Saturday, January 30, 2010

Phở Bến Thành Restaurant II

115 Park Street North
Hamilton, Ontario

I was meeting CS (whom I use to tutor English) and suggested B&T Restaurant since I had a craving for nem nướng (Vietnamese pork meatballs). I decided to go all out and order a jackfruit shake ($3.45). The shakes are quite big so make sure you have a large appetite; it will fill you up!

Jackfruit Shake (#031).

CS ordered the My Tho Style Mixed Seafood with Transparent Noodle Soup ($5.95). She seemed to really enjoy it. It came with a shrimp fritter. I was amused that she saved it for last. I would have eating it quickly first!

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My Tho Style Mixed Seafood with Transparent Noodle Soup (#119).

I knew exactly what I was going to order the Grilled Pork Meat Balls, Sugar Cane Shrimp & Spring Roll ($7.25). The meatballs was the best part even though I think they add red colouring. The sugar cane shrimp (chạo tôm) was very disappointing and I promised myself never to order it again. The spring rolls are not the best but I find spring rolls are the kind of food that is satisfying even though they're not the best!

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Phở Bến Thành Restaurant

It was good enough to satisfy my craving for Vietnamese food until I get to California in April...!

Ben Thanh Viet Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mushroom Ravioli

I have had success making raviolis with wonton wrappers so why not make them with my favourite filling? Mushrooms! I took what I learned from making the pumpkin raviolis and applied it to these mushroom raviolis. This dish looks impressive compared to the effort it required. A perfect winter dish!


I remember the pumpkin raviolis being labour intensive. That is because I had decided to use a cookie cutter to create a scalloped edge. I had also folded the raviolis in two. This does not allow as much filling and it sometimes would break open when I boiled them. So this time I decided to use the whole raviolis and just crimp the edges with a fork. Using whole wonton wrappers allowed for more filling, always a good thing!

Mushroom Ravioli

To make the raviolis
I use the same mushroom filling recipe that I always do. Lots of onion, garlic, mushrooms and thyme! If you have leftovers, use them on a pizza or on bread for a mushroom bruschetta. Or just dig in, with a fork!

* oil or butter
* 1 small onion, chopped small
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* a variety of mushrooms (button, shiitake, oysters, etc.)
* fresh thyme leaves
* a glug of Marsala wine
* salt, to taste
* fresh ground black pepper, to taste
* Parmesan cheese, grated
* wonton wrappers

Heat oil or butter in a large pan.
Cook onion and garlic until softened.
On high heat, add the sliced mushrooms.
Sprinkle the thyme leaves and add the Marsala wine.
Season with salt and pepper.
When the mushrooms are cooked and no liquid remains, mix in the cheese.
Allow the mushroom mixture to cool.
Lay one wonton wrapper and top it with a tablespoon or so of mushroom mixture.
Wet the border of the wrapper and place another wrapper on top.
Press on the border to ensure it doesn't open up and crimp the edges with a fork .
To freeze the raviolis, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the freezer; when they are solidly frozen, place them in a plastic bag.

To cook the raviolis
If any of the raviolis seemed to have the wrapper open up, set aside or the filling will make a mess.

raviolis (fresh or frozen) to a pot of boiling, salted water - you don't need to thaw the frozen ones.
When the raviolis float, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain.

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Making and cooking the mushroom raviolis.

To make the sauce
From Mushrooms Canada.
I followed a simple sauce recipe. Unfortunately, I used whole wheat flour which created the brown lumps. I have to work on my sauce-making skills...

* 1 tbsp butter
* 1 tbsp flour
* 1 cup cream
* Parmesan cheese, grated
* ¼ tsp salt, or to taste
* ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

In medium saucepan, melt butter.
Stir in flour and cook stirring constantly 1-2 minutes or until bubbling.
Whisk in milk and bring to boil, whisking constantly until thickened.
Lower heat and stir in cheese, cook for 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally.
Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg.
Ladle sauce on cooked raviolis.


For more mushroom posts:
* Bacon & Parmesan stuffed Mushrooms
* Chicken and Mushroom Orzo
* Mushroom Crusted Tilapia
* Mushroom Pita Pizza
* Mushroom Soup
* Potato Mushroom Bruschetta

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thai Hot & Sour Soup

How timely that I noticed the theme for No Croutons Required a day after I tried my hand at making a Thai hot & sour soup. The theme for January is Thai cuisine! I have been wanting to replicate the hot & sour soup at Bahn Thai that I love so much. I've had a chance to eat there a few times recently (since I work down the street from the restaurant now) and always enjoy the soup, included in their lunch combo. I think I've figured out a good recipe, though it's still not exactly the same. I think theirs is sweeter and thicker, while mine has a lot more ingredients.


Thai Hot & Sour Soup
This soup is very easy. The challenging part was just tasting the broth and adjusting it to get the perfect sour, sweet and hot balance. Unlike Chinese hot & sour soup which uses vinegar, this Thai version uses tamarind and lime juice. I used a hard tofu so the tofu wouldn't break down but I think a softer tofu is typically used. If you want to thicken the soup, simply dilute a bit of cornstarch into a tablespoon of water and add the mixture at the end.

1.5 L vegetable broth (I threw in a piece of lemongrass when I made my vegetable broth)
piece of lemongrass (if you didn't flavour make your own broth)
1-2 tbsp sugar, or to taste
1-2 tbsp tamarind paste, or to taste
1-2 tbsp lime juice, or to taste
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1-2 tsp chili paste, or to taste
a handful of shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
a handful of enoki mushrooms
a handful of bamboo (purchased in a can)
small piece of tofu, sliced thinly
(other ingredients that would be great: baby corn, water chestnuts, snow peas)
egg, slightly beaten (optional)

Heat up the broth.
Add all of the ingredients into the broth.
Taste the broth and adjust with the tamarind paste, sugar, salt and chili to strike the perfect balance.
When you have the perfect broth and the ingredients are cooked, turn down the heat so the soup is not boiling.
Slowly pour in the beaten egg with one hand while stirring the soup with the other hand.

Bamboo and mushrooms.

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Shiitake and enoki mushrooms.

This soup would be perfect for someone with a cold!

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year's Eve 2009: Wine & Cheese

For New Year's Eve, I didn't have any plans so I ended up at my sister's for a small gathering. She and her fiancé D decided to forgo making a whole dinner and simply had a wine & cheese. Good idea! We were all fully stuffed with bread and cheese, and a few other small bites.

Paillot de chèvre and Saint-André.

L picked four cheeses: paillot de chèvre (a Québec goat cheese), Saint-André (a French cheese), Oka L'Artisan (another Québec cheese) and a Brie. The paillot de chèvre is named as such because paille (straw) was used to transport cheese throughout the province in the old days. Saint-André is a high-fat cheese from Normandy. Finally, Oka is a Canadian cheese named after the town of Oka in Québec; L'Artisan is a hard cheese with holes.

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Oka and Brie.

My sister reserved a few slices of the goat cheese to serve on top of slices of bread, topped with walnut and a drizzle of honey. Le paillot de chèvre passed my friend MC's sign of good cheese, by displaying two compositions, a creamier version in the centre. My sister also made swedish meatballs and her friend M made a tasty spinach dip.

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Goat cheese with walnuts and honey.

We did not limit ourselves to bread and cheese but also had a few accompaniments. My sister L made two dips: sun-dried tomato dip with crudités and also the pan-fried onion dip with chips. We also had kielbasa that I brought from Staropolskie with sweet gerkhins. She also made my favourite Swedish meatball recipe and her friend M brought a spinach dip.

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Other accompaniments.

Finally, after we rang in 2010, we had chocolate cupcakes with champagne. Happy belated New Year to all my readers!

Chocolate cupcakes topped with strawberry.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Apple Pancakes

It seems every time I stay at my sister's I get treated to breakfast. She goes all out, including coffee with foamy milk! The last time I wrote about it, she made frittata and scones. This time, she made pretty apple pancakes that I am planning to replicate for a future brunch! She was very excited to use the new griddle that her fiancé D just got them. Oh, how I wish I had a gas range so I could also use a griddle!


Apple Pancakes - Makes about 12 pancakes - Serves 4
From Williams-Sonoma.
Not only to these pancakes have a slice of apple on top, but there is also grated apples in the batter! Delicious apple-iness! Though the recipe says it serves 4, I think it served more like 6; there were that many... One trick I learned from my sister is to warm up the maple syrup beforehand so it doesn't cool down your pancakes when you pour it on! (And if you don't have buttermilk on hand, add 1 tbsp of lemon juice for every cup of milk.)

* 2 eggs
* 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
* ⅓ cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
* 2 tsp baking powder
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 tsp salt
* 2 tsp ground cinnamon
* 1 tsp ground ginger
* ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
* 2 cups plus 2 tbsp buttermilk
* 4 tbsp (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
* 2 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 peeled Granny Smith apple, cored and finely grated
* 1 peeled Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced on a mandoline

In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until frothy.
Add the flour, the 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, buttermilk, butter and vanilla.
Stir just until smooth and no lumps of flour remain; do not overmix.
Add the grated apple and stir just until combined.
Heat a griddle over medium-high heat until a few drops of water flicked onto the surface skitter across it.
Lightly spray the griddle with nonstick cooking spray.
For each pancake, sprinkle some sugar on 1 apple slice and place on the griddle.
Ladle about ⅓ cup of the batter on top of the apple slice.
Cook until bubbles form on top and the batter is set, about 2 minutes.
Using a spatula, flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2 minutes more.
Serve with warm maple syrup.

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Preparing the pancakes!

I love the addition of apples on top and grated apples inside.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Phở Xào Thịt Bò (Stir Fried Noodles with Beef)

There are certain dishes that I don't make on my own. I'm not sure if it's laziness, or I'm just not interested enough to make it on my own. Phở xào thịt bò (stir fried noodles with beef) is one of these dishes. Therefore, it's the perfect dish to ask my mom to make when I visit! I guess I thought it was not worth the effort; however, I realized it's not as hard as I thought.


Phở Xào Thịt Bò (Stir Fried Noodles with Beef) - 2 servings
My mom broke the recipe into two so it would be easier to stir fry in the frying pan. If you want to make more servings, multiply all the ingredients, cook the beef all at once and just divide the noodles into manageable portions. The recipe is split into two: first, you need to cook the meat, then you cook the noodles and add the beef at the end.

Cooking the beef
* 200 g beef, sliced thinly
* baking soda (just a bit to make sure the meat is not tough)
* salt
* ground black pepper
* garlic powder
* sesame oil
* white parts of green onion
* oil
* ½ onion, sliced
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* oyster sauce

Pre-season the meat by adding baking soda, salt, pepper, garlic powder and sesame oil to taste.
Heat oil in a large frying pan at medium-high heat.
Cook the onion slices and garlic until softened.
Add the beef and green onion and cook quickly, while stirring.
Add a bit of oyster sauce and mix again.
Set the beef aside once the meat is finished cooking.

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Cooking the beef.

Cooking the noodles
* oil
* ½ package phở (Vietnamese rice noodles), soaked in water until soft and drained
* dark soy sauce
* 1-2 handfuls of bean sprouts
* green parts of green onion, in 1" sections

Heat oil in a large frying pan on medium-high heat.
Add some dark soy sauce and make sure the noodles are well coated.
Add the bean sprouts and green onion, and mix well.
Once the noodles have cooked and softened, turn off the heat and add the cooked beef.
Serve with Thai basil.

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Cooking the noodles.

A hearty dish of noodles and beef.

For other Asian recipes with beef:
* Betel Leaves stuffed with Ground Beef
* Vietnamese-style Grilled Beef with Rice Vermicelli
* Vermicelli with Stir-Fried Beef

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Restaurant au Tarot (Montréal)

500 rue Marie Anne Est
Montréal, Québec

I was meeting my childhood friend MC for dinner during the holidays. She had mentioned a Moroccan restaurant in Montréal and I suggested we go, having traveled to Morocco with her. Restaurant au Tarot is located near the trendy Plateau Mont-Royal area. MC had the foresight to make a reservation, just in case. Lucky for us, because the restaurant was packed on a Wednesday evening.


MC had previously ordered the Couscous Royal and remembered it being much too big for two people. After looking over the menu and fretting over portion sizes, we decided to order the table d'hôte ($34.80) and pay the additional $8 to share it. This turned out to be a wise decision, because we were both very full by the end of our meal.

Our starter: lentil soup.

The table d'hôte started with a lentil soup that was very satisfying. My, I like lentil soups! Then I convinced MC to order the pigeon pastilla since she did not know exactly what it was (unfortunately, we did not have any in Morocco as we mostly had tagines). I could only tell her that it was meat in dough. The pastilla had an interesting combination of sweet and salty, with a generous sprinkling of sugar on top of the dough.

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Pigeon pastilla.

The pastilla was served with large bowls of couscous and vegetable stew. The vegetables (zucchini, carrots and chickpeas) reminded of those we often found in layers in tagines in Morocco. I really enjoyed ladles of the vegetable mixture on top of the couscous with a side of pastilla.

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Couscous and vegetables.

My filled plate.

Dinner ended with mint tea and dessert. Again, drinking meat tea reminded me of our time in Morocco. I also really liked the sweet treats filled with ground nuts, a perfect accompaniment to the tea.

By dessert, we were stuffed!

MC sure was right about the large portions at au Tarot. If I came again, I would want to come in a large group so I could sample more dishes. I just have to make sure I make a reservation since the restaurant was rather wee.

Restaurant Au-Tarot on Urbanspoon