蔥油餅 at Gain Wah in Vancouver, which provides a bit of an introduction, and also illustrates an excellent example of the dish. Unfortunately, the one which was served to me at an otherwise great restaurant in Ottawa, the Café Orient on Somerset Street (pictured above), was not even remotely as good.

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A Saffron Crocus – Picture courtesy of Wikipedia
A Saffron Crocus – Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

Saffron and Safflower

Saffron is widely known as the world’s most expensive spice. Luckily, a little of it goes a long way and just a tiny pinch will lend a dish a beautifully vivid golden-yellow hue and a taste that is all but indescribable.

Safflower, in contrast, is much cheaper, unrelated, and with a completely different taste profile and capacity to color foods. Surprisingly though, its is passed off as Saffron, often fraudulently, with such frequency that it is sometimes referred to as ‘Bastard Saffron’.

Now, to be fair, Safflower is actually a pretty useful spice in it’s own right, and you can sometimes use it to augment a small amount of expensive Saffron, but it pays to be aware of the difference so that you end up using what you intended to purchase. Luckily… this is not difficult at all.

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Har Gow (蝦餃) at Chu Shing

Har Gow (蝦餃) at the Chu Shing Restaurant in Ottawa

Chu Shing is one of my favorite places for Dim Sum in Ottawa. The only thing I don’t like about the place is that I have a preference for ordering from a menu rather than push-cart service and they employ the latter. Still, their Dim Sum selections are almost always good, and their Har Gow, on this occasion, though not the prettiest I have ever had were absolutely delicious.

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Beef shank cuts
Beef shank cuts

Beef shank hasn’t traditionally been a popular cut in western cookery and one still only infrequently sees it in supermarkets. The cut, sometimes called the ‘shin’ when taken from the front leg, is quite sinewy and shot through with tendons so it commonly ends up getting ground up for burger meat. This is a little unfortunate, really, as the meat can be very flavorful. If you get an opportunity to try it in Chinese restaurants, you will see why many Asians prize the meat for its collagen rich texture.

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Chiu Chow Fun Gor at Yang Sheng

Chiu Chow Fun Gor at the Yang Sheng Restaurant in Ottawa’s Chinatown

The Yang Sheng Restaurant on Somerset Street in Ottawa’s Chinatown was already a pretty old restaurant in that neighborhood, even when I made my very first visit there some 20 years ago. It is a little dingy and not well-kept inside but they have always managed to serve me decent dishes, including various Dim Sum specialties. I forget exactly how the dumplings you see pictured above were named on their menu, but they were clearly the Dim Sum favorite 潮洲粉粿, or Chiu Chow Fun Gor. They weren’t the absolute best I have ever had, but they were still a fairly decent rendering of the classic dish.

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Parsnip and Red Peppers in Lemon Butter

Parsnip and Red Peppers in Lemon Butter

This little side dish is something I have served alongside steak many times, except that, usually, I glaze the vegetables with a little Dry Sherry and sugar. On one occasion, I was out of sherry and so I improvised with butter and lemon juice. The results were very pleasing and definitely worth sharing.

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Rice Noodle Roll (腸粉) at Jadeland

Rice Noodle Roll (腸粉) at the Jadeland Restaurant in Ottawa

The Jadeland Restaurant in Ottawa’s Chinatown has been around for a very long time. It generally serves pretty decent food, although, in all honesty, not so memorable as to make it one of my favorite restaurants in the area. Their Rice Noodle Roll probably typifies their overall level of quality insofar as it managed to rise above the level of mediocre, but wasn’t as good as other versions I have had.

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Pasta con Salsa Cruda

Pasta con Salsa Cruda

A Salsa Cruda, in Italian cuisine, is a ‘Raw Sauce’ which may be used as a Bruschetta topping, but is generally used as a sauce for pasta. The basic version is usually a blend of chopped tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and basil, but you can, of course, jazz it up with whatever herbs or raw vegetables you like. Here, I am including onion, peppers, olives, capers, and nice blend of sage, thyme and rosemary with black pepper.

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Root Beer Pulled Pork

Root Beer Pulled Pork at the Tempo Restaurant in Halifax

When I went to eat at the Tempo Restaurant in the Delta Barrington Hotel in Halifax a while back, I was really just planning to have a burger or something but I ended up being seduced by a platter featuring Root Beer Pulled Pork. I had never heard of such a thing and I have to say that it was, well… interesting.

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Dry Garlic Spare Ribs

Dry Garlic Spare Ribs

I have previously posted a recipe for Restaurant-style Honey-Garlic Ribs which recreates the fairly standard version in which the ribs are braised in copious amounts of the sweet, dark sauce. I like those, and order them frequently from Westernized Chinese Restaurants, but they are very often cooked, or held over, for so long that the meat loses texture and no longer clings to the bone. Here, the Dry Garlic Spare Ribs have the same sweet, garlicky flavor as the braised type but they are only glazed with a very small amount of sauce and are better suited to being served as an appetizer.

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