Category: General

Notable Nosh: Soft-Shell Crab

Softshell Crab 2017-07 1

This is only the third time I have eaten this particular delicacy; The first time was in Vancouver 12 years ago, the second in Ottawa (some time since then), and this last time was also in Vancouver during my recent vacation, although I can’t, for the life of me, remember in which restaurant…

For any crab lovers, the soft shell variety (those taken whilst ‘in-between’ shells during moulting) are an especial treat. There are, of course, no hard shells to deal with and the soft carapace that remains just adds to the overall flavor. Here, unusually, instead of several tiny crabs, I was served one large one cut in half and the shell had already started to harden… not enough to spoil the dish, by any means, but just enough so that it added a nice crunch and added the same, indefinable, taste that one gets from the tail section of whole shrimp after being deep-fried to edibility..

The crab itself was served atop a bed of crispy fried cellophane noodles (which worked really nicely) and was drizzled with both Japanese style Eel sauce and a sweet Mayo. Both of these were almost superfluous given the sweetness of the crab flesh but they enhanced rather than detracted from the main attraction and I though the overall effect excellent …

Spicy Bagoong Prawns

Spicy Bagoon Prawns 1

Almost five years ago now, I posted a recipe for a Prawn Curry that was my take on a dish I first ate as a small child. That dish, mostly Indian in character, incorporated Belacan to enhance the rich prawn flavour and used tomato to make a thick sauce. Today, I am using some lovely giant prawns to make something similar, except that I am using Filipino Bagoong instead of the fermented dried shrimp paste, and producing a result that is less a ‘curry’ than a spicy, stir-fried dish… [ Continue reading “Spicy Bagoong Prawns”

Notable Nosh: Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki 2017-07 1

Okonomiyaki has sometimes been called the ‘Japanese pizza’ but, though the appearance is similar (and occasionally cheese is used) the resemblance is superficial at best. Rather, this particular specialty is more closely similar to the Korean savory pancake known as ‘Pajeon’. Basically, the Okonomiyaki (which means ‘cooked as you like it’) consists of a pancake base made from cabbage, and sometimes other shredded vegetables, in a batter. This maybe cooked on both sides (or one only in some styles) and then toppings are added along with a sweetened Worcestershire type sauce and (commonly) mayonnaise. Seafood or meat can be included in the pancake and shaved Bonito flakes are a common topping.

I ate the one you see pictured above at Wasabi, in Ottawa, and, though it wasn’t the prettiest I have seen, it was very tasty indeed. The batter contained both cabbage and scallions and was well cooked through. It was a little dark in places but this did not ruin the flavor at all. The topping, in addition to more scallion, included shaved bonito and little strips of toasted nori. The bonito flakes were still fluttering when I received the dish, meaning it came straight from the griddle, and the nori added a nice nuttiness.

The one thing that made this particular variety different was that cheese was used in place of mayo… I was a bit leery of this but, in fact, it turned out to be very nice indeed. I have had Okonomiyaki a few times before this (some not very good) and I am looking forward to trying many more to explore the different structures and styles I’ve heard about.

Spiced-Soy Pork

Spiced Soy Pork 1

Today’s recipe is something of an experiment and you may want to read the notes carefully. The Chinese classic ‘Dong Po Pork’ is one of my all-time favourite dishes in Asian cuisine but, as unctuous and decadent as it is, it tends to contain a lot of sugar, which is something I try to avoid these days. Accordingly, I wanted to try something along the same lines but not so diabetic unfriendly. It is still basically pork-belly red-cooked in soy, but I have played around with the flavourings and needed to make an adjustment or two to the technique… Continue reading “Spiced-Soy Pork”

Notable Nosh: Lettuce with Oyster Sauce

Lettuce with Oyster Sauce

Lettuce is pretty much eaten exclusively raw in the west, and the idea of it in a cooked dish will strike many as odd. I recall, though, a Chinese woman being interviewed who, on being told of this, replied that, in all her years in China, she had never heard of it being eaten raw… only cooked. There is a lesson there, I suppose, but, suffice to say, both ways are good…

Actually, it is surprising that cooked lettuce doesn’t turn up on many menus in Chinese restaurants as it is certainly cheap and, one would think, fairly easy to prepare. I probably would have tried it before, if this was the case, but the offering you see above is my first experience with the dish.

I was surprised, when I first saw it being brought to my table, that the leaves had not been stirred in with the oyster sauce as I expected. As it was though, this gave me a chance to try the lettuce alone and I found it very good indeed. It was cooked until just barely wilted, so it maintained a slight crispness, but the normal lettuce taste was actually enhanced. With the oyster sauce it was even better, I have to say, but the first sampling was a revelation. I am going to have to experiment with this at home.

Anita Kuhnel Moulin-à-Vent Vieilles Vignes 2015

Anita Kuhnel Moulin-à-Vent Vieilles Vignes 2015

Today’s selection is a Beaujolais. As you can see, it was good enough to rate three stars but, given the price, and my expectations, it was actually a bit disappointing…

By way of a brief primer, the Beaujolais wine region of south-eastern France is sometimes lumped in with the much larger Burgundy region. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, however, as the reds of Burgundy are almost exclusively Pinot Noirs, while the Beaujolais reds are produced using the varietal known as Gamay, or Gamay Noir. Under the French name-control regime (AOC), the basic level grouping for this region is the plain Beaujolais AOC. Above this, both in terms of price and (usually) quality, are the wines produced in certain villages, and which are entitled to carry the ‘Beaujolais-Villages AOC’ designation on their labels (there are 39 such villages at last count). Beyond these, again in terms of price and quality, are the wines from 10 specific communes, all of which rate their own individual AOC, and which are collectively referred to as the ‘Crus de Beaujolais’.  Moulin-à-Vent is one of these…

This particular Moulin-à-Vent cost me $26.40 Canadian from the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ). It has an alcohol content of 13% and the sugar quotient rates in at 1.8 g/L. Thus far, the best Beaujolais I have tasted was from the Moulin-à-Vent AOC but, sadly, this one did not measure up.

The color of this particular Beaujolais is a very dark, slightly purplish red. The nose was quite muted and the aroma of dark, ripe berries is overshadowed by an earthy, somewhat vegetal quality that is reminiscent of dried mushroom. I also got a slight hint of jam but this was ephemeral and fleeting.

It is medium to light bodied and fairly dry, with low moderate acidity and tannins to match except for a slight astringency at the end. As with the nose, the fruitiness is very understated and there is the same earthiness, but with a few herbaceous highlights and a touch or pepper. On my second glass, I also detected a note of cherry that was a bit medicinal and not very pleasant.The finish was very short and, on the whole, the effect was not well-rounded. For one of the Crus de Beaujolais, it wasn’t especially good and I won’t purchase this particular vintage again.

Salted Duck Egg Fried Shrimp

Salted Duck Egg Fried Shrimp 1

A while ago, I downloaded a picture of an interesting looking dish which bore the title ‘Salted Duck Egg Yolk Fried Prawns’. There was no recipe, nor even any description, rather, it was just a picture of a dish enjoyed by someone in a restaurant in, I think, Malaysia or Singapore. Now, I have written about Chinese Salted Duck Egg before and I mentioned that you can purchase them in their raw state, or cooked. I do not know what was used in the dish that inspired this experiment, but I only had the latter on hand and so was limited to using that. Anyway, here is what I did… Continue reading “Salted Duck Egg Fried Shrimp”

Dim Sum: Steamed Sparerib in Black Bean Sauce

Steamed Rib with Black Beans 2017-07 1

Steamed pork Ribs, especially with Black Beans, is something I cook regularly at home but it is also a regular on dim sum menus everywhere. I most commonly prepare this as an entrée sized dish but a small plate of two or three makes a lovely snack at any time…

Generally, small sections of pork rib are dusted in flour after being lightly seasoned and then steamed with Chinese Salted Black Beans along with soy sauce, or rice wine, so that a nice light sauce is produced. Chilli can be included, as well as sugar, and the flour thickens things very nicely.

What was different about the ones I ate in in Vancouver’s New Town Restaurant recently (and pictured above) was the addition of a slice of Chinese Preserved Sausage. This added a unique umami depth and obviated the need for any additional sugar or other sweetener. I have not come across this before but I will be incorporating it in my own preparations in the future for sure…

Oil Sizzled Shrimp

Oil Sizzled Shrimp 1

Today’s little appetizer is adapted from a Chinese recipe I first tried many, many years ago. I can’t quite recall where I saw it, but I am fairly sure it is Cantonese. Although it is ‘oil sizzled’ the shrimp are actually first steamed with some aromatics, and hot oil is drizzled over them just before serving to really enhance the flavor. Once you have done the finicky part of ‘prepping’ the shrimp, the process is pretty easy… Continue reading “Oil Sizzled Shrimp”

Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Gato Negro

Well folks, this is the very first wine review I have attempted here at Sybaritica. I am going to be tweaking the format a little as I go, so I would appreciate any suggestions you might have to offer.

Anyway, today’s selection is a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, and the pertinent details are as follows:

  • Winery: Vina San Pedro Tarapaca SA
  • Region: Valle Central,  (Valle del Maule Subregion)
  • Price: $9.45 CDN
  • Alcohol: 13%
  • Sugar: 5.0 g/L

As you can see, I have given this wine a 5 star rating. I don’t expect this to be a common rating in my reviews and, as we shall see anon, this particular rating is somewhat qualified… Now, on to the review:

The color of the wine is a very dark, purple red, and it is fairly full bodied with a smooth, but not quite velvety texture. The nose immediately strikes you with a generic red berry fruitiness that quickly develops a deep blackcurrant quality, and there are some floral highlights and a background  vegetal quality that expresses itself most with a slightly sharp hint of stinging nettles.

The overall effect is off-dry, with moderate acidity, and tannins that are largely smooth throughout, but which produce a mild astringent effect near the end. On the palate, blackcurrant definitely dominates, but what I liked best about this wine was a fruity tang near the end that was very reminiscent of the wine-gum candies I used to love as a kid. There is a little spice component, that complements the candied wine-gum quality, and also, lurking in the mix, a very faint touch of licorice.

It is not a classically ‘great’ wine, by any means… the finish is a bit short and a rustic roughness makes it difficult to qualify it as well-rounded, but it is eminently drinkable, and, when you factor in the very low price, I would raise it from a four to a (qualified) five star rating. as being something I would buy to have on hand.