My love for Pad Thai

pad thaiPad thai is one of my favourite dishes that I can rarely get enough of. While in Thailand, my husband and I would frequently walk down the street from where we were staying to get dishes upon dishes of homemade pad thai made before our very eyes. The ingredients would vary slightly depending on the lady cooking for us, but the result was always delicious. What’s more, the dishes usually cost around $1 to $2 CAD. It inspired me to try to make my own.

The other night, I finally tried my hand at making it. This recipe outlines how I made my pad thai and is simple to follow and straight forward, but does take some time. I’d recommend setting aside about 2 to 3 hours for prep and cooking time if it’s your first time making it – about 1-2 hours once you become more practiced.

Ingredients: (serves 5)

  • 3/4 of a package of dried pad thai rice noodles (package will say “pad thai” on it)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons of dried tamarind powder or 3 tablespoons of pulp (add more if you like a touch more of a tangy, sour flavour in your pad thai)
  • 1 cup boiling hot water
  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons of Sriracha
  • 1 bunch of green onions (sometimes called scallions), chopped to 1 to 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 a large carrot, finely sliced into strips or quarters
  • 5 shallots, finely sliced in thin strips
  • 1 package of firm tofu (or deep fried tofu), cut into inch-long strips
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (you can also use a full cup of either peanut or vegetable oil)
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts, washed and drained

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Mod: Vegan chocolate molten lava cakes + vegan chocolate frosting

lava cakesAs part of a vegan dinner we were hosting, I wanted to make a molten lava chocolate cake version of the vegan chocolate cake we’ve made before. I couldn’t find any vegan chocolate, so had to get creative and use a slightly modified vegan chocolate icing recipe I have. The result was great. The centre wasn’t quite as luscious as if I had used a dark chocolate, but still turned out well.

Ingredients: (makes 8 small ramekin servings)

Cake:

  • 1-1/2 cups flour (regular all-purpose flour is fine)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (or canola oil)
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup water

Frosting / Molten chocolate filling: Continue reading

Ryoji: Ramen is so hot right now

ryoji

UPDATE (November 23, 2013): I returned to Ryoji with some friends recently, and have posted an update on this original restaurant review.


In the last six months, Toronto has seen a surge of new ramen establishments open their doors. For me, it’s been a welcome occurrence since I adore noodle soups of all kinds with ramen being no exception. My hubby and I haven’t completed the full circuit and visited them all yet, but so far, Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya has taken its place as one of our favourite restaurants in the city… and has become a staple place we go to on a regular basis. The establishment itself is a part of the larger Japanese-based Okinawa business founded by Ryoji Kinjo in 1988. Toronto is the first to have a location outside of Japan.

So why do we love it so much. Three main reasons:

  1. The atmosphere is fantastic. Fun, eclectic, well-designed, and spacious. There is a dining nook to suit every preference – communal harvest table dining, smaller two or four tops, bar-side under a swath of colourful ryuku glass lights, or comfy lounge-style by a wall of lamps. What’s also great is that compared to many of its ramen counterparts, it’s relatively large and doesn’t require the same kind of lining-up and waiting that many of the other ones do. Not to say I wouldn’t wait in line, I would and do, but sometimes, I like being able to walk in and get seated relatively quickly.
  2. One word: Ai. Our favourite server… and so far, the only server we’ve ever had (by our request). We love her. She’s an absolute darling – attentive, helpful, knowledgeable, and sweet. She’s my favourite. I’ve told her so.
  3. The food. It’s Okinawa-style ramen and food and it’s delicious.

This last time we went, we ordered a couple of starters: takoyaki (a snack that wraps minced or diced octopus in deep fried wheat flour), the daily sashimi, and sea bass miso yaki (grilled sea bass).

The takoyaki is a no brainer for us. Topped with takoyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, seaweed, pickled daikon strips, and bonito shavings – the ball-shaped snacks are delicious. Careful when taking your first bite. They’re hot.

takoyaki

The daily sashimi this time was salmon, tuna, and mackerel. It always comes with three dipping options: a soy mousse, cracked pepper and salt, and a sweet miso sauce. Combined with the fresh daikon and watercress, the bite-sized morsels of fish have incredible flavour. Continue reading

Pineapple potato tacos

potato tacosOne of my favourite meals while my sister and I were in Mexico were the street tacos (Vine video at the bottom of this post). We had no idea what the different options were, and weren’t able to find out past “carne” (meat) or “pollo” (chicken) with the language barrier. So, we would point to one of the delicious looking options… and devour the result. Of these options, the one that surprised me the most was one that looked highly-textured that turned out to be potatoes and pineapple. I liked it so much that when we got home, my hubby and I tried to replicate it. This is his recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 medium sized red potatoes, chopped
  • half a pineapple, chopped (or one can of pineapple nibblets, mostly drained)
  • 1 medium sized white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon ground pepper or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 a small can of tomato paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of vegan margarine (if you’re not vegan, you can use butter)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable stock
  • Soft-shelled tacos

Garnish:

  • Grated cheese of your choice (we used Okanogan’s Soy Co. vegan mozzarella)
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • 1/4 of a lime

Continue reading

Queso: A great side dip or topping for your chips or main

cheeseWhile visiting friends in Austin, Texas last week, I was introduced to queso. If you’re not familiar with queso, it’s a delicious cheesy sauce that often comes with your chips or that you can top up your tacos or other dishes with. I have to admit, it was a new discovery for me, and the verdict: delicious! The good news – it’s very easy to make. This recipe is one that is based on what was described to me by my friend’s hubby who is Mexican and grew up on his momma’s made-from-scratch Mexican meals. The great thing about queso is there are many variations – you can put what you want in it.

I made a vegan variation.

Ingredients:

  • 250g of cheddar cheese, sliced or grated. Other kinds of cheese can be used. Cheddar is what was recommended to me. Many recipes call for “Velveeta cheese”, which is a processed cheese that’s softer in nature. I try to avoid processed foods, so didn’t use it. For the vegan variation, I used Okanagan’s Soya Co. cheddar.
  • 1/4 cup of cold water (for a non-vegan version, you can use 1/4 cup of half and half cream)
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (remove the seeds if you prefer mild heat)
  • 1/2 sprig of green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/4 of a medium sized white onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt

Start your queso by melting the cheese. You can do this directly in a saucepan or pot. I didn’t want to have to transfer the gooey cheese from pot to serving bowl, so I placed my sliced up cheese in the serving bowl directly and placed the bowl in a larger pot that had 2 inches of water in it. The heat from the pot and water melted the cheese directly in my serving bowl.

Once the cheese is melted, add the water (or cream for the non-vegan version of this recipe) and mix until smooth.

Add the peppers, onions, tomato, and salt.

If you prefer a runnier dip, you can add a little more water and mix until it’s at the consistency you like.

Love of tea

Love of teaI realized lately that I have a lot of tea. An abundance of tea, actually. Boxes upon boxes housing at least a couple dozen varieties that I’ve managed to accumulate over my travels and from the trips and adventures of my friends and family.

It’s my love of tea that has led to this. A slow accumulation of many teas of all kinds. And the travesty is that I haven’t been drinking it lately as I’ve been on a road a lot.

So the obvious answer: I have to drink it. Now. And as of this week, I’m drinking a different kind every day. None of this waiting until I’m feeling a little under the weather or saving it for a rainy day. Yesterday was the first one: a jasmine tea ball.

These tea balls are a full sensory experience – aesthetically and visually pleasing, aromatic and calming to smell, mild in flavour, and if you listen closely, you might hear the leaves unfurling and small air bubbles being released. After all, it’s the air bubbles that push apart the leaves. Each beautiful little tea ball is crafted in a way where they are tied delicately together and dried. When you steep them, they slowly blossom. I love that. The aesthetic of the blossoming tea ball into a gorgeous floral pattern.

Here’s a short Vine video of the tea opening up:

Mulled Wine

Nothing says Happy Holidays like a steaming glass of mulled wine… or a teacup. This recipe is extremely easy to follow, and the whole process only takes about 10 minutes.

All you need are:

  • 1 bottle of a dry red wine (750 mL)
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 5 or 6 star anise, whole
  • 1 to 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 orange or lemon peel

Pop open your bottle of wine and pour it into a pot on low to medium-low heat. Add the brown sugar, star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and citrus peel and simmer on low heat for about five to ten minutes. Careful not to boil the mixture.

You can let the wine simmer for longer if you’d like a strong flavour. Serve hot.

If you need to make a bigger batch, careful not to add too many star anise to the pot – star anise has a strong flavour that can overpower. You only need an extra one or two per additional bottle of wine.

This recipe serves 4.

Happy Holidays!