Tag: Chinese

Yangtze – A second visit.

Yangtze 1

The Har Gow pictured above were served to me as part of a dim sum lunch at the Yangtze Dining Lounge in Ottawa’s Chinatown. I first visited this place almost 8 years ago and I later prepared a short review based on my notes. It was a very brief and rudimentary review, especially as I did not take any pictures.

My notes of that first visit recall, at best, a mediocre experience in that there were a couple of decent dim sum offerings, along with some not so good, and service that varied from server to server from moderately friendly to brusque and unwelcoming. On my recent second visit back in August of this year, I found that little had changed. The dim sum on offer was passable, but distinctly unimpressive, and the service, while generally friendly and efficient on the part of the ‘cart-ladies’ was sharp to the point of rudeness on the part of the hostess (as was the case 8 years ago, although I cannot say if it was the same person or not).

Anyway… the Har gow pretty much reflected the overall experience. I have had many worse, but here the wrapper had a bit of a doughy-raw taste and the shrimp inside had very little flavor at all. The only thing I like about these, really, was the size. I dislike overly large Har Gow as they are unwieldy to eat and often tear under their own weight, especially where you have to take more than one or two bites. These ones were just right for a single mouthful each. Continue reading “Yangtze – A second visit.”

Foodstuff: Ma-Po Tofu Sauce Mix

Ma-Po Tofu Sauce Mix 1

I picked this little item up on a whim while shopping for other stuff. I don’t use pre-packaged sauce mixes all that frequently, nor do I use tofu often, but I have been curious about the classic Sichuan dish,  Mapo Doufu (spelled ‘Mabo Tofu’ here), and I thought this might be an interesting way to experience it for the first time. The package states that you need to add nothing except ground meat and tofu, and so I used nothing else myself except for just a little scallion… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Ma-Po Tofu Sauce Mix”

Dim Sum: Steamed Squid 蒸魷魚

Yangtze Steamed Squid

Steamed squid is a regular offering in dim sum restaurants and is a dish I rarely pass up. Sometimes, you find squid steamed with a curry sauce but, in my experience, the curry sauce usually served is a bit insipid and I generally don’t care for it.

The offering you see pictured above is one I was recently served at the Yangtze Dining Lounge in Ottawa. Most of the dishes I had that day were not actually that great but this particular one was first class. Commonly, squid pieces are often dusted in a flour of some sort before steaming but these were steamed ‘clean’ and the effect was very well done.

The pieces of ‘tube’ were very plump and thick and I would have guessed that they came from a fairly large specimen but the tentacles that were also steamed alongside were obviously from very tiny squid. I am not sure if the body flesh came from a different animal than the tentacles, or whether the flesh ‘plumped’ up during the steaming process. In any event, the cooking was expertly executed and the result especially tender. As usual, ginger, and a little scallion were added, and both of these were added deftly so as to just give a hint of their presence in the background. I have had this dish many times, both at home and in restaurants, and this was one of the best.

Vacuum-packed Cooked Duck Wing

Vacuum-packed Cooked Duck Wing 1

I actually picked this product up on a whim while shopping for some other items at Kowloon Market, my favorite Asian grocery store in Ottawa. These vacuum-packed duck wings area product of China and intended to be used pretty much ‘as is’ rather than requiring any preparation. The picture on the front of the pack, which shows the plain wings sprinkled with a little green onion and sesame seeds, describes this as being a ‘serving suggestion’. Anyway, I was intrigued by this product, which appears to require no refrigeration, and I brought some home with me.

Anyway … when you open the main package, there are 5 of the individually vacuum-sealed wings inside. I am not sure how the wings are cooked (the package is silent on the issue), but I think they may be slow baked after being marinated. When you open one of the wings, the dominant aroma is of star anise, and I was expecting to not like the wings as I am not keen on the flavor. I tasted one, before reading the ingredients and I found, to my pleasant surprise, that the dominant taste seemed to be fennel. This proved to be correctly identified as the ingredient list reads (for flavorings):

Chili, soy, salt, sugar, aniseed, pepper, Sichuan pepper, fennel, liquorice, kaempferiae (Galanga), cinnamon, cardamom, clove, bay leaf, and ginger.

In truth, I think some of the additions may be… well, theoretical, as I couldn’t identify much beyond the fennel (which, luckily, I like a lot). The chili, which is listed first, and should thus be a major ingredient, is nowhere apparent, and the product is not remotely hot at all… Continue reading “Vacuum-packed Cooked Duck Wing”

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…

Taiwanese Pickle

Taiwanese Pickle 1

This little appetizer is my take on a dish I had a while ago at a Dim Sum restaurant in Ottawa. It was described on the menu as ‘Taiwan Pickled Vegetable’ and was chiefly cucumber with just a little red bell pepper and slivered ginger. I am not sure about the ‘dressing’… these were obviously salt-macerated ‘quick pickles’ and they were quite sweet, only a little sour, and had just a faint touch of chili heat… Continue reading “Taiwanese Pickle”

Dim Sum- Mushroom Dumpling (素粉果)

Mushroom Dumpling 1

These little dumpling preparations are ‘Fun Gor’ (or  fěnguǒ  in Mandarin) as is indicated by the last two characters in the Chinese name. This type of dumpling is characterized by the semi-translucent wrapper that is made using a combination of starches like cornstarch, or tapioca starch, and non-glutinous Wheat flour. The English name on the menu just calls them ‘mushroom dumplings’, but the first character does not translate as ‘mushroom’ but rather, in this context, as ‘vegetarian’.

One of the classic Fun Gor is the Teochew Fun Gor, which contains ground pork and peanuts. These, however, appear to have been called ‘vegetarian’ as the filling rather mimics the Teochow variety by replacing the ground pork with mushrooms, chopped to leave a texture like ground meat, plus water chestnut in place of peanuts. There was also some celery in the mix along with, I am fairly sure, just a little bit of cilantro.

The size of the dumplings could have been a little smaller as these were a little unwieldy with chopsticks, but the taste and texture were excellent. I am still not very proficient at making the dough for this type of dumpling (as opposed to the basic wheat flour type), but I should very much like to give these a try at home…

Fish Maw Stir-Fried with Shrimp

Fish Maw Stir-Fried with Shrimp 01

Not long ago, I introduce you to the Asian foodstuff widely known as Fish Maw. In both the commercially available forms, plain-dried, or deep-fried, it occurs most frequently as a component of soups and braised dishes. It is also used, however, in stir-fried preparations, and, today, I am doing such a dish using shrimp and button mushrooms. The permutations, of course, are endless, but this particular pairing is very nice … Continue reading “Fish Maw Stir-Fried with Shrimp”