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Notable Nosh: Pig Trotters

Pig Trotters 1

I enjoyed this dish at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa just a short time ago. Pig trotters, or feet, don’t have a widespread popularity in the west, although they are sometimes pickled, but the Chinese certainly appreciate them a good deal more. I should note here that what I was actually served at Harmony only contained a few pieces of foot, while the rest were clearly taken from the lower portion of the shank, or, more particularly, the ankle.

The menu described this item as ‘Harmony Special Braised Trotters’ in English, while the Chinese name appeared as:

醬豬手

Interestingly, the last two characters (zhūshǒu) are literally translated as ‘pig hand’, rather than pig foot, but if you run Google translate on Chinese web-pages containing the characters, it typically comes back as ‘trotter’. The first character (jiàng) can refer to any culinary paste (or jam, sometimes) but more specifically means soy paste and derivatives. In Chinese, soy sauce often  appears as 醬油 (or ‘soy paste oil’) and this gives a clue to how the above dish is prepared.

There is a very common Chinese cookery technique called 紅燒, which means ‘red-cooked’ or ‘red-braised’, in which the main ingredients are long-simmered in a soy-sauce based braising liquid that is generally sweetened with sugar (rock sugar especially), seasoned with various spices. Although I didn’t ask, Harmony’s version of trotters seemed to me to be an example of this technique. The soy flavor was definitely apparent, and it had obviously been sweetened, although no additional flavorings were particularly in evidence. However, since star anise is very often employed in these types of dishes, I didn’t mind this at all as I am not keen on the taste in savory dishes.

In short, this dish was (absent the deep soy flavor) very like a preparation my wife makes using pork hocks. The skin was soft enough to easily chew and very nicely gelatinous, while the meat was moistly tender with enough texture left to still adhere to the bone. The flavor of these ‘trotters’, as with pork hock, is a bit stronger than cuts from ‘higher on the hog’, and not everyone might appreciate it, but I liked it very much. I am thinking that, the next time I buy pork hocks for my wife, I may select a few additional small ones and try a dish along these lines myself, possibly with a few seasonings taken from the cuisines of western China. Naturally, I will post the results of any such experiment…

 

Review: The Lunenburg Pub

14 Waller St., Ottawa, – (613) 860-2277 – Website

Lunenburg 1

Date of Visit: December 7, 2012

I have passed by the Lunenburg Pub many times as it sits just around the corner from Les Suites Hotel, which is where I usually stay when I am in Ottawa. For a long time, I had the impression that the place was out of business as I could never see any evidence of activity inside.  It turns out, however, that it doesn’t open until 4 pm most days (which is a point to be noted for those wishing to visit). On my most recent visit to the capital, I had a look at the menu they have posted outside the entrance and, seeing that were still indeed a going concern, made a point of checking them out… Read more

Foodstuff: Bamboo Shoots in Brine

Bamboo in brine 1

Bamboo shoots are a common ingredient in Asian cuisine that most people have sampled at one time or another but, for the most part, usually only the ones that come in cans. Quite honestly, I don’t care for them when packed this way as the canning process imparts an unpleasant metallic taste that can only be remedied by lengthy soaking, during which time any other flavors get lost as well.

I love pickled or fermented bamboo shoots (see my post here) and also the dried sort, which will be featured in an upcoming post, as both of these have a very unique and delicious character (albeit something of an acquired taste, for some). The fresh article is, unfortunately, something I have yet to be able to cook with as the only times I have seen it in stores is when I was travelling and it was not practical for me to buy it. Accordingly, when I am in the south, I like to buy the brine-packed type you see pictured above. These are not nearly as flavorful as the dried or fermented products, but they add visual appeal and a nice texture to many dishes and have the added advantage of no nasty metallic qualities… Read more

Review: Koreana

711 Somerset St.West, Ottawa – (613) 230-7111

Koreana 1

Date of Visit: December 6, 2012

Koreana is one of those places that has been on my bucket list of Ottawa eateries for sometime now. It has always been fairly low on my list, as it happens, since I usually prefer restaurants that feature a single cuisine rather than ‘fusions’ or  multiple varieties, but Koreana actually offers an eclectic selection of individual Japanese and Korean dishes and is not really a fusion restaurant as such. A last minute change in my dining schedule finally led me to their door on this recent trip to Ottawa, and I have to say that, with this experience, that I was very well rewarded by my serendipitous encounter… Read more

Spice Blend: Homemade Lemongrass Paste

Homemade Lemongrass Paste 1

Back in October, I featured a commercially produced Lemongrass in a Tube and, as readers may recall, I was not terribly impressed. Indeed, I was actually so underwhelmed by the product that, after just a couple of uses, I tossed it out. Anyway, I recently managed to grab some of the fresh stalks whilst in Ottawa and I decided to make a paste myself. The process is really quite simple and I thought I would share it with you here… Read more

Review: Bangkok Thai Garden

370 Dalhousie St., Ottawa – (613) 789-1888

Bangkok Thai 1

Date of Visit: December 4, 2012

I have passed this restaurant and perused their menu many times and  I decided it was high time I actually gave it a try. I spent a leisurely and pleasant couple of hours there on my most recent trip to Ottawa and, though I don’t really think I can claim it to be the best Thai restaurant I have ever eaten at, it was nonetheless a worthwhile visit… Read more

Paella Valenciana

Paella Valenciana 1

One of my earliest blog recipes was for a Paella with Seafood and Chicken that I posted almost a year ago. Paella is so commonly served with shellfish of some sort that many would regard it as being a seafood dish but, in fact, that isn’t really the case at all. In Spain, Valencia is considered the spiritual home of Paella and the traditional version there, while still based on saffron infused rice, contains snails, usually rabbit, and sometimes chicken or duck. Beans, often a variety, are always included (frequently along with other green vegetables) and tomatoes are required, although the amounts used vary considerably.

I have been meaning to try a Valencian style Paella for ages now but, sadly, it has been about two years since I have seen rabbit in our local grocery store and I have given up hope of obtaining any at present. Still, some Paellas are made in Valencia using only snails so I figure that a ‘bunny-less’ one containing just snails and chicken should still be alright. Beyond that, I will stick to traditional ingredients (although I prefer to use long-grained rather than short-grained rice), but I will make one departure from tradition in the method of cooking… Read more

Yule Tidings to all….

Yule Tidings 1

Greetings folks… I hope you will all have a chance to take sometime to relax with friends and family today and I would also like to extend my thanks to all my readers, especially those who take the time to comment on my posts, thereby making the whole blogging effort so very worthwhile.

During this past year, I have shared quite a few pictures of places here in the far North, but I have not yet done a post featuring my hometown of Iqaluit in any detail. I’ll remedy that in the New Year sometime but, for now, I’ll just share this aerial picture that allows you to see the whole city. All but one of Nunavut’s communities are situated on the coast but, as you can see, for much of the year it is often hard to tell where the land ends and the sea begins… Read more

Spice: Saffron (and Safflower)

Crocus - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Crocus – Courtesy of Wikipedia

The phrase ‘worth it’s weight in gold’ could very easily apply to saffron as it is, by a large margin, the world’s most expensive spice. It consists of the stamens of a particular variety of crocus (pictured above), which is cultivated primarily in Spain,  Iran and India, but also in other places, including England, as well. Each flower produces only three tiny stamens (the three crimson colored ‘threads’ protruding from the center of the bloom), each of which must be collected by hand. This, coupled with the fact that it takes some 50,000 to 75,000 flowers to yield a pound of the spice, accounts for the cost. Thankfully, though a very little 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….  Read more

The Exchange Pub

50 Rideau St., Ottawa – (613) 234-5544 – Website

Exchange 1

Date of Visit: December 5, 2012 

The Exchange is actually inside the Rideau Centre, in premises once occupied by the ‘Elephant and Castle Pub’, a place I used to visit quite regularly whenever I was in Ottawa. The new owners must have gutted the old place because nothing is recognizable now. It is much more open and airier, attractively appointed with lots of brick and wood, and definitely more chic. I rather miss the old place, but The Exchange makes a pretty fine replacement… Read more

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