Category: General

Foodstuff: Fish Maw – 魚肚 (or 魚漂 or 花膠)

Fish Maw 1

The picture above shows what appear to be three very different things but, in fact, they are just different forms of a product used in Chinese and South-East Asian cookery, and commonly referred to as ‘Fish Maw’. The word maw actually means stomach, or gullet, and, as such, the term for this product is a bit of a misnomer as it is really the ‘Swim bladder’ of certain bony (non-cartilaginous) species of fish. The swim bladder, is a gas filled sac that lies in the belly and allows the fish that possess them to maintain and control buoyancy at different depths.

As with a number of products in Chinese cookery, this item is used primarily for its texture. Some sources state bluntly that it has no taste of its own but, like tofu, takes on the flavors of other ingredients in a dish. In fact, it does have a certain, mild, ‘fishiness’, but it is still the texture that is important. It is rich in collagen, which not only gives a pleasant texture itself, but the collagen will dissolve into soups and braising liquids to lend added richness.

Several species are harvested for their bladders (Yellow Croaker is a favored type), but I do not know what from what fish any of the ones you see picture were taken… the packages I have, all written exclusively in Chinese characters, are silent on that point… In any event, the two basic forms are the plain dried article (the yellowish things at the bottom right of the picture), and the sort that consists of the same thing that has been deep-fried before being packaged for sale… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Fish Maw – 魚肚 (or 魚漂 or 花膠)”

Notable Nosh: Calamari Manko

Calamari Manko

On the last evening of a recent trip to Ottawa, I went on an ‘appetizer tour’ and stopped for drinks and one or two appetizers at a series of restaurants. One such stop was at the ‘Curry Kebab House’ which sits in the space in Byward Market once occupied by another Indian restaurant called ‘Haveli’. I will have to go back there sometime and do a proper review of the place after sampling a few more of their dishes, but the one I tried there on this occasion was terrific …

The dish was called Calamari ‘Manko’ …. I have no idea of the origin of the name ‘Manko’ and a search only yielded the fact that it is a very rude Japanese slang term (I’ll let you Google it yourselves). The menu described the dish as being squid ‘tossed with curry leaves and toasted coconut [and] served with a tomato chutney’. In fact, the ingredients were actually served ‘in’, rather than ‘with’ the chutney, which, in addition to the tomato, included mustard seed and coriander leaf. Toasted dried chilies were almost added to the mix, lending an almost ‘Sichuanesque’ effect to the overall taste, which was unusual, but really nicely done. The squid was cooked just perfectly, being tender, but still a bit chewy, and there was a sweetness that came in part from the toasted coconut, but, probably, also from the addition of a bit of sugar.

The curry leaves really made a difference here. I have cooked with these at home, but this was the first time I have had them served to me in a restaurant dish. The woody, slightly herby taste, really added a nice note. I want to try making this at home, sometime… Unfortunately, curry leaves are very hard to come by for me, but I think that a peppery Thai-Basil might make a very decent substitute…

Domaine Chevalier Petit Chablis 2015

Domaine Chevallier Petit Chablis 2015

Chablis, is well a well known name and refers to Chardonnays from Burgundy, but, while there is a specific Chablis AOC, there is also a lesser known ‘Petit Chabis’ AOC  as well. The wines belonging to this AOC are sometimes regarded as the ‘jewels’ of Chablis, but I was not overly impressed with today’s representative selection …

  • Winery: Domaine Chevalier
  • Price: $23.55 at SAQ
  • Alcohol: 12%
  • Sugar: 3.4 g/L

This Chardonnay is a medium straw color with a slight reddish tint. The nose is muted with very little in the way of fruitiness. It is very strong on straw and dried grass and also has a sulfur component. It is off dry and moderately acidic with muted sour apple flavors coupled with hay,  and there is a strong vegetal and mineral presence as well. I thought the balance was ragged and the overall effect not especially pleasing.

Domaine Catherine et Claude Maréchal Chorey-Lès-Beaune 2013

Domaine Catherine et Claude Maréchal Chorey-Lès-Beaune 2013

Burgundy, of all the wine-producing regions  France, is the most complicated. There is a dizzying number of AOC’s (more than any other region on France), and the general supposition is that there is an in increase in quality from the basic Bourgougne AOC up to the Grand Crus. In wine after wine,however, the lie is given to this general notion, and today’s selection, from the  Chorey-Lès-Beaune AOC,  is indicative of that …

  • Winery: Catherine et Claude Maréchal
  • Price: $40.75 CDN
  • Alcohol: 13%
  • Sugar: 1.7 g/L

This wine is medium ruby in color and has a muted nose of red, slightly cooked fruit, and a faint floral background. It has a medium full body with a silky texture, and is off-dry with moderate acidity and smooth tannins that get bolder at the end. The floral notes dominate over subtle, slightly sour red fruit, and there is a hint of spice as well as a touch of leather. I had some of this with a mild beef stew and it didn’t stand up well, leaving a slightly acrid taste. Interestingly, I later drank one glass with peanuts,which resulted, as a combination, in a taste of turkey. Overall, the wine was not all that bad bad but not worth the relatively high  price.

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”