Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mini Malaysia

Rating: **** out of *****
What brought me to this quaint restaurant was my mother. She is always searching for the best Malaysian restaurants in the lower mainland and by jove, I think she may have stumbled upon it. In lowly Coquitlam, located in a small strip-mall, next to a dry cleaning business we found this little gem. I would have never guessed that one could find such authentic Malaysian food in Coquitlam, and if you weren't looking for it, you would pass right by. As you enter this family-run restaurant you could just tell that the food would be good. True, the decor could use some touching up, but the atmosphere actually reminded me of being in a small Malay Cafe somewhere back in Singapore. The menu was not extensive, but they did serve the most basic of Malay cuisine. They serve sambal chicken, beef rendang, laksa lemak, nasi lemak, roti canai, beef murtabak, mee goreng... and a bunch of cheaply priced drinks! Woah, wish so much choice, I could hardly decide on what I wanted. Eventually, I settled on my favorite... nasi lemak.

I just love the variety of tastes you get with this dish. There was the usual, coconut rice, cucumber, ikan bilis and peanuts (I thought they should have mixed the two together, with some chili spices... but it was still good), beef curry, egg and sambal.
My mom ordered her favorite, laksa lemak. The dishes came out very quickly, it only took 10 minutes! I was impressed. So here's the address, in case you can't spot it hiding behind some big stores. Definitely go!


Mini Malaysia:
1196 Lansdowne Drive, Coquitlam

Staff Party '07

Woot! Another year of working at KFC and boy am I glad it's over... jkjk. Seriously, I love my part-time job at the KFC Chicken Hut :P For our Christmas/New Year's bash we went out for a lovely dinner. Not saying that KFC wouldn't make a lovely dinner, but we decided to travel down to Richmond and my favorite street... No. 3 Rd. What better place to find quality chinese seafood? I had actually never heard of Shiang Garden before but from what my co-workers were telling me, I was in for a real treat. The boss went all out this year, and the staff was treated to a whopping ten-course meal. Last year, we went to the Radisson in Richmond for a "buffet-like" private dinner and the year before that we went to Boston Pizza. I think the boss may be doing well for himself, as you can see the staff parties getting more upscale... hmm, maybe I should ask for a raise :P

Course 1: Assorted Meat Platter, this consisted of duck, squid, jellyfish and pork hock
Course 2: Sharkfin Soup, this was really good... I had two bowls
Course 3: Crab with Noodles, the crab meat was well prepared, very tender and tasty. The noodles on the other hand were very plain and tasted like they came from a plastic container.
Course 4: Fresh Scallops with Vegetables, these melt-in-your-mouth scallops were also well prepared.
Course 5: Was suppose to be the steamed fish, but I guess it wasn't ready on time. So we moved on to the Egg Tofu with Seafood. I'm not sure what they put in the tofu, probably msg, but I was hooked. They were very delicious.
Course 6: Still waiting on the fish, we were served the next course. Probably the only dish without any seafood, Beef with Gailan.

Course 7: Crispy Chicken, yes... working at KFC you'd think we would be sick of chicken. Think again :P This chicken was very moist, and the crispy skin was not too dry but very ... um crispy!

Course 8: The Steamed Fish, after all that anticipation the fish actually wasn't that good. The broth was way too "fishy" and this fish taste/smell was not well covered by any seasonings.


Course 9: Fried Rice, not sure why we ended with this dish... but it actually worked out. I was quite full nearing the final four courses and didn't feel like I missed out on much by not eating the rice.

Course 10: Dessert... that's all the menu said, I guess to create mystery. This red bean tong sui was just okay, I think Hon's makes an even better one. I don't much like the orange essence in red bean soups, but they added some to this one.


Well, another year down and all is well with life. Here's to 2008 and a bunch of new adventures. I can't believe I'm graduating in 2 years!!!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Top Gun

Rating: **** out of *****
Oh, seems like not too long ago I had been eating Japanese food. Wait, it wasn't that long ago :P Well, my parents have this fascination with dining out... and that's lucky for me, a food-aholic foodie. Hehehe... my parents also love the all you can eat sushi restaurants and believe me, we can surely eat it all.

This time, we decided to take a trip out to New Westminister and eat at one of our favorite Japanese Restaurants, Top Gun! They have a wide variety of foods to choose from, that is if you order from the menu... as for the all-you-can-eat, it's basically the same old stuff. Next time I must convince my parents to order from the menu, but then they'd probably insist that I pay :P
My camera was dying, so I couldn't use the flash :( But I managed to squeeze in quite a few photos... in between my camera shouting "low battery" and subsequently shutting down.

Here's the first order's spread. Yes, you heard me... our first round. We ordered vegetable tempura (they were small portions, so we ordered two), smelt (one of my favorites), teriyaki beef, salmon and saba nigiri, inari sushi and california rolls. And in the middle of the table, you can see that we Chinese love to eat our sushi (and everything else) with sambal chili :P

Here are a couple pieces of salmon and saba sushi. The pictures actually turned out quite nice!

Some gingered pork, we decided to try this dish during our second order... something different.

A single order of teriyaki chicken. We were quite disappointed with the size of the serving. They have become smaller since the last time we came to Top Gun. But, it's all-you-can-eat... so we'll just order another

The salmon cheek was really well prepared. Full of meat, and not an overpowering sauce... this was one of my favorites that day.

Oyster Motoyaki, we always order these. But again, the servings were quite small. We re-ordered them on our second round.

We helped ourselves to the mango pudding, not the best in the world (my mom makes better) but it wasn't half bad.


The dining experience was actually quite nice. The service was quick and the waitresses were very helpful. We were asked if we were "ready to order" four times before we were actually ready to choose our dishes... that's service (although it was kind of spooky). If you're one of the lucky people who get a table next to the window, you'll be looking at a beautiful view of the Fraser River. Top Gun's ambiance makes this one of our favorite places to go and spend pleasant afternoon.

Stained Glass Cookies... take 2

I've made these beauts before, but this time I decided to use these cookies as party favors. The results of my "Martha Stewart"-ness paid off. I made the stained glass cookies following the same method of my previous attempt at baking them, click here, but this time I cut the cookies into cute festive shapes and packaged them in a neat looking bag. It may take some time to package all the cookies, but your guests will adore these cute and edible treats.

"Gingerbread" Cookie Tree

This year I was quite busy with work, too busy in fact to make the traditional gingerbread houses and sleighs with my sisters. That made me sad... and my sisters really wanted to decorate some cookies this holiday. My mom doesn't really enjoy the baking scene, and didn't have time herself to sit down and bake with my sisters... so I managed to scrounge up some time to make a simple molassess cookie recipe. This recipe is not a gingerbread cookie recipe, but it does have that wonderful gingerbread-molasses taste that I love. The dough is much softer and easier to work with than gingerbread and you end up with a more fluffy, less dense cookie.

My sisters and I decorated some of the "gingerbread" men and snowflakes, and then I remembered that I had seen a very cute way of arranging the cookies on Kuiadore. The cookie tree looked so elegant that I just had to make them this Christmas. Albeit they don't look as fancy as the one on that other blog, but it was my first time and I only had 3 different-sized star-shaped cookie cutters... I seriously had to improvise. I think they turned out quite nicely for my first attempt. Maybe I'll make them again next year... if time permits :P



Caramel Shortbread Squares


I have been busy in the kitchen this holiday season... just in case you were wondering where I was :P I just have been too swamped with work to post anything online. But now I've finally gotten the time, so here goes.

I decided to try out a new recipe this Christmas but wasn't sure if I wanted to make cookies, chocolate or candy. Then I was searching through allrecipes.com and stumbled across this recipe for Caramel-Shortbread Squares. Pictured above, are the cute little squares I created using my 8x8 square baking pan, but since the recipe called for a 9x9 pan I ended up with some leftover ingredients. What did this mean? Well, it was time to tweak a recipe and make it my own.

My mom is always commenting on how I have so many baking utensils, pans and accessories that I don't use... actually, it's more like she complains about it :P So I decided to use some of thos individual tart molds (the ones I used for my mini pumpkin pies) to make mini caramel shortbread tartelettes. I divided the extra ingredients between 5 tart pans and layered them the same way I layered the squares. But for a little added flare, I swirled in some white chocolate... how elegant. Sorry about the picture, you can't really see the swirls very well... but you get the picture.

The white chocolate added such a nice touch that I decided to try making one tart with a white chocolate layer. It actually turned out beautifully as the layers were more contrasted than when I had used mere milk chocolate.
It's a guarantee that if you make these tarts/squares for a party you will get many oooo's and aaaaahhs. My friends loved the layering affect and would have gobbled them all up, had they not been uber-rich and crazy-sweet.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Snickerdoodles

Kind of a Christmas-y cookie... I made 2 versions of this delightful cookie. One batch for my family and the other for my puppy! You may be saying to yourself "this girl is crazy" and truly I am... but these cookies turned out wonderfully and both my family and my dog gobbled them up.



Snickerdoodles (yields 36 cookies)

Ingredients
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup cornmeal + 1 tsp cinnamon (for doggy version)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon (for human version)


Method:
1. Mix vegetable oil, butter and honey together until smooth. Add eggs and beat well.

2. Blend in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.

3. Knead dough until mixed well. Shape dough by rounded teaspoons into balls.

4. Mix the cornmeal and cinnamon together in a bowl and roll half of the balls in mixture (for doggy version). Mix sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and roll the remainig balls in this mixture (for human version).

5. Place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with a nonstick spray. Press the balls down with a fork twice going in 2 different directions or press with your favorite stamp.

6. Bake 8 minutes at 400. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a rack.










My dog seemed to like these cookies. At first he was a bit warry, but when he realized I made him fresh biscuits he dug right in. My sisters really liked the honey taste, it makes a much more flavorful cookie than mere sugar.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lunch-time Delight: Mushroom-Rice Bake

I honestly just threw together this recipe after my final day of exams. It was beginning to snow outside and I really just wanted to eat some warm, comfort food. YEAH! I'm finished exams! I can't believe that I've completed what is, supposedly, the hardest semester of nursing! My kitchen has been missing me and calling my name... an finally I can answer the call :P

Mushroom-Rice Bake
yields one 9x3 casserole dish
Ingredients:
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup, condensed
- 1 soup can of water
- 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
- 1/2 cup canned mushrooms
- 1 cooked hot dog, sliced
- 2 1/2 cups leftover rice
- Pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese
- Sprinkle of panko

Method:

1. Fry the onion with oil in a deep-sided frying pan, until transluscent.
2. Add in cream of mushroom soup, followed by a can of water. Bring to a boil and add in frozen vegetables. Continue to boil over medium heat for 5 minutes.
3. Add in mushrooms and hot dog slices. Continue to cook over medium heat.
4. Mix in the rice, adding more in order to make a very thick mixture. Add pepper to taste.
5. Pour half the mixture into a 9x3 casserole dish and sprinkle on half of the cheese. Finish filling the casserole dish and top the bake with the remaining cheese; add a generous handful of panko.
6. Place the rice-bake in a 350F oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until cheese gets melty and bubbly.
7. Switch oven to "broil" and bake your casserole until the cheese begins to brown and get crispy.

My sister, who doesn't like mushrooms, was turned off by my mention of the fungus :P But my other sister didn't care. When I mentioned melty-cheese, she dug into the dish right away. I love making comfort food and sharing it with family, it's the only way prepare dishes from the kitchen. I will definitely be making this recipe again.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lunch-time Delight: Brocolli Soup


On a wintry day in December I decided to cozy up to the fireplace with a steamy bowl of brocolli soup... Albeit, it wasn't snowing like it was on Sunday, but it was still quite chilly. And now the recipe.

Brocolli & Cheddar Cheese Soup

Yields 6 servings (1 cup each)

Ingredients

- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp Kraft Italian Dressing
- 1 can (284ml) chicken broth
- 2 broth cans of water
- 4 cups brocolli, chopped
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1/2 cup white rice, cooked (I used left overs)
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Method:

1. In a large saucepan, cook the onions in dressing until tender.

2. Add broth, water and brocolli. Boil the mixture for 8 minutes, or until brocolli is tender. Stir in the milk and rice. Lower heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Pour soup (in batches) into the blender and pulse until smooth. Return soup to saucepan and reheat.

4. Spoon soup into bowls and top with shredded cheese.

I couldn't finish all the soup by my lonesome, so I let my family have a taste. My sister commented that it didn't taste the same as "regular" brocolli soup, but that it was good none-the-less. I guess that's what the world of prepared food has done to our society; when given the old-fashioned, homemade soup our tastebuds just don't understand!

Mom and Dad's Anniversary... dining out!

***1/2 out of *****
Mmm... what to do for your 22nd Anniversary? Dine out of course. That way you don't have to do any dishes and you don't have to feel bad about it. We decided to try out Akasaka, this Japanese restaurant in Guildford. It's located next to, and almost hidden by, the Oriental buffet. This place is pretty pricey if you only plan to go for sushi, but they do have a wide variety to choose from. Along with sushi, they have a wonderful menu full of traditional Japanese cuisine.


One of my favorites, takoyaki. They give you 5 pieces for $6.95. For the price it's not really worth it, but I was craving it. I actually think the takoyaki I bought at the Richmond Nightmarket was tastier and for a better price (6 for $3.00)


Of course, my sisters wanted tempura. This one actually came with my sister's udon meal. She got a large bowl of udon plus green bean, pumpkin, brocolli and shrimp tempura for only $7.95

Of the many specialty rolls Akasaka offers, we decided to try the Volcano Roll. It is essentially a california roll, filled with asparagus, crabmeat, and scallops. The roll is then topped with snapper, cheese sauce and black sesame seeds. They served it on a flaming dish, which was very entertaining. If you feel like paying $13.95 for a sushi roll, go ahead and try it.

video


The loving couple decided to split the Tonkatsu dinner box. Nothing to rave about, but it sure was tasty (although I wouldn't pay $15.95)


And of course, you can't enjoy a Japanese dinner without a bottle of warm sake ($7.95). Much to strong for my taste, but I recommend you try it at least once in a lifetime.

Overall, the service was excellent. Actually, my family takes a long time to decide on what to order. The waiter had to ask us for our order at least 5 times before we came to a decision. Still, he was patient and very helpful. The rest of the staff was very pleasant; you could feel the Christmas spirit all around. That, and they wore the cutest little Christmas head-pieces ... santa hats, reindeer antlers and elf ears. Now that exams are almost over, I must start my Christmas baking!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Finishing up those cranberries...

Wahoo! I'm coming back to cooking. Man, it seems like it's been way too long. I've finished off my last week of lecture and am ready to roll... roll out the dough that is :P I know, I know... very corny. All I have to complete are three exams and one Fine Arts Presentation, and once that's over I'm heading to my safe-house, my kitchen. In order to get myself back into the mood of cooking I decided to go back to my roots, baking. I flipped through my copy of Williams-Sonoma Baking and my attention was caught by a beautifully arrainged bunch of white-chocolate, cherry bars. I decided that this would be the perfect recipe for me to finish up the cranberries I had left-over from making biscotti. And it was...

Cranberry-Butterscotch Squares

Ingredients:
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup salted butter
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup butterscotch chips

Method:
1. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, combine butter and both sugars; mixing until fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla, mixing well.
3. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until it just comes together.
4. Pour batter into greased 9x13 inch pan.
5. Bake at 350 degrees, for 35-40 minutes.
6. Cool completely and then cut into 16 bars.

So I exchanged the cherries for cranberries, so I used butterscotch instead of white-chocolate... no big difference. My sisters loved them. Even the the youngest one, who hates fruits ate an entire square (and a half). My mom was glad that I had made something that wasn't overly sweet; and my dad was enjoying the treat while taunting out dog (don't worry, we gave him a doggy treat and he was pleased). Safe to say that I will be using this recipe again.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Cranberry-Coconut Biscotti

The last clinical of the first semester has come and what better to treat the nurses on the floor with than a little "good-bye" gift. From what I gathered, spending a two months on the acute hospital floor, nurses really love their hot beverages. Coffee, tea and hot-chocolate are staples for the busy health care professional. But of course, you cannot have a complete hot-beverage meal without the accompanying tid bits. I ponder for a week to find the perfect recipe... what goes with coffee? Another member of my clinical group was making cookies, and I don't like being a copy-cat so I settled on the italian classic... BISCOTTIS! (Forgive me for the aweful pics, it's a new camera and really glitchy)

Cranberry-Coconut Biscotti

Ingredients:

- 2 cups all-purpose flour

- 3/4 tsp baking powder

- 1/4 tsp salt

- 1/4 tsp baking soda

- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

- 3/4 cup sugar

- 1 tsp vanilla extract

- 2 large eggs

- 1/4 cup vegetable oil

- 1/2 cup dried cranberries

- 1/2 cup desiccated coconut, sweetened

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350F

2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and nutmeg; mix thoroughly.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs until well combined.

4. Add flour mixture, coconut and cranberries to the liquid ingredients. Stir until combined.

5. Turn dough onto a heavily floured surface and knead approximately 7 times. Shape the dough into a 15 x 3 inch roll. Place roll on parchement-lined baking sheet and pat down to 1-inch thickness.

6. Bake roll for 40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack for 5 minutes.

7. Cut roll into 25 (1/2 inch) slices. Place slices, upright, on baking sheet and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

NOTE: Center of cookies will seem soft when warm, but will harden when cooled.


The nurses really enjoyed their basket of goodies. It's sad to say good-bye, but we're still greatful for all the encouragement and support they gave us. We definitely needed it... and now we're on our way to becoming great nurses.

Potato-Onion Tart


In desperate need of making something, and a long-harboured "want" to use my 13x4 inch tart pan I set out on a quest to find the perfect brunch recipe. And where better to search than the lovely Williams-Sonoma website? I found this wonderful recipe here and thought it would be the perfect dish for a wintery morning breakfast. Yup, winter is a coming... well, I guess technically it's already here. But this morning I woke up to a beautiful dusting of snow and thought to myself "boy I can't wait until Christmas!"


Anyways, back to the recipe. I followed it to a "T" when it came to the filling, but made my own "secret recipe" pastry. My family really enjoyed this treat, but I think they were impressed by the tart pan more than me :P I love this contraption, it has a beautiful rectangular shape and a removable bottom. This makes for easy baking, cutting and serving. I just love things that make life a little more simple.